Liverpool v Spartak Moscow
Houllier has backed Owen to carry on scoring stating: “Michael has been getting the chances in every game and should perhaps be the top goalscorer in the Premiership at the moment,” Houllier said. “But he will be – you can bet everything that he will get between 20 and 30 goals this season. That’s a tip.
Liverpool’s domestic form – they currently lie second in the Premier League – is in stark contrast to their Champions League efforts. Outclassed by Valencia in their opening game and disappointed not to beat Basle last week, Houllier’s team know that they cannot afford to drop many more points – especially at home.
Liverpool will make a late decision on the fitness of Stephane Henchoz. The Swiss defender is still struggling with the hamstring injury that kept him out of Saturday’s win at Manchester City. Gerard Houllier’s side are already without Vladimir Smicer (toe) and Abel Xavier (virus), but could have Markus Babbel back now the German is in full training. Dietmar Hamann also returns after serving a one-match ban following his dismissall against Valencia on matcday one.
Spartak Moscow are in the midst of their biggest crisis in a decade. They have not won a match since beating Alania Vladikavkaz 2-1 in the Russian premier league on 16 August. Moreover, Spartak have also lost injured captain Yegor Titov and Ukraine defender Dmitry Parfyonov for the rest of the season, while top striker Dmitry Sychyov is suspended after walking out of the club earlier this year.
Liverpool: Jerzy Dudek; Henchoz, Hyypia, Riise, Carragher; Murphy, Hamann, Gerrard, Heskey; Baros, Owen
Spartak Moscow: Cherchesov; Kovtun, Kebe, Tchuisse, Mitreski; Pineiro, Khlestov, Kudryashov, Kalinichenko; Beschastnykh, Danishevsky
Valencia v Basle
“We will have to be patient during the match,” he said. “Basle are also playing to try to qualify. I don’t want to think about the second phase at the moment, I’ve only got it in my head to win three points.”
The Valencia coach is certainly wary of the threat posed by a Basel side visibly growing in confidence. The Swiss side were surprise qualifieers when they overcame Celtic to reach the Champions League proper and last week’s draw – alebit fortuitous – at Liverpool, has shown that Christian Gross’ side are not the whipping boys many expected.
Valencia will be without the injured Kily Gonzalez, still suffering with a knee problem, and Benitez has decided to include forward Salva in his squad. The biggest dilemma for Benitez will be whether to persist with John Carew up front, or to give Mista a chance to impress from the start.
Gross is under no illusions that his side faces a massive test of character.
“Valencia CFÿare one of the strongest teams in the Champions League,” he said. “They have more experience than Liverpool, and they also are very ordered and efficient. They do not need to shoot on goal many times to score and for us it will be very difficult to win or even draw because they are 20 per cent better than us.”
Basel will be without midfield players Scott Chipperfield and Benjamin Huggel.
They may not be the most exciting team in Europe at the moment but Valencia are certainly one of the most effective and it is difficult to see beyond a home win in this fixture.
Probable teams: Too be announced