Liverpool travel to Bergamo on Tuesday and will face Atalanta as both sides look to take control of Group D.
Both teams won on the opening matchday but last week while Liverpool eked out a win over Midtjylland, Atalanta needed a second-half comeback to avoid defeat by Ajax, ending up with a 2-2 draw. This leaves the Italians desperate for a win to send them top of the group and make passage to the knockout stages much more likely.
We’ve come up with four predictions as to what will happen when they go head-to-head.
Atalanta v Liverpool betting favourites:
- Atalanta to win: 11/5
- Draw: 3/1
- Liverpool to win: 21/20
1. Atalanta will line up like…
Atalanta have won hearts and minds over the last year with their thrilling brand of hurricane football. La Dea play a scintillating attacking game and were Serie A’s top scorers last season (notching 98 times) but they will come into the game against Liverpool with several players missing through injury.
Pierluigi Gollini and Mattia Caldara are long-term injury absentees while Marten de Roon and Robin Gosens missed their weekend game and have not been named in the squad that takes on the Reds on Tuesday.
Nevertheless Atalanta should line-up in their classic 3-4-3 shape with Rafael Toloi, Cristian Romero (fitness permitting) and Berat Djimsiti in the back line. Toloi and Romero picked up knocks at the weekend but Atalanta hope they are fit enough to start.
It is a similar situation with Hans Hateboer at right-wing-back. Alternatively, Gasperini may need to rely on the Bosko Sutalo in his stead while Johan Mojica is expected to sub in for Gosens.
While many are absent or struggling with fitness, they should have enough bodies in midfield to unleash Duvan Zapata, Josip Ilicic and the irrepressible Papu Gomez in attack, with Luis Muriel to call on off the bench – although there are some rumours the Colombian may even start in place of Illicic.
This side play devastating football and, like Liverpool, create most of their chances out wide, albeit through combination play as opposed to Liverpool and their full-backs. Atalanta are a hurricane of movement and with their ability to bring Muriel or Illicic on late to try and impact the game, Liverpool will have their work cut out if they want to leave Bergamo with points.
Predicted Atalanta XI: Sportiello; Toloi, Romero, Djimsiti; Sutalo, Freuler, Pasalic, Mojica; Ilicic, Gomez; Zapata
2. Liverpool will line up like…
By now everyone knows the Liverpool XI. Or at least, everyone knows the Liverpool XI when the side is at full health.
While they’re not as devastated as their hosts on Tuesday, some injuries have clipped the squad depth a tad. Most notably the colossal Virgil van Dijk is obviously still out and his replacement Fabinho is also sidelined. Thiago hasn’t played since being injured late in the Merseyside derby, and it would be a surprise if he featured in Italy (which is a shame as redirecting play through the middle of the pitch could devastate Atalanta).
Alisson’s in goal and three of the back four are as expected. The fourth spot is open. Nat Phillips played there at the weekend but was not named in Liverpool’s Champions League squad at the start of the season. So with Joel Matip back in training, Jurgen Klopp will be waiting till the last minute. “Decisions will be made late, late, late” he told the club’s official website. Rhys Williams looks the most likely deputy if Matip isn’t ready.
Midfield is more straightforward, even if Naby Keita is one of those players Klopp is waiting to make a decision on. Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum are available for their usual roles while you can expect to see James Milner or Curtis Jones in that final midfield spot.
Up front will almost certainly be Liverpool’s fabulous front three, even if Roberto Firmino is out of form right now. There exists a slight possibility that Klopp will simply drop one of the midfielders and play 4-2-3-1 to incorporate the in-form Diogo Jota (three goals in his last three games) but it seems unlikely as having the Portuguese as a game changer could be a useful counterbalance to Atalanta’s Muriel.
Predicted Liverpool XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Matip, Robertson; Henderson, Jones, Wijnaldum; Salah, Mané, Firmino
3. Mohamed Salah to strike
All of Liverpool’s fabulous front three serve a unique purpose to the side. They are a symbiotic unit where each can do almost anything, but they usually function with Firmino and Mané creating chances while Salah scores them.
The Egyptian has seven goals in seven games so far this season, having already notched a hat-trick (on opening day against Leeds) and even managed the striker’s classic “scoring in a heavy defeat” as he bagged two goals against Aston Villa in Liverpool’s 7-2 defeat.
So now he gets to take on an injury-ravaged Atalanta. An Atalanta side that is notoriously attacking and got ripped to bits by Victor Osimhen and Chucky Lozano two weeks ago.
Not only should you expect Salah to play well against Atalanta, but don’t be surprised to see him score, too. Hell, the way he’s playing right now he’ll probably score more than once. Atalanta will have little to cope with him at the back, so his only enemy will be his own finishing, which of course can, at times, be wayward. It’s not right now, though, and that’s why Atalanta have to be worried.
4. Liverpool to win a shootout
Atalanta are relentless. They have taken the joint-most shots so far in Serie A this season with 79. Since the start of last season they have taken 620 shots, which is the most in the division. They are a hurricane of movement and attacking pressure, and have scored 17 goals so far this season. However they’ve also conceded 13, the most in Serie A’s top half.
Last season Liverpool would have squeezed the life out of Atalanta, suffocating them with a mid-block press and a deep defensive line that would then leave them vulnerable to being gouged on the break by the Reds’ forwards. But Liverpool aren’t the same side that they were last season. They’ve conceded more goals than any other team in the Premier League this season! Now alright, that’s mostly because they lost 7-2 to Aston Villa. But, hey, they lost 7-2 to Aston Villa!
However, Liverpool have also scored 17 goals, which is also the second-most in the league. Basically they’re an up and down side that will give you a chance but will always come back at you. Looking at this, and how both teams are playing, it’s gonna be a shootout. And in a shootout you always bet on the guy with the bigger gun or the body armour, and in this match there’s no bigger gun than Mohamed Salah and no better body armour than Alisson Becker.
Liverpool to win, just.