Liverpool return to Champions League action on Wednesday as they travel to Belgium to face Pro League champions Genk, for the first ever meeting between the sides.
Last season’s Belgian champions lost their fourth game in 10 games so far this term — on their way to the 2018/19 title they only lost three. Two of their most important players from last season have gone on to pastures new, which could help explain their poor start.
Liverpool dropped points for the first time in the league on Sunday. The Reds once again showed a poor Manchester United side too much respect and could only muster a point. They do, however, remain unbeaten and comfortably clear of Manchester City at this stage.
None of that matters for this game, though, as reigning champions Liverpool look to put themselves in prime position to qualify for the knockout stages, while Genk look to capitalise on their impressive draw against Napoli with another strong showing as they host the Merseysiders.
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Liverpool had the chance to match the longest winning streak in the league on Sunday. Unfortunately, one man stood on their way. As poor as referee Martin Atkinson was, considering the size in quality between the two sides, Liverpool should have still walked away with three points.
It was one of Jürgen Klopp’s changes that brought the equalizer, Adam Lallana slotted in at the back post which capped off a very impressive cameo from our No.20. Our other two changes saw Naby Keïta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain get game time.
his saw our midfield dynamic change completely. Jordan Henderson has posted numerous poor performances over the past few weeks and with Liverpool scoring the decisive goal when our captain isn’t on the pitch over the last few weeks, you would think his starting position is under threat.
Genk are certainly no stranger to an upset in Europe,. They held Napoli to a scoreless draw, the Italians had plenty of possession but failed to test the Belgian side. Most of the shots came from outside the penalty area which shows that Genk are well capable of defending deep.
That only tells one side of the story — against RB Salzburg they conceded six, allowing 13 shots on target and conceding five in the first half which shows that the game can get away from them quite quickly if their opposition is quick out of the blocks.
Genk manager Felice Mazzù has no new injury concerns. First-choice goalkeeper Danny Vukovic is out having ruptured his achilles in July, while left-back Neto Borges is also unavailable. Vukovic’s replacement Gaëtan Coucke has impressed for the first team and will likely keep his place.
A back four of Joakim Mæhle, Sébastien Dewaest, Jhon Lucumí and Jere Uronen will probably face the sternest test of their careers as they try to stifle Liverpool’s attack.
Highly-rated defensive midfielder Sander Berge will start in a midfield two. The Norwegian has been scouted the biggest clubs in Europe after a breakthrough season last year. Another talent Ianis Hagi, son of former footballer Gheorghe, is a contender to play, though faces competition from the likes of Bryan Heynen and Patrik Hrošovský.
Théo Bongonda, Junya Ito and Mbwana Samatta will provide the goal threat for the hosts.
Mohamed Salah remains a major doubt for the game on Wednesday. The Egyptian had to sit out of the weekend draw and Klopp was unsure if our star player would be a part of the squad. Xherdan Shaqiri is the only player ruled out with no update on his rehabilitation.
Alisson returned to action after 10 weeks out, but remained largely untested at the weekend and should continue his recovery in Belgium. He will be hoping that he remains a bystander in this one.
Joël Matip did not travel through an ankle problem. Trent Alexander-Arnold is also out with a virus, meaning Dejan Lovren will likely start alongside Virgil van Dijk at the heart of defence, with Joe Gomez holding the fort at right-back.
The midfield is the most difficult to predict. Klopp will have one eye on the weekend’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League, but will still want to select the right team to break down what is likely to be a resilient Genk side.
Naby Keïta and Adam Lallana could both be rewarded for their bright cameo’s at Old Trafford, while James Milner looks certain to start after being rested at the weekend. In truth, any of the three that started against Manchester United could be rested.
Divock Origi will keep his place alongside Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané in Salah’s absence. If things are going well, this might be an ideal game to bring Rhian Brewster off the bench for his first taste of Champions League football.
Liverpool play Genk in back-to-back European games, which would be a good time to get six points on the board and put themselves in a great position. If results go their way, the Reds would need only a single point from their final two games to progress to the knockout stages, something which could be valuable when resting players during a busy schedule.
Liverpool should be too strong for Genk and, with the right midfield, the game should be beyond our opposition by the hour mark. This would allow Klopp to rest the more important players of the squad ahead Tottenham at the weekend.
I think Liverpool will win comfortably. Naby Keïta could have a chance to shine in the centre of the park and hopefully will be influential in a convincing victory.
Predicted final score: Genk 0-3 Liverpool