Liverpool's recent form takes a little of the luster off Champions League participation, but a good result tomorrow night--which we thought we were witnessing on Saturday until Phil Jagielka blacked out and crashed in a half-volley from thirty yards--would get things back on track ahead of the weekend. It would also give Liverpool a very real chance at qualifying for the knockout rounds after only two matches given Real Madrid's expected dominance, but one step at a time and all that, and tomorrow's step is in Switzerland.
Basel head into tomorrow night's fixture on three match unbeaten streak; the first was a 4-0 victory over Swiss Challenge League (Switzerland's second division) side Winterthur in the Schweizer Pokal, moving them on to the round of 16 to face another Challenge League side in Wohlen, followed by a comfortable 3-1 win at home over Vaduz in league, and in their most recent outing they drew with Thun 1-1 at St. Jakob-Park. Basel are two points ahead of second-place Zurich in the Super League after ten matches played and potentially on their way to a sixth-straight league title.
Last time out in the Champions League things weren't quite as positive, as they conceded five goals at the Bernabeu in the loss to Real Madrid. Away to the holders in the opening fixture is a tall task for anyone, however, and tomorrow they'll look to rebound in front of their home supporters in a match they'll no doubt feel they can win. Basel have been excellent in Europe in the recent past, advancing to the Round of 16 in 2011-2012, the Europa League semifinals in 2012-2013, and last season they finished third in their group on eight points, with home and away wins over Chelsea, before dropping back into the Europa League and reaching the quarterfinals.
Against Madrid, manager Paolo Sousa went with what looks like a 3-4-2-1. Tomas Vaclik started in goal, with Fabian Schar, Walter Samuel, and Marek Suchy across the back, Taulant Xhaka and Behrang Safari as wingbacks, Mohamed Elneny and Fabian Frei in central midfield, and Derlis Gonzalez (who scored their only goal) and Luca Zuffi in support of Marco Streller up top. Former Liverpool defender Phillipp Degen will be ruled out through injury.
Manquillo Skrtel Lovren Moreno
Sterling Lallana Coutinho
Earlier in the day it was confirmed that Daniel Sturridge was ruled out out once again through injury, missing the squad along with Jon Flanagan, Glen Johnson, Joe Allen, and Emre Can. Mamadou Sakho was left out, surely left out because of his decision to leave Anfield after not making the 18-man squad for the Merseyside derby on Saturday**. Lazar Markovic is back after serving the second of his two-match ban against Ludogorets.
With so many still ruled out, there just don't seem to be many options available to Brendan Rodgers if he wants to shake things up. The diamond is a possibility only if the manager is willing to bring Fabio Borini back into the fold up top, and maybe he includes Lucas as part of a shift in formation or personnel, but neither seems particularly likely as Rodgers settles into his preferred eleven domestically and on the continent.
There is a chance that Jose Enrique gives Alberto Moreno a night off, though, or that Kolo Toure steps in for one of Dejan Lovren or Martin Skrtel, but otherwise the defense looks the same as it did against Everton. That's not a bad thing in this case, as they were far more composed and cohesive than they've been at any point this season.
The one change in the eleven will likely come in the form of Philippe Coutinho for Markovic, who struggled to get involved over the weekend. Coutinho was composed and confident without being hugely influential; he kept things ticking along at a good pace going forward, and his minutes appeared valuable from the standpoint of rebuilding whatever had been so badly broken during his first few appearances of the season prior to injury.
Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard should again feature deeper in the midfield, with Coutinho operating through the forward areas along with Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling in support of Mario Balotelli.
Kickoff is set for 7:45PM BST/2:45PM EST, with Sky Sports 5 carrying coverage in the UK and Fox Sports 2/FoxSoccer2Go airing the match live worldwide for subscribers. Our coverage will start with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into the matchday post early tomorrow, which will have team sheets an hour before kickoff. Hope you'll be around to join us--if you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation profile and stick around.
**In his pre-match presser today, Rodgers attributed Sakho's absence to a "strain." Okay.