Europe’s second competition kicks off its knockout round with some really brilliant ties. Liverpool take on Besiktas in a tasty fixture, while Besiktas almost made it back to the Champions League but were knocked out by Arsenal in the qualifying round. Liverpool were eliminated from their Champions League group but still finished third to take part in the Europa League.

Both clubs will be looking to do well, the onus would be on Liverpool to perform since they play the first leg at home and the fans will still be up for another European night for Liverpool, especially as they try to give Steven Gerrard a proper send off.

Team News:

Liverpool would be without the services of their captain Steven Gerrard as he still recovers from a hamstring injury he picked earlier in the month. They also would be missing Lucas Leiva who is also out due to injury, the big news would be regarding Raheem Sterling who has not played in the last 2 games for the Reds but could be assessed before the game to give him every chance of making it into the squad. Lazar Markovic also misses out after he got a 4 match ban from UEFA for his sending off against Basel in the last Champions League game.

Demba Ba should be playing in his return to Anfield, all Liverpool fans remember his goal for Chelsea which happened due to the “slip” by Gerrard, apart from that the Turkish side will miss out on the services of Milosevic, Zengin and Koybasi who are all out due to injury.

Key Battles:

Daniel Sturridge vs. Pedro Franco

Daniel Sturridge has come back to form and he scored for Liverpool against Crystal Palace, he will be looking to score again against Besiktas and Franco, the 23 year old Colombian defender will have his hands full in trying to keep the Liverpool striker quiet.

Martin Skrtel vs. Demba Ba

Martin Skrtel loves a battle and this will be no different as he takes of the player who took away Liverpool’s hold from the Premier League title last season. Ba has been brilliant in Europa and has scored 5 goals in the Europa League already, so Liverpool have their hands full in dealing with the striker.

Jordan Henderson vs. Atiba Hutchinson

The 32 year old Hutchinson will have to keep a mark on Jordan Henderson, the English midfielder has slowly regained the form which had catapulted him into a regular starter for Liverpool last season. It will be Henderson doing the running in this game as well and that will be something that Hutchinson will have to keep a tab on.

Stats:

Besiktas are unbeaten in their last 7 Europa League games.

Liverpool hold a record in the Champions League thanks to their 8-0 win over Besiktas in 2007.

Besiktas defeated Tottenham and drew against Spurs in England earlier in the Europa League.

Liverpool have not won their last 5 games in European competitions.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 5 games at home against Turkish opposition.

Quotes:

Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool striker:

“I think every competition is important for us,” said the 25-year-old. “Every game is important also. We take each game at a time, we play our football and look to get good results. I’ve got no worries. No stresses at all. I’m enjoying my football, I’m enjoying playing and I can’t wait to continue playing in each game and, if selected, I’ll do my best for the team.

“I know Besiktas are a good side from what I have watched in videos. They’re not a team that I see every week. So I’d be lying if I said I knew everything about them. But I know it’s going to be a good game for us. It won’t be easy and I’ll look forward to this game as I’m sure my teammates will. Everybody in the stadium knows it will be a great game to watch.”

Demba Ba, Besiktas striker:

“It is going to be a fun trip to Liverpool because I love playing in England, the atmosphere at Anfield is going to be amazing as it always is. I did my job against Liverpool last season, Gerrard was just unlucky, I did what I had to and hope to do the same this time around.”

Possible Line-ups:

Liverpool starting XI: Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Sakho, Henderson, Allen, Ibe, Moreno, Sturridge, Lallana, Coutinho

Besiktas starting XI: Gonen, Kurtulus, Franco, Gulum, Ramon, Hutchinson, Kaviak, Tore, Sosa, Sahan, Ba

Prediction:

Liverpool have form of their side, well at least relative form when compared to Besiktas. Since the Turkish club would be playing away, it would be Liverpool who would go all out to get the advantage before they go into the second leg and thus Liverpool should just win this game by the odd goal.

 

Quotes: Liverpool FC & Liverpool Echo

Image courtesy: Liverpool FC, Independant & the Express

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