Who: Genk vs Liverpool
When: Wednesday, October 223rd @ 3:00pm ET
Line: Genk +800 | Draw +550 | Liverpool -360
Last season, they lost all of their group stage games (including to Red Star Belgrade!). This season, they were on their way to a draw at Napoli before a ridiculous penalty was called against Andy Robertson in the box.
So Liverpool can’t win away from Anfield then, right?
Nah. They won 17 straight domestic games until this weekend. And in 2017-18 they had a +17 goal differential and no losses in the group stage. They’ll be fine.
Genk vs Liverpool match preview
First, for the majority of our readers, it’s probably worth spending a few sentences on the following: Who is Genk?
Genk play in the Belgium first division (same as Club Brugge). They’re currently seventh in the table.
Their Global Club Rank puts them as the 109th best squad in the world. For comparison’s sake, Norwich is 104th and LAFC is 111th.
If Liverpool faced Norwich or LAFC away, you’d think they’d win comfortable, right?
Genk are a compact defensive squad. Their best players (Carlos Cuesta, Sander Berge, Joakim Maehle, Jhon Lucmi, gk Gaetan Coucke) are all defensive contributors (Berge at DMC being the fulcrum).
If they’re going to score, it’ll either be from a set piece or in open play from Mbwana Samatta. You maybe saw some tweets recently about Samatta being the first Tanzanian to score in the Champions League. Of the team’s 15 domestic league goals this season, Samatta has 5 of them.
Those 15 domestic goals are the lowest of any Belgium team in the top 7. Genk don’t score. That’s their problem.
Genk vs Napoli shows Liverpool a worst case scenario
Napoli is a close approximation to Liverpool. At home, Genk held Napoli to a 0-0 draw. That result flipped the group odds to Liverpool’s favor.
The stats in that match more or less will mirror Liverpool’s on Wednesday. Napoli had 63% possession. They outshot the Belgiums 18 to 14. Napoli were just wildly unlucky.
xG map for Genk – Napoli
— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) October 2, 2019
The Italians hit the woodwork early. Coucke came up with some huge saves and was bailed out with a goal-line clearance from his defense once.
Napoli should’ve won.
Mo Salah injury update and impact
According to Jurgen Klopp, Mohamed Salah wasn’t “close” to playing against Manchester United. Given this is the Reds most forgiving UCL away match, I’d expect Salah to sit it out too.
This is an obvious problem for Liverpool. While Roberto Firmino (when “on”) is the most important player on the Reds, Salah is still the best.
It was evident on Sunday against Manchester United. Salah’s gravitational pull on other defenders opens up opportunities that simply don’t exist without him. It was most apparent on Sadio Mane, who had exactly zero shots on goal (to be fair, he scored a goal that was ruled off due to a BS handball VAR review, but moving on…).
No Salah, less shots. The Genk vs Napoli match from a personnel perspective actually becomes a closer approximation of how this should go.
Genk will park the bus and Liverpool will have to break them down
Even with Genk’s solid defensive work, Napoli still managed 18 shots on goal. They were massively unlucky to not see one find the back of the net.
The strategy here isn’t complicated. Genk will park the bus. They’ll ride the tide of emotion from their home crowd and play aggressive and with purpose. They’ll try to contain and frustrate Liverpool while being opportunistic on a counter or set piece. Genk will be playing for a draw.
Just can’t see Genk scoring on Liverpool. They don’t have enough offensive weaponry. Klopp will look to add some defensive composure by inserting James Milner in the line-up. Divock Origi will get a start, having an inspired performance against his home country crowd. Liverpool find a goal or two and win this 2-0.