Liverpool’s Champions League comeback was short-lived as they didn’t manage to progress past the group stages resulting in them dropping into the Europa League.
That failure could lead to success though as they are undoubtedly one of the contenders to win European football’s second prize.
After all, it is going to be difficult for the Reds to get into the top four of Premier League by the end of the season with such stiff competition coming from the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Southampton.
This year is the first in which the winner of the Europa League qualifies for next season’s Champions League, so that could be the way in for Brendan Rodgers.
The Liverpool manager hasn’t always been a fan of the competition as it disrupts their domestic flow as they have to play on Thursday and then Sunday, but this year it is one of two opportunities of silverware for the Reds that is still up for grabs so he will have to take it more seriously.
Their impressive win in the FA Cup on Saturday over Crystal Palace was a momentous one as it banished their Selhurst Park hoodoo as they picked up a win there for the first time since 1997. It was also the first time they had played there since last season’s infamous 3-3 draw that put an end to their title hopes, that Palace fans have dubbed ‘Crystanbul’.
That result, along with other recent games, has shown that the Reds are on the road to recovery after struggling early on this season without Luis Suarez. They have only lost twice in their last 22 games in all competitions and those loses came against Manchester United and Chelsea.
That is some turnaround considering before that they went on a run of four straight defeats.
They head into their Europa League clash with Turkish side Besiktas full of confidence but they will have to play without their £20million summer signing Lazar Markovic as he has been suspended for four games for violent conduct. The ban comes after the Serbian was sent off in the Liverpool’s last Champions League game with Basel due to a ridiculous decision.
Rodgers will likely bring in the youngster Jordan Ibe to cover for Markovic’s absence. Ibe has impressed lately since returning from his loan spell at Derby County.
The Liverpool boss will also be waiting on late fitness tests for Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva ahead of the game.
It is unlikely Gerrard and Leiva will make it but Sterling, who has missed the last two matches with a foot injury could return unless Rodgers decides to save him until the weekend for their important game with Southampton in the Premier League.
The last time Besiktas came to Anfield they were subject to an 8-0 defeat in the Champions League, which still remains a record win.
This time Slavan Bilic is in charge, and he brings his side to Anfield in much better shape than they were in 2007. This time they bring with them an old enemy of Anfield, Demba Ba.
Ba joined the Turkish side from Chelsea but not before he had his hand in putting a stop to Liverpool’s title hopes last season, there is no doubt he will look to cause the Kop some misery again on Thursday night.
After winning 3-2 in dramatic style against Bursaspor on Sunday, Besiktas will go to Anfield with one notable absentee, their goalkeeper Tolga Zengin.
It will be a tough test for Liverpool in their first outing in the Europa League this season as Besiktas are unbeaten in their last seven Europa League matches and will definitely make life difficult for the Reds.
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