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Atalanta v Liverpool: Joel Matip and Naby Keita face late fitness tests before Champions League tie

Liverpool
Liverpool have won 1-0 away at Ajax and 2-0 at home against FC Midtjylland in the Champions League this season

Defender Joel Matip and midfielder Naby Keita face late fitness tests before Liverpool’s Champions League game at Atalanta on Tuesday (20:00 GMT).

The pair trained on Sunday, but midfielder Thiago Alcantara was absent as he recovers from a knee injury.

“We have to wait until the medical department gives us a green, orange or red light,” said manager Jurgen Klopp.

Liverpool have won both of their Champions League games this season and are top of Group D.

Meanwhile, Atalanta, who reached the quarter-finals of the 2019-20 competition, have picked up four points from their opening two matches and are second.

This will be Liverpool’s first European match against the Italian side and Klopp is expecting a tough game.

“They obviously have a really good atmosphere, a good mood and are a proper fighting unit,” said the German.

“They are very well organised; play their system with 100% conviction, they know exactly what everybody has to do.

“I know how good they are. I actually enjoyed the analysis, I enjoyed watching them because it’s really interesting.”

Premier League leaders Liverpool will be playing their sixth game in 18 days.

Matip has only featured twice this season and missed the past four matches, while Keita has been absent for five games because of a muscle injury.

Centre-half Virgil van Dijk is expected to miss most of the season with a cruciate knee ligament injury, while stand-in defender Fabinho sustained a hamstring problem in the 2-0 home win against Danish side FC Midtjylland last week.

“We have, in the moment, more centre-halves available than we probably will line up together, which is good,” added Klopp.

MATCH FACTS

Atalanta

  • Atalanta are set to face their third different English opponent, having previously met Everton in the 2017-18 Europa League (played two, won two) and Manchester City in the Champions League last season (played two, drew one, lost one).
  • Since losing their first three group-stage games in the Champions League last season, Atalanta have gone unbeaten in their past five group-stage games in the competition (won three, drew two), including both this season (won one, drew one).
  • Excluding qualifiers, Atalanta have only failed to score in one of their past 19 games in major European competition (4-0 v Dinamo Zagreb last season), while they have averaged 2.1 goals per game over the course of this run (40 goals in total).
  • Duvan Zapata has been directly involved in six goals in five Champions League starts for Atalanta (four goals and two assists), while he scored twice in their 2-2 draw against Ajax on matchday two.

Liverpool

  • Liverpool have lost all three of their away Champions League matches in Italy under manager Jurgen Klopp, losing to Roma in May 2018 and Napoli in October 2018 and September 2019.
  • Liverpool have won each of their past three away games in the Champions League group stage, after losing four in
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Matip and Keita hand Liverpool fitness boost ahead of Atalanta test

(Reuters) – Joel Matip and Naby Keita have returned to Liverpool first-team training but manager Juergen Klopp is yet to decide if both will be available for Tuesday’s Champions League encounter with Italian side Atalanta.



Joel Matip wearing a football uniform: Premier League - Liverpool v Newcastle United


© Reuters/JASON CAIRNDUFF
Premier League – Liverpool v Newcastle United



a group of baseball players playing a football game: Premier League - Liverpool v Leeds United


© Reuters/PHIL NOBLE
Premier League – Liverpool v Leeds United

Matip is poised to hand Liverpool a timely fitness boost as Klopp hopes to navigate his squad through a central defence injury crisis, with both Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk out of contention.

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Van Dijk underwent a successful knee surgery last week after damaging his ligaments against Everton.

Keita is also set to be part of the travelling group to Bergamo for Liverpool’s third match in Champions League Group D, but fellow midfielder Thiago Alcantara is yet to return to training.

“Naby and Joel trained yesterday with the team, full, Thiago didn’t. So, that’s the situation,” Klopp told a news conference.

“I have really no idea what I do with this information in the moment because yes, they trained, that’s good, it’s better than if they don’t train. But we have to see what we do with it.

“We have another day to make these decisions. A lot of players will be on the plane hopefully, and so decisions will be made late, late, late.”

Atalanta, renowned for their high-octane pressing style under coach Gian Piero Gasperini, defied expectations last season to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.

Klopp said Atalanta are Liverpool’s “biggest challenge in Europe so far” and compared the Italian outfit to Premier League’s Leeds United.

“With all Atalanta have done in the last few years, they are a settled team and they are very difficult to play against,” Klopp said.

“They are similar to Leeds in the way they set-up.

“They are a proper fighting unit. They have all our respect and I know how good they are.”

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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