What: UEFA Cup Group C, Matchday 4
Who: Standard Liege vs Sampdoria
When: Wednesday 3rd December, 20:45 CET
Where: Stade Maurice Dufrasne, Liege
Only One Point Needed
Standard top Group C with six points after winning 1-0 at Partizan Belgrade in their last game. They now need only one point from their remaining two fixtures against Sampdoria on Wednesday and then Stuttgart to be sure of a place in the last 32.
Standard were unfortunate not to be playing Champions League football after being narrowly beaten on aggregate by Liverpool in the third qualifying round. They have done well to turn their attention to the UEFA Cup however, and have not lost in their last five European encounters.
The Belgians have never played against Sampdoria in European competition, and this will certainly be an interesting first match for both of these squads, who find themselves flying high in the UEFA Cup and nearing qualification to the last 32.
The draw put Standard into the group of death, with Sevilla, Sampdoria and Stuttgart being favourites to claim the three qualification places, but the Belgians are looking good so far and are likely to make it into the last 32.
This match boasts the presence of Sampdoria's Emiliano Bonazzoli, who is high in the goal-scoring charts with four goals so far this term.Sampdoria have won the UEFA Cup in the past, but their European runs have been limited in recent times. Samp did not have a game on Matchday 2 after winning 2-1 against Partizan in Belgrade in their opening match.
Last week Sampdoria hosted Germans Stuttgart in Genoa, and were only able to get a 1-1 draw out of the German club, with even that seeming lucky at times during the match. An early goal from Ciprian Marica gave Stuttgart the lead in Genoa, but Sampdoria equalised before half time thanks to Paolo Sammarco and the score remained the same, allowing the sides to claim a point apiece.
The Blucerchiati had made a superb start what has been called the Group of Death with a win over Partizan, but with this crucial game with Standard Liege to play and Sevilla still to come, the Genoa-based side will need to get positive results in those games to be sure of qualification.
Sampdoria are unbeaten in their last 11 home games in UEFA club competition, a run which stretches back to September 1997 when Athletic Club Bilbao earned a 2-1 victory in Genoa in the UEFA Cup first round. In away matches their fortunes have been mixed, but so far this year they have done relatively well on the road.
Mathematically, this match could be rather decisive at this stage of the tournament, as all five teams are close to each other in terms of points at the moment. A win for either side is likely to help them qualify for the last 32.
There are no major injury problems for Standard, apart from the long term absence of central defender Digao.
Probable Starting XI: Espinoza - Marcos, Onyewu, Sarr, Dante - Goreux, Nicaise, Defour, Witsel - Mbokani, Jovanovic.
Walter Mazzari may be able to call on Angelo Palombo as he has recovered from his long-term injury. In defence, Marco Padalino is back as well, but Mirante is still out of action.
Probable Starting XI : Castellazzi – Campagnaro, Accardi, Gastadello – Francheschini, Dessena, Delvecchio, Stankevicius, Pieri – Bonazzoli, Cassano.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Oguchi Onyewu is a key man at the back for Standard, and he will have to be at his best to repel the many attacking threats presented by Antonio Cassano and Bonazzoli among others. The strong American will be keen to impress European clubs in search of a tough marker to acquire during the January transfer period.
Antonio Cassano impressed immensely in his first season with the club last term, scoring 10 goals and creating countless assists for his team-mates. Cassano is a player of great technical ability, and is as entertaining on the ball as he is deadly to the opposition. His ability is undoubtedly world-class. He has scored five goals already in Serie A this term and is always a threat.
Sampdoria's form in Europe has been impressive, even at times when their domestic form has disappointed. One of their main goals for this season is to go as far as possible in Europe, and they are certainly not lacking motivation. Standard were unfortunate not to be playing Champions League football this term, but they are focused on the task at hand and home advantage will certainly be important in this encounter. Standard only need one point to go through, and they may get that point with a draw at home.
Standard 2-2 Sampdoria