My, how the sight of a Brazilian can warm the cockles…. Fabinho’s return ahead of schedule was exactly (and literally) what the doctor ordered for a beleaguered Jurgen Klopp, whose post-match rant against Sky and BT Sport is not without merits – once again this week, the Reds face three games in the space of seven days. It certainly feels as though the broadcasters are running the sport right now.
At least the hectic period began on a bright note. Fabinho slotted back into the centre of defence and barely gave Jamie Vardy a sniff in an outstanding 3-0 victory over Leicester on Sunday.
Much has been made of Liverpool’s mini defensive crisis, but with the Brazilian restored to full fitness and James Milner slotting in gamely at right back, it was much ado about nothing against a Foxes side that seemed hellbent on avoiding a cricket score defeat rather than attacking.
The floodgates opened when Jonny Evans bizarrely headed home an own goal from a corner, and just four minutes a sparkling build-up was completed when Diogo Jota glanced home Andy Robertson’s pinpoint cross.
Most onlookers presumed that Leicester would burst into life in the second period, but that never materialised as the Reds monopolised possession and after a mad goalmouth scramble both Bobby Firmino and Sadio Mane arguably should have added a third.
But the Brazilian frontman would not be denied, as another header from a cross gave Firmino a much-needed boost of confidence and confirmed Liverpool’s superiority in a game which perhaps most thought would be much closer than it was.
Klopp will now lead his patched-up troop into Champions League action on Wednesday against free-scoring Atalanta.
Liverpool Team News
Do you want the good news or the bad news?
We’ll start with the bad. Naby Keita limped off against Leicester in the second half and appeared to be nursing a hamstring injury, and typically with such a complaint a spell on the sidelines duly follows.
Xherdan Shaqiri is battling a hamstring strain of his own picked up while on international duty, and he too looks likely to miss out.
It seems likely that Jordan Henderson will also be absent, while Trent Alexander-Arnold is not expected to return until December. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez of course remain on the long-term injury list.
Now for some brighter news. Mo Salah has tested negative for coronavirus and, given that he began his isolation period more than a week ago, could in theory play a part against the Italians. Thiago could also return, albeit likely from the substitutes’ bench.
The other big question is whether Fabinho will be fit enough to play twice in barely 72 hours, and if he isn’t then young Rhys Williams could come into a youthful back four that may also feature Neco Williams and Kostas Tsimikas, who could deputise for Andy Robertson. The Scot has a niggling muscle problem that could do with some rest.
Given how many goals Atalanta concede, don’t be surprised if Klopp looks to take advantage with his almost 4-2-4 like formation, with all of his big attacking weapons fielded at once.
It’s a shame that fans aren’t allowed inside the ground when Atalanta play, because they would surely feel as though they are getting full value for money.
Their eight Serie A games so far have witnessed a whopping 32 goals – 18 for, 14 against – in a run which has seen them deliver a run of W4 D2 L2.
It’s notable that they were thrashed 1-3 and 1-4 by Sampdoria and Napoli respectively, and that goes with their 0-5 defeat to Liverpool in the Champions League.
But let’s not play down their attacking threat. They average more than two goals scored per game in Serie A, and put two past Ajax and four by Midtjylland in the Champions League. They are there for the taking, but boy do they know how to put the ball in the net.
Liverpool vs Atalanta Betting Tips
Given their proclivity for a goal or two, Atalanta are dangerous outsiders here and so the 8/11 about a Liverpool victory – assuming one or two changes are made to the starting eleven – does not represent value.
The 8/13 on Both Teams to Score & Over 2.5 Goals certainly does, however, while both Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota are available at odds-against prices to score at any time – Mane at the very least looks to be a great bet.