Genk vs Liverpool : Klopp keen to break European away curse
https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/liverpool-manager-jurgen-klopp-looks-on-during-a-liverpool-news-photo/1182651936?adppopup=true

Matchweek three in Group E of the Champions League takes Liverpool to Belgium as they face League champions K.R.C Genk at the Luminus Arena.

Liverpool's flawless record in the Premier League was tarnished by rivals Manchester United at the weekend in an underwhelming performance which saw Jurgen Klopp's men salvage a point late on through Adam Lallana's goal.

Just three days after their visit to Old Trafford, the Reds now play Genk tonight hoping to claim all three points which could propel them to the top of Group E depending on the outcome of RB Salzburg vs Napoli.

Genk began their first Champions League campaign in eight years on the back foot after being thrashed 6-2 by Salzburg in their opening fixture, but more recently held Napoli to a goalless draw at home.

The opposition

A side that could be relatively unknown to the casual football fan, Genk are one of Belgium's top sides and have recently won the Jupiler Pro League - their fourth top-flight title.

De Smurfen (which literally translates to 'The Smurfs') have spent 80 seasons in Belgium's top flight, and are currently managed by Felice Mazzu. Phillipe Clement, having won the league with Genk as manager last season left for Club Brugge in the summer - who Liverpool famously beat in the European Cup final in 1978 and in the UEFA Cup final over two legs in 1976.

Genk's biggest threat comes in the form of their striker Mbwana Samatta, with the Tanzanian international scoring 20 goals in 28 games last season.

Samatta told the media about how tonight is a 'dream' game, with the boyhood Man United fan relishing the opportunity to face their rivals.

He said: "I think it is a dream game. When you play football you dream about these kind of games.

"As a kid you watched these kind of games but now you are on the pitch playing the game.

"When I was a kid I used to support Manchester United." he admitted.

"But we are not talking about Manchester United right now, we are talking about Liverpool

"Everyone (in Tanzania) is talking about the game tomorrow, talking about (Virgil) Van Dijk, saying I have to do something against him, go past him, dribble past him."

Genk have only ever played two games against English opposition in European football, with both coming against Chelsea in the 2011-12 group phase, drawing 1-1 at home and losing 5-0 away at Stamford Bridge.

The managers

Liverpool boss Klopp has insisted that their away form in the Champions League must improve if they are to proceed to the knockout stages this time around.

The reigning holders lost all three of their away fixtures in last year's group stage despite going on to claim their sixth European Cup, and have only won one away fixture in the Champions League group stage in their last seven attempts - a 7-0 win away to Maribor in 2017.

The Reds' first away game in Europe this season saw them fall short against Napoli after a controversial late double in Italy, with Klopp hoping to turn their fortunes on away turf around tonight.

He said: "We like to say European nights at Anfield are really special but other teams can make a special atmosphere as well.

"We could have won away games to be honest, performance-wise, but we know that it's not historically good, what we did in the last two years. We know we have to improve."

Although a Liverpool win may be expected by many tonight, Klopp was quick to point out the quality the opposition possess which has ultimately led them to European nights like these.

"We don't want to make Genk bigger than they are but they are in the Champions League and they play good football." Klopp declared.

"It's a brave team, they were champions last year in Belgium which is not so easy, they lost a couple of players but found others and are again a good team."

Genk boss Mazzu claimed that Liverpool are "one of the best teams in Europe" but also hinted that he could implement Man United's style of play which held the Premier League leaders to a draw on Sunday.

He said: “The Manchester United system (on Sunday) played with a five-man defence. It was a good thing for them.

“We have a lot of options so we will see tomorrow.

“When a team like Liverpool take 25 points from 27 and they play like they play I think they are one of the best teams in Europe, probably the best."

[Jurgen] Klopp makes Liverpool dangerous. We know they score easily with three, four or five strikers with a lot of speed. We must be attentive."

Team news

Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joel Matip haven't travelled with the Liverpool squad to Belgium, but there is welcome news for Reds fans which is the return of Mo Salah.

Alexander-Arnold misses out due to illness, whereas Matip has a sore knee which flared up after Sunday's game against United.

Klopp, speaking to Liverpoolfc.com, said: “Trent is ill and Joel is not ready.

“It is just a little thing which usually settles in the two weeks [Matip]. It did, but then it came up after the United game and so now we just have to make sure this time it settles finally, that’s all."

Salah has returned however, and Liverpool's joint-top scorer this season could be set to start tonight.

Klopp continued: “It’s absolutely good to have him (Salah) back. The squad is cool, it’s a good squad, everything is OK, but that’s all.”

Genk's Neto Borges and Danny Vukovic are both out and have been since the beginning of the Jupiler Pro League season, whilst Ghanaian prospect Joseph Paintsil will also be set to miss out tonight's fixture.

VAVEL Logo