Champions League is back at Anfield as Liverpool faces AC Milan, one of the game’s other genuine giants, and one that the Reds have, incredibly, only faced twice in official competition, with both sides winning a European Cup final against the other, in 2005 and 2007.
The rossoneri partake in Group B following a second place finish in last year’s Serie A, 12 points behind local rivals and title winners Inter. Most fans who watched the Italian league last year would agree that constituted somewhat of an overperformance relative to their play on a weekly basis, but despite a few years in the wilderness, Milan remain a talented side, and although they lost Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Çalhanoğlu on free transfers this summer, they’ve done a good job bringing in replacements, adding Mike Maignan and Sandro Tonali to their numbers.
Stefano Pioli’s men currently sit second in Serie A, having started the season with three straight wins, and although last season’s star performer Zlatan Ibrahimovic won’t be travelling with the squad courtesy of an injury, top scorers Olivier Giroud and Rafael Leão should be good to go.
With this being the first European fixture of the season and Klopp wanting to get off to the best possible start, it is unlikely that Liverpool will be making significant alterations to their squad. Harvey Elliott will miss out the next several months after undergoing ankle surgery today, and Roberto Firmino has yet to return to full team training, but Takumi Minamino is back, and Jürgen Klopp should otherwise have a relatively complete squad to choose from.
Virgil van Dijk and Joël Matip have struck up an impressive partnership that one hopes against hope won’t be interrupted by injury any time soon and are likely to start yet again, as are the Reds’ superstar fullbacks.
In midfield, Jordan Henderson joining Thiago and Fabinho should offer plenty of control, while the front line of Sadio Mané, Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah picks itself given the situation.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “They played a brilliant last season, ended up second [in Serie A] and started this season really good as well. It will be for sure a very tough game for both sides.”
Stefano Pioli: “We need to be intelligent on the pitch and understand where the space is. Liverpool want to push and won’t want to sit back and wait.”
The Officials (POL)
Referee: Szymon Marciniak
Assistant referees: Paweł Sokolnicki, Tomasz Listkiewicz
Fourth official: Tomasz Musiał
VAR: Tomasz Kwiatkowski, Bastian Dankert (GER)