Liverpool face Serie A side Atalanta in the third instalment of this years Champions League. Due to the global pandemic, this has been the third consecutive week of Champions League group stage.
Games have been moving fast to catch up with the three month hiatus, which meant the Champions League final was in August instead of May. Liverpool have the chance to make it 3 out of 3 in tonight’s clash with Atalanta in Italy.
Can Liverpool All But Secure Knockout Football?
In Liverpool’s two Champions League wins of the 21st century, the Reds have had to win on the last day of the group stages in order to qualify for the knockouts. There was Steven Gerrard’s Olympiacos goal in 2004/05 and Mo Salah’s winner against Napoli in 2018/19.
Liverpool however, will welcome the chance to wrap up the group stage as early as possible due to the fixture congestion this season.
A win tonight, can put Liverpool five points clear of Atlanta with only nine points left available. This could also put them as high as seven points clear of third place, depending on the Ajax vs FC Midtjylland result.
This could allow the second string players to get some gametime as well as giving the big names a rest. We saw Liverpool grind out a win against FC Midtjylland, with the front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane coming on after an hour.
I can definitely see Jürgen Klopp doing this should they get the win tonight.
Not only would this be giving the players a rest, it will make them fresh for the Premier League. With Virgil Van Dijk and Fabinho currently on the sidelines and recent Mane and Salah injury concerns, the side need as many fresh bodies as possible.
The Challenge Of Atalanta
Atalanta present a difficult challenge, with the side reaching last season’s Champions League quarter final along with finishing third in Serie A. Their current position of fourth with six games played so far this season shows 2019/20 wasn’t a one off.
Liverpool have got back to winning ways, with two consecutive wins in the Premier League to go alongside the two Champions League group stages.
Young centre backs Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips have both impressed when brought in. Joe Gomez was at fault for the West Ham goal in the weekend and has been largely unimpressive all season.
These two deserve the chance to both play together whilst Fabinho and Joël Matip are both injured. Phillips cannot play in the Champions League but in the league, he should be given the chance to play alongside Rhys Williams.
Diogo Jota has been getting the goals lately, with goals against West Ham, Sheffiled United and FC Midtjylland. Should he be the main attacking option?
Roberto Firmino has been in poor form and probably should be rested tonight. Firmino still remains effective at times off the ball but his goals have dried up this season.
I still feel that a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation can be played to allow both Jota and Firmino to play in the same team, especially with Fabinho likely to play in the centre back position until at least January.
Liverpool need players as fresh as possible, so a win tonight can grant them the chance to be able to field the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, James Milner, Neco Williams, Divick Origi and Takumi Minamino in their final three group stage games.