By Tom Hayward
LIVERPOOL have reached last chance saloon in the Champions League and only victory against Swiss champions FC Basel on Tuesday night (9.45pm) will spare them being left out in the cold.
Third in Group B, level on four points with Bulgarian side Ludogorets, Liverpool are two points behind Basel and 11 points adrift of unbeaten group winners Real Madrid and have no more wriggle room after a disappointing campaign so far.
After a four-year absence Liverpool’s return to a tournament in which they have such a rich history has been an anti-climax but a first victory since September would see them snatch a last 16 spot at the expense of the Swiss side.
Basel, who beat Liverpool 1-0 in October, need just a draw.
While Liverpool would have hoped to have performed better – their only win so far was a narrow one against Ludogorets at home – the stage is set for one of Anfield’s special nights.
“We will get great support and there will be energy,” Rodgers, whose side suffered a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Sunderland on Saturday, told the Liverpool Echo.
“I remember against Zenit St Petersburg (in 2013) we needed to win by two goals and went 1-0 down early on which meant we had to win by three. We then came back to win the game 3-1.
“We could not muster that last goal. But it showed then that the support and the players coming together can be a real force. I am looking at that as being a big advantage for us. I am really looking forward to the atmosphere.
“For us, we could not have wanted any more than to go to Anfield on Tuesday night needing to win the game to get qualified. It’s perfect,” he added.
Basel’s win against the Reds in October was their fourth in succession against English opposition in the competition and the Swiss Champions have lost just one of their last nine meetings with English sides.
After Basel succumbed to a spirited 1-0 home defeat against holders Madrid last month, the Spanish side’s manager Carlo Ancelotti told reporters: “I believe Basel is currently better than Liverpool.
“Basel’s players are fit and the team is motivated, I think Basel has a small advantage over Liverpool.”
Basel manager Paulo Sousa, who was replaced by Rodgers as Swansea City manager in 2010, told reporters that his side hold a slight advantage over Liverpool, virtue of their performance against the Spanish giants.
“I think Ancelotti is right, as we were the team that caused Real Madrid with the most difficulties in this Champions League group so far,” he said.