Liverpool can confirm their place in the knockout stages of the Europa League with a win at home to Young Boys of Switzerland on Thursday (8.05 GMT, live on ITV4).
Anzhi Makhachkala currently lead Group A on seven points from four matches, with Liverpool and Young Boys both a point further back. Italian side Udinese prop up the group on four points.
Victory on Thursday would give Liverpool a three-point cushion over Young Boys with one match left to play. As the Reds also won when the two teams met in Bern in the first round of group matches their better head-to-head record would ensure them a place in last 32 regardless of their final day result away to Udinese.
The first encounter between Liverpool and Young Boys was an eight-goal thriller, from which Liverpool eventually emerged as 5-3 victors having been 3-2 down with 25 minutes to play. The defending from both sides left a lot to be desired, but it was nevertheless an entertaining end-to-end affair.
Manager Brendan Rodgers picked a number of his younger squad members for that match, and strong performances from full-back Andre Wisdom and midfielder Suso led to both being parachuted into his Premier League starting eleven in the following weeks. Jonjo Shelvey earned himself a start against Manchester United on the back of his two-goal salvo.
Those promotions provided motivation to all those subsequently given opportunities to display their talents in the Europa League. The message is clear: perform well and you have a chance of working your way into the first team picture on a more regular basis.
Rodgers is again likely to employ a mix of youngsters and experienced players on the margins of the first team and perhaps a couple of regular starters on Thursday. That said he will have one eye on Liverpool’s next league fixture, a return to his former club Swansea on Sunday. He has Lucas Leiva, Fabio Borini and Martin Kelly as long-term absentees but otherwise has a fit squad to choose from.
Young Boys followed their opening day defeat to Liverpool with a loss away to Anzhi, but brought themselves back into contention with two victories in the recent double header with Udinese, winning 3-1 at home and 3-2 away.
Argentinian striker Raul Bobadilla scored four times in those two encounters, underlining the threat he will pose to the Liverpool defence. He assisted two of Young Boys’ three goals in the first meeting between the sides and impressed with his strong hold-up play, shielding the ball from defenders and then laying it off to teammates or turning to move forward himself.
Bobadilla will likely be supported by Alexander Farnerud, Rapha Nuzzolo and countryman Gonzalo Zarate in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Young Boys have implemented in all four of their Europa League matches to date. They play a very open style of football, as illustrated by the fact that those four matches saw 19 goals (4.75 per match, on average).
They have also kept just three clean sheets in 15 Swiss Super League matches this season, meaning Liverpool should be confident of breaching their defence at least once.
Young Boys come into the match in poor domestic form, having failed to win in their last four league matches. They are currently fifth in the table, some distance behind the tightly-bunched top four.
Liverpool, on the other hand, are undefeated in six Premier League matches and warmed up for Thursday’s encounter with a 3-0 win at home to Wigan. Four of those six matches ended in draws, but there are signs that Rodgers’ ideas are starting to take root. If they can add a little more cutting edge up front in the January transfer window a strong second half of the season appears likely.
Liverpool v Young Boys Betting Tips Advice
Young Boys certainly offer an offensive threat, but are also very lapse in defence, suggesting Liverpool have a good chance of getting the goals that will fire them to victory and a place in the knockout stages.
- Bet on Liverpool -1 on the Asian Handicap @ 7/10 with BetVictor. If they win by just one goal your stake is returned, while a greater winning margin sees the bet come in.
- Although a repeat of the eight-goal first encounter is unlikely, we expect to see the ball in the back of the net many times, so back over 3.5 goals @ best odds for 2/1 at William Hill.