7 December 2021
15:00 ET CANADA-USA | 22:00 Cairo Local Time
Danny Makkelie (Netherlands)
Liverpool will travel to Italy to face AC Milan at San Siro on Tuesday evening in the final round of the group stage of the Champions League campaign. The two teams go into the clash from very different positions and consequently, with very different motives. At the same time, FC Porto face Atletico Madrid at the Estadio Dragao.
This match is certainly of the ‘all or nothing’ sort for the Rossoneri. A win is their only chance to progress into the knockout stages, and even then it’s not certain – they’ll be keeping one eye on the happenings at the Dragao and hoping for a draw there, or an Atletico win by not too many goals. As things stand, Milan are in third place with just four points from five matches, the same tally as Atletico at the bottom but with a slightly better goal difference. Porto are ahead with five, and if they manage to beat the La Liga champions, it’ll all have been in vain for Milan.
Over in Serie A, Stefano Pioli’s team are going very strong. They top the table after 16 rounds with 38 points, one more than city rivals Inter, two more than Napoli in third place, and four more than Atalanta in fourth.
Milan’s last-six run consists in a 1-1 draw in the Milan Derby, nominally played at home though both teams actually play at the same stadium, a 4-3 defeat away to Fiorentina, their first of the league campaign, a 0-1 win over Atletico in Madrid, a 1-3 home defeat to Sassuolo, a 0-3 triumph away to Genoa, and a 2-0 home win over Salernitana. Franck Kessie and Alexis Saelemaekers were both on target within 20 minutes from the start of that match.
A patchy period, obviously, but it seems they’re starting to find their feet again.
The worst aspect of this match is the fact that Pioli won’t be able to count on several very important players through injuries. Fullback Davide Calabria, centre-back Simon Kjaer, wingers Samu Castillejo and Ante Rebic, as well as striker Olivier Giroud, are all out of action. Striker Pietro Pellegri, 20, was forced off against Salernitana after just 15 minutes.
With Kjaer absent for several months more due to an ACL tear, Fikayo Tomori is set to pair up with Alessio Romagnoli in the heart of defence, flanked by Theo Hernandez and Alessandro Florenzi. The return of Mike Maignan between the posts is a huge boost.
Pioli has a wide range of midfield options, with Franck Kessie, Ismail Bennacer, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Sandro Tonali all vying for the two deeper positions in the starting XI. Brahim Diaz is the man to play in a more advanced role, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic leads the line supported by Raphael Leao and Alexis Saelemaekers.
Liverpool fans are probably still in a state of bliss following their triumph over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday. They had plenty of chances to score earlier, as did the hosts to be honest, but in the end it had to be Divock Origi in the 94th minute, writing another chapter in the book of his unbelievable moments in a Liverpool shirt.
The title race in the Premier League has taken a fresh turn this weekend, with defending champions Manchester City and Liverpool both overtaking Chelsea. At the moment, City lead the way with 35 points from 15 matches, Liverpool are second with 34, and Chelsea are right behind with 33 after losing to West Ham.
Things are far less exciting in the Champions League for the Merseysiders at this point. Having won all five matches so far, they’ve firmly sealed the top spot and have not a worry in the world as they travel to Italy.
In all competitions, Liverpool’s last six matches enclose a 3-2 defeat away to West Ham (their only loss of the season in any competition so far), a 4-0 home win over Arsenal, a 2-0 home win over Porto, a 4-0 thrashing of Southampton also at home, a 1-4 win away over Everton in the Merseyside Derby, and the already mentioned 0-1 win over Wolves at the Molineux on Saturday.
Liverpool also have a number of players missing at the moment, though none of those absences are very fresh, which obviously means manager Jurgen Klopp has had time and opportunities to adapt to the situation. Teenage midfielder Harvey Elliott, who started the season so well before getting his ankle broken, will be out for a while yet. Forward Roberto Firmino (hamstring) and midfielder Curtis Jones (eye) are also unavailable, as is vice-captain James Milner through suspension.
Klopp will be able to welcome defender Joe Gomez and midfielder Naby Keita back into the fold, however, after they took part in team training recently, and both will be hoping to get a runout at San Siro. Ibrahima Konate is likely to start in the heart of defence, with both Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip due a rest. Kostas Tsimikas will take the place of Andy Robertson on the left defensive flank, and it remains to be seen if Klopp puts Neco Williams on the right.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Takumi Minamino and Origi will obviously hope to be named in the team as well.
LIVE: AC Milan vs Liverpool | UEFA Champions League
15:00 ET CANADA-USA | 22:00 Cairo Local Time