Liverpool and AC Milan will cross swords on Anfield Road on Wednesday evening.
Roberto Firmino, Harvey Elliot and Takumi Minamino have to do without the Reds, who confidently defeated ten-man Leeds United in the Premier League on Elland Road on Sunday.
For AC Milan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be a key absentee, but Olivier Giroud will start from the bench after recovering from Covid-19. Coach Stefano Pioli will have to rely on the younger players to move up and show their talent on the largest stage in Europe.
Before this gigantic European duel on Anfield Road, let’s take a look at the 3 main battles that could determine the outcome of this game.
3 key battles – Liverpool versus AC Milan
1. Mohamed Salah vs. Theo Hernandez
Mohamed Salah has started the new season very well and will be the main threat to Liverpool. After scoring his 100th Premier League goal in the 3-0 win over Leeds, he is in good shape and is expected to start in his natural position on the right.
Should that happen, Salah will face AC Milan’s left-back Theo Hernandez several times. Hernandez is a raging left-back who likes to venture forward with the ball and contribute as much as possible to the team’s attacks. The French prefer to push from the front rather than defend deeply.
If Hernandez is to keep Salah calm, he’ll have to make sure the Egypt international doesn’t have much time and space to maneuver in and around the box while joining the game with Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota.
2. Thiago Alcantara vs. Franck Kessie
When things were so hectic and fast against Leeds United on Elland Road, Thiago Alcantara showed his class. Together with Fabinho in midfield, Thiago gave Liverpool the serenity they wanted with his passing game and understanding of the game. It was like watching the midfielder during his time in Bayern Munich as he effortlessly controlled the pace of the games.
The Spanish international is a clever technician on the ball and has the ability to hurt the opponent with his incisive passing game and vision. However, midfield general Franck Kessie from AC Milan will be at his throat in the upcoming European game.
Kessie’s physicality, ball winning skills and sense of positioning will be tasked with keeping Thiago from running the show and if the Ivory Coast international manages to calm the Liverpool star Milan would have a real chance with one positive result.
3. Virgil van Dijk vs. Ante rebic
Virgil van Dijk is back to full strength at Liverpool after recovering from a cruciate ligament injury that kept him on the sidelines for most of last season. The Dutch international was “like a new signing” and his return has undoubtedly been a boostd the Reds and helped Klopp’s side keep three goals in four games.
With Ibrahimovic out injured and Giroud unable to count 90 minutes after recovering from Covid-19, Ante Rebic is likely to lead the attack for AC Milan. Rebic loves running through the canals, using his speed to hit his marker, and even threading clever balls. Running and moving the Croatian international outside the ball could cause some problems for the Liverpool defense and Van Dijk is expected to follow his runs and not leave him room.
Indeed, this could be an intriguing match between Van Dijk and Rebic on Wednesday at packed Anfield.
I’m Rohan Sengupta from one of the busiest cities in India, Mumbai. As a qualified journalist and sports enthusiast, football is something I simply cannot live without and I write, discuss and analyze the game 24/7.