Liverpool head into their final Europa League group match against Udinese knowing a victory will send them to the knockout stages. The Reds are tied with Young Boys for second place behind Anzhi Makhachkala in Group A, but own the tiebreaker.
It's a critical match for the Reds. They have struggled to find their form in Premier League action, leaving them in 11th place as the midway point nears. Advancing in European play would at least give fans reason to be optimistic.
Udinese is hoping to play the role of spoiler. The Zebrette have already been eliminated from contention for the next round, but can provide a boost to Young Boys' chances if they can at least hold Liverpool to a draw on home turf.
It should be a match filled with tension, at least on the Reds' sideline. Here's a look at all the important viewing information for the Europa clash followed by a preview and prediction.
Where: Stadio Friuli, Udine, Italy
When: Thursday, Dec. 6 at 1 p.m. ET
Watch: Fox Soccer Channel
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go
There was a brief time a couple weeks ago when it looked like Liverpool was finally breaking out of its goal-scoring funk. The Reds tallied five goals in two games against Wigan and Young Boys, and appeared far more confident in the attacking third.
It didn't last. They have scored just two times in their last three matches, and one of them was an own goal by Tottenham's Gareth Bale. Luis Suarez, who is the only Reds player with more than one goal in league play, simply hasn't received enough support up front.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has normally made changes to his lineup in Europa play. Given the importance of the match, however, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him use most of his available regulars on Thursday, including Suarez.
The other key will be what approach he uses. At first glance, it would seem like he should employ an aggressive strategy, but there's a good chance a draw will also be good enough since Young Boys has to face Anzhi. So he doesn't want to dig an early hole by going all-out too early.
One thing the Reds must do is contain Antonio Di Natale. The veteran striker has tallied three goals in Europa League play, including one in the first meeting between these two sides. He has the ability to single-handedly sink Liverpool's chances.
The Reds' inability to light up the scoreboard means the match is going to be close. How they react to that pressure will ultimately determine the result. It won't be pretty or easy, but expect them to pick up the three points they need to move on.
Prediction: Liverpool 1, Udinese 0
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