Livverpool were expected to cruise through their Champions League group, but Brendan Rodgers’ side have looked uncharacteristically disjointed so far this season. They did beat minnows Ludogorets in their opening group game, but they needed a last-gasp penalty to do so. They should still be able to win away at Swiss champions Basel on Wednesday, but it may not be quite as convincing a victory as they’d have hoped for when the draw was made.
However, the Reds can take heart from Basel’s recent stuttering form under new coach Paulo Sousa, who has come under fire in the Swiss media after the club made a shaky start to their title defence. They sit top of the Super League table after 10 games, but they’re only a couple clear of second-placed Zürich. That may not seem bad, but it’s a league they’re used to totally dominating.
Key player – Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
After the departure of striker Luis Suárez to Barcelona, Liverpool have become increasingly reliant on the creative genius of teenager Raheem Sterling to fashion goalscoring chances. So far, despite the inconsistent results, he’s not disappointed. He’s undoubtedly the most talented English player around at the moment, with fantastic technical skill and intelligent movement making him a defender’s worst nightmare. Basel will no doubt struggle to keep him quiet.
Key matchup – Paulo Sousa vs. the urge to tinker
One of the main reasons the Basel coach has come in for so much criticism this season has been his tactical tinkering. He’s mainly alternated between a 4-3-3 and a 3-4-3, and his team don’t appear to have managed to settle in either. It remains to be seen whether he’ll resist the urge to chop and change things too much ahead of this important game. They won’t want to suffer another mauling like the 5-1 Real Madrid inflicted on them in their opening group game.
Basel injuries and suspensions
Out: Ivan Ivanov (knee). In doubt: Philipp Degen (foot).
Liverpool injuries and suspensions
Out: Joe Allen, Jon Flanagan (knee), Emre Can (ankle), Glen Johnson (hip). In doubt:None.
Basel will still be without long-term injured defender Ivan Ivanov, while versatile wide man Philipp Degen is doubtful with the foot injury he sustained in August. Liverpool will still be without a handful of players, but have summer signing Lazar Marković back available after suspension.