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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Liverpool can make light work of injury-hit Spartak

Reds should land vital victory

Liverpool tend to save their best for the biggest occasions
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Champions League
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Tuesday

Liverpool were disappointed after being held to a 2-2 draw by Sevilla on Champions League matchday one but they can make amends by beating injury-hit Spartak Moscow in the Russian capital.

Liverpool and Sevilla stood out as the leading lights in Group E but third seeds Spartak are also hopeful of competing for the qualification places.

Spartak would have targeted six points from their matches against Maribor but their plans took an early hit when they drew 1-1 away to the Slovenian side 13 days ago.

They failed to build on Aleksandr Samedov's opening goal and were left hanging on for a point after Damjan Bohar's 85th-minute leveller.

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Another downside of that match was an injury to captain Denis Glushakov which forced him off during the first half.

The Russia international has not reappeared since and is part of a crowded treatment room.

Spartak will be without six to eight members of their first-team squad and are sweating on the fitness of Brazilian striker Pedro Neves and Dutch attacker Quincy Promes, who are touch and go for this game.

Promes has scored nine goals in 13 appearances this season but was being assessed by club doctors this week. It would be a huge loss if he fails to make the starting line-up. He was sidelined at the weekend as Spartak laboured to a 2-2 draw at home to Anzhi.

That result followed an equally unsatisfactory 2-2 draw away to struggling Tosno and leaves Spartak in seventh place, 13 points adrift of leaders Zenit St Petersburg.

Retaining the Russian title is already looking a tall order and Spartak's poor domestic performances do not augur well for their chances of challenging Liverpool.

A lot has been made of the Reds' defensive deficiencies, which could prevent them from going deep into the competition.

But Jurgen Klopp has plenty of matchwinners in his squad and is faced with a selection headache with Sadio Mane, Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Mohamed Salah competing for places in attack.

Klopp will be keen to utilise Mane, who has missed the last three domestic games through suspension, but will also want to find room for Coutinho, who returned to his peak with a brilliant goal and assist in the 3-2 victory at Leicester on Saturday.

Liverpool have plenty of time to recover for Sunday's trip to Newcastle, so there is no reason for Klopp to select anything other than a first-choice line-up.

Cool heads will be needed and it might help Liverpool to be playing away from Anfield in their next two Champions League matches – they travel to Maribor on matchday three.

Liverpool's match with Sevilla was their first Champions League group match at Anfield since they played Basel in December 2014 and there were moments when their players seemed to get caught up in the occasion and lost concentration.

They should be more focused on the task in hand against Spartak and look solid odds-on favourites to collect three points.

1pt 8-11 Betway, Sky Bet

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Team news
Spartak Moscow
Roman Zobnin, Denis Davydov, Ze Luis, Denis Glushakov, Jano Ananidze and Georgi Tigiev are injured. Pedro Rocha Neves is highly-doubtful and Quincy Promes is almost certain not to play.

Adam Lallana (thigh) and Nathaniel Clyne (back) are out. Joe Gomez is suspended. Goalkeeper Loris Karius will start.

Key stat
Spartak Moscow have not kept a clean sheet in their last 13 Champions League matches.

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Spartak Moscow have not kept a clean sheet in their last 13 Champions League matches
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