Kick-off: Thursday, March 11, 2010 - 19:00 CET
Lille Metropole, Villeneuve d'Ascq
Lille Metropole, Villeneuve d'Ascq
The Europa League round of 16 gets underway with Lille and Liverpool facing off for the first time ever in competitive play.
The French outfit do, however, have plenty of experience against English opposition - namely Manchester United - against whom they have played six times with a record of one win, three draws and two losses.
Les Dogues' home record in Europe is impressive; they have lost just once in their last 16 encounters on their own patch and have won five of their last six Europa League clashes at the Lille Metropole, their most recent being a 2-1 win over Fenerbahce in the previous round.
In Ligue 1, meanwhile, the team from Nord-Pas de Calais presently sit just outside the European places in fifth, their form having tapered off somewhat after a winning streak that lasted from November to the middle of January.
Still, Lille are faring better domestically than Liverpool, whose loss to Wigan Athletic on Monday has left them languishing behind Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League.
But the Reds can take heart from their last outing in the Europa League, in which they dispatched Unirea Urziceni 3-1 in Romania to claim the tie 4-1 on aggregate.
That result is indicative of the Merseyside giants' away form in continental competition, as they have lost only once - a 2-0 defeat at Fiorentina - in their last 10 road trips.
Mar 6: St-Etienne 1-1 Lille (Ligue 1)
Feb 28: Lille 1-2 Auxerre (Ligue 1)
Feb 25: Fenerbahce 1-1 Lille (Europa League)
Feb 21: Rennes 1-2 Lille (Ligue 1)
Feb 18: Lille 2-1 Fenerbahce (Europa League)
Mar 8: Wigan Athletic 1-0 Liverpool (Premier League)
Feb 28: Liverpool 2-1 Blackburn Rovers (Premier League)
Feb 25: Unirea Urziceni 1-3 Liverpool (Europa League)
Feb 21: Manchester City 0-0 Liverpool (Premier League)
Feb 18: Liverpool 1-0 Unirea Urziceni (Europa League)
The French side have been without star striker Gervinho (knee) and deep-lying playmaker Mathieu Debuchy (broken ribs) since their win over Rennes last month, while Tulio de Melo recently returned to Brazil for surgery on a torn meniscus.
Last starting XI (vs. St-Etienne): Landreau, Beria, Ricardo Costa, Chedjou, Emerson Conceicao, Balmont, Mavuba, Cabaye, Hazard, Frau, Dumont.
Rafael Benitez's main concern is in defence, with Martin Skrtel and Fabio Aurelio sidelined while Daniel Agger remains in doubt with a knee knock.
Right-back Glen Johnson is available once more, however, having made his return off the bench at Wigan.
Last starting XI (vs. Wigan Athletic): Reina, Mascherano, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Insua, Maxi, Gerrard, Lucas, Benayoun, Kuyt, Torres.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Lille - Eden Hazard
The Belgian teen - the reigning Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year - is one of the continent's hottest prospects. Lightning quick with tricks aplenty, he'll hardly get a better chance to impress his (allegedly numerous) English suitors.
Liverpool - Alberto Aquilani
Still on the fringes after his summer move from Roma, the Italian's second-half cameo on Monday was one of precious few positives on what was otherwise a horrendous night for the Reds. His class is undoubted, and the travelling Kopites will be hoping they see some of it here.
Lille 1-1 Liverpool
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