Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 59/50
It’s a very busy football schedule across Europe these days. On Tuesday evening, Atalanta will play host to Liverpool at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia in Bergamo, in what is arguably the most interesting contest of Group D in this season’s Champions League, while Midtjylland take on Ajax in Denmark.
Atalanta have been one of the finest surprises of the game in the last few years. They quietly rose through the Serie A ranks, until they managed to finish third in 2018/19 and qualify for the Champions League the following season. If anyone still had any doubts about the work done at the club and the ability of the team, those doubts were soon put to rest as they fully repeated the feat at the end of 2019/20.
They haven’t been blown off course this season either. At the moment, they are in fourth place in the Italian top flight, level on 12 points with champions Juventus in third after six rounds, with four wins and two defeats to their name. Those defeats came from Napoli and Sampdoria, while Torino, Lazio, Cagliari and Crotone all fell before their feet.
As for the Champions League, they thrashed Midtjylland in Denmark 0-4 in the opening round and came back from two goals down at home against Ajax to finish 2-2. They are now second in the group with four points, behind Liverpool on six.
Goalkeeper Marco Carnesecchi, defenders Mattia Caldara and Cristiano Piccini, and midfielder Marten de Roon, have all been ruled out with different injuries. On the other hand, goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini is back from a knee injury, and coach Gian Piero Gasperini will have to decide between him and Marco Sportiello for the spot between the posts.
Duvan Zapata is likely to start upfront, having come on as a substitute against Crotone, but Luis Muriel scored twice in that game and his form could tempt Gasperini to keep him in the line-up.
Having received a few shocks in close succession, namely the 7-2 thrashing at the hands of Aston Villa and the season-long injury to defender Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool seemed to have gotten back on track. Despite many writing them off with the Dutch centre-back out of action, they’ve won all four games since that unlucky 2-2 draw away to city rivals Everton.
Leeds United, Chelsea and Arsenal all fell at the hands of the Premier League champions prior to the Aston Villa debacle, and the Everton draw followed it. After that, they beat Sheffield United and West Ham, and are currently top of the league again.
In the Champions League, Liverpool started with a narrow triumph away to Ajax, before edging past Midtjylland as well, and they now top the group with six points.
As has been said, Van Dijk is out for the season. Fellow centre-back Joel Matip is now back in full training, but with a game away to Manchester City to come on Sunday, manager Jurgen Klopp might decide to start with Nathaniel Phillips alongside Joe Gomez at the back again in Bergamo, after the 23-year-old put in a very good performance against West Ham.
Midfielder Naby Keita is also back in full training, but Thiago Alcantara still isn’t and they’re assessing his fitness daily.
Forwards Xherdan Shaqiri and Diogo Jota came off the bench against West Ham and made a real impact, so Klopp could decide to give one of them (or both) a chance from the start in this match.
This game doesn’t look like an easy job for either team. Atalanta are a tough opponent for any side, but Liverpool’s resilience and strong mentality, coupled with a large dose of quality of their own, should be enough to see them leave Italy with the full prize.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 59/50
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