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English Premiership

Liverpool look for lift against Basel

BALOTELLI-GERRARDLIVERPOOL, September 30- Liverpool are confident that they can put a frustrating run of domestic form behind them when they face FC Basel in Switzerland in Champions League Group B on Wednesday.

The Reds are currently languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League, with Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Everton in the Merseyside derby, in which they conceded a stoppage-time equaliser to a stunning
Phil Jagielka strike, following three defeats in their opening five matches.

But midfielder Jordan Henderson believes the performance against Everton, which featured a marvellous Steven Gerrard free-kick to put Liverpool in front, means they can go to the St Jakob-Park in a confident frame of mind.

“I don’t think it’ll affect us because the performance level was very good,” said the midfielder, who along with Liverpool colleagues Raheem Sterling and Rickie Lambert played in England’s 2-0 win over Switzerland in Basel in a Euro 2016 qualifier just three weeks ago.

“We’ve got to take the positives out of that. The goal was in the top corner so we’ve just got to keep going and keep playing like that. 

“If we keep putting in performances like that we’ll win more than we don’t.”

Liverpool go to Switzerland having started their Group B campaign with a 2-1 win against Ludogorets Razgrad of Bulgaria two weeks ago, although they required an injury-time Gerrard penalty to get the three points in their first match in the competition for five years.

Brendan Rodgers’s side are on paper strongly fancied to progress to the last 16 along with Real Madrid but a slip-up on Wednesday would put them under pressure ahead of a double-header against the defending European champions.

Rodgers confirmed that he would check on the fitness of striker Daniel Sturridge, who has missed the last five matches due to a thigh injury but is now getting closer to a comeback, raising hopes that he might be involved at some stage.
 
– Sturridge close to return –
 
“I’ll see how he is. He wasn’t far away for Everton, but he certainly wasn’t fit enough to be on the bench,” said the Anfield club’s boss, who also has Emre Can, Joe Allen, Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan on the sidelines at the moment.

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“But Daniel is obviously a top talent, whatever part of the game he comes into. And he’s not far away from being back playing.”

Basel are top of the Swiss Super League just now, although a 1-1 draw at home to Thun at the weekend — in which they also conceded a late equaliser — suggested that they are not yet up to the standards of the side that beat Chelsea home and away in last season’s Champions League.

Midfielder Taulant Xhaka is nevertheless hopeful that the Swiss title holders will raise their game against the five-time European champions, saying: “This will be a different game. We will be well prepared for it and will give everything we have.”

Basel coach Paulo Sousa, who was the Swansea City manager before departing for Leicester City in 2010 and being replaced by Rodgers, promised after the crushing 5-1 loss to Madrid in the Spanish capital a fortnight ago that his team would “be stronger in the next matches.”

The home side will, however, again be without Chilean midfielder Marcelo Diaz, a stand-out performer at the World Cup who serves the second of a three-match ban in Europe, while Ivan Ivanov is a long-term absentee as he recovers from a knee problem.

These clubs last met in the group stage in 2002, when Liverpool, with a sprightly 22-year-old Gerrard in their side, came from three goals down to draw 3-3, although that result could not prevent Basel from advancing at their expense.

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