Friday, March 1, 2024

Prediction: Union Saint-Gilloise vs Liverpool

Verdict: Away win

Best odds: 11/8

Bookmaker: Olympusbet

In the final round of the group stage in the Europa League on Thursday, in Group E, Union Sain-Gilloise will play host to Liverpool at the Lotto Park Stadium in Brussels, while LASK welcome Toulouse to Linz.

The Merseysiders have already secured the top spot in the group and the place in the round of 16 that goes with it, but Union SG have a chance, a feeble one, to finish second.

Union Saint-Gilloise

Competing in the Europa League for only the second time in their history, Union SG’s chances of progressing to the knockout round for the second consecutive year are not entirely within their control following a goalless draw against Toulouse in their last match.

Currently occupying the third spot in Group E with five points from five games, Alexander Blessin’s team faces a daunting task. To advance, they need to secure a significant upset against Liverpool in their final group fixture. Additionally, they must hope that second-placed Toulouse faces a defeat against LASK Linz.

Finishing third in the group would mean Union SG dropping down into the Europa Conference League playoffs, but if they end up in fourth place, their European adventure for the season will end.

Following their draw with Toulouse, Union have shown good form domestically, winning their last three league games with a combined score of 7-2. Their recent 3-1 away victory against Charleroi helped them extend their lead at the top of the Belgian Pro League to six points.

Union aim to achieve a milestone by winning successive Europa League home games for the first time. They previously secured a 2-1 victory against LASK Linz in October. Nevertheless, facing Liverpool poses a challenge as they’ve lost all three of their previous encounters with English teams, including a 2-0 defeat against Liverpool at Anfield in the reverse fixture in September.

Team News

Union SG enter Thursday’s fixture with a fully fit squad, but they will miss midfielder Charles Vanhoutte due to a one-match suspension resulting from accumulated yellow cards.

Vanhoutte’s absence might pave the way for Mathias Rasmussen to start alongside Lazare Amani and Cameron Puertas, who were both part of the midfield setup in the previous fixture against Liverpool.

Mohamed Amoura, the top scorer, scored a brace in the recent win over Charleroi, bringing his total goals across all competitions to 13. He’s likely to maintain his place in the attacking lineup alongside Gustaf Nilsson.

Liverpool

Despite a 3-2 loss to Toulouse on matchday four, Liverpool secured their spot in the Europa League last 16 with a game to spare by convincingly defeating LASK 4-0 on matchday five at Anfield.

The Reds’ victory, powered by goals from Cody Gakpo (two), Luis Diaz, and Mohamed Salah, marked their fourth win in Group E and their 10th consecutive home win at Anfield across all competitions this season. Sitting four points clear of Toulouse in second place, Liverpool is now assured of finishing atop the group.

Following their success over LASK, Jurgen Klopp’s team embarked on a winning streak, triumphing in four successive matches. They secured victories in the Premier League against Fulham and Sheffield United, and a 2-1 away win against Crystal Palace, thanks to a 91st-minute winner from Harvey Elliott.

Liverpool capitalized on Arsenal’s loss to Aston Villa, overtaking the Gunners to claim the top spot in the Premier League standings. Before preparing for significant fixtures against Manchester United and Arsenal in the league, they aim to focus on their final Europa League match against Union, intending to conclude the group stage on a high note.

Klopp’s side enters Thursday’s contest with an impressive track record, having won 15 of their last 17 group-stage matches in the Europa League and Champions League, scoring 50 goals during this period. Additionally, they maintain an unbeaten record in all five of their previous European visits to Belgium, fostering high confidence as they approach the fixture against Union.

Team News

Alexis Mac Allister faces a race against time to potentially face his brother Kevin, who should be a feature of Union’s back line. The Argentina international is dealing with a knee injury sustained in a match against Sheffield United last week.

Liverpool will definitely be without the services of five players: Joel Matip (knee), Diogo Jota (muscle), Andrew Robertson (shoulder), Thiago Alcantara (hip), and Stefan Bajcetic (calf), all of whom require more time to recover.

Manager Jurgen Klopp is expected to rotate his squad since Liverpool has already secured a spot in the last 16 of the Europa League. Players such as Caoimhin Kelleher, Joe Gomez, Ibrahima Konate, Curtis Jones, and Ben Doak are vying for starting positions. Additionally, key players like goalkeeper Alisson Becker, defender Virgil van Dijk and attacker Mohamed Salah, who recently marked his 200th goal for Liverpool against Crystal Palace, might be rested in preparation for Sunday’s crucial clash against Manchester United.

Conclusion

The rotation Klopp is certain to employ in Thursday will probably Union hope and at least some chance to get a favourable result – they’re hardly likely to get such a chance against a top European side again in the near future.

However, the Liverpool players who don’t feature regularly in the Premier League will also see the match as an opportunity to show the manager what they’re capable of, and even their quality should be sufficient for the visitors to claim all three points.

Verdict: Away win

Best odds: 11/8

Bookmaker: Olympusbet

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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