Liverpool will be looking to book a place in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League when they host Ajax in a Group D clash this week.
After two games without a win, Liverpool will be raring to bounce back strongly when they welcome Dutch heavyweights AFC Ajax to Anfield in their penultimate Group D encounter of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
Jurgen Klopp & co. were handed their first defeat in Europe last week, as they lost 2-0 to Atalanta, which was followed by a 1-1 draw against Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League on Saturday. However, in spite of the loss on the last matchday, Liverpool remain on top of the group and a win on Tuesday would confirm their place in the knockout stages.
Ajax are second in the group, two points behind Liverpool, following their 3-1 win over Midtjylland last week. Erik ten Hag’s side are unbeaten in their last eight games in all competitions (W7 D1) and head to Anfield on the back of an impressive 5-0 victory over FC Emmen in the Eredivise. With Atalanta level on points with them in third place, Ajax will be gunning for a win on Tuesday.
The reverse fixture at the Amsterdam Arena ended in a 1-0 win for Liverpool courtesy a Nicolas Tagliafico own goal. It was also the last time Ajax lost a game in any competition. And ahead of their latest meeting at Anfield, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Klopp will once again be without marquee summer signing Thiago Alcantara, while the likes of Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Trent Alexander-Arnold remain sidelined as well. James Milner became the latest casualty for Liverpool, going off injured against Brighton, with the manager confirming that the veteran is ruled out of the contest.
Nathaniel Phillips is ineligible to feature having not been registered in the Champions League squad, which will be a blow considering how impressive he was at the weekend. He should be replaced by Joel Matip at the heart of the Liverpool defence with Fabinho alongside him.
Neco Williams had a stinker at the weekend and was hauled off at half-time. However, with no real options at the manager’s disposal, the youngster should start again at right-back while Andrew Robertson features on the left. Alisson Becker will be the man in goal for the home team.
The return to fitness of captain Jordan Henderson this past weekend will have come as a huge boost for Liverpool. He should slot in as the No. 6 on Tuesday, with Georginio Wijnaldum partnering him in the midfield double pivot. Naby Keita is a doubt for the contest.
The front four of Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah pick themselves in the final third. Firmino should operate in the hole behind Salah, who will start up top with Jota and Mane operating on the wings.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Williams, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum; Jota, Firmino, Mane; Salah
Unlike Liverpool, Ajax have a very short injury-list, with Mohammed Kudus the only player unavailable at Erik ten Hag’s disposal for the trip to Merseyside. The visitors should set up in a 4-3-3 formation at Anfield, with Andre Onana lining up between the sticks.
Noussair Mazraoui ought to be retained at right-back, while Nicolas Tagliafico should return to the side on the opposite side after being rested at the weekend. Perr Schuurs, who has been linked with a move to Liverpool, ought to partner Lisandro Martinez at the heart of the Ajax defence.
Former Manchester United star Daley Blind should slot in as the defensive midfielder, after having been rested against Emmen. Teenage sensation Ryan Gravenberch, who is on the radars of Manchester United and Barcelona, is a certainty in the middle of the park with Davy Klaassen, who scored at the weekend, also a surefire starter.
David Neres made a substitute appearance in the last game but ought to get the nod on the right flank at Anfield. Dusan Tadic is a guaranteed starter on the left and he will be looking to capitalise on Neco Williams’ lack of experience and confidence, following his performance at the weekend. Lassina Traore should slot in as the centre-forward.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Onana; Mazraoui, Schuurs, Martinez, Tagliafico; Klaassen, Blind, Gravenberch; Neres, Traore, Tadic
- This will just be the fourth-ever meeting between Liverpool and Ajax. In the previous three fixtures, both teams have picked up a win each, with the other ending in a draw.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their previous 14 meetings against Dutch opposition in European competitions (W9 D5). Their only defeat in such a fixture came against Ajax way back in 1966.
- Ajax haven’t lost any of their previous five away games against English opponents in the UEFA Champions League (W1 D4).
- Liverpool’s defeat to Atalanta snapped an eight-game unbeaten run for the Reds in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League (W7 D1).
- Ajax haven’t lost any of their previous eight matches across all competitions (W7 D1). During this run, they have scored a whopping 38 goals while letting in just six, with four clean sheets.
Player to Watch
It has been a difficult start to the new season for the young Liverpool academy product. Williams had to deal with vile online fan abuse earlier this season for a mistake he made in the Carabao Cup game against Lincoln City. The trolls have been at it once again after the 19-year-old put in a couple of dodgy displays against Atalanta and Brighton.
Playing for a club of Liverpool’s stature at the highest level means there is obviously no hiding place for any player. But, Williams, towards the end of the last season, showed that he has what it takes to make it at this level and continues to have the backing of his manager.
With no Alexander-Arnold, Gomez or Milner, Klopp will have to start the Wales international once again on Tuesday night. And, going up against a wily customer like Dusan Tadic, the youngster will be in for another stern test. Williams, though, will be out to silence the detractors, prove the doubters wrong.
Liverpool 2-2 Ajax
Ajax head into the game on the back of a seriously impressive run of form and going up against a Liverpool backline that is missing key members, they will fancy their chances to find the back of the net. At the same time, the visitors’ all-out attacking approach could lead to open spaces at the back which might play right into the hands of the Premier League champions.
We could be in for an entertaining affair on Tuesday with plenty of chances and goals on the cards. And The Hard Tackle is predicting this one to end in a high-scoring draw.