That new Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will be making his Anfield bow in a competition that no one quite cares for and against opposition that don’t exactly inspire awe will be of little consequence to those on the Kop. The air on Merseyside has been that much fresher since the German was installed as manager just over a fortnight ago, and with the heavy doom and gloom lifted, he’ll get a rousing reception when he walks out of the tunnel tomorrow.
Although we only saw glimpses of the “high octane” football he’s known for during the scoreless draw with Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, supporters, pundits and players alike have been full of praise for the ex-Borussia Dortmund man. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t sound like Klopp is buying into his own hype; in his post-match interview the 48-year old was quick to acknowledge that this is a results business, and though there won’t likely be any booing tomorrow should they come up short against Rubin Kazan, securing the Reds first victory in the Europa League would be as good a place as any to open up shop.
History, it would seem, is on Liverpool’s side. Only losing once at home in the Europa League since the new format was introduced, they’ve won ten and drawn four outings in the second tier competition in a streak that stretches back to February 2010 — which means very little considering these two sides have never met in European competition and the fact that nothing is ever that simple.
When you couple Liverpool’s growing injury list with the boss keeping one eye on this weekend’s meeting with Southampton, securing three points might be easier said that done. Although the likes of Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino have rejoined full training and could be on the bench when the Russian side come knocking, neither player is likely to play any more than a cameo role should they feature at all. Daniel Sturridge, who missed out against Spurs as a precautionary measure, is also unlikely to hit the pitch with Klopp confirming in his pre-match press call that they’re targeting a Sunday return for him.
Adam Lallana, Joe Allen and Jordon Ibe could all come into the starting eleven with Brazilian pair Philippe Coutinho and Lucas expected to be rested ahead of the meeting with the Saints this weekend. Divock Origi will almost certainly retain his place up top with Danny Ings, who was expected to play a large part in the Europa League campaign, out for the season with an ACL injury. Joe Gomez, who suffered a campaign ending knee injury of his own, would almost certainly of featured as well, but either Dejan Lovren or Kolo Toure should be drafted into the side to give the preferred pair of Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel a break.
That, of course, will be good news for Kazan; managing only one goal thus far in Europe, they’re rooted to the bottom of Group B with a loss to FC Sion and a scoreless draw with Bordeaux making for pretty grim reading. Much like their hosts, the Russian outfit has a new manager at the helm with interim manager Valeri Chaly taking over for Rinat Bilyaletdinov in September.
Sitting only three-points off the foot of their domestic table, the Tartars haven’t been fairing very well at home either, but they travel to England on the back of a 3-1 win over FC Ufa last Saturday. Fullback Oleg Kuzmin sandwiched his brace around a strike from Syarhey Kislyak as Chaly’s side picked up some much needed points. Russian striker Igor Portnyagin is expected to lead the line at Anfield tomorrow, but ‘keeper Sergey Ryzhikov could prove to be the main man with the Reds expected to go full throttle to make sure their new boss gets off on the right foot on Merseyside.
Just like against Tottenham at the weekend, all eyes will be the German tomorrow with the action the pitch and even the result somewhat of a secondary consideration. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — football for me is about results and trophies and I think Klopp is on the same wave length. I’m just as happy to have him here as everyone else, but I’ll much that much happier if we’re three-points better off when the final whistle is blown.