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Preview: Royale Union vs Liverpool – prediction, team news, line-ups

Liverpool drop the curtain on a near-perfect Europa League group stage campaign as they head to Belgium to take on Royale Union Saint-Gilloise on Thursday.

Stripped of home comforts as the Joseph Marien Stadium doesn’t meet UEFA standards, Royale Union play their home European games at Anderlecht’s Lotto Park.

But it hasn’t been an issue for Alexander Blessin’s side as they drew 1-1 against Toulouse on Matchday 2 before dispatching LASK Linz 2-1 last time out. 

The Belgian outfit’s unbeaten home record is part of the reason their bid to make it out of the Europa League group stage for the second year running is still alive.

However, it’s more of a pipe dream, considering they must avenge a 2-0 defeat at Anfield and pray for LASK to beat Toulouse at home to help them claim a coveted runner-up finish in Group E.

With Liverpool already booking a knockout berth as group winners, Jurgen Klopp could lend a helping hand to Royale Union’s effort to hold up their end of the bargain by fielding an understrength line-up.

Except for a 3-2 defeat at Toulouse on Gameweek 4, the Reds have won their remaining four Europa League games this season, including a 4-0 thumping of LASK in the previous round. 

Following a 2-1 comeback win at Crystal Palace, high spirits in Klopp’s camp set the stage for the upcoming Premier League blockbuster against Manchester United, but first they must tame their European hosts.


Match Preview

Royale Union commence this ultimate round of group-stage fixtures with minimal chances of progressing into the knockouts but will still hope to sign off in style.

Blessin’s top assignment in this encounter is to galvanise his side’s frontlines after Les Unionistes bagged just three goals in their first five Group E outings. 

However, with all three goals coming at Lotto Park and Royale Union winning their last six competitive home matches, troubling the scoreboard should be a mere formality.

Whether they can shut out Liverpool’s free-flowing attack is another question, especially considering they’ve lost all three previous European clashes against English clubs via a two-goal margin. 

Taking three points is not imperative for the Reds as they’ll qualify for the knockout stage from the top spot even if they lose, yet Klopp must be aware of the importance of maintaining momentum ahead of the Man Utd game.

Liverpool make this journey amidst a purple patch, having won their last four matches in all competitions, including a last-gasp triumph at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

Mohamed Salah joined a select club of five players to hit a 200-goal landmark in the Reds shirt with an equaliser in London, with the Reds paying him a tribute with a homage video on LFC.com

It’s more likely that the Liverpool talisman will start on the bench, but it shouldn’t derail the Merseyside giants’ effort to protect their formidable European record against Belgian sides (W13, D2, L1).

Team News

According to Eurosport, Alexis Mac Allister’s knee injury ‘doesn’t look good,’ which rules him out of contention for this trip, alongside Thiago Alcantara, Diogo Jota, Joel Matip and Andy Robertson. 

It’s nearly impossible to predict Liverpool’s exact line-up against Union SG, with Klopp expected to field a significantly rotated squad.

Caoimhin Kelleher should take Alisson’s place between the sticks, while young full-backs Conor Bradley and Luke Chambers could make the starting XI. 

More changes are expected to take place higher up the pitch.

How Could Liverpool Line-up vs Royale Union?

(4-3-3): Caoimhin Kelleher; Conor Bradley, Joe Gomez, Jarell Quansah, Luke Chambers; Harvey Elliott, James McConnell, Curtis Jones; Ben Doak, Cody Gakpo, Kaide Gordon.

Prediction

Liverpool’s priorities remain fixated on player rest and the upcoming clash against United, with the result against Royale Union being of secondary concern after securing Group E’s top spot.

But Klopp’s youngsters deserve the benefit of the doubt, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Reds returned home with three points. 

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