Atalanta make the trip to Anfield on Wednesday with their Champions League fate on the line in a fixture they head into off the back of just one win in their last six outings.
European action is straight back on the agenda for Liverpool and co after the conclusion of the final international break of the calendar year, one which comes following an emphatic 3-0 win for the Reds.
Having already passed the halfway mark of the Champions League group stages, the standings are taking shape and the clash at Anfield on Wednesday is one which could all but guarantee Jurgen Klopp‘s side a place in the last 16 with a win.
For Atalanta, a defeat would leave them eight points adrift of Liverpool while Ajax will be confident of doing the double over Midtjylland, leaving the Italian outfit with everything to fight for.
But while the Reds are enjoying a run of eight games unbeaten, of which only two are draws, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side have emerged victorious just once in their last six games – which came prior to their 5-0 thumping at the hands of the Reds at the start of November.
Widely regarded as a free-scoring outfit, Atalanta have seen the goals dry up in recent weeks having scored just three times in their last four games – the last of which was a goalless draw at Spezia on Saturday.
It was their first 0-0 draw in Serie A in over a year and Gasperini lamented the international break which saw a number of his player return to the fold late.
“I always thought international duty was an honour as well as motivation for players. What never happened to me before was that they were away for over a week, arrive on Friday and then we play on Saturday,” Gasperini said after his side’s draw.
“I saw eight players for the first time yesterday and four of them played today. We met at 2pm yesterday, as they arrived the night before at the airport.
“It’s not optimal against clubs who do not have that situation, but we can’t change it, so we must try to do our best in these circumstances.”
It is a bone of contention shared by Klopp as fixture scheduling leaves little wiggle room for players to rest before crossing the white line once more.
And the Italian outfit are expected to be without midfielder Fabio Depaoli, who played in the final nine minutes against the Reds in their last meeting after he was forced from the field over the weekend with a soft-tissue injury.
Ruslan Malinovskyi, who was also a second-half substitute in that game, is under doubt after testing positive for coronavirus during the international break.
With only four players who played against Liverpool featuring at Spezia on the weekend, one can expect the Italian side to make a number of changes in midweek – like Liverpool who are to mix it up as they contend with a fixture at Brighton merely 62 hours later.
And while the occasion will be one without fans, Atalanta President Antonio Percassi is thrilled at the prospect of his side’s trip to Anfield, which he calls the “university of football.”
We’ll play in the most beautiful stadium, where I was watching a game a long time ago and it’s really crazy,” he said.
“We go to the University of football, you go to learn and we have to try to make a good impression.”