Liverpool are looking to continue their winning form as they lock horns with Midtjylland in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
Liverpool play hosts to Midtjylland on Tuesday hoping to make it two in two in the UEFA Champions League. The former European champions had secured a narrow 1-0 victory over Ajax in their opening group game fixture last week, thanks to an own goal from Nicolas Tagliafico.
However, the Reds performed below-par in the Premier League by their lofty standards, having already dropped four points in the opening six matches. Their most recent result came against Sheffield United, in a narrow 2-1 victory, in what was only their second win in the last five competitive matches.
Midtjylland, on the other hand, were always going to be the minnows in this group and that was made clear in their opening fixture, as they were mauled 4-0 by Atalanta. The Danish outfit have had a strong start to their domestic campaign, though, having collected 13 points from their opening six matches – a tally only matched by high-flying Sonderjyske.
Unlike a team like Atalanta, Midtjylland, however, have been on the fringes of the European competitions in recent years. So, they are well aware of what it takes to beat a side like Liverpool. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will take a look at their chances of causing an upset in this fascinating encounter at Anfield this week.
Tactics & Team News
Jurgen Klopp will miss out on the services of Virgil van Dijk, Kostas Tsimikas and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in this particular fixture. But, the German could be hopeful of the return of both Thiago Alcantara and Joel Matip, though both their fitness is set to be assessed ahead of the game.
— Thiago Alcantara (@Thiago6) October 19, 2020
Even if they do return to full fitness, Klopp has no reason to hurry them back into the starting lineup, especially if we consider how good Fabinho has fared in central defence recently. So we can expect the Brazilian to retain his place in central defence alongside Joe Gomez.
There could be one change at right-back, with Trent Alexander-Arnold making way for Neco Williams. Unfortunately, however, Andrew Robertson cannot afford the rest as Tsimikas is out injured, so may retain his place in the side, along with goalkeeper Alisson.
Naby Keita, meanwhile, was forced to pull out of the squad after picking up an injury in training, ahead of Sheffield United clash. The Guinean, however, will hope to make the team on Tuesday, forming the three-man midfield alongside Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson, who will have additional responsibilities with Fabinho playing in central defence.
Moving forward, Klopp could hand Sadio Mane a rest as the German tactician will be having one eye on the important game against West Ham on Saturday. We can thus expect Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota to operate as wide attackers, with Roberto Firmino spearheading the Liverpool offence.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Williams, Gomez, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Keita, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Jota.
Midtjylland head coach Brian Priske primarily operates with a 4-2-3-1, with an interchangeable attacking midfielder providing better tactical flexibility in the first and second lines of press.
— FC Midtjylland (@fcmidtjylland) October 26, 2020
Pione Sisto is tipped to operate in that role as he has the aggression, as well as the work rate, to not only join the press but also effectively slot in between the attackers. The Danish international could also be a major threat for Liverpool on the counter due to his sheer pace – making him one to keep an eye on.
That said, it is the two central midfielders in Evander and Frank Onyeka that could play a pivotal role in preventing the Liverpool midfielders from dominating the game in the middle of the park. They might also operate in a deeper role to provide additional support to the backline as Midtjylland, being the away, are more likely to employ a deep defensive line.
That is where the central defensive partnership of Erik Sviatchenko and Alexander Scholz could be vital, even though the duo conceded four goals in the last game. Fullbacks Joel Andersson and Paulinho could be equally important in providing additional support, though they will also be responsible for providing the width going forward.
Speaking of which, the onus of providing the productivity in the attacking departure of Midtjylland will be on Sory Kawa, though it is winger Anders Dreyer who is the club’s top-scorer this season.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hansen; Andersson, Sviatchenko, Scholz, Paulinho; Onyeka, Evander; Dreyer, Sisto, Mabil; Kaba
- FC Midtjylland will be just the third Danish side to face Liverpool in European competition, after Odense Boldklub in the 1983-87 European Cup and Brondby in the 1995-96 UEFA Cup.
- This will be FC Midtjylland’s first UEFA Champions League encounter against an English side – they’ve faced English teams on six previous occasions in all European competition, winning three times.
- Liverpool have only lost one of their last 26 home games in all European competition, although that defeat came last time out versus Atletico Madrid in March. They haven’t suffered consecutive home defeats in Europe since December 2009.
- This will be FC Midtjylland’s first away in the UEFA Champions League – each of the previous four Danish sides to compete in the competition lost their first away game.
- FC Midtjylland are the 17th team who will play their first-ever Champions League away game against an English side – none of the previous 16 to do so have won, with 14 of them losing.
Player To Watch
With Fabinho seemingly integrating himself into the central defensive role in the absence of Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson needs to step up his game, especially following a disappointing start to the campaign for his team.
It is well established that the Englishman is a born leader in midfield and Liverpool, with van Dijk out, need him now more than ever and this midweek clash against a relatively weaker Midtjylland side should give him the ideal opportunity to create a good momentum as he looks to become a key component in Liverpool midfield this season.
Moreover, Henderson needs a good performance in order to sustain his place in the Liverpool side especially following the arrival of Thiago Alcantara while Naby Keita has also raised a lot of eyebrows with his performances over the past six months or so.
Liverpool 4-0 Midtjylland
Liverpool have appeared incredibly tentative in these early parts of the campaign and have only been saved by worse displays by their competitor Manchester City. However, this could be the game where they open their gates and create a winning momentum as they look to extend their winning run to three games in all competitions.