On Wednesday evening, the Upper Austrians stepped onto the perfect English pitch in Liverpool for the first time with wide eyes before concentrating on the final training session. Previously, left-footer George Bello said at the press conference: “It’s a beautiful stadium. But we’re not afraid, it’s exciting.” The Linzers (three points) are at the bottom of the league table (nine) in Group E, ahead of LASK are Union Saint-Gilloise (four), who play at FC Toulouse (seven). The aim is to avoid an early exit from the European Cup, but scoring points in Liverpool couldn’t be more difficult.
The starting position is not only clear to the 21-year-old, but given his background, the American Bello believes in himself and his team: “It’s football, eleven against eleven. We have all the respect in the world for this team, but we have quality in our team.” Coach Thomas Sageder took a similar note: “If we don’t believe in our chance, then we wouldn’t have had to come here at all. In the end it’s just a football game.”
LASK visits the legendary Anfield Road
LASK will play the penultimate game of the Europa League group phase against Liverpool on Thursday evening at the famous Anfield Road.
Ideally, LASK should win this in order to keep all chances of wintering in the European Cup open. One point would be worth a lot when it comes to third place and the move to the Conference League. This statistic shows how likely all of this is: Liverpool have won nine out of nine home games this season. Before starting any calculations, LASK believes it is important to pay attention to one’s own performance (Sageder: “We really want to challenge Liverpool”) and to enjoy the atmosphere in Anfield a little.
From All Saints to Anfield
This is only the fifth time an Austrian team has been playing here (the GAK had their only win in 2004 with a 1-0 win, note) and in the case of LASK that is not something to be taken for granted. As the markets and “apres-ski bar” let you know, Christmas is not too far away in Liverpool. And December 24th also has great significance in the club’s history for the athletes. Ten years ago, the “Friends of LASK” around current managing director Siegmund Gruber took over the leadership from then president Peter-Michael Reichel on that very historic day and ushered in a new era that led the then third division club to Anfield.
Photo series with 7 pictures
At that time, LASK was still playing in the regional league, including in Aller Heiligen, before today’s sports director Radovan Vujanovic secured their return to professional football with two goals against Parndorf. Since then, things have essentially been going uphill: promotion to the Bundesliga in 2017 under today’s coaching star Oliver Glasner, the comeback in the European Cup in 2018, the Europa League round of 16 in 2020 and the crowning achievement in 2022 in the form of the opening of the Raiffeisen Arena on the Froschberg. “It’s crazy what has happened since then,” said Vujanovic in an interview with ORF and added with a smile: “If I could do it again, I would like to play here. We just have to be able to enjoy it.”
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2,500 fans come on eight planes
That’s how the LASK fans see it too; for a long time they had to point to the duels with Inter Milan as an international highlight. In 1985 they even won the first leg 1-0 before losing 4-0 away. In the past ten years, we have been able to set a number of reputations in Europe with 4-1 wins against PSV Eindhoven or Sporting Lisbon, and there have also been guest appearances at Manchester United (1:2) and Tottenham (0:3). , both times without fans due to CoV.
This time everything is different: That’s why around 2,500 fans traveled from Linz on Thursday with eight fan planes. Fans have been in the city of the Beatles since Tuesday, hanging scarves around the statue of this city’s most famous sons and not missing out on this perhaps unique opportunity to see their club on the River Mersey in northwest England. “You don’t experience something like that every day,” was the sentiment of the fans.
Europa League, Group E, fifth matchday
Thursday, 9 p.m.:
Liverpool – LASK
Liverpool, Anfield, SR Schnyder/SUI
Liverpool: Kelleher – Gomez, Konate, Quansah, Tsimikas – Elliott, Endo, Gravenberch – Doak, Gakpo, Diaz
SHOT: Lawal – Ziereis, Andrade, Talowjerow – Stojkovic, Ljubic, Horvath, Renner – Ljubicic, Zulj, Usor
“We mustn’t over-pace”
Of course, the players also want to enjoy the game, but at the end of the day it’s about impressing in terms of football and possibly also putting themselves in the spotlight personally. The former Salzburg player Takumi Minamino was so noticed four years ago in the 3-4 spectacle in the Champions League that even Liverpool signed him the following winter.
The LASK players were unsurprisingly highly motivated before the game. Sageder sees an “energetic” team that he also has to slow down. “You have to be a little careful so that we don’t overpace.” Otherwise, it’s important to keep the “Reds” busy and be careful in transition moments. Liverpool also has weaknesses and they need to work “concentrated and calmly”. It remains to be seen whether this will be successful in front of around 50,000 people. In terms of personnel, Sageder can make full use of it again.
Liverpool is said to be a “terrible place”.
In the meantime, the “Reds” also have a job to do themselves. After the 2-3 defeat in Toulouse, Liverpool are not yet through; a win would bring them decisively close to winning the group. Only the first team is guaranteed to reach the round of 16, the second team has to go to a play-off.
Two fewer games would not be inconvenient for star coach Jürgen Klopp’s team, as the program is so tight, especially in the next few weeks around Christmas and New Year in England. “We are facing the most intense phase of the season,” confirmed the German at the press conference in Anfield on Wednesday.
Reuters/Molly Darlington Finding the right balance is currently one of Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp’s tasks
The 56-year-old will probably rest his stars initially, as he did in the 3-1 win in Linz, and if necessary, he will bring them on as a “joker”. Back in September, after a remarkable shot from a well-considered corner by Florian Flecker, they were 0-1 behind for a long time before Mohammed Salah and Co. restored the hierarchy in the end. “We had our problems, we haven’t forgotten that. Linz is having a strong season, we respect that,” said Klopp. Against “a really good opponent” he demands one thing: “I expect us to ensure a European Cup night in Anfield. We have to show as a team that it is a wonderful place, but also a terrible place at the same time.”