Liverpool-Basel Preview: Rodgers relying on Gerrard magic

The Reds face a must-win encounter with the Swiss champions if they are to progress to the knockout rounds of the Champions League and the 34-year-old has been backed to impress

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has backed Steven Gerrard to inspire his side through their must-win Champions League clash with Basel.

The five-time European champions go into Tuesday’s Group B game at Anfield knowing that only a victory will be good enough for them to progress.

And, having won just five of their 12 home matches in all competitions this season after being held to a goalless draw by Sunderland in the Premier League on Saturday, the pressure is on the Reds to perform.

Liverpool have also picked up just one point in four Champions League fixtures since opening with a narrow defeat of Ludogorets on Merseyside, a run which saw them lose 1-0 in Switzerland in October.

Gerrard was again only used as a substitute over the weekend but Rodgers has confirmed that he will play his skipper – the hero of so many European nights at Anfield – from the outset as his side seek those vital three points.

“He was excellent when he came on and, of course, he plays on Tuesday night,” the manager told reporters. “Stevie coming onto the field gives us the world-class quality that the team needs and I thought he was brilliant when he came on [against Sunderland].

“It can’t be up to him every single game to be the catalyst but it’s very hard to replace that quality.

“He’s still got that talent, he’s got world-class ability and, at this stage of his career, it’s about me managing that, along with him, in order to play in the big games.”

Liverpool will again have to cope without injured England striker Daniel Sturridge (thigh), while Italy frontman Mario Balotelli has missed five matches with a hamstring problem. However, experienced defender Kolo Toure remains confident that he and his team-mates can get the result they need.

“Our game against Basel is a final,” he told the club’s official website. “We just need to win the game. There’s no choice – we have to attack and try to win the match.

“It’s going to be a really interesting game for everybody – for the players and for the fans. We need everything that we have got to win this game.”

Basel go into the match buoyed by back-to-back away wins over FC Zurich and Lucerne, which extended their lead at the top of the Swiss Super League to eight points.

Top scorer Shkelzen Gashi took his tally for the season to 12 goals in 17 games with a double on Saturday, while veteran striker Marco Streller, who scored the only goal of the match when these sides met in Switzerland, has also returned to action after a slipped disc ahead of the Anfield clash.

Giovanni Sio is out of action for Paulo Sousa’s men, while there are some concerns over the fitness of Fabian Schar.

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