23 min: Minomino, who has been scheming beautifully ‘in the hole’ for Salzburg, picks out a pass to Haaland, charging into the left-hand side of the box. He drills a low shot goalward. It’s another comfortable save for Alisson, but another another warning of the danger Salzburg carry even though Liverpool have had slightly more control in the last few minutes.
21 min: Minamino slips a pass through to Hwang, who tries to shoot while running into the left-hand side of the Lvierpool box. But he doesn’t catch it cleanly, so it’s a straightforward save for Alisson.
21 min: Mane darts on to a cute pass by Wijnaldum and tries to curl a shot from the right-hand side of the box into the far corner. The keeper makes a meal of pushing it away. Keita retrieves and unloads a shot from 18 yards. It’s blocked. Alexander-Arnold pounces on the follow-up but blasts over the bar.
19 min: Robertson’s corner from the left is cleared. Suddenly Haaland is racing on to a big hoof downfield. Alisson rushes out of his box to tidy up.
17 min: The pace has dipped a little, as Liverpool try to exert some authority with steady possession play. “Is it just me or are all-dark red kits very similar to all-black kits?” wonders Bob Moore. “Couldn’t the Liverpool kit man have packed one of the multitude of ‘alternate’ kits?” The contrast between the kits could certainly be clearer. There’s a good case for home teams having the right to pick the outfit that visitors must wear. Polka dots, hats, nurse’s uniform, all options should be open.
14 min: Most teams struggle to cope with Liverpool’s speed and intensity. but Salzburg are matching it, maybe even exceeding it, at the moment.
12 min: Nice exchange between Mané and Robertson. The Scot bangs a low ball across the face of goal, but it’s cleared for a throw-in.
10 min: A wonderful shoulder challenge by Van Dijk on Hwang, who’s sent sideways like a skateboarder trying to ditch a bus off the road.
8 min: Mané tries to guide a curler into the bottom corner from just outside the box. He misses by a yard.
7 min: Lovely interplay by Salzburg! Hwang played a foxy backheel to Minamino in the box and then dashed in to retrieve the return pass. From eight yards he tries to stab the ball over the out-rushing Alisson, who stands up and makes a sharp one-handed save.
6 min: Liverpool apply more pressure on the home box. A chipped cross from Mane narrowly misses the far post. The ball pingpongs around the area before Salzburg eventually scramble it away.
5 min: Lovren flights a well-aimed ball from deep over the top of the home defence. Salah takes it down and fires off a shot from 16 yards. Stankovic bats it behind for a corner. The early indications are there is no chance of this ending 0-0!
3 min: Frantic pressing by the hosts forces Alisson into a sloppy kick. Salzburg regain possession in the Liverpool half and quickly work the ball to Mwepu, who has a pop from 25 yards. It swirls a bit but Alisson holds it safely.
2 min: Van Dijk has to make another crucial intervention, a sliding tackle on the edge of the area to stop Hwang’s burst.
1 min: Salzburg-Liverpool is go! The visitors get the game going … but within 15 seconds, Haaland is racing on to a through-ball delivered from deep. It looked for a moment like he would reach shooting range before Van Dijk caught him. But the Dutchman shifted into top gear and made a critical challenge.
The teams enter the arena, which contains just over 30,000 very excited people. They’re making a heck of din and, not so intimidatingly, waving colourful tinfoil. The home side are wearing all black, the visitors all red. It’s on!
Salzburg fans (or, come to think of it, maybe their potty-mouthed manager) have have erected a giant banner running across the top tier of one of the stands in the stadium. It reads, in English, “We are not Barça or Real, but we are ready for our fucking dream.” Good night, Vienna.
“Mr Erich Linemayr was the ref at that Forest-Liverpool game (and also later at the final),” announces Tom Reichart. “He was from Linz, which isn’t too far from Salzburg. The German Wikipedia tells me he also refereed the Water Battle between Poland and Germany in 1974 and the “match” between Chile and the Soviet Union in 1973. Enjoy!”
“You didn’t mention that, after getting knocked out at the group stages in 2012, Chelsea went on to win Europa League, thus holding both Champions League and the Europa League simultaneously,” protests Krish. “Tempting to Liverpool, I would say.” I would say not. If they were to lose today, the most tempting would be to win the world club title later this month (becoming simultaneously European and world champions) and sack off the Europa League to concentrate on winning the Premier League, which they haven’t won since …. when was it again? Having said that, maybe they’ll have the domestic title in the bag by the time European competition resumes next year.
Speaking just now on BT, Liverpool’s manager isn’t attempting to downplay the importance of this rumble: “Our Champions League trip has been like this since we started it. We always have these kinds of situations so it’s no surprise. That’s how it is and we have to be ready for it. No good just talking about it, we have to show it.” As for his explanation for the inclusion of Keïta, he says: “It makes absolute sense for this game for the way we need to play. … And he knows the stadium, but that was not the reason for it.”
Any Liverpool fans think this year has a 1979 feel to it? Back then, like now, Liverpool were aiming to reach the final of Europe’s top club competition for the third year in a row (having won it the previous two) and they only went and got knocked out in their very first tie. That was before group stage gerrymandering, of course. Their conquerors? Nottingham Forest. And the referee when Forest scored their decisive goals was from Salzburg! Well, he might have been. He was definitely from Austria, I know that much. On the plus side, Liverpool went on to win the domestic title that season…
No messing from Klopp. And a powerful vote of confidence for Naby Keïta, whose improved recent form earns him a start at his former club ahead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Salzburg: Stankovic; Nissen, Onguéné, Wöber, Ulmer; Szoboszlai, Junozovic, Minamino, Mwepu; Hwang, Haaland
Subs: Carlos, Daka, Ashimeru, Okugawa, Prevljak, Ramalho, VAllci
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Keïta, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mané, Firmino, Salah
Subs: Adrian, Jones, Gomez, Milner, Shaqiri, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Origi
Referee: D Makkelie (Ned)
Hello. Welcome to a match that Liverpool never wanted to matter. The European champions were expected to have wrapped up qualification for the knockout stages by now. Instead they travel to Austria at risk of becoming only the second holders in the Champions League era – after Chelsea in 2012 – to be eliminated in the group phase. Nobody wants to be like Chelsea.
The risk is real. Salzburg are free-scoring buccaneers with boundless energy and a genuine prodigy up front: 19-year-old Erling Braut Haalann, scorer of 28 goals in 21 matches so far this season, including eight in his five group games so far. That includes the one he hit when these sides met at Anfield, when Liverpool cantered into a 3-0 lead before being slapped repeatedly across the chops and waking up in time to prevail 4-3. That lesson should serve Liverpool well today. There’s unlikely to be any complacency from Jürgen Klopp’s team and the manager, surely, will deploy his full-strength side after giving key players time off in their last two Premier League matches.
So Liverpool will be going full gun. And so, too, will Salzburg, who are aiming to claim a famous scalp and make history by reaching the knockout stages. Roll up, roll up, we have ourselves a proper showdown!
Kick-off: 5.55pm GMT, 6.55pm local