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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Rangers clash presents Liverpool with perfect opportunity to halt rotten run

Rangers clash presents Liverpool with perfect opportunity to halt rotten run
John Lundstram (right) and James Sands (left) of Rangers in action against Giovanni Simeone of Napoli during the Uefa Champions League group A match in Glasgow, Britain, 14 September, 2022. (Photo:EPA/Robert Perry)

The Champions League returns for round three this week. Last season’s finalists Liverpool can restabilise their indifferent season. Meanwhile, Copenhagen have the unenviable task of trying to contain rampaging Manchester City. 

Liverpool have started the current season in indifferent form across all competitions.

In the Uefa Champions League, from their opening two matches, the Merseyside club has won one and been comprehensively thumped by Italian side Napoli in the other.

Meanwhile, in their domestic league the Reds have not fared much better. After seven Premier League matches played, the 19-time English champions find themselves floating in somewhat rough waters. Liverpool is ninth, 11 points behind early pacesetter Arsenal.   

In their most recent encounter, Jürgen Klopp’s charges had to fight back from two goals down as they eventually played to a three-all stalemate versus Brighton & Hove Albion.

“We didn’t play Wolves, played Ajax, didn’t play Chelsea. That means we couldn’t pick anything up and keep it from the Ajax game really,” said Klopp on his team’s disrupted rhythm so far — which was further curtailed as they had games postponed owing to Queen Elizabeth’s death.   

“On top of that, you face Brighton, in a very good moment. A very good team, with a new manager and you concede these two early goals. Which is in no way helpful, but in other situations may be less harmful than it was for us that day,” said the German on his team’s weekend fightback against Brighton.

“We turned it around, not with a brilliant performance but with a proper fight. Adapting to the situation, denying Brighton in the areas they wanted to play and all these kinds of things.”

Their upcoming Champions League encounter, against Scotland’s Rangers presents an opportunity for the Reds to rediscover their confidence and play the type of exhilarating football they have been known to play under Klopp.

Liverpool players attend a team training session

Liverpool players attend a team training session at the AXA Training Centre in Liverpool, north-west England on 3 October, 2022, on the eve of the Uefa Champions League group A football match against Rangers. (Photo: Nigel Roddis / AFP)

Rangers have unsurprisingly had a solid start to their domestic season and sit second behind last season’s Scottish champions Celtic. From their eight league matches to date, they boast six wins, with a draw and loss in tandem.

In Europe, the 2022 Europa League finalists have failed dismally to replicate that form. The seven goals they have conceded are the joint most after the two rounds played so far. They were thrashed 4-0 and 3-0 by Ajax Amsterdam and Napoli respectively.

Czech side Viktoria Plzeň has also been breached seven times. Though, unlike the Scots — who do not have a single goal to their name to date — the Czechs have at least managed to score once.

Given Liverpool’s early season woes, the fixture could be the perfect catalyst to launch a turnaround for last season’s beaten finalists.


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Barca vs Inter

Inter and Barcelona have plenty in common after two respective Group C games: both sides have beaten Plzeň and lost 2-0 to Germany’s Bayern Munich.

If Julian Nagelsmann’s charges continue their winning streak as they face the Czech side, then these back-to-back encounters may define both teams’ campaigns.

“If we want to qualify from this group, then the next two games with Barcelona will tell us a lot,” said Inter midfielder Marcelo Brozović.

Of course, the task for the Italians will be mammoth. Before that blip against Bayern, Barca were undefeated so far this season. Indeed, under former Spanish midfield maestro turned coach Hernández, the Catalans have rediscovered their best form after a less-than-memorable campaign in 2021/2022.

The Blaugrana are once again playing with swagger and finesse. The team’s combination of experience and youth has blended magnificently to once again bring back hope of glorious times ahead in Catalunya.

The lethal Robert Lewandowski (already sitting on 12 goals from nine matches since swapping Munich for Barcelona) has fitted in like a glove into the team, with starlets such as Pedri and Gavi supporting him exceptionally.

Meanwhile, Inter have had a poor start domestically and currently languish in ninth spot in Serie A — having played eight, won four and lost just as many.

“Form doesn’t matter that much, we’ve played many games in which we were favourites and we lost,” a cautious Xavi told journalists ahead of the clash.

Rampaging City

Erling Haaland has now scored 26 goals in 21 Champions League matches, his effort last time out helping Pep Guardiola’s men to see off Borussia Dortmund.

The Norwegian is coming off another scintillating performance following his hattrick heroics in the Manchester derby on the weekend. He will undoubtedly fancy the prospect of adding to his impressive European goal tally against the struggling Danish champions.   

Copenhagen have yet to win in Europe, but after a draw against Sevilla, winger Viktor Claesson promised: “we will make it difficult for City.”

To make this promise a reality, Claesson and company not only have to contain Haaland, but the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden as well. A Sisyphean undertaking by any stretch of the imagination. DM

Selected Champions League fixtures: 

Tuesday:

Bayern Munich vs Viktoria Plzeň(6:45pm)

Club Brugge vs Atletico Madrid (9pm)

Ajax vs Napoli (9pm)

Eintracht Frankfurt vs Tottenham Hotspur (9pm)

Inter vs Barcelona (9pm)

Liverpool vs Rangers (9pm)

Wednesday:

RB Leipzig vs Celtic (6:45pm)

Chelsea vs Milan (9pm)

Real Madrid vs Shakhtar Donetsk (9pm)

Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund 

Benfica vs Paris Saint-Germain (9pm)

Manchester City vs Copenhagen (9pm)

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