Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has admitted that he is targeting to win the Europa League, as it would get the Reds a direct entry into next season’s Champions League.
Along with top four finish, Rodgers maintains that winning a silverware is key in building up the team’ confidence, hence, the extra emphasis being laid on winning the Europa League.
Liverpool will take on Besiktas, a side that lost 8-0 few years back at Anfield in the Champions League. However, with Demba Ba, who broke Liverpool’s heart last season after scoring at Anfield for Chelsea, in the side Besiktas are hoping to secure a positive result in the first leg at Merseyside.
Rodgers has confirmed that skipper Steven Gerrard has yet to recover from the hamstring injury he sustained against Tottenham and hence won’t take part on Thursday.
Also missing is Lazar Markovic, who has been given a four-match European ban, for his red card he picked up in 1-1 draw with Basel in the Champions League back in December.
Joe Allen impressed against Crystal Palace alongside Jordan Henderson, and the Welshman is expected to retain his place in the starting line-up.
Raheem Sterling, who missed last few games due to injury, has returned to full training yesterday, and it remains to be seen whether Rodgers brings him straightway into the starting line up.
Rodgers could also be tempted to start with Mario Balotelli, who has hinted of returning back to form, after impressing in the last couple of games.
This could be a possible Liverpool starting XI vs Besiktas
Prediction: Liverpool are desperate to make a strong impression in Europe, especially with Daniel Sturridge back in the side. 3-1 for the Reds.