Football

Liverpool faces a tricky Salzburg

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Needs to avoid defeat to progress; one of Inter and Dortmund set to miss out

Liverpool travels to Salzburg on Tuesday needing to avoid defeat to the confident Austrian champion to guard against an embarrassing Champions League group stage exit for the holder.

Jurgen Klopp’s men are used to getting through to the knockout stages the hard way. In each of the past two seasons they have needed home wins to secure a place in the last 16 before going on to make the final.

However, the spectre of a free-scoring Salzburg, led by the Champions League’s top scorer in Erlin Braut Haaland spells trouble for an injury-hit Liverpool backline that has consistently leaked goals this season.

Injured back-line

The Reds lost another centre-back as Dejan Lovren limped off in Saturday’s win over Bournemouth.

Should the Croatian miss the trip to Austria, Joe Gomez will be Klopp’s only fit partner for Virgil van Dijk in central defence. But even the towering Dutchman has been incapable of stopping the steady flow of goals against it recent months.

Another injury to Fabinho has robbed the back four of the best player to protect them in the holding midfield role.

Wonderkid

Salzburg, meanwhile, has scored 87 goals in 24 games in all competitions this season, 28 of which have come from Norwegian wonderkid Haaland in just 21 appearances.

Salzburg needs to win to make the last 16 on its first appearance in the group stage in 25 years. A point would be enough for Liverpool to progress, but it needs to win to secure top spot in Group E ahead of Napoli.

No Messi

Meanwhile, Barcelona star Lionel Messi will not make the trip to Italy for its game against Inter Milan, the Spanish club confirmed on Monday.

Barcelona is already through to the last 16 with the team also sure of finishing top of Group F as it has 11 points from five games.

Antonio Conte’s Inter still has to book its place in the last 16. It is second, level on seven points with Borussia Dortmund, which hosts Slavia Prague.

Inter will qualify if the two clubs finish on the same number of points due to its superior head-to-head goal difference.

Witsel injured

Dortmund will also be hampered with midfielder Axel Witsel set to miss the rest of the year after needing surgery for a facial injury sustained in an accident at home.

“We couldn’t talk to him yesterday (Sunday) because he was in intensive care in hospital,” said Dortmund coach Lucien Favre, while a club spokesman said Witsel fell at home but gave no further details.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 8:07:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/liverpool-faces-a-tricky-salzburg/article30259882.ece

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