Good evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for tonight's Champions League
Group E clash between Spartak Moscow
and Liverpool at the Otkrytiye Arena!
It is honours even in the group heading into matchday two as both games on matchday one ended all square, with Spartak held by Maribor and Liverpool drawing with Sevilla. What that means is a victory for either of these sides tonight would leave them in a strong position approaching the halfway point in the group, while the loser could find themselves playing catch-up for the two qualifying spots.
Before we get into that, though, let's first check out the team news...
SPARTAK MOSCOW STARTING XI:
Rebrov; Eschenko, Kutepov, Tasci, Bocchetti, Dzhikila; Samedov, Fernando
, Pasalic, Popov; Adriano
SPARTAK MOSCOW SUBS: Selikhov, Petkovic, Bakaev, Samsonov, Melgarejo, Davydov, Pedro Rocha
LIVERPOOL STARTING XI: Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Matip, Moreno; Henderson, Can, Coutinho; Salah, Mane, Firmino
LIVERPOOL SUBS: Mignolet, Flanagan, Klavan, Milner, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sturridge
We will have a closer look at that Liverpool side in a moment, but first let's talk about the home side and what they might offer this evening.
The disappointing news for Spartak is that they are still without star striker Quincy Promes, who picked up a calf injury during a 2-0 cup victory over Kuban Krasnodar last week. The Netherlands international missed Saturday's draw with Anzhi as a result of the injury, and he has not recovered in time to start tonight - a big blow for the home side.
Spartak are also missing captain Denis Glushakov this evening, so they are by no means at full strength, but Luiz Adriano does start up front for the home side.
The striker is an international teammate of Liverpool duo Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino for Brazil - as, incidentally, is Fernando in midfield - but Adrian did not have the best of times on matchday one. He failed to have a single shot on target against Maribor, but conceded more fouls than any other player throughout all of the Champions League groups (6). He will be hoping for a reversal of those stats this evening.
In all, Spartak have made three changes to their side from the weekend draw with Anzhi, as Kombarov, Ananidze and Bakaev all drop out of the starting lineup. Kutepov, Fernando and Dzhikila come into the team, while there is also a start for Pasalic, who is an international teammate of Liverpool's Dejan Lovren.
On to Liverpool, and the headline from Jurgen Klopp
's team selection is that Sadio Mane returns to the side having missed the last three games through suspension.
The speedster was always going to be available for tonight's game as his ban only applied to domestic matches following his controversial red card in the 5-0 defeat to Manchester City, and sure enough Klopp has chosen to throw him straight back into the starting XI. Liverpool have a much better win percentage with the winger in the team, so they will be delighted to have him back.
It means that Klopp is finally able to start all of his 'big four' attacking players in a competitive match together for the first time, as Coutinho, Firmino and Salah are also named in the starting lineup.
For Coutinho it is another chance to prove his commitment to the cause following a summer which saw him heavily linked with a move to Barcelona, but he certainly went a long way to winning the fans back over with his performance against Leicester at the weekend. The Brazilian scored a sublime free kick and also got an assist in the 3-2 win over the Foxes, and Liverpool will be looking for another big performance from him tonight.
Mane, Coutinho and Firmino have all been impressive during their time in the team so far this season, but perhaps the most impressive of the lot has been the newest member of Liverpool's attack.
Mohamed Salah was once again on the scoresheet against Leicester to extend his stunning start to life at the club, with the winger having now scored six goals in his first nine Liverpool appearances. His pace, coupled with that of Mane and the movement of Firmino, makes for a deadly front three.
Further back, Loris Karius once again starts between the sticks for Liverpool have been selected as the team's Champions League goalkeeper this season.
Klopp has outlined his plan to rotate three goalkeepers between tournaments, but Karius has also expressed his desire to replace Mignolet in the Premier League and, if he is to do that, then he needs to impress during these rare first-team opportunities. As for Ward, he may be forced to wait even longer following Liverpool's early exit from the EFL Cup.
Mane's return and Karius's inclusion are two of only three changes to the weekend win over Leicester, with the other coming in defence as Trent Alexander-Arnold comes in for Gomez, who is suspended for tonight's game after picking up a late red card against Sevilla.
Matip, Lovren and Moreno make up the rest of a back four which has been criticised heavily already this season, while Can and Henderson continue in midfield. Wijnaldum drops out for Mane.
It is a Liverpool side full of attacking quality then, but Klopp stressed in the build-up just how difficult a game this will be. Trips to places like Russia are always amongst the first teams would like to avoid when the draw is made, but on paper there are certainly more difficult tests out there for Liverpool.
Spartak may not be an easy touch tonight, but they are a team in relatively poor form both domestically and in Europe and they are certainly no longer the force they once were.
Last season was something of a throwback to the glory days for Spartak, who were once the dominant force in Russian football but have endured a very barren spell over the past 15 years or so.
Spartak qualified automatically for these group stages having lifted their record 22nd Russian Premier League title, but it was their first since 2001, and the defence of that crown has not got off to the best of starts so far this season.
Spartak come into this match sitting in mid-table of the Russian Premier League having amassed only 14 points from their opening 11 games - a tally which already leaves them a whopping 23 points adrift of leaders Zenit.
Massimo Carrera's side have won just three of their 11 league outings so far this term - only the bottom four have won fewer. Even if a return to the Champions League is their target this season - rather than defending their title - then they still have a lot of work to do as they are already seven points off those places.
One thing that Liverpool will recognise is Spartak's goalscoring and conceding tendencies. Tonight's hosts have scored 16 goals in the league so far this season - only two teams have scored more - but they have also conceded 17, which is the second-worst tally in the division behind only bottom-club Anzhi.
Considering Liverpool have also been weak at the back and electric going forward at times this season, that could point to another high-scoring affair this evening.
Despite their lowly league position, Spartak are unbeaten in their last six matches across all competitions. The main problem for them in recent weeks has been dropping points in draws - only two of those six games have ended in victory and their only win from their last four outings across all competitions was against lower-league Kuban Krasnodar in the cup.
Looking even further back, Spartak have only won two of their last eight outings, and just one of their last six in the league.
It is at home where Spartak are best, as you would expect, but even that form has taken a dip in recent weeks. Carrera's side have only lost one of their last 15 matches in front of their own fans - a run which stretches back more than a year - but after winning 12 in a row they have won one, drawn one and lost one of their last three.
In the Champions League they have struggled here too, losing four of their last five home games in the group stages of this competition and just two of their last 17 - a run which stretches back to a 4-1 win over Arsenal in November 2000.
That run comprises of 10 defeats - including one at the hands of Liverpool in 2002 - and five draws, while they have also kept just one clean sheet in their last 18 Champions League home games.
This is the first time Spartak have reached the group stages of this competition since 2012-13, though, while they are bidding to reach the last 16 for the first time since 2000-01. Home or away, Spartak have won just five of their last 36 Champions League fixtures - losing 25 of those and failing to keep a clean sheet in their last 11.
This trip to Russia may not be as daunting as some might think on first glance, then, but Liverpool will know that they will still need to be something close to their best if they are to come away from this match with all three points.
Jurgen Klopp's side will need no more reminders of how big an impact a momentary defensive lapse can have, but if they did then then could simply rewatch their 2-2 draw against Sevilla on matchday one when they were held to a 2-2 draw at Anfield. Liverpool dominated long spell of the game and even missed a penalty, but ultimately it was their defensive mistakes which cost them another two points.
Liverpool had 17 more shots than Sevilla in that match - the biggest differential that did not lead to a win on matchday one - and it has been a similar story domestically recently too.
There is always plenty of entertainment for the neutral in Liverpool's matches, but while their six league games have seen 23 goals already this season, that is split up into 12 for and 11 against - far too even a share for them to realistically mount a title bid this season.
Victory over Leicester on Saturday did lift Liverpool back up to fifth, but five points still separate them from the Manchester clubs already and they cannot afford to let that gap grow much bigger on the domestic front.
Klopp will be hoping that their return to winning ways at the King Power Stadium - following a four-match winless streak - allows them to rediscover the early-season form which saw them win four and draw one of their opening five matches across all competitions.
The Reds have now conceded 12 goals in their last five games across all competitions, though, while away from home they have conceded 13 goals in five outings so far this term, failing to keep a single clean sheet.
It is that away form which has let Liverpool down the most so far this term, with just two wins from five outings on the road, but after beating Leicester on Saturday they are now looking to record consecutive away wins for the first time this season.
This is Liverpool's 10th appearance in the Champions League group stages overall, but only their second in the last eight seasons and they have not reached the knockout stages since 2008-09.
The five-time champions have an incredible pedigree in this competitions, but this has been a barren spell by their standards and they come into this match looking for their first Champions League win in their last seven attempts. Their current six-game winless run in the worst the club has ever experienced in this competition.
Liverpool's wait for a Champions League clean sheet goes back even further to a 1-0 win over Debrecen in November 2009, which is also their only win in their last seven away games in the competition.
Overall in Europe Liverpool have won just two of their last 13 away games, drawing six and losing five in that time. Before their win at Hoffenheim in the playoffs en route to these group stages, Liverpool had been without an away European victory since beating Rubin Kazan in Russia on November 5, 2015.
There is a precedent of success on Russian soil for Liverpool, then. Indeed, they are currently on a three-match unbeaten streak in this country, with that visit to Rubin in the 2015-16 Europa League group stages the most recent of those.
Of Liverpool last three trips to these shores they have won two and drawn one, but in the Champions League their overall record is split down the middle with three wins and three defeats.
Right, we're 10 minutes away from kickoff is Moscow, which means that it is time for a prediction!
Both of these sides have strengths going forward and weaknesses at the back, but there is little doubt that Liverpool have the superior quality on the field tonight. Spartak are not in the best form and Liverpool will be desperate to make amends for their two dropped points on matchday one. We're going for an away win.
Sports Mole says: Spartak Moscow 1-3 Liverpool
These two sides have only ever met in one previous Champions League season, and it was Liverpool who came out on top in convincing fashion on that occasion in 2002-03.
The Red first thrashed Spartak 5-0 at Anfield in a match which saw Emile Heskey net a brace alongside goals from Bruno Cheyrou, Sami Hyypia and Salif Diao - not often you will find all of them on the same scoresheet - while they also ran out 3-1 winners in Moscow.
Michael Owen scored a hat-trick on that occasion in Russia, cancelling out an opener from Aleksandr Danishevski to hand Liverpool all three points - a result which confirmed Spartak's elimination en route to losing all six matches.
It was not all good news for Liverpool, though, as they also failed to qualify having gone on to finish third in the group.
These two clubs also met in the 1992-93 European Cup Winners' Cup second round, and that time it was Spartak who were the convincing winners. The Russian won 4-2 in the home first leg and then impressively 2-0 at Anfield to pick up a 6-2 aggregate victory.
Spartak's overall record against English clubs is nine wins and six defeats from 17 meetings, whereas at home they have won five and lost just two of their eight games.
Right, the players are out and we're almost ready to go here. A reminder of the team news before kickoff:
SPARTAK MOSCOW STARTING XI: Rebrov; Eschenko, Kutepov, Tasci, Bocchetti, Dzhikila; Samedov, Fernando, Pasalic, Popov; Adriano
LIVERPOOL STARTING XI: Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Matip, Moreno; Henderson, Can, Coutinho; Salah, Mane, Firmino
KICKOFF: Here we go, then! Liverpool get us underway amidst a cacophony of noise inside this stadium!
Liverpool have seen the majority of the ball in these opening exchanges, but first on their agenda may be to silence this crowd. The home fans are making themselves heard on their first Champions League game here since 2012.
The hosts have their first mini chance to break as Fernando releases Adriano with a really good pass forward, which leaves the Brazilian against only Matip.
Liverpool work hard to get back, though, and as soon as they win possession they are quickly on the front foot themselves. Coutinho swings a ball towards the back post - much like his one that created the goal for Salah at the weekend - but this time it is just too far in front of Firmino.
YELLOW CARD! Emre Can picks up an early yellow card for a rash challenge on Bocchetti.
There really is an incredible noise inside the stadium tonight. The Spartak fans have been deafening since kickoff and are showing no signs of letting up as they try to create an intimidating atmosphere for Liverpool.
Mane beats his man with ease down the left channel on his way into the box, but his subsequent low pass into the box is disappointing. The first glimpse of his skill and pace, though.
CHANCE! The first chance of the night falls the way of Liverpool, and it would have been some goal too. Can plays the ball out to Alexander-Arnold, who exchanges flicks with Salah on his way into the box. The ball does not touch the ground as the youngster takes it down on his chest and volleys it towards goal, but it goes a couple of yards wide.
There have been a couple of early goals elsewhere in the Champions League tonight, including one from a Liverpool old boy.
Ryan Babel has given Besiktas the lead against RB Leipzig, while Napoli are also ahead against Feyenoord through Lorenzo Insigne - the latter match in Manchester City's group.
Spartak are defending in numbers and defending deep at the moment, making it difficult for Liverpool to play through them. The visitors are still seeing the lion's share of possession, but they only have that Alexander-Arnold sight of goal to speak of so far.
Rebrov has his first saves of the night to make, and both come within 30 seconds of each other.
The first sees Salah get a shot away from a tight angle which the keeper does well to stop, but it is the second which is the more impressive. Mane's cross into the box finds Firmino, who plants a firm header towards goal. Rebrov beats it away with a firm hand, though, and Firmino is left thinking he probably should have done better.
Liverpool have upped the ante in the last couple of minutes as Salah almost breaks through again. Spartak have spent the majority of this match on the back foot, and judging by their defensive record this season that is a very risky tactic!
UPDATE: There has been a goal in the glamour tie of the night between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, and it is the reigning champions who have broken the deadlock through a Gareth Bale volley.
Meanwhile Spartak have their brightest attacking moment of the match and, while they are unable to get a shot away, they do win a free kick in a very good position.
GOAL! Spartak Moscow 1-0 Liverpool (Fernando)
It has been all Liverpool so far tonight, but the Reds find themselves needing to come from behind in Europe once again now!
Liverpool are punished for conceding the free kick in a dangerous position by Fernando, who fires a beauty of a strike past Karius. It wasn't right in the corner from the Brazilian, but it had enough pace on it to fly past Karius.
DISALLOWED GOAL! Liverpool think they have the perfect response as Mane steers a diving header into the corner from Alexander-Arnold's cross, but the linesman's flag goes up and the striker's celebrations are cut short.
Spartak have grown into this game and outnumber Liverpool when coming forward again here, but the attack slows down and they can't make anything of it. That goal has sparked the hosts into life, though!
SAVE! Rebrov is called into action again, but once more it is a smart save from the Spartak keeper. He gets down quickly to keep out Mane's low drive after the winger had cut inside onto his right.
Rebrov has to be alert once more here as he comes off his line to beat Mane to the ball inside the box. There was no attempt to reach the ball from Mane there after his red card for the challenge on Ederson.
GOAL! Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool (Philippe Coutinho)
Liverpool have the equaliser, and it is a really well-worked one between Coutinho and Mane.
The Brazilian plays a one-two with the winger on his way into the box, leaving him with only Rebrov to beat. The angle is slightly against Coutinho, but he slams an emphatic finish high into the net to level things up.
SHOT! Salah looks for a quickfire second, but his curling effort from range flies comfortably over the crossbar.
There was a short spell after the opening goal that Spartak looked dangerous, but Liverpool have since resumed control and it is the visitors who look the most likely to score again now.
They had to work mighty hard to keep him, but Liverpool look like reaping the rewards this season...
CHANCE! Big chance for Liverpool to take the lead in the closing stages of the half as Henderson whips a devilish ball into the box which the defender cannot cut out. Firmino doesn't get enough on his finish, though, and in the end it drops rather tamely into the arms of the keeper.
Plenty of goals from elsewhere to update you on, including a couple for the other game in this group where Wissam Ben Yedder has scored twice to put Sevilla two up against Maribor.
Elsewhere, the goal machine Harry Kane has broken the deadlock for Spurs against APOEL, while Porto have taken the lead against Monaco.
Liverpool are dominating possession still, but Spartak are dropping deeper and deeper, and there is a red wall between Liverpool and the goal at the moment. The hosts are desperate to get to half time.
Spartak still look dangerous on the occasional breakaway, with Liverpool far from solid defensively (shock horror). Matip needs an important head away to prevent the latest break.
Speaking of counter-attacks, Liverpool launch a blistering one from the resulting corner as they race forward with a four-on-two situation. The ball across the face of goal is just missed by Mane, while Salah sends his effort across the face of goal and wide, but the flag is raised against Mane anyway.
HALF TIME: Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool
The referee brings an end to the first half in Moscow, and we are all square at the interval despite Liverpool dominating the opening 45 minutes for the most part.
It has been a familiar story for the Reds so far, with some blistering attacking play being undermined by some dodgy defending, but there are still 45 minutes remaining in this one and, on the basis of that first half, you'd have to make Liverpool favourites to go on and win this match.
The opening goal arrived midway through the first half, and it came against the run of play as Spartak broke the deadlock through Fernando's free kick.
The set piece itself was avoidable, with Can losing possession in the build-up, but Karius will also be disappointed at not getting to the shot. There was plenty of pace on it from Fernando, but the ball was not in the corner and the Liverpool keeper was slow to get his feet moving. A top goalkeeper would have saved it.
Spartak's lead lasted just eight minutes before Liverpool got their deserved equaliser, and it was Coutinho who levelled things up with his second goal in as many games.
The Brazilian played a one-two with Mane to break into the box behind the Spartak defence, and his finish was unerring as he slammed the ball into the roof of the net from close range.
Liverpool have had the vast majority of the chances in the match so far and will feel that they should be ahead, but the game against Sevilla on matchday one should also act as a warning shot regarding what can happen if they don't take those chances.
An away win here would do wonders for Liverpool's hopes of qualifying from the group, but there is still work for them to do tonight.
KICKOFF: Spartak Moscow get us back underway for the second half!
YELLOW CARD! Bocchetti goes into the book in the opening minute of the second half for an off-the-ball trip on Can.
The resulting free kick is met by a thumping header from Lovren - and an even better save by the keeper - but the referee's whistle have already gone for an infringement.
Liverpool are now the only English team not winning in the Champions League this evening as Kevin de Bruyne has given Manchester City the lead against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Also in that group, Napoli are ahead against Feyenoord while elsewhere Real Madrid have doubled their advantage over Dortmund through Cristiano Ronaldo - who is making his 400th appearance for the club tonight.
Liverpool have the chance to put the ball in the box with a free kick in a good crossing position, but Moreno's delivery is easily cleared. The visitors need better quality from those sorts of positions.
SAVE! Liverpool have another free kick in a good position - this time within shooting range - and Coutinho is the man to take on the duties this time. It is not the same quality as his strike against Leicester at the weekend, but Rebrov still needs to get down and push it away.
SAVE! A rare piece of action for Karius as Spartak work the ball out to the right and Eshchenko drills a piledriver towards goal which the Liverpool keeper beats away.
UPDATE: Dortmund have responded quickly to that Ronaldo goal, reducing the deficit back to one through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Almost a chance for Liverpool again as Mane plays a measured pass into the box for Salah. The keeper comes out bravely, but neither he nor Salah can get to the ball and they both collide, leaving the keeper in a heap on the floor.
Rebrov is back on his feet, but he isn't exactly moving freely right now. He needs a defender to take his goal kick - Liverpool will want to test him quickly now.
UPDATE: Harry Kane has scored yet again to put Spurs 2-0 up against APOEL which, as things stand, would leave them in a very good position in the group of death.
Liverpool's pressure is relentless at the moment. They are really knocking on the door of Spartak, but so far there has been no breakthrough in this second half.
Rebrov is back down and needs some more treatment here. It doesn't look like he will be able to continue following that collision with Salah earlier.
UPDATE: Rebrov continues to receive treatment here and needs to be taken off on a cart. Elsewhere, Harry Kane has made it a hat-trick against APOEL, while Napoli are also now 3-0 ahead against Feyenoord.
SPARTAK MOSCOW SUB: The change finally takes place as Aleksandr Selikhov replaces the injured Rebrov.
LIVERPOOL SUB: Klopp makes his first change of the evening with 20 minutes remaining as Daniel Sturridge replaces Mane.
Both goalkeepers are forced off their lines within a matter of seconds, with Selikhov flying out to beat Salah to the ball before Karius comes out of his area to sweep up too. Good play from both.
LIVERPOOL SUB: The visitors make a second change as Georginio Wijnaldum replaces Can.
YELLOW CARD! Firmino goes into the book after catching Eshchenko with a late challenge.
Sturridge tries to dance his way through a couple of challenges on the edge of the box, but there is no way past them. Liverpool have seen the vast majority of the ball in this second half, but they haven't created enough chances with it.
CHANCE! Liverpool do come close here as Moreno plays the ball out wide to Alexander-Arnold, who cuts inside his man before blasting an effort wide of the near post.
CHANCE! Firmino is the latest to have a chance to get Liverpool in front, but he snatches at his effort and fires it well over. Fernando takes too long on the ball on the edge of his own area and Firmino steals it off him, but he then blazes his shot off target.
Barring a late flurry of goals, Liverpool will not end the night top of the group. Ben Yedder has completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot to give Sevilla a 3-0 lead over Maribor.
Elsewhere, there is another goal for Ronaldo as Real Madrid now lead Dortmund 3-1, while Porto are now two up against Monaco.
SPARTAK SUB: The hosts are forced into another change here as Popov limps off with an injury. He takes his time to depart and is eventually replaced by Lorenzo Melgarejo.
Just five minutes of normal time remain in this match now, but there should be a sizeable chunk of stoppage time due to the injury to Rebrov mainly.
CHANCE! Chance for Liverpool as Firmino nods the ball down to Sturridge, who misses the ball with his first bite at the cherry and can't squeeze it in from a tight angle when he does eventually connect.
Liverpool eyes will be turning towards the fourth official now. They should still have plenty of time to get the winning goal here, but with the amount of possession then have had they should already be out of sight.
CHANCE! Huge chance for Liverpool with just one minute of normal time remaining! Henderson lifts a lovely ball over the top and into the box, and this time the flag stays down. Sturridge gets under his volley, though, blazing it over the crossbar under no pressure.
There will be EIGHT minutes of added time at the end of this match!
SPARTAK SUB: A second Spartak player is carted off the field, with Samedov being replaced by Pedro Rocha.
CHANCE! Another huge chance for Liverpool goes begging! Moreno releases Firmino down the left channel and the Brazilian looks for Salah in the middle. A good pass for leave Salah with a tap-in, but it is behind the winger and the chance goes.
CHANCE! This is quite incredible! Liverpool once again knock on the door as Alexander-Arnold's cross is met by Salah, but his header is straight at the keeper who makes a fine stop from close range!
FULL TIME: Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool
Quite how Liverpool have failed to win that game, Klopp will not know. It is another draw for the visitors, though, as Spartak Moscow hold out to remain level on points with the Reds in Group E.
The hosts actually broke the deadlock through Fernando, but they were on the back foot for the vast majority of the match and although Coutinho quickly levelled things up for Liverpool, they could not find that elusive second goal.
Right, that is all we have time for this evening!
Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for tonight's match as Liverpool once again drop valuable Champions League points in a 1-1 draw with Spartak Moscow. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction too. We have plenty more live European action for you tomorrow night too, so be sure to tune in for that!
From me, though, it is goodbye for now!