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Champions League: Atalanta vs Liverpool; ‘This is the biggest challenge we have in the Champions League so far’

An away trip to Italy is what is in store for Liverpool on Tuesday night as they face free scoring Atalanta.  

The Italians who are managed by Gian Piero Gasperini sit fourth in the Serie A table and also are unbeaten in Champions League Group D but Liverpool will be hoping that comes to an end once the 90 minutes is up.

Last season’s Champions League quarter finalists were so close to beating eventual finalists PSG and have gained the reputation as entertainers scoring 98 goals in the league last season so it’ll be a challenge for Liverpool’s makeshift back line who have overcome every obstacle so far. 

Against West Ham Nathaniel Phillips was given his Premier League debut and got man of the match for a splendid display as he bullied Sebastian Haller winning most of the aerial duels barely putting a foot wrong. 

Unfortunately for him he was not selected in the Champions League squad as the assumption was that Phillips would leave before the end of the transfer window, so he won’t be involved against Atalanta. 

Youngster Rhys Williams stepped in for injured Fabinho in the last Champions League game against Midtjylland and was also subbed on against Ajax. In both of those games he certainly looked capable of putting in good performances. 

The 19-year-old may be needed from the start against Atalanta however manager Jurgen Klopp revealed in his press conference that some players will be back for the game. 

He said: “Joel (Matip) and Naby (Keita) trained yesterday. We have to wait until medical department gives us green or orange or red light.  

“We have more centre-halves available than we probably will line up together, so that’s good.” 

So, Joel Matip may be drafted in for his first game back since the Merseyside Derby to get his match fitness up before the vital game against Manchester City coming up on Sunday. 

It will be his job to keep the Italians attack quiet which consists of Josep Illic, Luis Muriel, Duvan Zapata and captain Alejandro Gomez who have scored 15 goals combined already. 

Their stats as a team in Serie A are quite similar to Liverpool’s this season. Atalanta have scored 17 goals and conceded 13 whereas Liverpool have also scored 17 whilst conceding two more than the Italians. 

So, the game may be a goal fest or due to the similarity it could also be a close contest. 

Jurgen Klopp said about Atalanta: “This is the biggest challenge we have in the Champions League so far. 

“Atalanta very difficult to play against. Slightly similar to Leeds in their approach. It will be a tough one.” 

Even though Klopp has said it will be the biggest challenge so far in the Champions League changes may be on the cards. 

It does not seem to be the stupidest thing to do however with Manchester City coming up on the weekend which will prove both sides title credentials. 

The front three may be rotated. Roberto Firmino’s form has not improved if anything it has decreased as the Brazilian looks like a player short on confidence so it would not be a surprise to see him replaced but by who. 

Against Midtjylland Divock Origi got a rare start but did not make the most of it whilst Takumi Minamino started as well but also failed to impress. 

The likelihood is that one of them will be in the starting line-up to give Firmino a break. 

Xherdan Shaqiri and Diogo Jota are the other two back-ups for the usual front three but the pair must be knocking on the door for the starting eleven due to them combining to win the game against West Ham with Jota scoring another winning goal and also showing exceptional form over the last few weeks. 

It would be a surprise to not see them both start. 

In midfield Naby Keita will be available but Thiago Alcantara was yet again not involved in training so it unfortunately it looks likely that then Spaniard will miss the game.  

Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum both started in the West Ham victory so one of them may be given a rest but with the five substitutes available to Klopp he could even possibly rotate them both during the game. 

Full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson have started every game since the international break but due to their importance they may yet again be in the starting eleven in Italy. 

Neco Williams will be ready to deputise as well as summer signing Kostas Tsimikas who is back in training finally but it may be a rather difficult game to throw the pair into the deep end but there is no better way to learn and develop. 

Another midweek game in Europe’s elite competition it is then for the Reds, isn’t it just great? 

You will miss it when the dreaded internationals are back that’s for sure. 

Written by Elliot Thompson

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