FC Augsburg vs. Liverpool: Team News, Predicted Lineups, Live Stream, TV Info

Jack LusbyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2016

Augsburg's head coach Markus Weinzierl prior to the German first division football Bundesliga match Hertha Berlin vs Augsburg, in Berlin, on January 23, 2016. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL        (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
JOHN MACDOUGALL/Getty Images

Liverpool return to UEFA Europa League action on Thursday night, taking on Bundesliga strugglers FC Augsburg in the first leg of their round-of-32 tie at the WWK Arena.

This clash marks the first time Jurgen Klopp has taken on German opposition since his move away from Borussia Dortmund last summer, and it provides the 48-year-old with the opportunity to gain a significant advantage in his quest for European glory this season.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14 : Jurgen Klopp the head coach / manager of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on February 14, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by James Baylis - AMA/ via
James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Standing in the Reds' way, however, are an Augsburg side who, despite enduring muted form in the Bundesliga in 2015/16, are on an upward trajectory under the impressive Markus Weinzierl.

Weinzierl has led Augsburg to 15th, eighth and fifth in the German top flight over the past three seasons, securing Europa League football for the first time in the club's history with a remarkable campaign in 2014/15.

Taking to Twitter on Tuesday, Augsburg described this clash as "the biggest game in [Augsburg] history," but can Klopp's Liverpool spoil the party in Bavaria?

 

Date: Thursday, 18 February

Time: 8.05 p.m. GMT / 3.05 p.m. ET

Venue: WWK Arena, Augsburg

TV Info: BT Sport Europe (UK only) / Fox Sports 2 (U.S only)

Live Stream: BT Sport Player (UK only) / FOX Soccer 2Go (U.S only)

 

Form Lines (Last Five Games)

Augsburg: W-D-D-L-L

Liverpool: D-L-D-L-W

 

Team News

Augsburg's midfielder Daniel Baier (L) and Bayern Munich's Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara (R) vie for the ball during the German first division Bundesliga football match FC Bayern Munich v FC Augsburg, in Munich, on September 12, 2015.  AFP PHOTO /CH
CHRISTOF STACHE/Getty Images

Weinzierl is forced to prepare for his side's "biggest" clash in history without one of his most important players, as 31-year-old defensive midfielder Daniel Baier is struggling with an ankle injury.

Klopp highlighted Baier as "one of the best players in the Bundesliga" on Tuesday, as relayed by the Liverpool Echo's James Pearce.

"Usually one of the best players in the Bundesliga is their playmaker Daniel Baier, who plays No. 6 or No. 8," he said. "But he is injured for our game which is a big problem for them."

Centre-back Jeong-Ho Hong and Piotr Trochowski, formerly of Bayern Munich, Hamburg SV and Sevilla, are both unlikely to feature due to muscle problems, while Jan Moravek should also be out of contention after suffering concussion.

Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker, Marco Schuster and Raphael Framberger are all out with long-term injuries.

Liverpool's English midfielder Adam Lallana reacts as he leaves the pitch after the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Liverpool at The Boleyn Ground in Upton Park, East London on January 2, 2016. West Ham won the game 2-0.
JUSTIN TALLIS/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Klopp is without a number of first-team regulars, as his squad continue to battle persistent injury issues.

Martin Skrtel, Joe Gomez, Danny Ings and Jordan Rossiter are all long-term absentees, but joining this quartet are Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren, who remain on the sidelines after missing Sunday's 6-0 win away to Aston Villa.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02:  Lucas Leiva of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Liverpool at the King Power Stadium on February, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)
Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Klopp explained Lallana's absence to reporters including the club's official website on Tuesday, saying he had "no chance" of featuring due to a calf problem. Lucas Leiva, however, is set to return.

Lucas could come into Klopp's midfield selection and can also provide cover at centre-back, with Pearce confirming that Lovren had not travelled to Augsburg due to a family illness.

Adam Bogdan, Jon Flanagan and Kevin Stewart are among those unavailable after being left out of Klopp's 25-man squad for the Europa League.

 

Predicted Lineups

Marwin Hitz of FC Augsburg during the Telekom Cup friendly match between Bayern Munich and FC Augsburg on July 12, 2015 at the Borussia Park stadium in Monchengladbach, Germany.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
VI-Images/Getty Images

Despite Baier's absence, Augsburg are likely to line up in the 4-2-3-1 formation that saw them defend so valiantly in the first half of their 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich last time out.

This should see first-choice goalkeeper Marwin Hitz take his position between the sticks, behind a back four of captain Paul Verhaegh, Christoph Janker, Ragnar Klavan and one of Philipp Max and Kostas Stafylidis at left-back.

Dominik Kohr and Jeffrey Gouweleeuw should form the base of Augsburg's five-man midfield, behind attacking midfielders Caiuby, Koo Ja-Cheol and Alexander Esswein—though ex-Dortmund forward Ji Dong-Won will be hoping to feature.

Raul Bobadilla is a certainty to lead the line as Augsburg's lone striker.

Liverpool's English defender Nathaniel Clyne (R) celebrates scoring his team's fifth goal with Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino (2R) and Liverpool's English midfielder James Milner (L) during the English Premier League football match betwe
ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

Without a fixture this coming weekend after crashing out of the FA Cup, Klopp can afford to field his strongest lineup at the WWK Arena, as he looks to put the tie to bed earlywith one eye on the League Cup final at the end of the month.

This should see Simon Mignolet continue in goal, behind Nathaniel Clyne, Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho and Alberto Moreno.

Meanwhile, in midfield, Jordan Henderson and Emre Can should mirror the roles of Kohr and Gouweleeuw, in what could be a 4-2-3-1 formation, supporting Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and James Milner.

Daniel Sturridge is expected to be involved again, and Klopp could look to risk the No. 15 from the start on Thursday night, after an exceptional display up front against Aston Villa.

Likely Augsburg XI: Hitz; Verhaegh, Janker, Klavan, Stafylidis; Kohr, Gouweleeuw; Esswein, Koo, Caiuby; Bobadilla.

Likely Liverpool XI: Mignolet; Clyne, Toure, Sakho, Moreno; Henderson, Can; Milner, Firmino, Coutinho; Sturridge.

 

Players to Watch

Augsburg's Raul Bobadilla celebrates after scoring during the UEFA Europa League football match between FK Partizan and FC Augsburg at FK Partizan stadium in Belgrade on Decembar 10, 2015. / AFP / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC        (Photo credit should read ANDREJ IS
ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/Getty Images

Raul Bobadilla

Previewing his side's trip to Augsburg, Klopp earmarked Bobadilla as one of Weinzierl's key players, having experienced the striker's powerful brand of attacking football following his move to the Bundesliga in 2013.

"[Augsburg] have players with big potential and have one of the most physical strikers in Europe in Raul Bobadilla, who you need a navigation system to drive around!" he said. "He is a real worker and difficult to defend."

Bobadilla has scored six goals in five Europa League appearances so far this season and will be desperate to add to his tally against Liverpool—Klopp's centre-backs will need to be on their toes throughout.

Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho celebrates after scoring their first goal during the English FA Cup fourth round replay football match between West Ham United and Liverpool at The Boleyn Ground in Upton Park, east London, on February 9,
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Philippe Coutinho

Restored to the starting lineup for the past two Liverpool outings following his recovery from hamstring injury, Coutinho returned to top form with a phenomenal creative display against a hapless Villa on Sunday afternoon.

Dictating play from the first whistle, the Brazilian shone in a supporting role, drifting in from the left flank, threading dangerous balls through the Villa back line and driving towards the penalty area with force.

Coutinho is seemingly more effective when deployed behind the dynamic Sturridge, reverting to his creative role rather than attempting to beat the goalkeeper from 25 yards whenever in possession.

Expect Coutinho to be in inspired form against Augsburg, and the former Inter Milan man could be key to Liverpool securing victory in the first leg.

 

Key Battle

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14 : James Milner of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on February 14, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by James Baylis - AMA/ via Getty Images)
James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

James Milner vs. Kostas Stafylidis

While Coutinho, Firmino and Sturridge grabbed the headlines following Liverpool's victory at Villa Park, equally important was Milner, who, deployed on the right-hand side of the attacking midfield, performed with typical industry.

If he keeps his place in the starting lineup on Thursday night, a resurgent Milner could come up against an inexperienced left-back in Stafylidis.

The Greece international spent the 2014/15 campaign on loan with Championship battlers Fulham, and the canny Milner will test the 22-year-old's fledgling defensive nous at the WWK Arena.

 

Odds

Augsburg: 3-1

Liverpool: 23-20

Draw: 33-13

Odds via Oddschecker and correct at time of writing.

 

Statistics via Transfermarkt.co.uk.