UCL: Atalanta vs Liverpool – Match Preview, Team News, Predicted XIs

Staring down the barrel of Europa League elimination, Liverpool have a mountainous hill to climb when they visit the Gewiss Stadium for the second leg of their quarter-final with Atalanta BC on Thursday night.

Truly unbelievable scenes were on display in the first-leg of this UEFA Europa League (UEL) quarter-final tie, as Atalanta defied the odds with a 3-0 win over European juggernauts Liverpool at Anfield.

That severely jeopardised Liverpool’s hopes of reaching a 21st European semi-final, a stark contrast to Atalanta who are primed to make just their second ever appearance at that stage if they can get the job finished here.

The Italians will take some stopping from realising that dream, proven by the fact that they’ve lost just one of their last 22 UEL matches (W13, D8). If the Gewiss Stadium faithful needed any more comforting, they can look to the fact their side have won the first-leg of a European tie away from home on two previous occasions, and going on to progress in both!

In contrasting fashion, Liverpool have been beaten in a home first-leg encounter in UEFA competition twice before, and were eliminated on both occasions. They were denied a 250th win in all European competition on Merseyside last week, and will need to achieve that feat in remarkable fashion if they’re to progress on this occasion, which would also see the departing Jürgen Klopp become the first Liverpool manager to guide his team to five European semi-finals.

Luckily, the Reds have a history of memorable European comebacks, and will need to produce a performance similar to their only prior visit to Bergamo, a 5-0 win in November 2020. A result like that seems highly unlikely though, especially after their Premier League aspirations took a similar blow to their European hopes last time out, following a shock 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace at the weekend which once again highlighted their wasteful nature in front of goal.

Players to watch: Atalanta’s Mario Pašalić may have already struck the killer blow with the third at Anfield last week, but with his four prior goals this season all coming in home wins, he’ll be looking to put the final nail in the coffin.

Another chapter of Liverpool European history may rest on the shoulders of Darwin Núñez, who has fired his club to victory in all 15 of his goalscoring appearances this season.

Atalanta vs Liverpool: Team News

As well as hamstring victim Giorgio Scalvini – who is also expected to sit out Thursday’s second leg – Atalanta’s defensive ranks were further ravaged before the Anfield beatdown, as ex-Arsenal man Sead Kolasinac picked up an adductor problem.

However, the Bosnia-Herzegovina international was back on the bench for the weekend’s visit of Verona, where Marten de Roon missed out on account of a yellow-card suspension, but the experienced Dutchman is now back at Gasperini’s disposal.

As a result, only Scalvini should be absent from the Atalanta squad this week, and De Roon’s timely return will likely see the 33-year-old shoe-horned into a three-man defensive wall with Berat Djimsiti and Isak Hien, as was the case at Anfield. Davide Zappacosta is back from a Serie A ban too, and should start on the right.

While the hosts’ rearguard ranks will be reinforced this week, Liverpool will likely have to make do without young right-back Conor Bradley, who overstretched his foot in the loss to Palace and had to be helped off the field by medics.

The 20-year-old has been ruled out for a couple of weeks, so Trent Alexander-Arnold should now be primed for his first start since recovering from a knee injury, while Stefan Bajcetic has not been summoned, despite returning to action for the Under-21s last week.

Ben Doak (knee), Joel Matip (knee) and Thiago Alcantara (muscle) remain out, but Alisson Becker and Diogo Jota have also battled back from their setbacks in recent weeks; the latter is a candidate to replace Luis Diaz or Darwin Nunez, whose big chance conversion rate of 19.4% is the worst in Europe’s top-five leagues.

Predicted XIs
Atalanta’s possible starting lineup:

Musso; De Roon, Djimsiti, Hien; Zappacosta, Pasalic, Ederson, Ruggeri; Koopmeiners; Scamacca, De Ketelaere

Liverpool’s possible starting lineup:

Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Szoboszlai, Mac Allister, Elliott; Salah, Jota, Diaz

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