Toulouse v Liverpool – The Europa Group Stage Preview

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Europa League Qualification

As the weekend’s disappointing draw against Luton begins to drift away, the Reds must now look towards their ongoing Europa League campaign. The initial meeting between these two Group E sides ended in an emphatic home win for Liverpool. That night at Anfield, on the 26th of October, with a 5-1 scoreline, however, such a one-sided affair is unlikely for this return trip to France.

The Toulouse Availability

On the home side’s injury front, Zakaria Aboukhlal and Denis Genreau appear to be the only absentees for the home tie, therefore Spanish head coach, Carles Martínez Novell, may stick with an unchanged team which started their 1-2 loss at the weekend.

See below for that predicted starting lineup.

With regards to current form, the French side’s last two matches (since the hammering at Anfield) have ended as a 3-0 away defeat to Montpellier, before their most recent game finished as a 1-2 loss against Le Havre. Last season’s French Cup winners have now slid four places down the Ligue 1 standings (since the last meeting with the Reds), which currently has them in a precarious 14th spot. Having amassed a Group E total of four points from three games played, they have a fair chance of progressing as the second-placed team, behind their illustrious rivals.

The Liverpool Availability

In terms of injuries, Thiago Alcântara has been confirmed as out until the new year, whereas Andy Robertson will be sidelined until late January. Stefan Bajčetić will not be available for this game, as he battles a number of issues. The upcoming Premier League suspension for Alexis Mac Allister means he is a likely starter for the Reds’ fourth Group tie. For the most part, elite first-team players should not be starting this game, as a week’s rest is deemed necessary before such a key weekend encounter with Brentford.

Below is my prediction on the starting eleven.

GK – Caoimhin Kelleher RB – Joe Gomez (c) RCB – Joël Matip LCB – Jarell Amorin Quansah LB – Kostas Tsimikas RCM – Curtis Jones CDM – Wataru Endō LCM – Alexis Mac Allister RW – Harvey Elliott CF – Cody Gakpo LW – Luis Díaz

How Will This Contest Play Out

The Reds may need to start playing for their places once more, which could offer one or two opportunities for the starting pieces this Thursday evening. Curtis Jones and Wataru Endō may well hope to start against Brentford on Sunday afternoon, therefore, I suspect both will not play more than sixty minutes of this European match tie. Luis Díaz and Cody Gakpo both require more minutes on the pitch, with varying issues restricting their respective availability in recent weeks.

Ultimately, this game needs to show increased passion from the away side alongside more variety in their patterns of play. There is a mini-break after the weekend, which makes a win on both Thursday and Sunday very high priorities. The hectic Christmas schedule is looming, and momentum leading into that critical juncture is vital for long-term success.

I fully expect a solid away win, though with more control than against Luton, before several second-half substitutions.

Player to Watch – Luis Díaz

Score Prediction: Toulouse 0 – 2 Liverpool

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