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Liverpool vs Sevilla: Key Battles

Read Sport logo Read Sport 12/09/2017 David Comerford
Liverpool v Sevilla - UEFA Europa League Final © David Ramos/Getty Images Sport Liverpool v Sevilla - UEFA Europa League Final

Liverpool face a baptism of fire on their return to the Champions League as they welcome Spanish high-flyers Sevilla to Anfield.

Eduardo Berizzo’s men are the Reds’ main rivals in a group which also contains Spartak Moscow and Slovenian minnows Maribor.

The two sides last met in the 2016 Europa League final, with Sevilla coming from behind to clinch a 3-1 victory.

After finishing fourth last season, Sevilla have started strongly, taking seven points from a possible nine.

A stern test awaits, but which battles will decide the contest?

© REUTERS/Phil Noble

Mohamed Salah vs Sergio Escudero

The blistering pace of Mohamed Salah will be a key weapon for Liverpool as they look to claim a few European scalps, yet the Egyptian will have to be at the top of his game to get the better of left-back Sergio Escudero.

The tough-tackling Escudero, who excels in the air, will be tasked with cutting out any attacks down the flanks and preventing Salah from getting in behind.

The 28-year-old netted twice in the qualifiers but will have to be wary of venturing forward given the home side’s potency on the counter-attack.

Salah was thought to be a doubt ahead of the game having been sent home ill from Tuesday’s training session, however he is set to train on the morning of the match, and therefore appears to still be in contention to start.

We so often see full-backs humiliated by Liverpool’s front three at Anfield, but Escudero is no push-over.

Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images Sport © Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images Sport Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images Sport

Sadio Mane vs Gabriel Mercado

Sadio Mane, meanwhile,  will be looking to divert the attention from his red card at the weekend with a glittering display on the continental stage. Sevilla’s 30-year-old right-back Gabriel Mercado stands in his way.

Prior to his dismissal at the Etihad, Mane had been in devastating form, tormenting wingers and finishing with a clinical edge. A daunting task, then, awaits Mercado, a player with a history of indiscipline.

Last season, the Argentine amassed a whopping 16 yellow cards, so Mane can expect to be hacked down if he attempts to sprint past his man.

Like Escudero, Mercado will often the join the attack, but leaving Mane unmarked could well prove a fatal error.

It could be easy pickings for the Liverpool wingers if Sevilla full-backs do not rein in their attacking instincts.

Robert Cianflone/Getty Images Sport © Robert Cianflone/Getty Images Sport Robert Cianflone/Getty Images Sport

Gini Wijnaldum vs Steven N’Zonzi

In the middle of the park, expect a fierce tussle between Georginio Wijnaldum and Sevilla’s holding midfielder Steven N’Zonzi.

After impressive spells in England at Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City, N’Zonzi has reached another level for Sevilla and attracted strong interest from Italian giants Juventus.

N’Zonzi is a powerful player who will look to neutralise Wijnaldum’s creative influence and utilise his towering 6’4″ frame to clear any balls into the box.

Jurgen Klopp, then, might be wise to take the bold step of recalling the rebellious Philippe Coutinho. N’Zonzi will find it far more difficult to contain ‘O Magico’ and the presence of the Brazilian would inject some vim and vigour into an occasionally flat-footed midfield trio.

Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images Sport © Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images Sport Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images Sport

Joel Matip vs Wissam Ben Yedder

Ragnar Klavan bore the brunt of the criticism for City’s weekend demolition job, but it was far from an exemplary performance from partner Joel Matip.

After being overwhelmed by the duo of Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, Matip now goes up against Sevilla frontman Wissam Ben Yedder, a lethal finisher.

Ben Yedder found the net 18 times last term and has hit the ground running this season, with three strikes in his first four. With pace and agility in abundance, he has the potential to run defences ragged.

Given that Sevilla typically play a 4-1-4-1 formation, it will either be Ben Yedder or the similarly rapid Luis Muriel to lead the line. Matip will have to be at the top of his game to ensure a shutout, but should be able to capitalise on the diminutive forward’s aerial weakness.

An authoritative performance is in order from the club’s best centre-half.

Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images Sport © Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images Sport Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images Sport

Alberto Moreno vs Jesus Navas

There will likely be a familiar name on the flanks for the visitors in the form of Jesus Navas, the ex-Manchester City winger. Former Sevilla player Alberto Moreno will take on the 31-year-old if indeed Klopp once again shuns summer signing Andrew Robertson.

For the most part, Navas endured a torrid time in England and never really hit top gear at City, sealing a return to former club Sevilla this summer after being deemed surplus to requirements by Pep Guardiola.

The 31-year-old, though, has made a solid start to the season as he looks to rediscover his best form and will be a key threat on Wednesday night. Expect him to whip in several low crosses, attempt a few runs and nab possession on occasion.

Yet Moreno was one of the few who escaped criticism after the drubbing against City, and will be expected to get the better of Navas as his resurgence continues.

Perhaps he will able to dispel the memories of his nightmare in Basel.

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