Liverpool are to take on Spartak Moscow in their second match of the Champions League group stages on Tuesday. Liverpool’s first game saw them draw 2-2 against Sevilla at Anfield, and Jürgen Klopp will know that his side need three points to kickstart their European campaign.
How would you describe Spartak Moscow’s start to the season and what are their general aims for this campaign?
In one word, horrific. While they did cause somewhat of a surprise last season by winning the league, the performances so far this year have been very subpar with debut defeats to Lokomotiv and CSKA being topped by a huge 5-1 defeat to Zenit.
READ: Spartak Moscow vs Liverpool
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) September 26, 2017
Spartak are somewhat of a fallen giant, and so winning the title last season after 16 years was a return to the top, taking advantage of weakened rivals such as Zenit and CSKA, while turning out solid performances to secure a number of low margin victories.
Off the back of a title, with Zenit strengthening, and any of 7/8 sides vying for the top 5 European spots, aiming for Champions League football in the top two was undoubtedly their aim, but after a poor start, they will surely be content with any European football next season.
It sounds as if Spartak have a lot of injury issues at the minute. How will that effect their team in a match like this?
There are a number of long term injuries which have affected them for the whole season so far, namely midfielder Roman Zobnin, who burst onto the scene to be a huge influence in the title win. Striker Ze Luis is set to miss out, and star man Quincy Promes is very much touch and go for the game, having picked up an injury in a cup match last week.
New boy Pedro Rocha, their only big signing over the summer, is also a doubt after a similar injury in the same game.
— FC Spartak Moscow (@fcsm_official) September 26, 2017
How confident are Spartak Moscow going into this game?
Confidence is low among the fans, and so you would have to imagine the same among the players.
There have been a number of calls for Massimo Carrera to be sacked, from the fans, and with star man Promes looking likely to miss out, combined with an embarrassing 2-2 draw at home to bottom side Anzhi on the weekend, having taken the lead, there is not much hope that Spartak can muster a result, even with the dvantage of playing at the Okritiye Arena.
Liverpool have been linked with Quincy Promes in the last year, as mentioned in Jürgen Klopp’s pre-match press conference. Is he a player that you think could excel for a team like Liverpool?
Undoubtedly. He is a player like Mané or Salah, who plays anywhere in the attacking four, thanks to his blistering pace and directness. He is, on his day, the best player in Russia. Like Coutinho, he can make something from nothing, always being in the right place, and the ability to score powerfully from distance.
Without Promes over the last couple of years, they would be nowhere near where they are now. The number of times he has won them a game with a moment of magic is beyond my memory.
— Quincy Promes (@QPromes) September 25, 2017
What sort of team and system are we likely to see front Spartak? Are they a side that will take the game to Liverpool or are they likely to be a bit more reserved?
Based on their matches against the big sides, this year, they will be reserved, though without Promes they’ll be lacking on the counter. They have reverted to a 3 man defence over the past few weeks due to their domestic troubles, though it hasn’t helped a great deal, and it’s likely they will do the same again this week with the reserved set up in mind.
Counterattacks will be spearheaded by Brazilian forward Luiz Adriano, formerly of AC Milan and Shakhtar, while fellow Brazilian Fernando will be the playmaker at the base of the midfield.
Will the home advantage be a big factor for Spartak?
That’s a minor hope. They made the home ground a fortress last season and only lost once, and though they have lost again this season, and then limped to a 2-2 draw with Anzhi this weekend, there is always the aspect of using the terrific atmosphere in the stadium to their advantage, as well as any possible jet-lag.
The weather is not too bad in Moscow yet, so there is nothing to factor in there.
Which Spartak player do Liverpool need to be most wary of?
With Promes likely to be sidelined, the spark in the team is most likely going to be midfielder Fernando. Signed from Sampdoria in 2016, he was a huge influence in their title winning season, sitting deep in order to allow his fellow midfielders, namely Denis Glushakov, room to wander forward and score a number of vital goals.
Fernando chipped in with his own goals every now and then too, scoring a couple of worldies from distance. His intelligence and passing range make him one of the best midfielders in Russia and without doubt he can influence the game this week.
What’s the perception of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in Russia?
Well, Klopp’s Liverpool came to Russia two years ago, when the beat Rubin Kazan 1-0 in the Europa League. At the time, Rubin were going through a rough patch, and Klopp was very new. The result probably was a credit to Rubin, who over performed at Anfield to take a point, and defended well in Kazan to keep the game close, despite losing.
Russian fans in general are big fans of the Premier League, and there are fanclubs for every club all over Russia. If the reception is anything like it was in Kazan, they should be received well. Hospitality for the big clubs in Europe when traveling to Russia has been good over the last few years.
Having a side as big as Liverpool is a big privilege for the city and club. A good example was when Man Utd went to Rostov last season.
Which Liverpool player can you see causing Spartak the most problems?
Spartak’s weak points are the wing backs, so letting Salah and Mané loose against them will cause all sorts of problems. On current form you’d have to single out Salah as the biggest influence.
Your prediction for this match?
I personally can’t see anything but a Liverpool win. Spartak getting anything from the game will be a shock for me.