Salzburg fans (or, come to think of it, maybe their potty-mouthed manager) have have erected a giant banner running across the top tier of one of the stands in the stadium. It reads, in English, “We are not Barça or Real, but we are ready for our fucking dream.” Good night, Vienna.
“Mr Erich Linemayr was the ref at that Forest-Liverpool game (and also later at the final),” announces Tom Reichart. “He was from Linz, which isn’t too far from Salzburg. The German Wikipedia tells me he also refereed the Water Battle between Poland and Germany in 1974 and the “match” between Chile and the Soviet Union in 1973. Enjoy!”
“You didn’t mention that, after getting knocked out at the group stages in 2012, Chelsea went on to win Europa League, thus holding both Champions League and the Europa League simultaneously,” protests Krish. “Tempting to Liverpool, I would say.” I would say not. If they were to lose today, the most tempting would be to win the world club title later this month (becoming simultaneously European and world champions) and sack off the Europa League to concentrate on winning the Premier League, which they haven’t won since …. when was it again? Having said that, maybe they’ll have the domestic title in the bag by the time European competition resumes next year.
Speaking just now on BT, Liverpool’s manager isn’t attempting to downplay the importance of this rumble: “Our Champions League trip has been like this since we started it. We always have these kinds of situations so it’s no surprise. That’s how it is and we have to be ready for it. No good just talking about it, we have to show it.” As for his explanation for the inclusion of Keïta, he says: “It makes absolute sense for this game for the way we need to play. … And he knows the stadium, but that was not the reason for it.”
Any Liverpool fans think this year has a 1979 feel to it? Back then, like now, Liverpool were aiming to reach the final of Europe’s top club competition for the third year in a row (having won it the previous two) and they only went and got knocked out in their very first tie. That was before group stage gerrymandering, of course. Their conquerors? Nottingham Forest. And the referee when Forest scored their decisive goals was from Salzburg! Well, he might have been. He was definitely from Austria, I know that much. On the plus side, Liverpool went on to win the domestic title that season…
No messing from Klopp. And a powerful vote of confidence for Naby Keïta, whose improved recent form earns him a start at his former club ahead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Salzburg: Stankovic; Nissen, Onguéné, Wöber, Ulmer; Szoboszlai, Junozovic, Minamino, Mwepu; Hwang, Haaland
Subs: Carlos, Daka, Ashimeru, Okugawa, Prevljak, Ramalho, VAllci
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Keïta, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mané, Firmino, Salah
Subs: Adrian, Jones, Gomez, Milner, Shaqiri, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Origi
Referee: D Makkelie (Ned)
Hello. Welcome to a match that Liverpool never wanted to matter. The European champions were expected to have wrapped up qualification for the knockout stages by now. Instead they travel to Austria at risk of becoming only the second holders in the Champions League era – after Chelsea in 2012 – to be eliminated in the group phase. Nobody wants to be like Chelsea.
The risk is real. Salzburg are free-scoring buccaneers with boundless energy and a genuine prodigy up front: 19-year-old Erling Braut Haalann, scorer of 28 goals in 21 matches so far this season, including eight in his five group games so far. That includes the one he hit when these sides met at Anfield, when Liverpool cantered into a 3-0 lead before being slapped repeatedly across the chops and waking up in time to prevail 4-3. That lesson should serve Liverpool well today. There’s unlikely to be any complacency from Jürgen Klopp’s team and the manager, surely, will deploy his full-strength side after giving key players time off in their last two Premier League matches.
So Liverpool will be going full gun. And so, too, will Salzburg, who are aiming to claim a famous scalp and make history by reaching the knockout stages. Roll up, roll up, we have ourselves a proper showdown!
Kick-off: 5.55pm GMT, 6.55pm local