Liverpool will play host to Ajax in the fifth round of the Champions League Group D on Tuesday evening at Anfield, in a game that should be very interesting from several aspects. In the other match of the group, Atalanta will take on Midtjylland in Bergamo.
Date & Time: 15:00 ET Canada-USA | 22:00 Cairo Local Time
It has been a season of numerous frustrations for the reigning Premier League champions. Following a disappointing home defeat to Atalanta last week, the same Atalanta they had beaten 0-5 in Bergamo, they were held to a 1-1 draw away to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, in a contest which saw three VAR decisions go against them – two disallowed goals and a stoppage-time penalty for the home side which saw Jurgen Klopp’s men drop two points.
To make matters worse, even the player who won the penalty, former Manchester United and Arsenal forward Danny Welbeck, admitted it was ‘soft’.
But what appeared to have cause the most contention from Klopp and his team was the fact that they had to play that game Saturday lunchtime, not full three days after the Atalanta defeat in the Champions League.
Nonetheless, the Reds are behind Premier League leaders Tottenham Hotspur on mere goal-difference at the moment, and they still top their Champions League group to boot – it’s still very far from being in trouble, but they will have to start turning things around very soon to avoid getting closer to it.
Liverpool won three of their last six games in all competitions, drawing twice and losing once.
Much has been said about Liverpool’s defensive injury problems recently, with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez out most likely for the season and Trent Alexander-Arnold out with a calf issue at the moment. But the midfield section seems to have taken over as the most troublesome one – Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Xherdan Shaqiri are all out, and now James Milner has taken the place in the treatment room just vacated by the newly recovered Jordan Henderson.
Nonetheless, Klopp will be happy to have his captain back – he and Georginio Wijnaldum seem nailed on to start, probably with young Curtis Jones too, though there is also Takumi Minamino if need be. With Alexander-Arnold and Milner out, Neco Williams will likely be on the right defensive flank. The manager will perhaps combine Joel Matip, who was rested against Brighton, with Rhys Williams in the heart of defence to rest Fabinho this time.
The Dutch side are on a fantastic run of results at the moment. They won all of their last six matches in all competitions, three of them by putting five goals past their opponents. Most recently, they thrashed FC Emmen in the Eredivisie by 0-5, with Davy Klaasen, Zakaria Labyad, Lassina Traore, Jurgen Ekkelenkamp and Quincy Promes all on target.
Indeed, Ajax only failed to win once since Liverpool beat them in Amsterdam – a 2-2 draw away to Atalanta. The first match they played after the Liverpool defeat was away to VVV-Venlo, and they won by 0-13.
At the moment, Ajax are at the top of the Eredivisie table with 27 points from 10 games. In the Champions League, they enter this round from second place with seven points, the same as Atalanta in third and two less than Liverpool at the top.
As is the case with Liverpool’s Milner, Ajax have an experienced player suffering from a hamstring issue as well – former Manchester United defender Daley Blind, who is unlikely to make the Anfield trip. Midfielder Mohammed Kudus suffered a serious knee injury in the reverse fixture and will be out for a long time yet.
However, winger Antony is back in contention after overcoming a hamstring problem of his own.