Liverpool’s progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League hinges on one game, with Spartak Moscow travelling to Anfield to take on the Reds in their final group match on Wednesday evening.
Liverpool know that a point would see them through to the last 16, but they’d be unlikely to progress as group winners that way, with Sevilla taking on Maribor away from home on the same night.
A win for the Reds will guarantee qualification as group winners, but a loss would see them knocked out with Spartak Moscow progressing.
It’s a huge night for both sides and to get an opposing fans’ preview of this one, we spoke to Russian football expert Artur Petrosyan.
This is a huge game for both of these teams. Spartak know that they’re through with a win. Is this a match that is getting Russian football fans talking?
Exactly, yes. Not many Russian fans expected both Spartak and CSKA to be in with a chance of reaching the knock-out stages as late as before the matchweek 6.
Interestingly, both clubs could achieve that playing in the same country – CSKA play at Old Trafford on Monday, while Spartak will try to work wonders at Anfield.
Liverpool dominated possession in Moscow but failed to get the three points. Do you think Spartak will set up in a similar way for this one?
The formation has switched from 5 at the back to 4 at the back since then, but the approach will mostly be similar. It’d be suicidal to play an open game against Liverpool (although, they’d love to) so they’ll instead focus on counter-attacks.
The previous meeting between these sides saw a number of Spartak Moscow’s key players unavailable because of injury, including Quincy Promes. Is he likely to feature at Anfield?
Yes, definitely. So are two other regular attacking players Ze Luis and Luiz Adriano.
How highly do you rate Promes? The Liverpool Echo reported in January that the Reds have kept an eye on him and Klopp hasn’t been shy to mention him as a good player in recent press conferences.
I know Liverpool have been scouting him for a few years now, so have a few other Premier League clubs. But I can’t really see him being a regular in this Liverpool team with Salah and Mané being so good.
So, I do think Promes is more than ready to make a next step in his career and move to one of the English clubs. Everton could be ideal.
What has Spartak’s recent form been like and how confident will they be heading into this game?
4 wins in 4 last league games including a crucial victory over Zenit 3-1 last week. Spartak are back to their best, both physically and mentally. They did have a hangover after clinching the title last season (a bit like Chelsea) but it’s finally over now.
What have you made of Liverpool this season?
Liverpool are enjoyable to watch when attacking but painful to watch when defending. And the poor defence as well as the goalkeepers is something that would always stand in the way of winning titles.
Liverpool fans will be hoping to see Coutinho, Salah, Mané and Firmino all on the same pitch for this one, do you think that attack is likely to cause Spartak a lot of problems?
Absolutely. Spartak’s main weaknesses lie exactly in defence: both positionally and individually. Dmitri Kombarov’s injury also means Georgi Dzhikiya will have to leave his preferred position at centre-back, where he’s really been a beast recently, and play at left-back.
The Spartak player you think Liverpool need to be most wary of?
Any of the attacking trio – Promes, Ze Luis or Luiz Adriano.
The Liverpool player you think could cause Spartak the most problems?
Salah and Mané are too good for any of the Spartak’s full backs, while Coutinho could cause some real problems with his service for your wingers if he plays in a central role.
Your score prediction?
We’re likely to see a lot of goal-scoring opportunities and probably goals too. 3-1 to Liverpool.