UEFA Europa League

Liverpool v Sparta Prague: Reds don't do dull, so back goals

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp could still win four trophies in his final season at Liverpool

After making a profit from the first leg, Kevin Hatchard's back with two more selections as Liverpool take on Sparta Prague...

Liverpool v Sparta Prague
Thursday 14 March, 20:00
Live on TNT Sports

Liverpool still on course for glorious Klopp farewell

Although Liverpool created plenty of second-half chances, and were denied a clear penalty at the death, their 1-1 draw with Manchester City very much kept them in the hunt for the Premier League title, a point ahead of the champions and behind leaders Arsenal on goal difference.

With 10 games remaining, it's a straight fight for the league crown, which many Liverpool fans weren't necessarily expecting given the scale of the midfield rebuild.

Liverpool played with incredible intensity against Manchester City, pummelling them with their press, and with an FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester United to come on Sunday, Jürgen Klopp will be thrilled that he has a four-goal cushion in the UEL after his side's stunning 5-1 first-leg victory in Prague.

Liverpool's injury list is in double figures, so Klopp is limited in terms of how much he can rotate, but youngsters James McConnell, Lewis Koumas, Jarell Quansah (who was excellent v City) and Bobby Clark could all start. Cody Gakpo is expected to lead the attack, with Mo Salah, Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz rested.

Sparta wilted in the limelight

Sparta Prague went into their clash with Liverpool last week after a 15-game unbeaten run at home, but they were shredded. A jittery start cost them dearly - the usually composed Asger Sorensen brought down Alexs MacAllister for an early penalty after being caught in possession, and then Spart simply couldn't contain Liverpool's attacking power.

Darwin Nunez scored two stunning goals in a virtuoso display, and Sparta keeper Peter Vindahl had a night to forget. At the other end, Sparta missed some glorious opportunities and were denied several times by the excellence of Reds keeper Caoimhin Kelleher.

Sparta coach Brian Priske - who has also lost to Liverpool in European competition with Danish side Midtjylland - felt a 5-1 scoreline was tough on his team. He said he was proud of his players for the way they created chances, but admitted that in terms of quality, Liverpool are the best team Sparta have faced in Europe this season by quite some distance.

It's been a terrible few days for the Czech champions, as they followed up their 5-1 loss to Liverpool with a 4-0 drubbing at Viktoria Plzen. That result has thrown the title race wide open, as closest challengers Slavia Prague won 4-0 to move within a point of the leaders.

Asger Sorensen is struggling with a hamstring issue, but Angel Preciado should return after he was suspended for the weekend trip to Plzen. Ladislav Krejci was sent off at the weekend, but is still expected to line up in defence here.

Defences to be breached as Sparta go down fighting

No-one realistically expects any kind of comeback here from Sparta, but if Liverpool select a similar side to the one that played against Southampton in the FA Cup, I expect quite an open game. We saw in the first leg that Sparta have quality in attack, and I think BTTS is a decent price at 1.784/5.

Liverpool have seen both teams find the net in nine of their last 12 competitive games, and at Anfield they have managed just one clean sheet in ten.

Back BTTS at 1.784/5

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Gakpo can seize his chance

Cody Gakpo has been getting some criticism recently for his performances, and while it's true that the Dutchman has only found the net in two of his last 13 games, I think he's been making clever runs and getting into good scoring positions. I'd be surprised if the former PSV player doesn't start here, and I'm happy to back him to score at a hefty 7/42.75.

Gakpo has 11 goals in all competitions, and in the first leg he had four goal attempts, three of which were on target.

Back Cody Gakpo to score at 7/42.75

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Now read Kev's latest Bet of the Day here!

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