19:45 KO (BST); Tuesday 26th September; Otkrytie Arena (Moscow, Russia); BT Sport 2
Both sides began their European campaigns with draws in Group E of the Champions League. The Russian side drew 1-1 with Maribor, whilst Liverpool couldn’t secure a win against Spanish side Sevilla.
Spartak sit in sixth position in the Russian Premier League after eleven games, a rather disappointing position for them considering they won the league last season.
They drew 2-2 with Anzhi on Saturday, who are rock bottom. A win against Liverpool could completely change their fortunes.
For Liverpool, the story of their season looks as though it will be the same as last. Their defensive woes and frailties are sure to limit them again, which will disappoint the owners of the Anfield side.
They spent plenty of money in the summer, and Mo Salah, in particular, seems an excellent addition, but it was the defence which needed improving. Missing out on Virgil van Dijk will hit their season hard, and Jurgen Klopp will (yet again) have to rely on his forwards to outscore the opposition.
Last time out
SPARTAK MOSCOW 2-2 Anzhi [Russian Premier League]
Spartak were the better side in this one, but their conversion rate of just 15% let them down massively.
Anzhi will be thrilled with a point away to a side expected to be competing for the title, but so far the home side are not living up to those aims.
Leicester 2-3 LIVERPOOL [Premier League]
The Reds again looked very shaky defensively against the Foxes. Jamie Vardy and then Kelechi Iheanacho caused them problems throughout, and the former had a penalty saved by Simon Mignolet, which could have tied the game 3-3, who had given it away.
Liverpool looked fantastic going forward as expected and Philippe Coutinho had an excellent game, assisting Mo Salah’s opener and scoring a sublime free-kick to make it 2-0, but the likes of Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno will cause them more issues.
Joel Matip gave away a careless free-kick for a foul on Vardy, which ultimately led to the corner that resulted in Shinji Okazaki’s goal.
Spartak Moscow Lineup
Spartak look to have no fresh injury or suspension concerns heading into Tuesday night’s match.
Liverpool are likely to make a few changes to keep players fresh for Premier League games and to give others an opportunity.
Adam Lallana is nearly back from injury but looks unlikely to play this week. Sadio Mane is available as his suspension does not count towards European fixtures and he could start instead of Mo Salah. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could also get a rare start out wide.
Key Battle: Luiz Adriano vs Ragnar Klavan
Luiz Adriano will certainly look to target the Estonian centre-half on Tuesday night in Russia.
If he can get himself one on one with the Liverpool defender, then there is no reason why Spartak can’t pick up some crucial points in this Champions League group.
The Brazilian striker has four goals so far this season, but he contributes much more to the team than that with his excellent hold-up play that allows his teammates to get involved offensively.
English fans know Klavan can be a defensive liability, but will Spartak have studied the Kop enough to get the most out of their defensive limitations?
Liverpool’s defensive frailties
As already mentioned, Liverpool still look relatively weak at the back, particularly when compared to most of their top six rivals.
This will cause problems for them not only in the league but if they reach the latter stages of either European competition too.
Smaller teams have been able to exploit these issues all too easily during Klopp’s reign and it could be the difference between them finishing first and second in this group.
How many will the Reds score?
Changes are likely to be made to the team for Liverpool, with Mane and Sturridge both expected to start in attacking positions.
Their attack is excellent, and Mane is so key to how the Reds play, so it is more a case of how many will the away side get, not if they will score.
Spartak’s defence will need to be resilient to get them anything out of the game.
The home side are unlikely to be in the best of spirits after a relatively slow start to their season in the Russian Premier League.
They were also expected to beat Maribor in the opening group game but didn’t. Their lack of confidence because of this could mean that they lose the game purely because of perceived mental weaknesses in the side, even with experienced players such as Adriano and Tasci.
PREDICTION: Spartak Moscow 1-3 Liverpool
I have almost no doubt in my mind that the Russian outfit will score against Liverpool, but their defence is not of the highest quality.
The pace possessed by the Ox, Sturridge and Mane could cause them a whole set of new problems, and Liverpool’s firepower will be just too much.
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