Monday, December 18, 2017

Prediction: Liverpool vs Spartak Moscow

Verdict: Liverpool win

Best Odds: 1/4

Bookmaker: Bet365

As we enter the final matchday of this year’s Champions League group stage, both Liverpool and Spartak Moscow will enter Wednesday nights matchup knowing they both still have a chance of booking their spot in the knockout stages.

Liverpool

With it all still to play for in Group E, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side are one of three teams still vying for the two vacant qualification spots. Currently sat top of the group, this will be the Reds second shot at securing their spot in the knockout stages. Sat on nine points, Liverpool have the most marginal of leads on both Spartak Moscow and Sevilla. Three points ahead of their guests on Wednesday night and only a single point ahead of second-placed Sevilla, a draw in their final Group E game will guarantee Liverpool a spot in the round of 16 while victory over Spartak Moscow will secure them that lucrative top spot.

Liverpool’s German boss has made it clear that he will be fielding his strongest available team and that no more silly mistakes will be tolerated. Last time out on European duty, the 2005 Champions League winners managed to throw away a 3-0 lead against second spot Sevilla. While Group E is undoubtedly the group to watch, Liverpool will feel their form in this seasons campaign has not been up to scratch. A string of well-publicised defensive issues have been highlighted throughout their qualifying campaign. Winning just two of their five games in the group stage, Liverpool have failed to beat Sevilla twice and also played out a 1-1 draw with Moscow back in September.

Although their European form might leave allot to the imagination, Klopp’s side have found a recent fine run of form. Already with 12 Premier League goals this year, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is the top scorer in England and the Egyptian has a further four goals in this year’s Champions League.

Team News

Jurgen Klopp was forced to play midfielders Georginio Wijnaldum and Emre Can in a makeshift back three against Brighton – however, Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan are back to full fitness and he is expected to revert to a four-man defense against Spartak. Joel Matip and Nathaniel Clyne remain out for Liverpool, but Sadio Mane could return after he was on the bench for the Reds.

Spartak Moscow

The Red and Whites will be more than aware that on Wednesday night they will have to be the more aggressive side if they want to reach their first knockout stage since 1996. Massimo Carrera’s side are currently sat third in Group E and anything less than three points will see them go into the Europa League, and even then they could miss out if Sevilla win against Maribor.

While the Russian side may still have a mathematical chance of securing a top two position, Krasno-Belye’s Champions League record won’t fill their traveling support with much hope. In their last 40 European appearances, the 10-time Russian champions have only won on six occasions, losing 26 of those match-ups. Even more worryingly for Moscow’s defensive unit, they have not managed to keep a single clean sheet in their last 15 attempts. While Liverpool’s attacking trio will be confident of adding to Moscow’s woes, the Russian outfit does possess some of their own striking talent. Sat fourth in their domestic league, eight points behind league leaders Lokomotiv Moscow, Spartak do have three players inside the top six scorers in the Russian Premier League.

Team News

For Spartak Moscow, Krasno-Belye will be without a number of first-team players as they travel to Merseyside. Russian winger Dimitri Kombarov has broken a rib and will be unavailable for Wednesday night’s match. Kombarov joins Jano Ananidze, Artem Timofeev and Georgi Tigiyev on the list of players who are also sidelined.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Liverpool are unbeaten in their last seven Champions League games although five of those have ended in a draw.
  • Klopp’s side are also unbeaten against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League (W2 D1) with their last encounter at Anfield ending in a 5-0 win for the Reds.
  • Spartak have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League only once in their 11 previous appearances – in 1995-96.
  • Spartak have won only six of their past 40 Champions League games (D8 L26). They have also failed to keep a clean sheet in their past 15 outings in the competition.
  • Liverpool are unbeaten against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League (W2 D1), with their last encounter at Anfield ending in a 5-0 win for the Reds in October 2002.

Conclusion

After failing to cement their spot in the round of 16 last month in Sevilla, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side will be looking to make a statement and secure their spot at the top of Group E. Although the Reds may have shown some inconsistencies during their qualifying campaign, Liverpool will be favorites to take three points on Wednesday night. With Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah scoring nine goals between them in their last five European fixtures, Liverpool will fancy their chances against a Spartak Moscow side who have conceded at least one goal in their last 15 Champions League match ups.

Verdict: Liverpool win

Best Odds: 1/4

Bookmaker: Bet365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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