Miracle Required: Liverpool v. Zenit

Clive Brunskill

Liverpool have a long road to travel.

I will say that it's been a long time since Liverpool pulled one out of the bag, especially in Europe. They've overturned deficits at home in UEFA in recent history, namely that run to the semifinals in 2010. But those were one-goal deficits, and Liverpool had an away goal in the bag to make things easy.

Multi-goal comebacks? It's Olympiakos isn't it? That's kind of the level of divine intervention we're looking for here, isn't it? And I don't recall exactly, but I don't think their core of stars were on their fourth match in 11 days to give us that night. So yeah, there are a lot of worries.

They almost did it at Stamford Bridge, in 2009. And the plan then will probably be the plan now. Except that plan didn't really work.

But that night, Liverpool came out in a controlled aggression. It wasn't the Blue Angels trying to attack the goal and make up the deficit as quickly as possible, knowing one goal against would make things so much harder (and it did). Same plan here.

That's the scariest point. Liverpool can't concede. And seeing as how Zenit are built to score on the counter, and Liverpool have been helpless against counters all season....well, you can finish that thought. But an away goal for the Russians will end this.

Liverpool have to gain control of the match without being reckless. A goal in the first half hour has to be on the menu too. If they can get that, it's just about getting one more and extra time isn't the worst thing in the world. One goal and you're essentially starting the match over and trying to win the new match with whatever time frame you have, and you want that to be as long as possible.

Efficiency is another concern. Liverpool will get chances. They got them in the first leg. They -- or Suarez -- missed them all. If they convert even half of the chances they get early, this tie could very well be on its ear and us in dreamland.

The lineup picks itself, no matter what fatigue levels are. Skrtel is struggling with a knee problem, so you can count on Agger and Carragher to start. Whatever Carragher has left in the batteries can't be much, but will be compensated for by heart. Luckily, no one has more of that for Carragher. Johnson and Enrique have to go, because who else is there?

Lucas might be the most important addition from the first leg, because he will be solely responsible for stunting any counters Zenit create. He hasn't been the dominating behemoth we came to love the past couple seasons in this campaign. He can't miss any angles this time or be slow to react to anything as he's occasionally been. That will be death.

Gerrard and Henderson should round it out, because when you need something brought from the sky, Gerrard is your man. No matter how flat-lined his legs might be.

With Sturridge and Coutinho cup-tied, it has to be Downing and Sterling flanking Suarez. Sterling will have to work harder than he did in Russia tracking back. Downing was pretty much swallowed up by Hubocan last time. But Shelvey is already offside, and I can't think of any other options with Borini done for the year.

The threats are obvious. Hulk and Danny ran things at times. Witsel can get things rolling from midfield, and will be Lucas's main charge. Bruno Alves and his elbows return. With Liverpool's recent habit of switching off defensively for just a moment or two each match, it's hard to see how they hold out.

But maybe. Just maybe. Maybe Suarez buries his first chance. Maybe Anfield starts rocking. Maybe Zenit's lack of match sharpness gets heightened by nerves. Maybe Liverpool feed off that.

Maybe. You can't say for sure it won't.

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