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Liverpool’s domination in Europe is a curious tale isn’t it? I don’t necessarily mean very recently, but at certain points in their turbulent spells, they’ve always exceeded expectations in this competition.
Now, I do not buy the whole mystique when it comes to certain football grounds and big nights – Celtic Park, Old Trafford and certainly not Anfield – but I do believe history breeds a need to create more. When clubs have a very distinguished identity, that reinforcement on big European nights can really be the 1% of separation between Europe’s elite.
There probably isn’t a manager on the planet better rehearsed in what it means to *be* Liverpool, and Jurgen Klopp’s forceful nature when it comes to displaying identity always appears to shine through at the club. To be clear, when the groups were drawn, I didn’t expect anyone to be calling this Ajax fixture a huge game for Liverpool. But, given how it’s panned out, a loss here would be catastrophic. Anyway, a big night at Anfield means one thing – a tasty Same Game Multi to whet your appetite.
It’s just at the stage now where Klopp surely can’t afford to keep playing such a strong side in consecutive games. You’d expect him to bring in Jordan Henderson, who made a huge difference against Brighton, as well as a return of Sadio Mane.
But there won’t be exclusively incomings, and while Mo Salah is certainly ‘fresher’ if you like post his COVID-positive period, but to ask him to come back in and play ninety here might be pushing it. Roberto Firmino is central to everything Liverpool do well, and his absence makes them an ever-so-slightly softer touch. This game could open up for Ajax, so the odds-against about the double chance here are generous given how tight the game was in Amsterdam.
It’s Liverpool at Anfield – let’s not get carried away, they’re going to score. While they failed to find the net against Atalanta in their previous game in this competition, the annoyance that Klopp evidently had from that is enough to guarantee a goal here, however it comes.
But, that back four has its problems, and the Reds boss admitted he has to accept that they’re hardly on the same page as of yet – especially with Trent Alexander-Arnold injured too. Ajax are one of the best teams to watch in Europe and they’ll create chance on Merseyside.
In a gorgeous narrative tie-in, Liverpool will somehow overcome an early setback after failing to score in the opening half. They looked shaky at times against Brighton, and their best passages of play were actually direct rather than containing sustained build-up – think the Mane header and the Salah goal. If they try this against Ajax, they won’t have anywhere near the same level of success.
Not too many people are familiar with the Moroccan attacking midfielder and maybe for good reason. If I told you he had a spell at Fulham, you’d scratch your head. Granted it’s taken quite some time for him to find actual form, but he’s now one of the best playmakers in Europe. He will be key to Ajax creating an overload in midfield against an otherwise understaffed Liverpool middle-three. He’s averaging a goal every two games in the Eredivisie and he can carry that form into this clash.
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