Those Liverpool fans who mistakenly ended up in Gent on the eve of Champions League match-day 3, should find it easier to reach Anfield on Tuesday night for the match-day 4 fixture, when KRC Genk visit Merseyside. The group that should have been easier to navigate for the Reds and Napoli, might become a bit more interesting, if the results on match-day 4 do not go according to the plan for these two teams.
Liverpool, however, are currently a difficult team to beat as they simply do not know when they have been beaten. They come into this game having snatched an impossible victory from the jaws of defeat against Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon. Having trailed 1-0 till the 86th minute, they scored two in the remaining time to keep their lead at the top of the Premier League table. Earlier in the week, they had similarly come from two goals behind against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup to equalise in stoppage time and then win the tie on penalties. While he was effusive in praise for his team after both those victories, Klopp will want his team to put on a more authoritative display against the minnows of the group at home. He will have one eye on next Sunday’s humdinger of a game against Manchester City, but he will want to get comfortable in the Champions League group at least. A win on Tuesday will get Liverpool to 9 points, which might assure them of qualification to last 16, depending on how the game in Napoli goes.
Genk have had a slightly less successful run of games since the 1-4 defeat against Liverpool at home in October. They have won one, drawn one, and come into Tuesday’s encounter having lost 2-0 away at Eupen on Saturday. For Genk, the priority might not be Champions League as they have fallen to 9th in the Jupiler League, as the competition moves towards the halfway mark. They need to improve their domestic form to be in the European competition next season as well. That would be a higher priority for them, than trying to fight out of this group where they are at the bottom with 1 point.
- The only previous meeting between Liverpool and Genk was the previous Champions League game on match day 3 in Belgium, with the Reds winning 4-1 at the Luminus Arena. The only previous instance of Genk visiting England was in October 2011, when they were beaten 5-0 at Stamford Bridge by Chelsea who went on to win the competition in the following May.
- In all European competitions, Liverpool are unbeaten in 23 games at Anfield (W17 D6 L0) since losing 3-0 to Real Madrid a little more than 5 years ago. Genk with the third lowest ELO score (1610) would have to create one of the largest upsets in the history of European football if they are to beat Liverpool, who are rated as the best in Europe (2053 ELO score).
- Liverpool have scored four goals in back to back Champions League game – only three sides have netted four or more goals in three consecutive matches in the competition’s history; Liverpool themselves (December 2007), PSG in November 2017 and Real Madrid in September 2014. Genk have conceded at least five goals in each of their last three away Champions League matches – the first team to do so in the history of the competition since 1992-93. Including the European Cup, no team has ever conceded 5+ in four consecutive away games.
If Liverpool did not end up winning the last few Premier League games so dramatically, one man’s dip in form would have been highlighted far more than it has been so far. In the Premier League, Mohamed Salah is nowhere close to his best, most signified by his 65th minute substitution against Aston Villa after an ineffective performance. But, in Champions League, he is behind only Cristiano Ronaldo in goal contributions since the start of the 2017-18 season with 25 goals contributed (18 scored 7 assisted) to Ronaldo’s 27 goal contributions (22 scored 5 assisted). In Genk he scored one and assisted one, while against Salzburg in early October he scored a brace and assisted one goal. Klopp will hope that an outing against Genk at Anfield will boost Salah’s confidence to help him against Manchester City next Sunday.
The scoreline in Genk in match day 3 would have been slightly different had Mbwana Samatta’s goal immediately after Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first goal stood VAR’s scrutiny. He has scored the most goals for Genk in the Jupiler League (6), while he has also scored in the Champions League in Salzburg in his first appearance in the competition. On top of that, the goal ruled out by VAR against Liverpool was his third goal to be ruled out. An xG of 0.6 per game in the Champions League is pretty impressive given Genk has had few opportunities to attack this season. If Genk are to trouble the Reds at Anfield, Samatta’s performance will be key.
For Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp might be tempted to rest a few players before the key game against Manchester City next Sunday. Clyne and Matip remain sidelined, but the German could possibly give some respite to the full backs by bringing Joe Gomez and Milner back in. Similarly, in the midfield Naby Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain could start alongside Lallana. In front, Klopp could rotate Mane for Origi to give some much-deserved respite to the Senegalese. Possible Liverpool starting lineup for Sunday: Alisson; Gomez, Lovren, van Dijk, Milner; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keita, Lallana; Salah, Firmino, Origi.
For Genk, Danny Vukovic is the only long-term absentee with an achilles tendon injury. Possible starting lineup for the Belgians could be: Coucke; Maehle, Lucumi, Cuesta, Uronen; Hrosovsky, Berge, Ito, Hagi, Bongonda; Samatta.
This is the game in which Liverpool can make sure they have an adequate goal-difference if the race for qualification to last sixteen heats up a bit. While it should be easy for Jurgen Klopp’s side to beat the Belgians even if he rings in the changes suggested above, he will want his team to score a few to get the goal-difference number up. Just for the record’s sake, it is possible that Genk becomes the first side to concede 5 goals in 4 consecutive European games.
Liverpool 5– 1 Genk