Ajax victory gives Liverpool the chance to get title defence back on track

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Wednesday night’s victory at the Johan Cruijff ArenA ensured that Jurgen Klopp’s men got their 2020-21 Champions League campaign off to a winning start.

The Dutch champions, however, gave the English champions a close game and were only undone by Argentinian full-back Nicolás Tagliafico’s bizarre own goal from a Sadio Mane mishit.

The win puts Liverpool second in the group as Atalanta destroyed Danish champions FC Midtjylland 4-0 to put the Italians top of Group D.

Led by highly rated manager, Gian Piero Gasperini, the 62-year-old guided the club to the Champions League quarter-finals last season in their debut in the competition.

Atalanta and Ajax will certainly be a threat to Liverpool’s chances of progressing to the knockout stages. While the prize of topping the group is often an easier draw.

A clean-sheet without Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool’s victory in Amsterdam was huge for the club after a terrible week for the club.

The Merseyside derby against Everton resulted in star defender and vice-captain Virgil van Dijk getting seriously injured by a rash challenge by Toffees goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

The England stopper somehow managed to avoid any form of punishment from the Premier League and the FA, although, the consensus amongst football fans is that the challenge should have warranted a penalty and a sending off.

With no retrospective fine or suspension for Pickford it brings into question the League’s integrity when career threatening challenges like that are made.

It was very reminiscent of former Manchester United captain Roy Keane’s terrible challenge on former Manchester City midfielder Alf-Inge Håland which ended the Norwegian’s career.

Interestingly Borussia Dortmund star Erling Braut Håland is the son of the former Man City star. The Danish striker has established himself as one of the best young strikers in the world.

On a side-note it will be interesting to see if Liverpool FC do bid for the striker in the near future.

Back to the repercussions of the derby, captain Jordan Henderson also put the ball in the net in stoppage time, only for the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to disallow the goal due to an apparent offside with Sadio Mane’s elbow.

It looks onside though in most fans, commentator’s and spectators’ opinion.

So, with all these on the field and off the field distractions, boss Klopp will be happy to have secured victory and a clean sheet at a difficult venue without his star defender.

Ajax famously got to the Champions League semi finals in 2018-19, the season that Liverpool would go on to win their sixth European Cup, seeing off the Dutch team’s conquerors Tottenham Hotspur in the final in Madrid.

Fabinho and Joe Gomez impress

For all the talk regarding the missing van Dijk, midfielder Fabinho put in a man of the match performance against Ajax filling in superbly at centre-half.

A memorable goal-line clearance was actually very reminiscent to that of James Milner’s last season against Bournemouth in a 2-1 win back in March.

If Fabinho can keep up this high level in the next few matches for the club, the gloom surrounding the Dutchman’s horror injury will hopefully soon be lifted.

Defender Joe Gomez after some shaky performances of late, also had a really good game which should boost his confidence going into the next few matches.

Stand-in goalkeeper Adrian also put in a solid performance after earning his first clean sheet of the season.

Challenge of Chris Wilder’s side

Liverpool will be back in action at Anfield this evening as they take on Sheffield United at 8pm in sixth round of Premier League fixtures.

Jurgen Klopp’s team have three wins, a draw and a defeat to their name, placing them fourth in the table behind surprise packages Everton, Aston Villa and Leeds United.

This means that victory against Chris Wilder’s team is imperative and Klopp will remain keen to prove that his team can manage in van Dijk’s absence.

Another player willing to prove a point is Rhian Brewster. Liverpool sold the England under-21 striker for 25 million to the Yorkshire outfit.

After impressing for the Anfield club in pre-season it was a shock to see him leave, although the sale helped generate the purchases of Spanish playmaker Thiago Alcantara and Wolves’ Diogo Jota.

Brewster will no doubt be extra motivated to impress against the team he came through the academy at.

Alisson still out

Klopp’s number one keeper Alisson remains side-lined with a shoulder injury but the rumour is that he will return by the end of the month or at least in time for next month’s encounter against Man City.

Social media latest

Much of the Liverpool fans and players’ reactions this week came after victory over Ajax.

Following wins at Bayern’s Allianz Arena and Porto’s Estádio do Dragão in recent seasons, the addition of the Johan Cruijff ArenA marked another impressive away triumph.

The likes of England defenders Trent Alexander Arnold and Joe Gomez, midfield veteran James Milner and striker Sadio Mane, all hailed the win on Instagram.

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While Portugal attacker Jota was also happy with the result.

Conclusions and Predictions

Last time out I corrected predicted the exact score of the Merseyside derby which was indeed a 2-2 draw and Dominic Calvert Lewin being the dangerman.

This time I think the wily old veteran of Billy Sharp may be quite a handful for Fabinho and Gomez. While if Brewster catches fire, with his talent, pace and finishing, he can be extremely dangerous.

Why the club sold him baffles me.

Sheffield United are good at set-pieces so I expect Klopp’s men to defend much better than the corner that led to Michael Keane’s equaliser in the derby draw last weekend.

Someone like Phil Jagielka is strong in the air so Liverpool will have to be on their guard.

However, I believe Liverpool will get the job done though, so I am predicting an efficient 2-0 win.

About the Author

James Spencer
My name is James and I have supported Liverpool since I was 6 years old. My favourite players growing up were Steven Gerrard and Sami Hyypia. My most memorable match would be the UEFA Cup Final win over Deportivo Alaves that finished 5-4 to Liverpool! I am studying journalism in Manchester although I am a Liverpool fan through and through.