Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp could use the visit of Atalanta to give some rest to a few of his first-team regulars – although Mohamed Salah is likely to return to the team after recovering from coronavirus. The Reds can secure their spot in the last 16 of the Champions League with victory against the Italian side at Anfield tonight.
The Reds have nine points from nine so far having thrashed Atalanta 5-0 in the reverse fixture earlier this month, with Diogo Jota scoring a hat-trick.
The Portuguese summer signing maintained his incredible start to life on Merseyside with another goal against Leicester in the Premier League on Sunday.
Jota now has eight goals in 12 games with five of them coming at Anfield and his home comforts could see him keep his spot in the front three this evening.
Salah’s recovery from COVID-19 could see return to line up on the right with Jota on the left, allowing Sadio Mane a much-needed rest.
The Senegal attacker has started all bar two of Liverpool’s league and European matches, missing the loss to Aston Villa after a positive coronavirus test and being benched against Midtjylland, though he still came on to play half-an-hour against the Danes.
Roberto Firmino missed training on Tuesday but the noises out of Liverpool are that the Brazilian, who also netted against Leicester, is not injured. However, even if that is true, Firmino may drop to the bench in favour of Takumi Minamino through the middle.
While Firmino was back to his best against Leicester, the Brazilian is almost certain to start away at Brighton, with Liverpool facing the Seagulls at 12.30pm on Saturday, less than 72 hours after this match.
And so the Japan international could displace him to be given a big chance to impress here. Klopp said of Minamino pre-match: “Taki is training well; yesterday, he trained exceptionally, for example. It’s the last session I have in mind and he was really, really good.
“It is just a strong team and offensively, thank God, we don’t have the same problems we have in pretty much all the other positions, so it’s hard to get into this team. That’s how it is.
“But there is no dip in form, it’s just a challenge. Taki is a sensational boy and a great player, he is facing that challenge, he is working hard and his time will come, no doubt.”
In midfield, Thiago Alcantara and Jordan Henderson should both miss out as they continue to recovery from injuries while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also unavailable still.
Naby Keita was added to the list of stricken stars after going off with a muscle problem against the Foxes with no real update on the severity of the Guinean’s injury as of yet.
Klopp’s need for Fabinho in defence due to other fitness issues means the midfield three almost picks itself, with Gini Wijnaldum and Curtis Jones both keeping their spots in the middle.
With Keita out, James Milner could move forward into the engine room after playing at right-back at the weekend before switching to midfield once his team-mate was forced off.
Neco Williams, who replaced Keita, could then come in with Trent Alexander-Arnold yet another absentee.
Joel Matip’s fitness will have to be carefully managed throughout the campaign with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez both out with long-term knee injuries.
And while Fabinho himself is only just back from a hamstring issue, the Brazilian may be trusted as the leader of the back-line to give Matip a rest.
Rhys Williams played the full 90 minutes away at Atalanta alongside Gomez as Liverpool kept a clean sheet and is the most likely to come back into the team here with Nat Phillips not registered for European games.
At left-back, Andy Robertson has started every single one of Liverpool’s Premier League and Champions League matches until now and the Scot is in dire need of time off.
Summer signing Kostas Tsimikas could therefore displace Robertson for his second start for the club, having come on for the final eight minutes in Italy earlier this month.
Whatever team he picks, Klopp is well aware of the threat Serie A side Atalanta will pose despite beating them so heavily away from home and said: “Atalanta is a threat without a point to prove, to be honest, but of course the night in Atalanta was a really special one.
“We played exceptionally well and pretty much [did] everything right in the right moment, in the right manner. So many things came together that we won that game the way we won it.
“But we are not only in the business since yesterday, so we know that this game has nothing to do with the game tomorrow night. That means we have to be ready again. Atalanta is a top team and with a special way to play.
“At Atalanta, we did really well and we have to do well again, otherwise we have massive problems. I expect problems, to be honest, in the game because it’s always like this.
“But we try to work on solutions for the potential problems in the short period of time we have in our hands.”
Liverpool predicted XI vs Atalanta (4-3-3): Alisson; N Williams, R Williams, Fabinho, Tsimikas; Milner, Wijnaldum, Jones; Salah, Minamino, Jota.