Liverpool seek to move one step closer towards securing a spot in the knockout round of the UEFA Champions League when they visit Atalanta on Tuesday.
On Saturday, Liverpool equalled their all-time club record with 63rd match unbeaten streak at home in the league. But on Tuesday, the Reds will be expected to perform away from home as they lock horns with Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League.
Liverpool, sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League table despite an underwhelming start to the new campaign, have managed to earn themselves an early headstart in Group D with two wins in two matches against Ajax and Midtjylland. It means they are currently on six points and a win this midweek could almost guarantee qualification to the next round.
It makes the game even more important, not just for Liverpool but for Atalanta as well, who, despite securing four points in first two games, are running the risk of being chased down by Ajax if they fail to salvage anything from this game.
And unlike their Dutch opponents, La Dea aren’t exactly in a good touch either, having secured just two wins in their last five matches in all competitions, one of which came against the minnows of Group D in Midtjylland. They were also made to work hard to secure a win over Crotone in the last league game.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides as they look to chase their respective targets in the Champions League this midweek.
Team News & Tactics
Atalanta are missing out on the services of a host of key players, especially in the defensive unit, where Mattia Caldara and Robin Gosens have not been included in the squad.
— Atalanta B.C. (@Atalanta_BC) November 2, 2020
The absence of Caldara, in particular, means head coach Gian Piero Gasperini could continue with the back three of Rafael Toloi, Berat Djimsiti and Cristina Romero, although Jose Luis Palomino is a potential alternative.
As far as replacing Gosens is concerned, his absence should force Hans Hateboer to return to his right wing-back duties, with Johan Mojica operating on the opposite flank.
In midfield, Marten de Roon has been left out of the squad so Remo Freuler and Mario Pasalic should continue in the double-pivot, although they require additional support, preferably from Papu Gomez, who is likely to form the creative duo alongside Josip Ilicic, just behind the main striker Duvan Zapata.
Atalanta do have more attacking firepower in their disposal, especially in players like Luis Muriel, Ruslan Malinovskyi and Aleksey Miranchuk.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Sportiello; Toloi, Djimsiti, Romero; Hateboer, Pasalic, Freuler, Mojica; Ilicic, Gomez; Zapata
Jurgen Klopp has offered positive news regarding the return of Naby Keita and Joel Matip, both of whom trained with the team. However, it’s unlikely that Liverpool would want to rush them back into the starting lineup, especially Matip given the importance of centre-backs at the moment as Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho are both out injured.
He'll reveal all the latest news ahead of tomorrow's clash 👊🔴
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 2, 2020
That leaves Joe Gomez as a guaranteed starter while Rhys Williams, after replacing the injured Fabinho last week against Midtjylland, could be set for his starting debut in the Champions League, alongside Gomez at the heart of the four-man backline for Liverpool. Nat Phillips is not registered for the competition, so will not be involved after his strong display against West Ham.
Nevertheless, there should no defensive changes elsewhere so the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andrew Robertson and Alisson can all retain their place in the starting lineup.
Both Thiago and Keita remain doubts heading into this game so we shouldn’t expect any rotation in midfield, aside from Curtis Jones making way for James Milner, who will look to provide support to Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldun in the second line of press.
Meanwhile, in that attack, Diogo Jota is a favourite to start after scoring against West Ham. He is most likely to replace Roberto Firmino, so we could expect Mohamed Salah to operate in the false nine role, with Jota and Sadio Mane occupying the wider attacking roles.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Williams, Gomez, Robertson; Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Jota, Salah, Mane
- This is Liverpool’s first-ever encounter with Atalanta in any competition.
- Atalanta are set to face their third different English opponent, having previously met Everton in the 2017/18 Europa League and Manchester City in the Champions League last season.
- Liverpool have lost all three of their away Champions League matches in Italy under manager Jurgen Klopp, losing to Roma in May 2018 and Napoli in October 2018 and September 2019.
- Since losing their first three group stage games in the UEFA Champions League last season, Atalanta have gone unbeaten in their last five group stage games in the competition, including both this season.
- Liverpool have won each of their last three away games in the Champions League group stage, after losing four in a row before this between October 2018 and September 2019 (all under Jurgen Klopp).
Player to Watch
A BIG winner against the Hammers ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/1MI0C8vpEQ
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) October 31, 2020
Amidst all the hype surrounding the likes of Salah, Firmino and Mane, it is Diogo Jota who has made quite an impression for Liverpool this season, after joining from Wolves in the summer.
The Portuguese international has shown a lot of quality going forward and has looked like a natural alongside his teammates – something that hasn’t been all too prevalent with Liverpool’s other attacking options in Xherdan Shaqiri, Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi.
Jota is also coming on the back of an excellent cameo against West Ham that saw him score the winner. It is, therefore, a good idea to bet on him as the potential game-changer in a match where Liverpool are expected to dominate.
Atalanta 2-2 Liverpool
Atalanta are a fierce counter-attacking side who have good control in terms of their transition play so it won’t be surprising to see them take advantage of Liverpool’s depleted defensive unit. We are expecting a high scoring 2-2 draw in this one, where Klopp is likely to continue his dismal record against Italian oppositions.