Phillip Buckley

What: UEFA Europa League Playoff Round
Who: Liverpool vs Trabzonspor
When: Thursday 19th August, 2010, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Anfield, Liverpool, England

Now Europe Gets Serious

Liverpool’s Europa League campaign got off to an easy start with a tie against Macedonians Rabotnicki; Trabzonspor promise to be a much sterner test. Reds boss Roy Hodgson admits he isn’t quite sure where to place Europe’s second tier competition in his pecking order, well aware that getting back into the top four remains his priority. However, Hodgson enjoyed a run to the final with Fulham in last season’s Europa League and has an acquired taste for European football. So Hodgson, despite his bluster, will be desperate to do well.

The club’s first Premier League game of the season, at home to Arsenal, ended in a 1-1 draw, even though Liverpool played for much of the 90 minutes with 10 men – following Joe Cole’s sending off – and were unlucky not to take all three points, only conceding a leveller due to a Pepe Reina howler. The Reds keeper can be expected to bounce back from that in style and will prove a tough obstacle for the Turks to pass. Cole, still smarting from his sending off, could also prove to be a joker in the pack for Hodgson.

Black Sea Storm Blowing into Merseyside

Trabzonspor come into this new season with sky high expectations. The Black Sea club have benefitted from some real stability with club legend Senol Gunes at the helm and as a result have not made wholesale changes this summer. Widely regarded as the fittest club in the Super Lig, Gunes has added intelligently to the side and Trabzonspor are considered geniuine title contenders in Turkey.

Having won the Turkish Cup last year and beaten Bursaspor to lift the Turkish Super Cup this summer, Trabzonspor will enter this tie with a winning mentality. The Black Sea Storm will not want to be dumped out of Europe at this early stage and seeing off the mighty Liverpool would put down a marker for the rest of the campaign. With the second leg to come back in Trabzon, Gunes’ men will probably be happy with a draw, but with pace to burn in attack, they could be deadly on the counter attack.


Recent form

Borussia Monchengladbach 1-0 Liverpool (01/08; Friendly)
Liverpool 2-0 Rabotnicki (05/08; Europa League)
Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal (15/08; Premier League)

Fortuna Sittard 0-1 Trabzonspor (28/07; Friendly)
Bursaspor 0-3 Trabzonspor (07/08; Super Cup)
Ankaragucu 0-2 Trabzonspor (15/08; Super Lig)

Key absences

Liverpool: None

Trabzonspor: Tayfun Cora (doubt); Jaja (doubt)

Players to watch

Liverpool – Pepe Reina: The World Cup winner was at fault for Arsenal’s equaliser at the weekend. Reina, under pressure from Marouane Chamakh, bundled the ball into the back of the net and as a result, Liverpool had to make do with a 1-1 draw. Reina though is too good to repeat that mistake. Rightfully considered amongst the best goalkeepers in the world, he can be expected to stand tall here and may need to react quickly should Trabzonspor break.

Trabzonspor – Ibrahim Yattara: Guinea international Yattara is the club’s captain, and with good reason. The 30-year-old has been at Trabzonspor since 2003 and is a dangerous customer for Super Lig defences. Yattara has blistering pace, but is also tricky, holding onto the ball with an array of dribbling skills. The winger has been a target for many European giants and it is something of a mystery why he has not moved; after Thursday night it may be even more of a mystery.

Match prediction

It’s hard to know how Liverpool will approach this competition, but Reds boss Hodgson will not want dumping out at this early stage. Liverpool should be confident that should they score Trabzonspor will collapse; Turkish sides do not always travel well. However, the Black Sea outfit have looked impressive in what football they have played this season. Liverpool may take a lead to Turkey, but Trabzonspor have the players to grab at least one goal. 2-1 to Liverpool.

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