With victory over Toulouse at Stadium Municipal on Thursday evening, Liverpool will assure themselves of a top-two finish in Europa League Group E with a pair of matches to spare. The Reds battered the Coupe de France winners 5-1 during their showdown at Anfield two weeks ago, leaving the French side third in the section with four points to their name at the halfway mark. A few months on from the 5-1 crushing of Nantes in the Coupe de France final, which sealed Toulouse’s qualification for the Europa League, Les Violets were on the wrong end of such an emphatic scoreline when they embarked on a sojourn to Merseyside a fortnight ago.
The Kop were shocked as Thijs Dallinga managed to wipe out Diogo Jota’s quickfire opener, but further efforts from Wataru Endo, Darwin Nunez, Mohamed Salah and Ryan Gravenberch quickly turned Toulouse’s Anfield dream into a nightmare, while also subjecting Carles Martinez’s men to their first continental loss of the new term. An opening draw with Union SG and 1-0 success over LASK Linz are nothing to be scoffed at for Toulouse, though, and if the former overcome the latter this week, Les Violets will be guaranteed to drop down to the Europa Conference League at the very worst if they can defy the odds and stun the Reds on Thursday evening.
However, defeat at Anfield marked the beginning of a dampening three-game losing streak for Toulouse, who fell to a 3-0 Ligue 1 loss at the hands of Montpellier HSC three days after being crushed by Liverpool, and newly-promoted Le Havre stunned Martinez’s men 2-0 at Stadium Municipal on Sunday. Les Violets are now winless in five successive matches since edging past LASK on matchday two, and Le Havre’s shock triumph at the weekend also saw Toulouse’s seven-game unbeaten home streak come to an end, further weakening any optimism ahead of the visit of one of the tournament favourites.
One of just three teams with a 100% Europa League record after three matches – alongside Bayer Leverkusen and Roma – Liverpool are just 90 minutes away from guaranteeing a place in the knockout round playoffs, having also taught LASK and Union SG a pair of footballing lessons. With a five-point advantage over both Thursday’s opponents and Union SG, Liverpool will also be assured of a route into the last 16 with victory if LASK manage to get the better of the Belgian representatives, but their powers waned at Kenilworth Road over the weekend.
In a game that was overshadowed by reports of tragedy chanting, Liverpool cut toothless figures in front of the stingy Luton backline and were stunned by a late Tahith Chong breakaway goal, only for the returning Luis Diaz to net an emotional late leveller amid his parents’ horrifying ordeal in Colombia. The draw with the newly-promoted Hatters ended a four-game victorious run for Jurgen Klopp’s charges, who have also flattered to deceive across the channel in recent times; each of the Reds’ last four away games versus French teams has seen the Reds fail to emerge triumphant.
However, Liverpool’s five-star performance versus Toulouse saw the Merseyside giants make it three wins from three against the Coupe de France winners, whose only previous home game against the Reds in 2007-08 Champions League qualifying, where an Andriy Voronin strike proved decisive in a 1-0 Liverpool success.