Hello everyone! We have another night of European football to bring you. On Tuesday and Wednesday we were focusing on the Champions League, but now we switch our attention to the last-32 deciders in the Europa League
. Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur are included in the English contingent competing this evening, but right here, we are focusing on the match between Liverpool
and Augsburg at Anfield.
The second legs of European matches can sometimes be rather meaningless if one of the teams has wrapped up the tie in the first leg. That is not the case here. Last week, Liverpool and Augsburg went head to head in Germany, but neither side managed to find the back of the net. In all honesty, it was not the most thrilling goalless draw, but then how many goalless stalemates are thrilling?! This does mean, though, that it is all to play for tonight. Winner takes all!
The team news has just filtered through at Anfield, so who will be lining up on the pitch this evening?
LIVERPOOL XI: Mignolet; Clyne, Lucas, Sakho, Moreno; Can, Henderson; Milner, Firmino, Coutinho; Sturridge
Subs: Ward, Toure, Benteke, Origi, Smith, Teixeira, Chirivella
AUGSBURG XI: Hitz; Verhaegh, Janker, Klavan, Stafylidis; Kohr; Esswein, Koo, Altintop, Werner; Caiuby
Subs: Manninger, Opare, Parker, Moravek, Bobadilla, Max, Rieder
So, Jurgen Klopp
has made just the one change from the side that played Augsburg in Germany. Lucas Leiva has dropped into the defence, replacing Kolo Toure, who has been named on the bench. Lucas has played as a centre-back before, but it's unusual to have a midfielder in the back four when a defender is available. But then again, Klopp has used centre-back Steven Caulker up front before, so we can't be that surprised by the German's decision-making!
Lucas will partner Mamadou Sakho in defence, with Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno filling the full-back positions. As usual, Simon Mignolet keeps in goal, while Emre Can and Jordan Henderson sit in midfield. James Milner
, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho will provide support to striker Daniel Sturridge.
As for Augsburg, Markus Weinzierl
has made two changes to the side that lined up against Liverpool. As expected, Raul Bobadilla does not start after he suffered an injury in the first leg. The positive news, though, is that Bobadilla has been handed a spot on the bench. In the starting XI the forward has been replaced with Caiuby, while Koo Ja-cheol has come in for the injured Markus Fuelner.
Marwin Hitz lines up in goal, with Paul Verhaegh, Christoph Janker, Ragnar Klavan and Kostas Stafylidis in the back four. Dominik Kohr will sit in midfield, with Alexander Esswein, Halil Altintop and Tobias Werner in front of him. Caiuby will lead the line.
I think it's fair to say that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has had a hectic schedule since taking charge at Anfield in October. The Reds have had a very congested fixture list and the German coach has made no secret of his surprise at the amount of games that have come his way. So, I'm sure he would have been delighted to have had a week off! Last weekend, the Premier League was put aside and FA Cup action took over. Given that Liverpool were dumped out of the competition by West Ham United recently, they were able to have a rest.
As well as the players having more time to recuperate, they were also given seven days to prepare for tonight's game. In addition, some of the club's injured players have edged closer to a comeback date. One player in particular is Danny Ings, who posted a video charting his recovery from a long-term injury. The striker definitely went for the dramatic effect by adding in some inspirational music! Check it out in the tweet below.
Speaking of injured players, Daniel Sturridge has been forced to speak out over his future at Liverpool. There have been rumours that the England international, who has made just one Premier League start since October, was considering leaving Anfield in the summer. Sturridge has faced criticism from pundits and ex-Liverpool players about his desire to play. The forward has struggled with numerous injuries over the last couple of seasons and it has been suggested that he is only willing to play when he feels fully fit. Sturridge has denied such claims and has insisted that he is committed to Liverpool.
During Wednesday's press conference, Sturridge told reporters: "To say a player doesn't want to play is the biggest disrespect you could ever say to a footballer. I think it is astonishing, disappointing - whoever is saying it - but that's football and people are entitled to their opinions.
"I would probably say a lot of the things people say about me aren't true. I don't listen to social media but it is surprising [to be questioned] - I didn't know religion had anything to do with football. I don't think anyone will understand how much it means to me to play football and I'll continue to do my best and focus on Liverpool.
"It's important to worry about the present. It has been a difficult time being injured but it is part of football and now I'm looking forward to the future, of course with Liverpool. There is not much to stress about the situation; I'm pretty relaxed, I've been relaxed and I'm happy here."
In three days' time Liverpool will take on Manchester City in a bid to win the first piece of silverware of the season - the Capital One Cup trophy. While it may not be deemed one of the most prestigious trophies to win, it would be a great way to mark Klopp's first four months in charge of Liverpool. The problem is, they cannot allow that final to distract them from the job at hand this evening.
In last week's first leg, it was not the most exciting game to watch and Liverpool struggled to create meaningful goalscoring opportunities, but they did show discipline in defence, which has been lacking this season. The Reds have had numerous injuries to defenders, but Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho managed to help keep Augsburg out on the night. We'll have to see how Lucas gets on back there!
The worry for Liverpool fans, though, is that the team has struggled for consistency, so it's difficult to know what kind of team is going to turn up! Prior to last Thursday's game in Europe, the Merseyside outfit sealed a thumping 6-0 win over Aston Villa, but before that they lost 2-1 to West Ham United and let a 2-0 lead slip against Sunderland to draw 2-2 at Anfield.
In their last 10 games in all competitions, Liverpool have won four, lost three and drawn three. From those results, it's clear that consistency is missing. In his pre-match press conference, Klopp spoke of the importance of this match and how crucial it is not to think about Sunday's cup final.
He told reporters: "It's pretty easy. If you think about second step before first step you will fall down. We have to be fully concentrated on this game. We take every game 100 per cent.
"We have a final coming up, but that's not tomorrow. Tomorrow's game is exciting and important. We have to focus on getting through to the next round. We have to learn from last week - in this competition we have big aims.
"We want to assert ourselves and play our game. Augsburg aren't just a counterattacking team. We are aware of their quality."
© Getty Images
So what about Liverpool's opponents? Well, after Thursday's goalless draw, they managed to claim a 1-0 victory over Hannover, who are rooted to the bottom of the Bundesliga table. It was a big boost for Markus Weinzierl
's side as it was their first win in five matches. Augsburg head into tonight's fixture at Anfield as underdogs, but they know that one goal could be enough to win it and even if Liverpool pull one back, the German side will go through on away goals.
During his pre-match press conference, Weinzierl told reporters: "A draw would be enough for us, and the Germans always win on penalties. We are looking forward to the game and we want to achieve the unthinkable.
"I think Liverpool will do a lot more than they did in the first leg. We know our strengths, however. If we score, Liverpool have to score two.
"We have come here to win and to get into the next round. I don't need to motivate any of my players. Everyone is excited about the game and we will do everything possible to succeed."
© Getty Images
In terms of Europa League form, there is not a whole lot to separate the two sides. Throughout this season's competition, Liverpool have had 41 shots on target, while Augsburg have created 43. Their average possession is similar as the Reds have had 58% and the German side have had 55%. However, the big difference is in goals. Liverpool have scored six and Augsburg have scored double that so far.
This is when I would provide a head-to-head guide between Liverpool and Augsburg, but unfortunately there is very little to tell! The only time that these two have come up against each other was last week and we all know that ended without a goal being scored. In terms of facing German opposition, though, Liverpool have won 15, drawn 12 and lost six.
PREDICTION: Liverpool are favourites to progress into the last 16 and on paper they should have enough to get the result this evening. As mentioned, though, the Reds have been inconsistent this season and Augsburg need just one crucial away goal to change the dynamic of the game. Despite that, I think the Reds will get over the line in either a 1-0 or 2-0 win.
Both sets of teams are in the tunnel and they are about to walk out onto the Anfield pitch. Kickoff is fast approaching!
KICKOFF! Augsburg get us underway kicking from left to right...
CHANCE! An early opportunity for Augsburg! The visitors work the ball around the midfield before it finds the feet of Caiuby, who has space ahead of him in the final third and goes for goal by the corner of the box but it sails over the crossbar.
At the other end, Firmino moves to the right side of the area before cutting the ball back to Milner. The midfielder tries a low pass into the box, but it gets nudged clear.
PENALTY TO LIVERPOOL!
GOAL! LIVERPOOL 1-0 AUGSBURG (MILNER)
What a start for the Reds! The home side get a penalty after the ball, which is whipped in from the corner, scrapes the arm of Kohr. The midfielder had his arm up when trying to head clear the ball, but it's quite a soft pen to give! Even so, James Milner steps up and even though the keeper dives the right way, the midfielder slots it home into the bottom corner.
CHANCE! Firmino moves into the final third, this time on the left and plays the ball into the feet of Sturridge, who tries to unleash a shot with his left foot, but he scuffs it and the ball bobbles out for a goal kick.
At the other end, the ball is crossed towards Altintop on the edge of the area. With no Liverpool players around him, he drills a low shot towards goal, but it gets deflected for a corner, which comes to nothing.
Liverpool are slowing down the tempo of the game by keeping hold of the ball, knocking it across the midfield and the back line. They've got their lead so they don't seem in any hurry to hunt down another.
Caiuby and Koo try some one-touch play between them in Liverpool's half and it almost results in Koo picking the ball up inside the box, but Firmino does well to drop back and intercept the pass.
Great interception from Lucas. The Brazilian passes the ball out wide to the left to find Sturridge. The ball is eventually played to overlapping Clyne on the other side, but his cross fails to trouble the visitors.
A waste from Firmino! Henderson plays the ball over the top for the Brazilian, who darts towards the box and goes for glory himself with a volley, but it's a lame effort and misses the target. He had two teammates in better positions but decided against using them.
Coutinho gets penalised for bringing down Koo in Augsburg's half. A sign of frustration from the Brazilian, who allows the visitors to get on the ball, but they fail to make the most of it.
Caiuby catches Sakho with an elbow and gives away a free kick. The Liverpool defender goes to ground clutching his head, but he gets to his feet and is fine to continue.
CHANCE! Firmino chips the ball into the area searching for Sturridge, but the ball goes just behind. It then bounces awkwardly in front of goal, but the flag was already up for offside.
SAVE! Sturridge shows some nice footwork before nudging the ball forward to Coutinho in the box. The Brazilian pokes a shot, but Hitz is there to make the block.
Some lovely movement from Liverpool as Sturridge sends a perfectly-weighted pass to Firmino, who lays the ball back to Clyne. The full-back then goes for goal with a low shot, but it gets deflected wide for a corner, which comes to nothing.
SAVE! Augsburg get a sniff at goal as Altintop tees the ball up for Stafylidis, who unleashes a shot, but Mignolet manages to drop down and push it away.
BOOKING! Stafylidis is the first to get cautioned and it's the correct decision as he tugs at Firmino's shirt on the break.
SAVE! Hitz is called upon again as Coutinho receives the ball on the left-hand side of the area. He plays in Moreno, whose low cross was met by Firmino. The Brazilian takes a shot, but the keeper makes a decent stop.
Liverpool have found their rhythm here and they look threatening every time they bomb forward. Augsburg have spent most of the half an hour defending, but they do show some danger when in Liverpool's half.
After another corner comes to nothing, Liverpool go on the attack again. Coutinho dances into the box and drops his shoulder before cutting inside and unleashing a right-footed shot, but ti goes straight to the keeper.
A little break in play as Verhaegh strolls off to get another captain's armband. He seems to have lost it, but don't panic, he's good to go now.
While on the left side of the area, Milner sends a low cross in, but Janker is able to clear with ease.
Oh dear! That could have been embarrassing! Lucas aims to pass the ball back to his keeper, but it's poorly weighted and Caiuby latches on. Mignolet comes off his line, but the Augsburg forward gets round him and aims at goal. Sakho is there though, to cover.
Coutinho perfectly whips the ball across to Sturridge, who controls it well. The ball is eventually pick dup by Milner, who sends a high cross into the area, but it comes to nothing.
CLOSE! Sturridge is inches away from giving Liverpool a 2-0 lead! Coutinho's cut-back from the byline bounces off an Augsburg defender, but he's lucky as the ball comes straight back to him. The Brazilian passes to Sturridge, who shoots, but the keeper pushes onto his near post.
A worrying moment for Liverpool as Henderson goes to ground after getting kicked in the shins. He eventually rises to his feet, though, and at the moment seems well enough to carry on.
Stafylidis charges down the field on the left-hand side and goes for glory with a 25-yard effort, but it's a poor attempt and the ball goes sky high into the stands.
BOOKING! A silly foul from Caiuby as he takes out Coutinho from behind. The Augsburg forward can have no complaints with that one.
HALF-TIME: LIVERPOOL 1-0 AUGSBURG
The referee brings the first half to an end and it's been a relatively comfortable one for Liverpool. The Merseyside outfit went ahead in the fifth minute thanks to James Milner converting from the penalty spot. The spot-kick was awarded because of a handball in the area. Since then, the Reds have looked in control and could have added to the scoreline. As it stands, though, Augsburg need to score just one goal to go through. We'll be back for the second half shortly!
RESTART! Liverpool get the second half underway! Will they add to their lead or will Augsburg find that all-important away goal? Let's find out!
Kohr is on the ground clutching his leg. Not entirely sure how he hurt himself, but nonetheless he's fine to carry on.
It doesn't look as though Liverpool are willing to sit on their lead. They want more as they go on the attack. The ball is headed away by Augsburg's defence, but only as far as Coutinho, who chests and volleys, but his attempt is too high to dip into the net.
CHANCE! So close for Sturridge! Coutinho sends a lovely pass into the striker's feet in the box. The England international gets the ball on his right foot and shoots low, but it misses the target by a whisker!
Some nervy moments for Liverpool as Verhaegh's free kick finds Caiuby in the box. The ball bounces awkwardly and Mignolet is nowhere near it, but the offside flag is up.
Barring that poor back-pass, Lucas has looked solid in defence. He manages to nick the ball off Caiuby and win back possession.
Sturridge is involved again as he looks for a goal. The striker receives the ball towards the corner of the box and he tries to whip it past the keeper, but his effort gets deflected for a corner, which is played short but comes to nothing.
More waves of attack from Liverpool. Clyne picks up the ball on the overlap and plays it into Firmino, who tries to fire in from close range on the turn, but Janker makes a crucial block.
Augsburg win a free kick in a decent area. It's whipped into the box, but Sakho manages to head the ball away.
BOOKING! Kohr is down with his hands covering his face. He seems to have been caught on the nose by Firmino and the Liverpool attacker goes in the book as a result.
Can gives the ball away in the middle of the park and it gives Augsburg the chance to build. Stafylidis finds some space on the left before whipping a cross in, but Lucas is there to thump clear.
Firmino and Coutinho look to play a one-two on the edge of the area, but Koo reads the play well and intercepts to quash out the danger.
A nice move again from Liverpool as they move the ball around well. It ends up at the feet of Sturridge, who sends the ball forward and low for Coutinho in the box, but it's slightly overhit and the opportunity goes missing.
Coutinho cuts inside and drills a low shot with his right foot towards the bottom corner, but it bobbles wide. Milner was screaming for it to be squared to him in the area, but the Brazilian went alone.
LIVERPOOL SUB: Klopp makes his first change of the game and it's Sturridge who makes way. The Englishman doesn't look too happy about it but perhaps Klopp is thinking about Sunday's League Cup final. Origi comes on to replace him.
Something isn't quite right with Milner as he lays on the ground after getting caught by Stafylidis's elbow. Play continues for a few minutes but is eventually stopped when the ball goes behind for an Augsburg corner. It seems like the midfielder will be okay.
Sakho gives away a silly foul in a dangerous area. Verhaegh stands over the ball and whips it into the area, but it doesn't get past the first man.
CHANCE! Some positive goalkeeping from Mignolet as Werner was bearing down and came close to getting a shot away. Mignolet, though, raced off his line and made a decent stop. It's getting a bit tense for the home fans!
AUGSBURG SUB: This could be significant for the visitors as Bobadilla comes on for Werner.
Liverpool just cannot find that second goal, despite all their attempts. This time, the ball trickles to Coutinho, who goes for goal, but it takes a big deflection before going out for a corner. The Reds fail to make the most of it.
SAVE! How did Henderson not get that in?! The Liverpool skipper latches on to a bouncing ball in the box, but he shoots from close range right at the keeper. He should have done a lot better!
LIVERPOOL SUB: It's the end of Coutinho's night as he makes way for Teixeira.
CHANCE! Augsburg get close as Moravek latches on to the ball and pokes a volley, but it goes wide. There's a nervous energy around the stadium. Remember, Augsburg need just the one goal to go through.
Origi tries to wrap it up for the Reds, but his effort fails to trouble the keeper. Seconds later, Firmino looks to get in behind, but he's flagged offside.
Liverpool are living dangerously as the ball is rolled into the box from Augsburg. Esswein gets a touch, but it's poor and the chance goes missing. If he had left it for Moravek, though, he would have scored.
CLOSE! Stafylidis is inches away from scoring! the visitors get a free kick from 22 yards out. He gets the ball over the wall and Mignolet is in trouble, but the ball just goes over the bar.
Five minutes of added time! Can Augsburg find that crucial away goal?!
A looping cross is send into the box by Esswein, but Mignolet is there to pick the ball out from the air, giving Liverpool some respite.
Bobadilla goes for glory as he finds space before taking a long-range shot, but he misses the target and the ball flies into the stands.
FULL-TIME: LIVERPOOL 1-0 AUGSBURG
Liverpool are through to the last 16 of the Europa League, but it was not the most convincing of victories! Jurgen Klopp's side had 24 attempts at goal but James Milner's fifth-minute penalty was enough to send them through. It was a nervy finish as Augsburg came close to finding that crucial away goal, but Liverpool held on. That's all from us this evening. Thank you for joining us and until next time, good bye!