When: Wednesday 25 November 15:00 EST
Location: Anfield, Liverpool
Referee: Carlos del Cerro Grande (ESP)
These two teams played their first-ever clash against each other three weeks ago in the reverse fixture.
In that game in Bergamo, despite having all the hallmarks of a difficult match for the injury-depleted Reds. However, Liverpool defeated Atalanta 5-0 thanks to a hat-trick from Diogo Jota and goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Recent Form (All Competitions)
D (SPE) – D (INT) – L (LIV) – W (CRO) – D (AJA)
W (LEI) – D (MCI) – W (ATA) – W (WHU) – W (FCM)
Injuries & Suspensions
It is starting to become easier to write who is available instead of who is out. Despite the return of Joel Matip and Fabinho at the weekend, the Reds may be without as many as nine players due to injury.
Virgil Van Dijk is out (knee), along with Joe Gomez (knee) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (calf). Major doubts for this game are Thiago Alcantara (knee), Jordan Henderson (thigh), Naby Keita (Hamstring), Xherdan Shaqiri (muscle), and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee). Mohamed Salah may return to action after he recently tested negative for the coronavirus. Rhys Williams (hip) should be good to go after suffering a hip injury while training with the English U21 squad over the international break.
Defender Mattia Caldara is out until at least the New Year with a knee injury, while Rusian Malinovskyi is absent due to illness. Fabio Depaoli is also out for this match. There was good news for the club at the weekend, as Robin Gosens, Marten de Roon, Jose Luis Palomino and Pierluigi Gollini all returned to feature in the goalless draw with Spezia.
With the ability to clinch the group with a win on Wednesday, I believe Klopp sticks to a strong lineup in the trusted 4-3-3 formation.
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, Joel Matip. Despite his great performances in the Champions League thus far, Rhys Williams starts on the bench while Klopp takes no chances and starts Fabinho in the back. With Trent, the Creator-in-Chief, still nursing a calf injury, Neco Williams gets the nod at right back. Wijnaldum, Milner, and Jones start in midfield due to the lack of other options there. I believe Klopp will not rush to include Salah right away, instead leaving him as an impact sub as he returns from COVID. Mane, Firmino, and Jota reprise the attacking line from the weekend.
As always, I can almost guarantee we will see five subs. There is a slim chance Klopp tries for a more defensive lineup, trading Rhys Williams for Neco, shifting Fabinho to the DM and Milner out at RB, but I think Klopp plays for the win here.
Atalanta usually play in a 3-4-2-1 or 3-4-1-2 formation. Starting netminder Gollini returned to the lineup at the weekend. Other than de Roon coming in midfield, I think we see a relatively similar setup to the last match, with manager Gasperini hoping to take advantage of Liverpool’s injury woes. Colombian attacker Muriel should start alongside Duvan Zapata up top, with Papu Gomez supplying the creativity from the #10 role.
The exciting Atalanta attack may have stalled in recent weeks – including the non-show against Liverpool in the last Champions League match. However, they still have the firepower to test the Reds’ defense more than the reverse fixture.
That being said, Liverpool’s defense has actually looked more solid since talisman Van Dijk’s injury, and should have plenty in the gas tank to seal their place in the knockout stages with a victory.
Liverpool are unlikely to repeat the thumping they gave the Italian side in Bergamo, but things are going their way: Recent performances in that match, against Man City and Leicester, and the return of Mohamed Salah should have them brimming with confidence. And that’s before I mention their record at Anfield, which makes it impossible to back any other team against them at the moment.
I say: Liverpool 3-1 Atalanta. Atalanta will make the Reds concede our first goal this year in the Champions League, but the good guys cruise to a victory, sealing the group and allow Klopp to give starters some much-needed rest in the remaining Group fixtures.