Verdict: Total goals over 3.5
Best odds: 5/6
Liverpool have the opportunity to secure progression to at least the Europa League knockout round playoffs when they welcome LASK Linz to Anfield for Thursday’s Group E clash.
This encounter will see the top-placed team facing the bottom-placed side, as the Reds lead the group with nine points while the Austrian team sits at the bottom with only three points.
Despite benefiting from VAR during their match against Manchester City on Saturday, Liverpool faced disappointment due to a contentious officiating decision in their Europa League clash against Toulouse on matchday four.
A victory mirroring their 5-1 triumph over the Coupe de France winners from October would have sealed first place in Group E for Liverpool with two games remaining. However, Klopp’s second-string team suffered a setback, conceding three goals to Les Violets. A potential late equalizer from Jarell Quansah was disallowed due to a handball call against Alexis Mac Allister in the build-up, leading to Liverpool’s 3-2 defeat at Stadium Municipal.
As a result, the Reds currently hold a two-point advantage over Toulouse, requiring a point in their upcoming match to secure a top-two finish. A win, which would mark Liverpool’s eighth consecutive victory at Anfield in the Europa League, could also secure first place if Toulouse fail to beat Union SG.
Coincidentally, Liverpool had the chance to climb to the top of the Premier League table after rallying to a 1-1 draw against Manchester City. The match featured controversial decisions, including Ruben Dias’ goal disallowed for Manuel Akanji’s foul on Alisson Becker.
Alisson showed rare signs of uncertainty during the clash against City, and he suffered a hamstring injury in the closing moments of that draw which is expected to keep him out of action for a couple of weeks.
Joining Brazilian on the sidelines is Diogo Jota, who sustained a similar injury during the same match and isn’t expected back as quickly. Consequently, Luis Diaz is expected to return to the frontline, while Caoimhin Kelleher was already slated to start in place of Alisson.
The Reds face continued absence from Thiago Alcantara (hip), Stefan Bajcetic (calf), and Andrew Robertson (shoulder) due to long-term injuries. However, Ryan Gravenberch, Joe Gomez, and Ibrahima Konate, who were nursing minor injuries but featured on the bench over the weekend, may now return and feature in a potentially revamped starting lineup.
The chances of LASK advancing to the knockout stage remain slim, yet Thomas Sageder’s team has struggled to make a significant impact in European competition this season. Any disappointing outcome at Anfield will seal their fate in the competition.
Despite this, the visiting side retains a glimmer of hope following their unexpected 3-0 victory over Union SG on matchday four. Contributions from Sascha Horvath, Maksym Talovyerov, and Robert Zulj secured a notable win for LASK, who secured their first points in Group E.
Currently separated by just one point from Union SG in the standings, LASK holds a potential path to the Europa Conference League in third place. However, their chances of securing a top-two finish would be completely dashed without a surprising win in the upcoming match. Another defeat would see Sageder’s team finishing last in the group if Union SG manage to beat Toulouse.
LASK secured a crucial victory in the Austrian Bundesliga over the weekend, with captain Zulj netting the solitary goal in a 1-0 triumph against WSG Tirol.
Interestingly, Zulj’s decisive goal arrived in the 14th minute, reminiscent of their lead against Liverpool in their Europa League opener. Nonetheless, Liverpool showcased their resilience to secure a comeback victory, maintaining an unbeaten record against Austrian opponents since 2004.
LASK will likely face matchday five without three players due to various reasons. Ebrima Darboe, on loan from Roma, has been absent due to an unspecified injury, missing the team’s previous games against Union SG. Additionally, Adil Taoui is undergoing recovery for a cruciate ligament injury, and Philipp Wiesinger, the center-back, remains sidelined for the visitors.
It’s expected that Sageder will make minimal changes to the lineup. In the previous game against Union SG, nine of the eleven players who started in the 3-0 victory also featured in the match against WSG Tirol. Although Sascha Horvath and left-back Rene Renner were absent due to illness against Tirol, they are expected to be fit for Thursday’s match.
Having secured only one clean sheet in their four Europa League matches this season, Liverpool’s rearranged defensive setup might face challenges against an attacking-minded LASK Linz. The visitors are in a must-attack situation to keep their hopes of finishing in the top two alive.
On the other hand, this approach will surely leave gaps for Klopp’s dynamic attackers to capitalize on, and Liverpool are therefore expected to comfortably secure the win and advance to the knockout rounds. If the German tactician chooses to start with Cody Gakpo and Ben Doak in the central and right-sided attacking roles, respectively, he will have the likes of Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah to fall back on later if need be.
Verdict: Total goals over 3.5
Best odds: 5/6
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