Early Doors

A ‘must-win’ game that Liverpool must win

Early Doors

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Rarely has the phrase 'must-win game' been so overused at such an early stage of the season as it has with Liverpool this term.

The Chelsea game was a 'must-win' following the defeat at Fiorentina, the Sunderland game was 'must-win' in order to recover from that loss at Stamford Bridge and the Lyon game was a 'must-win' as they looked to recover from defeat to a beach ball.

But now, finally, we do actually arrive at such a match for Liverpool.

Well, from their point of view, it's also a must-win game for Lyon.

Liverpool need to beat Debrecen this evening to stay in the Champions League, but if Fiorentina beat Lyon then it reduces the Group E match in Hungary to little more than a Europa League play-off.

The way Anfield Scouse-in-chief Jamie Carragher is talking, though, you'd think that was a good thing.

Carragher, who already had an air of resignation about him following the 1-1 draw with Lyon that put Liverpool five points off the pace, reckons that dropping into Europe's second competition would not be a disaster.

He said: "I think because we have done well in recent seasons other people outside the club tend to take it a little bit for granted that Liverpool will get into the knockout stages.

"But it isn't easy. Manchester United didn't make it through a few years ago and Barcelona have had a couple of setbacks this season and they aren't sure of making it. It shows how well we have done in the past."

As if that wasn't bad enough, now Ryan Babel has piped up to have a pop at Rafael Benitez and his management methods, and suggests he may leave in January if he doesn't play more often.

Babel has stayed in Liverpool to keep Fernando Torres company, but said in an interview: "In  two-and-a-half years with Liverpool I have never started three matches in a row.  I don't play a lot so I can't be happy and I can't cheer out loud.

"We have agreed to look at my situation during the winter. If there's no improvement then, I have to be honest; I want to play somewhere else."

Such comments will greatly hasten his exit from Anfield. Babel cannot expect to lay down a gauntlet to a coach as stubborn as Benitez and expect him to yield. Still, if he doesn't share Carragher's enthusiasm for the Europa League then perhaps that's best.

Debrecen coach Andras Herzceg added an extra bit of pressure by casting his side as the minnows ready for a vengeful mauling perfectly, saying that even a draw against Liverpool would be "the greatest result in the club's history".

The good news for Liverpool is that Fiorentina will be without Adrian Mutu and Stevan Jovetic will only start on the bench. The bad news is that Lyon look set to field Jean-Alain Boumsong.

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Of course, it's not just Liverpool going into this evening's games with it all to do: reigning champions Barcelona host Jose Mourinho's Internazionale in Group F.

The reverse fixture back in September was one of the most anti-climactic borefests in recent memory, as both sides played well within themselves under the notion that they would pick up enough points elsewhere.

Well, here we are in the penultimate round of games and no side in the group that also includes Russian champions Rubin Kazan and Dynamo Kiev have won more than one match so far, and just two points separate leaders Inter and bottom Dynamo.

The time-zone anomaly that is Russian kick-offs means that, should Rubin win, Barca losing at the Nou Camp will put them out of the competition.

With both Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic uncertain of making the match, this is the one to follow if you want to see some real jeopardy.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "For f***'s sake the World Cup is in June. Is he on holiday until June 11? You cannot be serious. For me, the big season is with Arsenal, not at the World Cup. We do not pay players to go to the World Cup, we pay the players to do well for Arsenal" - Arsene Wenger impersonates both Gordon Ramsey and John McEnroe when badgered about whether Theo Walcott deserves a place at next year's World Cup.

FOREIGN VIEW: The searing desert heat of a Middle East summer will be no obstacle to Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup finals, with the Gulf state considering the first all-indoor bid.

"It will be hot, but not too hot," the bid's CEO Hassan Al Thawadi said. "We are developing technology which will help with the June and July heat and conditions."

Temperatures can easily top 40 degrees during the period a World Cup would be staged. Al Thawadi would not be drawn on whether the technology meant a series of air-conditioned indoor stadiums but said an announcement would be made very soon.

Both the 2018 and 2022 World Cup host nations will be selected by FIFA in December 2010.

COMING UP: "Die Meister... Die Besten... Les Grandes Equipes... The CHAMPIOOOOOONS" - There will be 11 men wearing red shirts and one man wearing a goatee who won't be quite as excited as everyone else when that music pipes up this evening. Follow LIVE commentary of Debrecen v Liverpool, Arsenal v Standard Liege, Rangers v Stuttgart and every other Champions League clash tonight from 19:30, with Rubin Kazan doing their bit to eliminate Barcelona first against Dynamo Kiev at 17:30.

There is also a full programme of League One and League Two action, and you can keep up to date with that if you're not already at the ground. 

As if all that wasn't enough then you can follow Andy Murray's match against Roger Federer in the ATP World Tour Final match from 20:45 too.

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