After a tough (and poorly officiated) loss in the opening game of Group E play defending Champions League winner Liverpool returns to Anfield looking to regain traction. With Red Bull Salzburg and Napoli currently tied for the lead in the group a win here will get Liverpool back in good shape. There also seems to be a vested interest in improving the goal differential so you might see the home team focused squarely on the attack.
Liverpool has been absolutely monstrous since the start of the Premier League season. In fact, the opening group match against Napoli is the only loss that Liverpool has on their resume in quite some time. Since Napoli got a penalty that wasn’t really deserved we can–as horse players are fond of saying–‘draw a line’ through that performance and focus on what Liverpool has done otherwise. And all they’ve done is win. They’ve won 7 of their last 8 at Anfield in Champions League play and they’ve won 11 straight in all competitions. 10 of their aforementioned home victories have come by 2+ goals. They’ll be glad to return home after playing four straight in all competitions on the road. With Liverpool currently running roughshod over the Premiership with 21 points and a 7-0-0 record they’ll clearly be focused on getting things back in order in European play. They do have a tough EPL game on deck at home against Leicester City this Saturday.
So far this season, Salzburg has been nearly as dominant in the Austrian Budesliga as Liverpool has in the Premier League. They currently sit atop the table with a 8-1-0 record good for 25 points giving them a 5 point advantage over second place LASK and a 6 point edge over Wolfsberger AC. Their goal differential is downright absurd: Salzburg has scored 40 and conceded only 9 for a +31 goal differential. That’s +18 better than Wolfsburger’s +13. When you’re averaging 4.4 goals per game and allowing an average of 1 a game you’re going to win a lot of soccer games. Ultimately, however, what Liverpool is doing in arguably the best national soccer league in the world has to be considered more impressive than what Salzburg is doing in a far less competitive circuit. Salzburg reached the final 16 of Europa League play last year and the final 8 in the previous season. That being said, they’ve lost their last two road games in European tournament play.
Don’t expect Salzburg to play a tight, conservative game. They have a tendency to open it up and that is evident from the high total on this game. Ultimately, however, this is a huge step up in class for them and Liverpool should win this contest with relative ease. Given Salzburg’s attacking style they should be able to score at least once.