The good, the bad and changes for Brighton – Debating Liverpool 0-2 Atalanta

Liverpool suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of a more vital Atalanta side on Wednesday night, forcing Jurgen Klopp to swiftly turn his attentions to Brighton.

Having dismantled Atalanta in Italy, the Reds were expected to at least muster a more spirited display under the lights at Anfield, but they struggled from the first whistle.

Klopp made five changes to his side, including first Champions League starts for Neco Williams and Kostas Tsimikas, and a return to defence for 19-year-old Rhys Williams, and the inexperience showed.

Atalanta held firm and struck when Liverpool were weakest, with Josip Ilicic and Robin Gosens scoring soon after the hour mark, either side of a quadruple change that saw Klopp attempting to correct the mistakes of his starting lineup.

While victory would have sealed progress to the last 16, the result has little impact on Liverpool, who can now qualify with a draw at home to Ajax next time out – but the performance could certainly have ramifications.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) and Matt Ladson (@mattladson) discuss the highs and lows of the 2-0 loss with the Guardian’s Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani).


The good…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, November 25, 2020: Liverpool's Curtis Jones (L) is held back by Atalanta's Marten de Roon during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and Atalanta BC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

SACHIN: Er…were there any?

Nobody getting injured was a plus, but that aside it’s really difficult to find a positive from a night in which Liverpool were outthought, outfought, outplayed and didn’t manage a single shot on target.

A very, very bad day at the office.

JACK: Whether or not they performed up to standard, for me it’s a real positive to see Liverpool become the first side to name three British teenagers in a Champions League XI since 2009.

Rhys Williams and Curtis Jones both looked completely at home again, and while Neco Williams looked to be struggling, Klopp didn’t seem too concerned.

A year-and-a-half ago, Rhys and Neco were starting in the FA Youth Cup final triumph over Man City, now they are starting in the Champions League.

In fact, five of Barry Lewtas‘ under-18s from that day have made the matchday squad already this season – Jake Cain and Leighton Clarkson were on the bench on Wednesday – which shows, regardless of the injury situation, the faith Klopp has.

MATT: Agree with Jack on the youngsters there.

As Sachin says, I guess the biggest/only positive is that it’s another game out of the way and seemingly without any new injuries. On to Brighton, which matters far more.

We should really recognise that Atalanta were a lot better than in the away game, defended more organised and compact, and Ilicic was impressive.


The bad…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, November 25, 2020: Liverpool's Divock Origi during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and Atalanta BC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

SACHIN: We need to talk about Divock. It was another alarmingly poor display from the man many of us adore but can no longer bear to watch in a red shirt.

Quite frankly he didn’t look arsed, barely breaking into a sprint and offering nothing either as a target man or as someone who could stretch Atalanta’s defence.

He’s done at Liverpool, simple as that.

Origi aside, the two full-backs were also really poor and highlighted just how important Trent and Robbo are to this team.

JACK: It’s getting predictable, but the negative impact Origi has when starting in attack was a big issue again.

For a player who relies on pace and instinct, there was little on show from the Belgian, while Taki Minamino watched on from the bench, a day removed from being told his “time will come” in Klopp’s pre-match presser.

It is a bit of a worry that Matip played almost the full 90, given he will likely do so again at the Amex on Saturday, but the silver lining is that no injuries emerged from a game that still leaves us top of Group D.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 27, 2020: Liverpool's Takumi Minamino during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and FC Midtjylland at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

MATT: Klopp said that Minamino trained “exceptionally” but I can only assume he meant exceptionally bad for him to end up behind Origi in the pecking order.

I always try to understand a decision but that one I cannot get my head around one bit. Where does Minamino even fit in?

I fully expected Fabinho and Matip to play 45 each, so it was a surprise to see Matip play so long. If he plays three games in seven days it will be the miracle of the season.


And how should Klopp change things for Brighton?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, November 25, 2020: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and Atalanta BC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

SACHIN: It would be great to see Jordan Henderson back in midfield.

And if he’s fit enough to do so, I’d return James Milner to right-back, with Robbo definitely starting at left-back and Bobby definitely returning to the front three.

And Thiago…could he finally play for Liverpool again? That would be great.

Alisson; Milner, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Jones; Salah, Mane, Firmino

JACK: We’re so limited by injuries and the schedule that it’s difficult to predict this one.

It’s safe to say Robbo, Fabinho, Jota and Firmino all need to come back in, having come off the bench on Wednesday, while the likes of Neco, Kostas and Origi certainly need to come out.

A lot depends on whether or not Henderson becomes available, but on the assumption that this will come too soon it’s at least encouraging that Gini only played an hour and Jones looks to be fit and firing.

Alisson; Milner, Fabinho, Matip, Robbo; Gini, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mane; Jota

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, November 25, 2020: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker and his team-mates line-up before the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and Atalanta BC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

MATT: It’s a million-dollar question because the club have been giving away so little information on injuries for Henderson, Thiago etc. If one of them was available it would be nice.

Can Matip really play three times in a week? If not, then does Nat Phillips come in alongside Fabinho in defence?

The options are incredibly slim. 34-year-old Milner playing three times in a week? Far from ideal, but seemingly needed. I’d prefer him to move to right-back, but then there are no options in midfield, unless you went to 4-2-3-1 and played Gini and Jones as the two in midfield.

The other thing is that Mane really looks like he needs a rest for a game or two. Perhaps Minamino gets a game…or not.

Alisson; Milner, Phillips, Matip, Robbo; Fabinho, Hendo, Gini; Salah, Jota, Firmino