Liverpool outplayed Sevilla in their first game back in the group stages of the Champions League but came up short on the scoreboard, drawing the match 2-2. It was a similar story for Spartak Moscow, their opponents on Tuesday, who drew their own opening match 1-1 with group minnows NK Maribor.
The parallels for the two teams go beyond just their group stage openers, too, with both having dealt with a disappointing month of results. One of the two is likely to take a step forward tomorrow, though, and whichever does will set themselves out as the side to beat in Group E of the Champions League.
“We’re expecting a difficult game,” said goalkeeper Loris Karius, set for his second European start in a row after manager Jürgen Klopp confirmed the young German will retain the starting job in Europe while veteran Belgian shot stopper Simon Mignolet continues to be the first choice in league action.
“I’m happy to play in it,” the 24-year-old German continued. “It’s something you dream of as a player. It’s the Champions League and this is a new experience for a lot of us but we’re all ready for it. I see this as a chance to show the manager I’m ready to play in the Premier League, too. That’s my future goal.”
A victory tomorrow would go a long way towards arguing his case in a season that has so far seen Liverpool’s three goalkeepers—while not to blame for the club’s defensive failings—all fail to truly stand out as a clear first choice option for the club. And it’s at the back where, so far, Spartak has also struggled.
They’ve drawn their last two league games against Anzhi Makhachakala and Tosno, a mid-table and newly promoted side respectively, conceding second half goals to in both games to concede the lead. Their draw with Maribor also saw them conceding late, dropping two points from a game they should have won.
Both sides can score—both sides have looked better in attack than defence this season. Now, whichever one of the two can tighten things up best at the back is likely to emerge with the points on Tuesday. For his part, Karius intends that side to be Liverpool. Even if undoubtedly Spartak’s players will be thinking similarly.
“We know we have a very offensive style of play, but we can do better defensively,” he added. “Taking a few risks in defence works well for us in most games, but some goals we’ve had a few words about as a team—we learn from it, we look at things, we know where we can do better.”