Soccer 360: A goal at Anfield will send Zenit through

Will Zenit players celebrate this Thursday as well?

Will Zenit players celebrate this Thursday as well?

After the Champions League presented its lovers with some great soccer on Tuesday and Wednesday, it is now time to see what Europa League – the “uglier sister”, as I like to call it – has in stock for soccer-hungry fans. 16 second-leg matches will be played all around Europe today, some of them more intriguing than others.

In-form Gareth Bale and his Tottenham will cross the English Channel in attempt to protect their 1-goal first-game advantage over Lyon. After the humiliating 3-0 defeat at home, Napoli visits Viktoria Plzeň in what I think is a lost-cause match. But hey, I’ve heard Czech beer is worth the trip. There is one particular game, though, that is hanging in the air, despite the first-leg result. From all games on Thursday, Soccer 360 picks Liverpool-Zenit to preview and give its best shot at predicting the final score.

COACHES have the word:

“We need the patience. We don’t need to score early, we just need to score first even if that comes after 40, 55 or 70 minutes, I still think we have the power of the crowd and the players to get the result as long as we stay super compact.” – Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool coach

“I have got confidence in the players’ condition, their physical shape is at a real high level. We showed over there we can create chances and Zenit know it will be a really difficult game coming here. We have confidence we can score the goals required.” – Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool coach

“We have to play the game as if it was 0-0 in the first game. We have to forget about the 2-0 scoreline.” – Luciano Spalletti, Zenit coach

“Liverpool may push us back but we are going to follow the same tactics and strategy as last week.” – Luciano Spalletti, Zenit coach

PLAYERS have the word:

“We’re playing fantastic football and we’re performing really well, but it seems as if we’re taking two or three steps forward and then one back.” – Steven Gerrard, Liverpool midfielder and captain

“We have to show character from the beginning, especially in the first 15-20 minutes to get the people right behind us, but then they will lift us in the weak moments as they always do.” – Pepe Reina, Liverpool goalkeeper

“We know we need to score goals but we also have to play with a defensive mentality because to concede a goal will make it even harder for us.” – Lucas Leiva, Liverpool midfielder

 

SQUAD NEWS:

Liverpool’s task to overcome the deficit from the first match will be harder because of key absentees in the second leg. Central defender Martin Skrtel is suspected of missing the match with a knee injury, which will probaly see Jamie Carragher pair up with Daniel Agger in the back. Striker Fabio Borini will be out for at least 8 weeks after dislocating his shoulder in Liverpool’s morale-boosting victory over Swansea City on Sunday.

Luis Suarez will have to be at his best for Liverpool to have a chance to advance

Luis Suarez will have to be at his best for Liverpool to have a chance to advance. Photo: Bleacher Report

In addition, winter signings Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho are cup-tied and won’t be able to make an impact. The latter might be replaced by Moroccan international Oussama Assaidi, who is back in the squad after returning from the African Cup of Nations.

On the other hand, Luciano Spalletti has his entire squad at his service and any changes he makes to last week’s line-up will be just tactical.

RECENT FORM:

Liverpool lost only 1 of the last 5 league games they played. These included away draws against Manchester City and Arsenal. However, the club from Merseyside has won only 1 of its last 4. The sole victory coming against a reserve-filled Swansea City squad, which seemed concentrated on the Capital One Cup final against Bradford City this weekend.

Zenit’s only competitive game over the course of last two and a half months was the first match of the tie against Liverpool in St. Petersburg last Thursday. Last year’s Russian champion currently sits third in the Russian Premier League, 5 points behind leader CSKA Moscow.

Here are the highlights of Liverpool’s 3 minutes of slack that can cost them so much on Thursday.

Hulk (in blue) will be a main concern for Liverpool defenders on Thursday. Photo: The Telegraph

Hulk (in blue) will be a main concern for Liverpool defenders on Thursday. Photo: The Telegraph

Looking at the squads and taking into account last week’s game, Soccer 360 predicts a 2-1 consolation victory for Liverpool. What is your view on the game? Extra time? Penalties?

Comments are welcome.



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