Flags, changes & 2nd leg chances – Last word on Liverpool 0-3 Atalanta

A miserable 3-0 defeat to Atalanta in the first leg of Liverpool’s Europa League quarter-final, threw up plenty of topics for debate around the Reds’ performance.

If Jurgen Klopp is to have his fairytale ending as Liverpool boss, his team need to turn around their recent run of form quickly.

While the players will already be looking ahead to Sunday’s match against Crystal Palace, we went over some of the key points of debate from Liverpool’s first-leg defeat at Anfield.

Here, Sam Millne (@sam_millne) and Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) discuss tactics, players and fans after Liverpool’s 3-0 loss against Atalanta.


Are we still in it?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, April 11, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp waves to supporters after the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and BC Atalanta at Anfield. Atalanta won 3-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JO: If you asked me straight after the final whistle, I would have said absolutely not – there were no redeeming qualities so how could we go there and put at least four beyond them without conceding?

With Klopp and this team, there is always a chance as we never do it the easy way, but you could understand arguments for rotation and simply keeping the team fresh for the league.

It’s not over completely, but this team need to rediscover themselves in a very short space of time.

SAM: Yes, but it is a serious task.

If Klopp gets his tactics right, Liverpool have the quality to overturn the scoreline, especially given Jota and Alexander-Arnold’s possible return.

However, with a small, hostile stadium, coupled with the discipline and physicality of the opposition, the challenge is a massive one.


Think the lack of flags had any impact?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, April 11, 2024: Liverpool supporters' protest against Ticket Prices before the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and BC Atalanta at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JO: No, the performance was what it was always going to be, but I do hope it serves to remind the club of why fans must be valued more than what they currently are.

The club ‘sell’ and advertise images of the Kop to showcase what Liverpool is all about, it’s part of the attraction to a global audience and they use it to say ‘This Means More’.

But it won’t be there if those who make it happen are priced out, that uniqueness dies with those who dedicate their own time to show their support.

Some may say it’s ‘only a two percent increase’, but when does it stop? We shouldn’t be arguing over why it’s okay that something is getting more expensive – the club didn’t need to do it.

SAM: I agree with Jo completely.

Perhaps it did mean that there was a slight lack in sense of occasion before the match, but it was no excuse for Liverpool’s performance and, if anything, showed why supporters need to be valued.

Also, whether or not it had an effect on the team is somewhat irrelevant. If it did, well a protest should have ramifications.


Main reasons for the performance?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, April 11, 2024: Atalanta's Matteo Ruggeri celebrates at the final whistle as Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks dejected during the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and BC Atalanta at Anfield. Atalanta won 3-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JO: A number of factors, I think. A lot of players didn’t have any rhythm, Tsimikas is the obvious proof of that, and it looked as though they’d never even met each other.

Exhaustion was also a factor, Van Dijk, Macca and Endo looked off their feet from early on and perhaps we underestimated Atalanta as well, we’ve been guilty of that a fair bit this season.

My ear is still ringing from the shouts of the person sat two seats down from me who cried out for the players to simply move – it wasn’t much of an ask, but they were statues half the time and it’s as though the man-marking made their brains stop working.

SAM: It is easy to forget Atalanta’s role in all this. They executed manager Gasperini’s game plan to a tee and got their rewards.

I think the Reds underestimated them slightly on the night and were caught lacking concentration at the back.

Liverpool weren’t quick enough to adapt and work out how to play against their man-marking system, and didn’t show any urgency until injury time.


Who could say they played well?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, November 30, 2023: Liverpool's Cody Gakpo looks dejected after missing a chance during the UEFA Europa League Group E match day 5 game between Liverpool FC and LASK at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

SAM: Gakpo started brightly and you could argue Elliott was Liverpool’s best in the first half, despite being taken off at the break.

Robertson was the standout for me, though; the difference in quality between him and Tsimikas is enormous. The Scotsman linked well with Gakpo on the left but the forwards couldn’t take advantage of his crosses.

On the one occasion there was somewhere there to finish, Salah was caught just offside.

JO: Is it harsh to say no one? I’m struggling to find a redeeming quality from any of what we witnessed, but I guess if I had to choose one I would say Harvey Elliott.

It was a little unfair that he came off at half time but you can understand what Klopp was attempting to do.


Who comes in to play against Palace?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 17, 2024: Liverpool's Conor Bradley arrives before the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

SAM: Bradley has to come in given Gomez’s underwhelming display, as does Diaz. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nunez dropped. He’s simply not stepped up when needed of late.

We could see Gravenberch or Elliott in midfield, instead of Szoboszlai, too. Jota is the obvious other candidate to start, but the manager will be as careful as possible with him.

JO: Sunday was a must-win irrespective of what unfolded on Thursday, but it has now become season-defining.

Anything but a win and our season unravels in a cruel and swift fashion.

I don’t think Jota will be ready to start – if he is, throw him in – but you’d assume Salah-Darwin-Diaz will be the front three.

Bradley must come in for Gomez, who had a stinker, and Robertson on the other side ought to give us some more width and pace. And I’d be tempted to give Elliott another chance over Szoboszlai.

All I want to see is a reaction. Heads dropped continually on Thursday and few, if any, players showed any real frustration or desire to turn it around. Wipe the slate clean and go again, there’s no other choice!