Brendan Rodgers has encouraged his Liverpool players to draw inspiration from the good-old achievements of yesteryears in a bid to etch their name in the legend of the club by securing a vital victory against FC Basel.
Basel’s visit to Anfield on Tuesday night almost coincides with the tenth anniversary of the ‘Reds’s’ last make-or-mar final group fixture at Anfield in the UEFA Champions League. In December 2004, Liverpool came from behind to beat Olympiakos 3-1- a crucial win enough to keep their ambition alive and progress into the knockout stage, from where they would go on to win the trophy.
History has offered another opportunity for a repeat and Rodgers is aware anything short of a win completely jeopardizes Liverpool’s chances of progressing into the round of 16.
“This is a competition that has a great history here for Liverpool and the Olympiacos game was a part of it,” the northern Irish boss said in his pre-match press conference on Monday evening.
“It’s an opportunity for the players now to qualify and make sure they write themselves into folklore by winning the game and ensuring they get into the next round because that’s the objective.”
A win by any margin would have Rodgers’ side leapfrog their opponent into the knockout stage for the first time since 2008/09, while second-placed Basel require a point to secure their first last-16 appearance since 2011/12.
The Anfield hosts lost the reverse fixture by a solitary Marco Streller goal a couple of months ago, a defeat which heralded a run of four games without a win in Europe this season. But the Premier League side seems to be finding their feet again following last month’s 2-2 draw with Ludogoret Razgrads in Bulgaria.
Saturday’s goalless home draw against Sunderland halted Liverpool’s back-to-back wins on domestic front, while Basel have won seven of their last eight games, including a 3-0 thrashing of bottom side FC Luzern on Saturday.
Defeats at Real Madrid and Ludogorets have in the meantime consigned Basel to a search for first victory on the road so far in the current campaign. Paulo Sousa’s side will also be seeking to achieve what no other Swiss team has done before- defeating Liverpool in Merseyside.
“We can come together tomorrow night, hopefully get the victory, qualify for the next round and look to use it to give confidence in the rest of our games,” Rodgers said.
“We go into the game in a good condition physically and mentally. We know what the job is. It’s going to be a tough game. But Basel come here on the back of losing their away games in the group. So I’m sure they understand it’s going to be a tough game for them.
“We respect them, but our objective is to win the game and our focus and concentration is purely on ourselves to do that.
“Basel may sit back because they don’t need to win the game, so we need to be able to move the ball from side to side to be able to penetrate.”
Having missed ten matches due to a slipped disc, Streller returned to action in a 2-1 win against Zürich on Sunday, 30 November. Geoffroy Serey Die is available after serving a two-game ban. Ivoirian striker Giovanni Sio is not available for the clash due to a knee injury.
Mario Balotelli, who has not played since suffering a hamstring injury in training with Italy on November 15, is not in Liverpool’s squad.