Champions League Preview: Liverpool vs FC Midtjylland
When: Tuesday 27 October 16:00 EDT
Location: Anfield, Liverpool
Referee: Paweł Raczkowski (POL)
Where to Watch: CBS All Access and fuboTV (free trial)
Liverpool and Midtjylland have never before faced each other in a competitive match.
While the trip to Merseyside will be uncharted territory for the Danish club, their manager Brian Priske has some experience facing Liverpool. During the 2005-06 season he faced the Reds three times with Portsmouth, having lost all three of those matches.
FC Midtjylland are not known for their strength in European competitions, considering their 1-1-7 record in their last nine European group matches. That being said, the Danish champions have won three of their six previous meetings with English opposition, including a victory over Manchester United (ha HA!) in the 2015-16 Europa League. They have defeated Young Boys, Slavia Pague, and Ludogrets en route to qualifying for the group stages.
Midtjylland should be travelling to Anfield in good spirits, having launched a stunning comeback at title rivals Brondby. In the final half an hour at the weekend, they came back from two goals down with 30 minutes left to win 3-2, including a 94th-minute winner.
Recent League Form
FC Midtjylland (Danish Superliga)
W (BIF) – W (ODE) – D (ACH) – W (RDF) – W (LBB)
Liverpool (Premier League)
W (SHU) – D* (EVE) – L (AVL) – W (ARS) – W (CHE)
*VAR credited with the win…
Injuries & Suspensions
Virgil Van Dijk is out (knee), along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) and Kostas Tsmikas (thigh). Thiago (knee), Joel Matip (leg muscle), and Naby Keita (COVID) are all close to returning, but we may see them rested due to the quality of the opponent and fine form of their stand-ins, namely Fabinho at center back.
The Danish squad see two defenders – center back Kristian Dirks Riis and right back Oliver Olsen – out for this week’s match.
As injuries continue to mount and we enter a stretch of weeks with two games a week, I think we see Klopp play a little with the lineup here. Alisson is a welcome sight back in goal. With the injury to Tsmikas, Robertson keeps his starting spot at left back. Joe Gomez will obviously be back there, and I believe Fabinho stays due to his fine form, so as to not rush Matip’s recovery. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rhys Williams come on at some point in this game, either to give one of them a rest or to shore up the defense in the final minutes with the game already won. His namesake Neco Williams may be given a start at right back, in order to give Trent some rest before the upcoming fixtures. As unpopular as it may be, I think we see an unchanged midfield from the Sheffield game: Wijnaldum to start alongside Milner and Curtis Jones, giving the Scouse lad a second Champions League appearance. While the midfield was not as strong against Ajax prior to Henderson’s introduction, but I think this one gets the job done against this opposition. Henderson will still likely come in at the half. Up top, Jota, Minamino, and Shaqiri may be handed their first start together. They brought much-needed energy to the last game when they were subbed in at the same time against Ajax. Jota has been espeically impactful since signing this summer, and was all over the pitch against Sheffield. We may very well see another “line change” with Sadio, Bobby, and Mo expected to be coming off the bench. Once again, the ability to make up to five substitutions in UEFA competitions this year will help manage the stress of the fixture congestion over the next few months.
Midtjylland typically play in 4-2-3-1. Danish international Pione Sisto should be back in the starting XI after he scored off the bench during the comeback win over Brondby at the weekend. Anders Dreyer was also on the scoresheet at the weekend, and his stint at Brighton & Hove Albion gives him experience with English footballl – though it is worth noting that he never made a first team appearance for the Seagulls. Goalkeeper Jesper Hansen will hope to improve upon past poor performances in the Champions League, having conceded 26 goals in only seven appearances in the competition (including four against Group D opponent Atalanta last week).
After a poor string of results, Liverpool bounced back with a scrappy win at Ajax last week, and continued their form this weekend at home against Sheffield (and VAR?).
Concurrently, Midtjylland have seen a good run of form in the Danish Superliga, but were a distant second-best against Atalanta on Matchday 1.
Even if Klopp chooses to rest a lot of his starters – and I believe he will – there should still be enough gas in the tank for the English champions to see off their opponents.
I say: Liverpool 3-0 FC Midtjylland. This should be a fairly comfortable win for the Reds, which will make it two wins in two, and a deserved six points at the top of Group D.