champions-league15 September 2021

LIVERPOOL V AC MILAN: MATCH PREVIEW

We're back in the Champions League: all you know to know ahead of the match at Anfield

It will be the Rossoneri's first trip to Anfield in 122 years of the Club's history, but Liverpool v AC Milan has already gone down in history. The two sides have only faced off twice in competitive football, both times in a Champions League final. It's one victory apiece with the Reds coming out in top in Istanbul in 2005, before the Rossoneri had their revenge in Athens in 2007, with a third fascinating encounter set for tonight at 21:00 CEST. Memories of the past give way to anticipation in the present; matchday 1 of Group B begins and the stakes couldn't be higher. Atlético Madrid take on Porto at the Wanda Metropolitano in the other fixture in the group tonight.

UPDATE FROM MILANELLO
AC Milan are in stunning for in domestic football and are well set to make their return to Europe's biggest stage. The Rossoneri have won three from three and are joint-top of Serie A. AC Milan beat Lazio 2-0 last time out in the league - the goals were scored by Leão and Ibrahimović - in a dominant display at San Siro.

It is Zlatan himself, who only made his return on Sunday, who will be the big absentee due to an injury to his Achilles tendon. Either Olivier Giroud, who has recovered from COVID-19 but is not yet 100% fit, or Ante Rebić will replace him. Rade Krunić is still unavailable; Tiémoué Bakayoko is also out.

UPDATE FROM LIVERPOOL
Liverpool are set to start their latest edition of the UEFA Champions League following a third-place finish in the Premier League last season, behind Manchester City and Manchester United. After having been crowned Champions of Europe in 2018/19, the Reds ended a 30-year wait for an English league title in 2019/20. The Reds are taking part in the Champions League group stage for the 14th time and fifth consecutive season, having failed to make it through on only three occasions.

The start of the Premier League season has been a decent one for Jürgen Klopp's men, who have ten points from four games, with wins over Norwich, Burnely and Leeds, and a draw with Chelsea. Klopp has stuck with the familiar 4-3-3 formation, but lost Xherdan Shaqiri (Lyon) and Gini Wijnaldum (PSG) in the summer, with young Harvey Elliott (born in 2003) taking up a berth in midfield. Unfortunately, however, the youngster suffered a horrific ankle injury against Leeds United in the Reds' most recent league fixture and will, therefore, be out for months. Central defender Ibrahima Konaté, from RB Leipzig, was the only summer arrival.

There are many nailed-on starters in Klopp's formation: Alisson - who has become one of the world's best goalkeepers - between the sticks being the first. The Reds can call upon a world-class full-back pairing in Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, with the returning van Dijk in the heart of the defence. The Dutchman will likely be partnered by the experienced Matip. The midfield three is a mix of quality and industry tanks to Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho and captain Henderson. Up top is an ever-dangerous, technically-gifted and rapid front three: Salah, Mané and either Firmino or Diogo Jota. It's a team with quality in every position and the Reds are certainly among the favourites to reach the final.

"Liverpool and AC Milan is a must-watch," said Jürgen Klopp in his pre-match press conference. "Milan was now not in the Champions League for a few years but are doing really well since around one-and-a-half years. 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, but yeah, there are a few nice games obviously on this first matchday in the Champions League and Liverpool v AC Milan is for sure one of them."

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PRE-MATCH
Liverpool and AC Milan haven't met in competitive football since the 2007 Champions League final. On 23 May that year, a Filippo Inzaghi brace brought the cup with the big ears back to Milan. The incredible triumph was sufficient revenge for that defeat in Istanbul two years prior. On 25 May 2005, the Reds clawed their way back from 3-0 down thanks to goals from Gerrard, Šmicer and Xabi Alonso, after a Crespo brace and a goal from Maldini had given the Rossoneri the lead at half time. Shevchenko it was, who missed the decisive penalty. Fun fact: Liverpool and AC Milan have never played each other at Anfield in an official match, however, the Liverpool Legends and AC Milan Glorie faced off in a charity friendly at the famous old ground on 23 March 2019: goals from Fowler, Cissé, Pirlo, Pancaro and Gerrard. 

REFEREE
The referee for the fixture will by the Pole Szymon Marciniak, who has never before refereed the Rossoneri. He will be assisted by his compatriots Paweł Sokolnicki and Tomasz Listkiewicz as linesmen, Tomasz Kwiatkowski on VAR and the German Bastian Dankert as AVAR. Another Pole in Tomasz Musiał will be Fourth Official.


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