Who: Ajax vs Liverpool
When: Wednesday, October 21st @ 3:00pm ET
Line: Ajax +390 | Draw +290| Liverpool -141
That’s gonna leave a mark.
Liverpool are reeling. Everton’s actions in the Merseyside Derby — gutless, reckless, amateurish — leave the Reds minus Virgil van Dijk (ACL, season) and Thiago (knee) at the start of this Champions League campaign. They’re also without Alisson for at least another month. That’s a lot to absorb.
There’s not a lot of time for Jurgen Klopp to re-organize the lads before heading to Amsterdam for a showdown against Ajax.
Here’s an Ajax vs Liverpool Champions League preview.
Ajax vs Liverpool Champions League preview
So much focus is on who Liverpool are missing. Let’s focus on who they’re not.
They have very in-form versions of Sadio Mane, Mo Salah, Jordan Henderson, and Andy Robertson. Klopp should have rested attacking options in Gini Wijnaldum, Takumi Minamino and Diogo Jota. Curtis Jones is there. The cupboard is not bare.
Similarly on the Ajax front, the story is who is not there as opposed to who is. Sure, the Dutch side lost many valuable contributors. However, Mohammed Kudus, Dusan Tadic, and 20 year-old Brazilian Antony are dynamic attackers. Without VVD, they’ll challenge a backline most likely anchored by out-of-form Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.
Both managers will have their squads pressing and trying to control the game in the opposition’s half. And that’s where Ajax will get in trouble.
Liverpool simply have more talent at doing what Ajax does best.
As skilled as Kudus and Antony are (and as clinical finishers as they are), they’re young and still prone to turning the ball over in pressure situations. Liverpool’s pressing will cause them issues. If Liverpool’s front three catch Ajax too high up the pitch, they’ll carve the Dutch side up.
It’ll be interesting to see if Klopp goes to more “heavy metal soccer” now with VVD and Alisson out. In 2017-18, he did it out of necessity. When van Dijk and Alisson stabilized the backline, Klopp tightened things up. The midfield was sent out to wreak havoc instead of opening up the field. Will Klopp open things up again?
When Klopp has been forced to shake up his XI over the past year, it’s often yielded positive, offensively-driven results. This one though is interesting.
He could switch the formation, go 4-2-3-1 with Fabinho and Jordan Henderson providing some extra cover while Salah-Mane-Firmino team up with Minamino/Jota on the attack.
Or Klopp could go full heavy metal and open up the midfield with Shaqiri and Jones on the attack.
And then again, Klopp could be totally fine sticking with a 4-3-3 anchored by Gomez and Matip.
Whatever the line-up and formation, Liverpool are coming into this angry and motivated. Look for a convincing 4-1 win.