All-eyes on Aquilani & Torres as Liverpool prepare to exit the Champions League against Fiorentina

Liverpool v Fiorentina, Champions League, December 9, 2009

Liverpool 21/20; Draw 12/5; Fiorentina 5/2

Liverpool close out their disappointing Champions League campaign with a dead-rubber match against Fiorentina at Anfield on Wednesday. Fiorentina and Lyon have already qualified from Group C, while the Merseysiders have been condemned to the booby-prize of entry into the Europa Cup.

The only issue left in the group is that of determining the group winner. Fiorentina can secure top spot with a win at Liverpool, while a draw would also suffice provided that Lyon do not beat Debrecen by two goals in the other match in the group. Liverpool, in turn, only have pride to play for against the Viola, with the Reds knowing that failure to score against the Italians would leave the Scousers with their worst ever Champions League home record having only scored twice at home in the competition so far.

Looking for silver linings, Liverpool fans will be enthuased by the mooted starting debut of Alberto Aquilani (11/2 to score) since his mega-money move from Roma last summer. Since transferring to Anfield, Aquilani has only managed to chalk up 26 measly minutes of playing time and, taking into account the quotes from the Italian’s father (“I don’t know the reasons why Benitez has chosen not to play him since he came back from injury”), expectations will be high that the midfielder can make a significant impact in the Liverpool team.

Elsewhere, Liverpool fans hope to see the return of Fernando Torres (17/10 to score & Liverpool win) to the first team after a five-game absence with a groin injury. It is touch-and-go whether El Nino will receive the nod from the off or in-turn have to settle for a cameo appearance from the bench, with David Ngog ( 13/2 to score first & Liverpool win) ready to step into the breach once more if needs be.

Despite a run of six games unbeaten, and with three clean sheets on the spin, Benitez is set to ring the changes for the Viola’s visit, with one eye surely on the upcoming match at home to Arsenal on Sunday. That being the case, Steven Gerrard (5/4 to score), Dirk Kuyt (7/4 to score), Emiliano Insua and Javier Mascherano could all be given the night off on Wednesday, with players such as Andrea Dossena, Philipp Degen and, perhaps, Dani Pacheco, given rare outings. Benitez’s squad has long been criticised for its lack of depth, and the fixture with Fiorentina offers the Reds’ a chance to answer back.

As for Fiorentina, the game holds a little more genuine significance as the Viola will want to improve their chances of getting a favourable draw in the last 16 by topping the group as winners.

Manager Cesare Prandelli can be proud that his side are the joint top scorers in the Champions League so far with 12 goals, Stevan Jovetic( 13/2 to score first), Adrian Mutu (7/4 to score) and Alberto Gilardino (16/5 to score & Fiorentina win) have all contributed with goals in the group stages.

Special mention should also be made for Fiorentina’s brilliant left-sided midfielder Juan Manuel Vargas (20/1 to score a brace). The 26-year-old Peruvian is a beginning to assert himself as one of the best left-footed players in world football, known for his consistency in delivering quality balls from wide-left positions as well as his ability to score thrilling goals such as his strike against Atalanta last weekend. (Watch here.) It is little wonder then to hear that Real Madrid are sniffing around the midfielder as a possible new recruit.

101predicts: Liverpool 2 – Fiorentina 1 (13/2)

Liverpool 21/20; Draw 12/5; Fiorentina 5/2

Full match odds here.