Champions League Preview: Atalanta vs Liverpool
When: Tuesday 03 November 15:00 EST
Location: Atalanta Stadium, Bergamo
Referee: Ovidiu Haţegan (ROU)
Where to Watch: CBS All Access and fuboTV (free trial)
Similar to last week, the Reds head into this fixture without having ever faced their opponent in a competitive match.
Even with their good start to their European campaign this year, the Reds have a poor away record in the competition recently. Liverpool have won just six of their last 14 away matches in the Champions League. This game could be another test of that unconvincing away record in the Champions League.
Despite the draw against Ajax last week, Atalanta have still won five of their previous seven games in the Champions League. La Dea have also scored at least two goals in six of their previous seven matches in the competition. Their efforts in front of goal have led to over 2.5 goals scored in their previous six European games.
Recent Form (All Competitions)
W (CRO) – D (AJA) – L (SAM) – W (FCM) – L (NAP)
W (WHU) – W (FCM) – W (SHU) – W (AJA) – D* (EVE)
*VAR credited with the win…
Injuries & Suspensions
Virgil Van Dijk is out (knee), along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) and Fabinho (hamstring). Thiago Alcantara (knee), Joel Matip (leg muscle), and Naby Keita (COVID) are all close to returning, as they returned to training this past weekend. Kostas Tsmikas is also closing in on a return to action, but would need to pass a late fitness test to be given the start in Bergamo.
Midfielder Hans Hateboer and defender Cristian Romero both went off with muscle injuries it Atalanta’s match over the weekend, a 2-1 win against Crotone. Rafael Toloi also sustained a heavy knock to his knee during the game. Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini will have to wait and see if the trio have recovered for Tuesdays match, a game for which Robin Gosens and Marten de Roon are already in doubt. Mattia Caldara, Marcho Canesecchui, and Cristiano Piccini are also expected to miss the game. To compound the Italian boss’s selection headache, he will also have to choose whether to start Pierluigi Gollini in net after he missed the past two weeks with a knee injury.
Klopp has been playing with the formation recently, teetering between the usual 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1 we have seen resurface in the past few weeks. I believe we see him lean heavily on the one unit who is intact – our front three – and field a strong team on Tuesday, in order to solidify Liverpool’s spot at the top of the Group D table before the reverse fixtures.
Alisson reprises his role minding the net. Robertson keeps his starting spot at left back, along with our only fully-fit senior option at center back, Joe Gomez. Due to his performance at the weekend, and so as to not rush Matip’s recovery, I think we see Rhys Williams given another shot to partner with Gomez, as Nate Phillips unfortunately is not registered for Champions League duty this term. Trent Alexander-Arnold, the Creator-in-Chief, will provide the creativity from the right flank. Wijnaldum and Henderson start in midfield, providing leadership and stability, while Shaqiri is awarded a start for his recent fantastic form. Klopp will ignore the clamors to start Jota over his preferred attack of Mane, Firmino, and Salah, saving the Portuguese to start at the weekend. I can almost guarantee we will see five subs, including Diogo(al) Jota. Depending on their fitness, I believe we see Keita, Thiago, and Matip get some minutes, along with Milner.
Atalanta usually play in a 3-4-2-1 or 3-4-1-2 formation. Although starting netminder Gollini has recently returned to training, I believe manager Gasperini gives him another week to recover, concerned about throwing him in the Liverpool attack right away. Toloi, Romero, and Hateboer are all expected to play despite this weekend’s knocks. Colombian attacker Muriel bagged a brace at the weekend over Serie A foe Crotone, so I believe we see him start alongside joint-leading scorer Duvan Zapata up top, with joint-leading scorer Papu Gomez playing in behind.
Atalanta have been one of the most entertaining teams in Serie A over their past few seasons, becoming renowned for their prolific attack. Manager Gian Piero Gasperini’s side reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season, and will be keen to put together a similar run this time around. The start of this season has been slightly inconsistent for the Italian side, but they still currently sit fourth place in Serie A.
Liverpool, if you have not heard, may have some issues in defense. Injuries have left them with limited options at center back, and supporters are hoping that youngsters Rhys Williams and Joe Gomez are capable of maintaining a reliable partnership.
A close match is expected, and Atalanta will surely test Liverpool’s unproven defense. This is a fixture which essentially guarantees goals. Both teams have been scoring plenty so far this season – as well as conceding at an alarming rate – and with two managers who refuse to waver away from their attack-minded style it should be a fascinating clash of two squads with well-defined footballing styles. While there are not many clubs at the moment more capable than Atalanta of exploiting the Red’s defensive issues, the same rings true in the reverse. There is sure to be space for Liverpool’s attackers to operate in, and I believe the lads will get the job done.
I say: Atalanta 2-3 Liverpool. This will be an exciting, nervy affair which will have us on the edge of our seats during the final few minutes. Ultimately, I am backing our attack to make up for any defensive issues.
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