Chance to cement Group D top spot in first-ever clash – Atalanta vs. Liverpool Preview

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Liverpool face off against Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday night, as the two early front-runners in Group D battle for top spot at the midway point.

Atalanta vs. Liverpool

Tuesday, November 3, 2020 – 8pm (GMT)
Stadio di Bergamo
Champions League Group Stage (3)
Referee: Ovidiu Hategan (ROU)


Heading into their trip to Bergamo, in the northwestern Italian region of Lombardy, Liverpool sit top of their Champions League group, having seen off both Ajax and Midtjylland so far.

Their opponents are an entirely new proposition, with Atalanta in only their second season ever in the Champions League and having never taken on the Reds in their 113-year history.

Atalanta made an early statement with a 4-0 win over Midtjylland, but looked set for disappointment as they trailed 2-0 at the hands of Ajax last time around, only to fight back for a 2-2 draw that serves as a warning to Liverpool.

Despite their injury problems, the Reds have continued to grind out results, and Jurgen Klopp will be hopeful of another battling display from his side as they, potentially, welcome back some key players.

Victory over Atalanta would be a big statement, with nine points from the first three games in Group D setting Klopp’s side up nicely for the reverse fixtures.

 

Team News

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 17, 2020: Liverpool’s Joel Matip during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 237th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp is able to welcome Joel Matip, Naby Keita and Kostas Tsimikas back for this tie, though it remains to be seen whether any of the trio will be deemed fit to start.

They, along with Billy Koumetio, were all part of training at Melwood on Monday, but Thiago missed out and James Milner trained separate from the group.

Koumetio is not eligible for the Champions League and neither is Nat Phillips, while Fabinho is still sidelined and Virgil van Dijk and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are long-term absentees.

The big call for Klopp comes with Joe Gomez‘s partner at centre-back, with one of Matip or Rhys Williams likely to start in the heart of defence.

Elsewhere, while the manager revealed Mohamed Salah took “three proper knocks” in the 2-1 win over West Ham at the weekend, the Egyptian trained as normal and is likely to start in Lombardy.

 

The Opposition

Like Midtjylland before them, Atalanta are another first-time opponent for Liverpool in this season’s Champions League.

The Italian side were something of a yo-yo club for many years, with promotion and relegation a regular occurrence as they moved between Serie A and Serie B, until a major change in 2016.

New manager Gian Piero Gasperini endured a stuttering start, only to pick things up and lead Atalanta to – at the time – their best-ever finish in the Italian top flight, ending the 2016/17 campaign in fourth.

That saw a return to European competition for the first time in 26 years, with a place in the Europa League, and last season brought their maiden campaign in the Champions League.

Now a regular title challenger in Serie A, Atalanta will be a tough test for the Reds, with three players – Luis Muriel, Duvan Zapata and Papu Gomez – already having scored five goals this season.

Gasperini is likely to field a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Josip Ilicic – who struck 21 times in 34 games last season but is yet to find the back of the net this time around – another option in attack.

Probable Atalanta XI: Sportiello; Toloi, Palomino, Djimsiti; Hateboer, Pasalic, Freuler, Gosens; Gomez; Zapata, Muriel

 

Did You Know?

Champions League ball, general (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While this is only Atalanta’s second season in the Champions League, they have scored more goals against English opposition than any other nation in their history in Europe.

The majority of those 10 goals came against Everton in their two Europa League meetings in 2017/18, with 3-0 and 5-1 wins helping them to top Group E that season, before dropping out at the last-32 stage to Borussia Dortmund.

Atalanta also took on Man City in the group stage of the Champions League last time out, but after drawing 1-1 in their first clash they suffered a 5-1 hammering in the follow-up.

 

Form

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 31, 2020: Liverpool’s Diogo Jota (L) celebrates after scoring the second goal, but it was disallowed after a VAR review, he scored a second goal that stood a few minutes later, during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

Atalanta – Last five results (all competitions)

Won 2-1 vs. Crotone
Drew 2-2 vs. Ajax
Lost 3-1 vs. Sampdoria
Won 4-0 vs. Midtjylland
Lost 4-1 vs. Napoli

Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)

Won 2-1 vs. West Ham
Won 2-0 vs. Midtjylland
Won 2-1 vs. Sheffield United
Won 1-0 vs. Ajax
Drew 2-2 vs. Everton

 

Klopp’s View

Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Monday morning, Klopp explained how he hopes Liverpool can keep out an Atalanta side who scored 98 goals in Serie A last season:

“In general in football, it’s always like this.

“Sometimes you have to defend a situation in the last moment with a block or a goalie save, that’s absolutely OK.

“But how always, when a team is really good in creating finishing moments – when they score 98 goals, they had for sure much more chances – that means these kind of situations where you have to try to deny them, if you want.

“You have to make sure the players who are usually finishing off the situations don’t get the ball that often because that’s something you can do together.”

 

TV & Liveblog Info

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 27, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp refuses to celebrate in front of the annoying Steady Cam at the final whistle during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Atalanta vs. Liverpool will be shown live in the UK on BT Sport 2, with coverage beginning at 7pm for an 8pm kickoff.

Chris Williams is in charge of This Is Anfield’s matchday liveblog, providing regular updates from 7.15pm.

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