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September 19, 2021
September 19, 2021
8 mins: Origi wins the ball on the right, and for a moment Jota is completely clear in the middle. Origi tries to find him, but his centre is too feeble and Kjaer intercepts.
5 mins: Milan are being turned to mush down the left flank, and this time the ball is touched to Jota, who shifts it onto his left foot and has a shot that deflects wide.
3 mins: And a chance! Robertson fizzes in a cross from the left, and Origi touches it wide at the near post. Henderson, notably, was bombing into the centre-forward position there.
2 mins: A strong start for the home side, and Keita has the night’s first shot, a 20-yard left-footer. It’s not a very good one, and Kjaer blocks.
1 min: Players of both sides take the knee, before Mo Salah starts the game for the home side.
Right then. The players are out, the coin has been tossed, pennants exchanged. Now for the football.
“Nothing to learn here? Wait a minute, yes there is,” insists Sammy Lopez. “On the left, there’s one with no nameplate! Rude, or forgetful?” That’s Nathaniel “one-pair” Phillips, who has played 21 times for Liverpool now, probably enough for a nameplate you’d have thought.
Jurgen Klopp addresses his team selection:
I had to force myself to be really sensible. That’s how it is, we had to be like this. We have a lot of games coming up. It’s not exactly what Virgil wanted, it’s not what I wanted either, but it’s what we needed. It’s a good line-up, the boys know each other and will play really well. Up front we need speed, we have to use the squad. It’s nothing to do with disrespecting Milan or whatever, it’s just bringing fresh legs. I always believe in Divock, I always did, and I’m pretty sure he’ll have a good game tonight.
Inside the Liverpool dressing room. There’s not really a lot to learn here, except the footwear inconsistency: Nathaniel Phillips has one pair of boots (plus a pair of sliders, everyone’s got a pair of sliders), many players have two, and some – Jota, Milner, Salah, Gomez – have three. I would say that one pair of boots is not enough, but that three is too many. Essentially, two feels right.
Headline news: Virgil van Dijk can put his feet up, being as he is only on the bench, because Joe Gomez, who has played one minute of first-team football since last November, is back in the starting XI. So too is Divock Origi, while Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita replace Thiago and the injured Harvey Elliott in midfield.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Gomez, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Keita, Jota, Salah, Origi. Subs: Adrian, Kelleher, Van Dijk, Konate, Thiago, Milner, Mane, Tsimikas, Phillips, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Minamino.
Milan: Maignan; Calabria, Kjær, Tomori, Hernandez; Kessie, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao; Rebic. Subs: Jungdal, Tatarusanu; Ballo-Toure, Florenzi, Gabbia, Kalulu, Romagnoli; Tonali; Giroud, Maldini.
Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland).
Liverpool v Milan, you say? Don’t mind if I do. Two clubs oozing European pedigree but which the gods of randomness have previously decreed never should meet outside Champions League finals. Everyone will remember the phenomenal 2005 final, fewer the more humdrum 2007 version, but those are the only ever competitive meetings between these sides. Liverpool have played Inter four times, Juventus and Napoli six times each, and Roma on seven occasions, but somehow their orbit and Milan’s never quite intersects. Liverpool have played Udinese, Genoa and Fiorentina as often as they have played the Rossoneri.
But now they are set to double their all-time head-to-head match count in the space of a few weeks, and we are alive to witness it. Milan have started their domestic season handily – three wins in their first three games with a 7-1 aggregate – and Liverpool likewise – three wins in their first four games with an 8-1 aggregate. With Atlético Madrid and Porto also in the group there’s little room for error here: three home wins and one positive away result is the most obvious formula for progression.
“This is the strongest group we have had since I am at Liverpool, no doubt about that,” says Jürgen Klopp. “In 2013 at Dortmund we had a real Champions League group as well. We had Manchester City, Real Madrid and Ajax, which was a proper group where people said: ‘Oh my God, how will we get through?’ This is a proper group as well. This group will be exciting from the first second to the last second.”
So, to summarise: exciting times. Thanks for sharing them with me. Now, for more of Klopp’s pre-match thoughts, read this:
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