When: Tuesday 01 December 15:00 EDT
Location: Anfield, Liverpool
Referee: Tobias Stieler (GER)
Liverpool and Ajax have met just once in the last half century, a scrappy 1-0 affair on a rainy October afternoon in Amsterdam. Nicolas Tagliafico’s own goal was the only thing separating the two teams a month ago.
Recent Form (All Competitions)
D* (BHA) – L (ATA) – W (LEI) – D (MCI) – W (ATA)
W (EMM) – W (FCM) – W (HEA) – W (UTR) – W (FCM)
*VAR credited with the win, again… this is becoming a theme…
Injuries & Suspensions
The injury list continues to grow – with the condensed schedule and some bad luck (read: dirty Everton tackles), the LFC treatment room seems to have a revolving door. Thankfully, we saw the return of skipper Jordan Henderson (thigh) at the weekend. Virgil Van Dijk (knee) is out for the majority of the season, along with Joe Gomez (knee). Trent Alexander-Arnold (calf) is a doubt for this game, though he is the closest to returning. Other players unlikely to feature are Thiago Alcantara (knee), Naby Keita (Hamstring), Xherdan Shaqiri (muscle), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), and James Milner (Hamstring).
On the other side of the pitch, the Dutch side see only one person absent through injury. Mohammed Kudus (knee) is still out from the injury he picked up in the reverse fixture.
Alisson has to be the man in the net as Klopp pushes to solidify passage to the knockout rounds. The back line will be as solid as we can put forward: Andy Robertson will be the main man at left back after Tsmikas started against Brighton. Joel Matip and Fabinho will again partner in central defense (as long as Matip was truly rested on Saturday for rotation – if he has a surprise injury, Rhys Williams should start alongside the Brazillian). With Trent and Milner both out, Neco Williams is the lone option at right back. I think Klopp tries something a little different now that his midfield options are getting few and far between, opting for a 4-2-3-1 formation. Henderson and Wijnaldum form the double pivot in this setup. Mane and Salah were both given some rest at the weekend (the latter was clearly not happy about being subbed off), so they should both get the start, with Jota and Firmino coming in alongside them.
There is a slim chance Klopp sets up in the preferred 4-3-3, with Jones coming in for Firmino or Jota to fill out the third midfield spot. I would say we will make all five substitutions again, but I am not sure how many more players are going to be available off the bench!
Ajax also play a 4-3-3 and have a full squad at their disposal. Dusan Tadic has been excelling in the false 9 role for the Lancers, scoring nine goals and supplying six assists for them in 14 appearances in all competitions so far this year. I believe we will see only one change from their previous Champions League match against Midtjylland, with Davy Klaasen coming in for Ekkelenkamp in midfield.
Ajax have been cruising lately, while Liverpool have been sputtering, as injuries and poor decisions conspire against victorious results. Liverpool’s home form came into question in a deserved defeat against an inconsistent Atalanta team. As such, Liverpool failed to qualify for the knockout stages as expected, and this match has gained much more significance. Ajax, currently second in the group, can go top with a win.
I say: Liverpool 2-1 Ajax. The injury-depleted Reds will have to dig deep and rely on their healthy starters to put this game away early. A quick start will be especially helpful against the flying Dutchmen, who are currently on an eight game/ winning streak, netting 38(!) goals in that span. We could be in for a five goal, end-to-end thriller, but my hope is that the Reds will be able to bounce back strongly and early, to win and set up a game next week against Midtjylland where we can rest key players.