Liverpool embark on Swiss adventure to battle Basel
Liverpool (28/1 to win the Champions League with Coral) last faced Basel 12 seasons ago, with their Champions League group stage clashes in 2002 the only time the two sides have met.
Both of those encounters ended in a draw, with Liverpool legend Michael Owen netting the equaliser for the Reds on their visit to St Jakob-Park. The result on that autumn evening was 3-3, a scoreline which is available at 45/1 to be repeated.
Liverpool, 12/5 to be left disappointed with another draw, will be aiming to avoid another slip-up after narrowly scraping past Group B surprise package Ludogorets Razgrad. Brendan Rodgers’ Reds were rescued from dropping points by skipper Steven Gerard, after the 34-year-old stepped up to convert a penalty and ensure his side bagged all three points.
The veteran midfielder also netted in the Merseyside derby in his last Premier League outing, also from a dead ball, and is 8/1 to hit home the final goal, or 11/4 to score anytime.
Rodgers will be aware that their toughest Champions League test still awaits, with holders Real Madrid just around the corner. The northwest giants will need to pick up as many points as possible before their encounters with the Spanish capital club, and a tricky away fixture against Ludogorets.
In a blow to the Reds, Daniel Sturridge remains sidelined, and has been left out of the travelling squad. Mario Balotelli will still be leading the line for the Anfield outfit, however, and despite being yet to open his league account, he scored the opening goal for Liverpool last time out in Europe. The Italian attacker is 11/2 to fire home first once more.
Centre back Mamadou Sakho has also been omitted from the squad again, after also missing out in the Merseyside derby. The PSG academy product appears to have fallen out of favour at Anfield and did not help his cause by leaving the stadium before the Everton clash.
Basel could yet be another potential banana skin, having defeated Chelsea on home turf last term, as well as securing an unlikely 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge.
Former Swansea City boss Paulo Sousa, in particular, will be eager to prove his credentials as a coach on the continent after Rodgers’ replaced him at the Welsh club back in 2010.
Sousa currently has Basel topping the Swiss Super League table, but domestic success is the minimum expected of the ex-Portugal international.
Basel, 5/2 to win, have a formidable home record this season, with just one defeat from six games at St Jakob-Park. They were, however, smashed 5-1 by Madrid at the Bernabeu in their last Champions League match.
The Swiss side must tighten up at the back before facing the Reds to avoid another mauling. Former Liverpool flop Philipp Degen is unlikely to feature, and Basel will have to hope veteran centre back Walter Samuel and goal-scoring defender Fabian Schar are in top form.
Schar will be a threat from set pieces, and is 20/1 to take advantage of a shaky Reds rearguard and strike first. His namesake Fabian Frei, and leading marksman Marco Streller are also 4/1 and 15/8 to score anytime respectively.