Key battles in Liverpool’s ‘tricky’ hosting of Salzburg at Anfield
Sportsbet.io identifies the fisticuffs from the holders’ upcoming Champions League game at home.
Liverpool, whose defeat to Napoli saw them become the first Champions League holders to lose their opening game in 25 years, welcome a Salzburg unit to Anfield that recorded the most impressive victory on matchday one. Jürgen Klopp's side is unbeaten in 22 European matches at home and is confident of extending the streak. Die Mozartstädter, meanwhile, is aware of the tough challenge at hand yet remains optimistic of spelling trouble for the Reds in their yard.
Here are the key battles from tonight's European showdown in England.
VIRGIL VAN DIJK v SÉKOU KOÏTA
With a last-minute call to be taken on the availability of Erling Haaland, Salzburg will bank on Malian forward to lead their attacking charge against European champions, Liverpool. In the build-up to their Champions League game, Salzburg hammered Austria Wein 4-1 with Koïta netting a brace. The 19-year-old striker will start alongside Hee-chan Hwang on the frontline and will fancy his chances against the formidable van Dijk.
Liverpool’s defence general has made the maximum number of blocks and clearances in the Premier League this season, and Jurgen Klopp will look up to the Dutch superstar to build an intimidating defensive wall against the Austrian champions’ attacking setup.
JAMES MILNER v ZLATKO JUNUZOVIC
Given his versatility in the midfield, the Englishman is poised to start as a ball-moving central midfielder in Jurgen Klopp's starting lineup, tonight. The 34-year-old's experience in European competitions will be pivotal for Liverpool to register the first win of their title defence, and Jurgen Klopp will be excited to see how he fares in a seasoned duel with Salzburg's Junuzovic.
The 32-year-old Austrian, like Milner, is known to dictate proceedings from a deep-lying position and is expected to tangle with Liverpool’s midfield synchronization. Known to win his on-field duels easily, it will be a treat for fans to see Junuzovic and Milner square off tonight.
ROBERTO FIRMINO v ANDREAS ULMER
Upon missing his chances in the opening game, Firmino aims to get off the mark in the first home fixture of the latest edition. The Brazilian is third on Liverpool's all-time European goalscorers list with 15 goals and is the odds-on favourite to open the scoring tonight.
The Liverpool number nine’s efforts, though, could be thwarted by Andreas Ulmer. The Austrian defender has a bag full of experience, and manager Jesse Marsch will hand the 33-year-old the task of minimizing Firmino's trickery and goalscoring intentions on the right flank.
Words: William Paul