It was no huge surprise to see Real Madrid ease past FC Basel in the opening round of Champions League games and the reality is that Liverpool are in a battle with the remaining sides in Group B to progress alongside the Spanish giants.
An uncomfortable, 2-1 over Ludogorets puts the Reds in second place in the early table but where are the dangers as Brendan Rodgers’ side prepare to head to Switzerland at the start of next month?
After those early exchanges, Liverpool were among the outsiders at 28/1 with Betfair to win the Champions League but that figure could drop with a positive result at the St. Jakob-Park stadium.
In recent seasons, Basel have secured positive European results against Spurs and Chelsea – amongst others – and while they may have lost some influential players since, they remain an obvious threat, particularly at home.
Current Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah is the man they most miss but there is plenty of quality in this side to cause an upset on October 1st and the clear danger lies in attack. After eight games of the new Swiss campaign, Paulo Sousa’s men are in second place, a point behind Zurich, with striker Marco Streller finding the net four times in six league outings.
A reported target for West Ham and other Premiership sides over the summer, 33 year old Streller’s age would probably count against him when it comes to transfer deals, but that’s a positive factor for Basel who have employed the former Stuttgart man since 2007.
His tally of 86 goals in 189 matches includes the winner over Chelsea in the 2013-14 version of the Champions League and there’s no doubt that Rodgers would have had Streller watched in recent weeks.
Threats through the side
Streller’s regular strike partner is Paraguayan international Derlis Gonzalez but the youngster has started the season in more subdued fashion – scoring once in seven league appearances to date. Mainly deployed as a winger through his career, Gonzalez is effectively Salah’s long term replacement but he looks to be some way from the finished article.
However, the 20 year old went one better than his more established team mate as he scored Basel’s consolation in that heavy defeat at the Bernabeu. Clearly there is a threat and while he’s raw, the versatile player shouldn’t be underestimated.
A solid back line
Real’s cause was helped by an early own goal from Marek Suchy but until recently, the Swiss have had a tight defence and are hard to break down. Fabian Schar is at the heart of that back line and is another man who is supposedly on the radar of a number of Premier League clubs – Spurs and Arsenal included.
Czech international Suchy is now at the club on a permanent basis after his loan from Spartak Moscow last season. That own goal wouldn’t have been the perfect way to start a new career but the player should begin to feel comfortable ahead of compatriot Tomas Vaclik between the Basel posts.
After those eight games at the start of the new Swiss Super League season, Basel had conceded 12 goals – an average of 1.5 per game and a total that is equal to Vaduz who are second from bottom. Perhaps that tight defence is showing signs of vulnerability.
Based on those facts, it seems as if Basel will be dangerous in attack and a little suspect across the back four when they meet Liverpool next month. After edging past Ludogorets, this really is the crucial fixture for the Reds and even at this early stage of the Champions League, a win should be enough to claim a slot in the knockout phase.
Liverpool travel down to London on Saturday to face Sam Allardyce’s West Ham team. The lads are joined by John and Jack to discuss the Hammers but more importantly how Liverpool will set up and who might feature after our Champions League exploits on Tuesday night.
Balotelli Gave A Glimpse Of What He Will Do For Reds
Liverpool entered the Champions League for the first time in 5 years against little known Bulgarian league champions Ludogorets and the stage was set for an emphatic win for the Reds, but the Bulgarians had other ideas and made the night a very difficult night for Brendan Rodgers men.
Liverpool scraped past Ludogorets 2-1 with late drama involving 3 goals in the last 10 minutes including a first goal for Mario Balotelli and a last minute penalty from Steven Gerrard.
The Liverpool captain stole Balotelli’s thunder after it looked like the Italian’s first goal for the Reds was going to be the winner until Ludogorets’ late equaliser allowed Gerrard to become the hero instead.
But Balotelli’s goal was a welcome one, not only because it was his first for his new club but the way that he scored it was a glimpse of the ability he has to create a chance out of nothing with his strength and power as he held off two defenders before creating space before clinically firing past the keeper.
Balotelli is not a striker that is involved as much in the play like Suarez and Sturridge and like last night, he wasn’t involved in a lot of the play but did work hard for the team and took his chance when it came.
Balotelli will get better with games as Liverpool find their fluency in their passing game to create chances, because the first few games the Italian has been feeding on scraps as Liverpool struggle to find their form of last season.
Liverpool and their new striker will get better.