Atalanta 0-5 Liverpool
Champions League Group Stage (3), Stadio di Bergamo
November 3, 2020
Goals: Jota 16′, 33′, 54′, Salah 47′, Mane 49′
Jota stakes claim for City start
Jota got the nod over the out-of-form Roberto Firmino in Italy, leaving supporters contemplating who would play where in the front three.
It turned out to be a tactical masterstroke from Jurgen Klopp, with the Portuguese producing a sensational performing down the middle, bagging a hat-trick and running riot.
Jota took all three finishes with aplomb, displaying his blistering pace but also his quality in front of goal, as he continues to prove that Michael Edwards has worked yet more magic in the transfer market.
That’s now seven goals in just 10 appearances for the 23-year-old, who looks as though he has been playing in this team for years.
Firmino must wonder where this leaves him ahead of Sunday’s trip to Man City – how do you leave out Jota after that?
Trust in Jones pays dividends
If the youngster was a little disappointing in the last away Champions League game, being substituted at half-time at Ajax, he was excellent against Atalanta.
There were far more noticeable players on the night, from the electric Jota to the endlessly dangerous Salah and Mane, but there was a maturity to his performance that really caught the eye.
There was no holding onto the ball for too long or trying too much, which has been a shortcoming in the past – he simply went about his duties in the same understated manner as Henderson and Wijnaldum.
Jones is no longer a young player who Liverpool can call upon occasionally, he is a fully-fledged member of this squad who now feels like a better option than James Milner.
The 19-year-old won’t be perfect moving forward, as he continues to hone his skills, but this is proof that Klopp building him up over time is paying off handsomely.
Assured Williams catches the eye
The youngster was drafted in for his first-ever Champions League start on Tuesday, however, with Phillips’ ineligibility working in the Englishman’s favour.
While Phillips deserves huge praise for his performance at the weekend, Williams looked a more impressive all-round footballer against Atalanta, and a class act all evening.
Liverpool’s dominance in the game made things relatively straightforward for the centre-back, in truth, but he was dominant in the air and calm on the ball, never looking ruffled at any point.
The hope is that Joel Matip returns for the City game, with Klopp opting not to bring him on in Bergamo, but if he misses out, there are two fine options in Williams and Phillips.
Fantastic response to Van Dijk’s injury
When Virgil van Dijk‘s knee injury was confirmed earlier this month, the world felt like it was caving in for Liverpool.
The response to that devastating moment has been commendable, though, with the Reds winning all five matches.
While four of those victories were far from vintage, Tuesday was a joy to watch, as the visitors ran riot in the final third.
This was one of Liverpool’s best-ever away performances in Europe under Klopp, as they dispatched of a highly rated, free-flowing Atlanta team, making them look distinctly average on their own turf.
Not only were Klopp’s men sensational going forward, but they were also immaculate defensively and industrious in the middle of the park, making for a perfect night at the office.
There will be times when Van Dijk is a huge loss, but the way in which Liverpool have silenced the naysayers is testament to Klopp and the belief he instils, not to mention the quality within the squad.
Perfect preparation for Man City
Sunday’s trip to City is Liverpool’s biggest game of the season so far, with the pair still looking the most likely to pull away in the title race.
If some of the recent displays left reasons to feel nervous ahead of the game, Tuesday’s brilliance leaves the Reds primed to take on Pep Guardiola’s side.
Not only will confidence be flowing, but the manner of the win also allowed energy to be preserved.
The match was essentially over within minutes of the second half getting underway and Klopp was able to take off key men, no doubt revelling in being able to use five substitutes.
Bring it on.