Liverpool host Ajax at Anfield on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League. The hosts need a win to secure progression to the knockout rounds whilst Ajax are level with Atalanta and even a loss would give the Dutch giants a chance to progress by beating the Italian side at home on matchday six.
Jurgen Klopp’s team had been on a run of five wins from five games after the injury to Virgil Van Dijk. They got a fine result to draw 1-1 at Manchester City after that and were then fantastic in thrashing Leicester 3-0 at home.
In their last two matches, they were initially poor in losing 2-0 at home to Atalanta. They did not have a shot on target in that match and looked more focused on their upcoming Premier League match. At Brighton on Saturday, Diogo Jota put Liverpool in front before a very late VAR-given penalty for Pascal Gross after a foul by Andy Robertson. With just 0.9 Expected Goals created, Klopp’s men were below their best.
Liverpool Team News
The injury curse at Anfield continues. In defence, all of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk remain out (the latter duo possibly for the rest of the season). That could mean James Milner (who himself is an injury doubt) and Fabinho again cover in the backline. Nat Phillips is not registered for the Champions League. Jordan Henderson has a chance of returning.
In midfield, Thiago Alcantara is still injured and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is absent too. Xherdan Shaqiri is also missing, leaving Liverpool with very few options in most positions except the frontline where the big sitter in Salah, Mane and Firmino are fit and Jota is on fire.
Klopp will want to put this group to bed with a win in this match. Having looked distracted against Atalanta due to a short turnaround time to Brighton, Liverpool have four rest days after this before facing Wolves on Sunday. All attention can be put into this game and Liverpool are expected to play all of their top attackers, possibly with Jota joining the other three in the starting XI in a 4-2-3-1 shape.
Ajax are in amazing form in the Eredivisie having played 10 matches with nine wins and one draw. Their last two league games have both ended 5-0. They first beat Heracles as Zakaria Labyad got a brace with Lassina Traore, David Neres and Dusan Tadic also on the score sheet. Their last match saw a 5-0 victory at Emmen with five different scorers including Labyad and Traore again.
In Europa, Ajax lost 1-0 to Liverpool at home, then 2-2 away at Atalanta (throwing away a 2-0 lead). They since beat Midtjylland 2-1 away and 3-1 at home.
Ajax Team News
Ajax have practically a full team to choose from with only Mohammed Kudus out injured in midfield. Daley Blind and Nicolas Tagliafico were rested against Emmen and both Lassina Traore and Dusan Tadic could be taken off at half time to save them for the trip to Anfield.
Considering that Ajax rested some players over the weekend, it is clear that this game is top priority. However, this really is a free hit in that even a defeat would leave them three points behind Atalanta going into the final match. An Ajax win there would see them progress on the head to head and even a draw at Anfield wouldn’t change those requirements (assuming Atalanta beat Midtjylland).
Of course, a win here would make it possible to top the group which a defeat wouldn’t. But with practically no benefit at all to a draw and goal difference not a factor against Atalanta (head to head takes priority), an attacking and brave approach is expected.
Liverpool have won 6 of their last 9 matches
Ajax haven’t lost an away CL game since 2016 – a run of 17 matches
The Reds have kept 1 clean sheet in their last 4 matches
Ajax have drawn 4 of their last 7 away CL matches
Liverpool have seen under 2.5 in 3 of their last 4 matches
Ajax have seen over 2.5 goals in 4 of their last 5 away CL matches
Diego Jota has scored 8 goals in his last 8 matches
Ajax have won their last 6 matches
This game looks likely to be high scoring considering Liverpool’s issues at the back and the lack of real value in a draw for either side. I am going for Liverpool to end Ajax’s unbeaten run on their travels in Europe. The money on Ajax to grab a draw could be worth a look too.