Monaco v Liverpool
Liverpool can qualify for the knockout stage of the competition by winning in France this evening.
Djibril Cisse and Milan Baros were the scorers in the 2-0 victory over Monaco at Anfield on 15 September. Both will be absent this time around as Liverpool seek to improve upon their disappointing away record under manager Rafael Benitez.
Statistics show they couldn’t have chosen a much worse ground to try and achieve this though. Monaco, last season’s losing finalists, will be looking to continue their own impressive Champions League home form where they have won their last five and are unbeaten in the last ten.
Monaco’s recent domestic league form has not been as good though. A 3-1 defeat at home by Sochaux on Friday saw Monaco extend their winless streak in the French league to eight matches and left them eleven points behind leaders Lyon. Coach Didier Deschamps described the performance as “the worst of the season”, and is hoping for a positive reaction at the Stade Louis II.
He said: “It’s been a difficult weekend for me and the players. I believe I found the right words to say to them, now they have to provide the right actions.
“This is a decisive match and we need to win if we are to continue the adventure. My players are aware of the situation.”
Deschamps will give fitness tests to Lucas Bernardi (who has a leg strain) and Julien Rodriguez (ankle).
Meanwhile, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard should start after making his comeback from a foot injury at the weekend against Middlesborough.
Benítez confirmed: “He can play and for us it’s vital to have our captain back.”
Dietmar Hamann said he was looking forward to renewing his partnership with the England midield player.
“He’s so influential,” explained the German international. “We’ve been lacking goals recently and Steven will help in that respect. He’s fast and strong going forward and he can make and score goals.”
Harry Kewell and Luis Garcia should also continue in attack for The Reds although after the partnership failed to inspire at the weekend Benitez hinted that he might play just one up-front against Monaco.
“A lot of teams play with just one forward,” said Benítez.
“The most important thing is the number of players you have who will get into the box and score goals.”
Interestingly, Monaco have won their last two Champions League home matches after scoring twice in the first ten minutes.
Benítez, winner of the UEFA Cup last season with Valencia, insists he has no plans to counter the potential early threat, saying: “We make plans for the 90 minutes not for the first ten minutes. It’s important that my team concentrate throughout the game.
Liverpool have won only once on French soil in six attempts. That was in 2002/2003 UEFA Cup when they beat Auxerre 1-0. They lost the other five.