Virgil van Dijk

Can Liverpool save their season with European comeback against Atalanta?

Exactly one month ago, Liverpool were still in the hunt for an unlikely quadruple.

After a forgettable seven days, there’s a real possibility that Jurgen Klopp will end his final season at the helm with just a Carabao Cup trophy.

The Reds had to settle for a point at Old Trafford having been in complete control in the first half.

They then collapsed at Anfield, suffering a heavy 3-0 defeat to Atalanta in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final clash.

A 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace, their first Premier League defeat at home since October 2022, rounded off the seven days.

Liverpool went from being in complete control of their destiny in the English top-flight to being two points off leaders Manchester City in what felt like a blink of an eye.

When the Europa League draw was made, Atalanta was viewed as a favourable tie for the Reds. Yet they now head to Bergamo needing another historic European night under Klopp in order to keep their journey in the only competition the 56-year-old has failed to win during his time on Merseyside.

Had the second leg been at Anfield, you may have fancied them.

In front of a home crowd, the Reds have done the impossible on countless occasions under the German tactician. From the 4-3 win over Borussia Dortmund in 2016 to that night against Barcelona in 2019.

Things happen at Anfield on a European night that just defy logic. Away from home though, not so much.

However, there’s always a but with Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp celebrates

If there is a team that could do the unthinkable and overturn a 3-0 home defeat, it is them.

It won’t be easy, but stranger things have happened.

While the Reds have lost all their momentum over the past week, football can change in an instant. All it takes is a scruffy goal or a lucky bounce for a team to find their confidence again.

A creative force still

It isn’t as though Liverpool have been struggling to create either.

Across their last three outings, their expected goals (xG) haul is almost into double figures. It has been a combination of poor finishing, good saves and bad luck during this period.

But, as we know, finishing is fickle. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. The Reds could easily cash in on their xG numbers on Thursday night and romp to victory.

Atalanta sit sixth in the Serie A table having drawn with Verona on Monday night. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side let a 2-0 lead slip at home to draw against the relegation-threatened side.

The Atalanta manager is aware that his team, who have won just one of their last seven in Serie A, have allowed matches to slip away from them this season.

Speaking after the game, he said: “Unfortunately, we have seen several times this season that we threw away in a very short space of time.

"We saw tonight Verona were able to score two goals in four minutes. I’ve seen Liverpool score three in six minutes in a Champions League Final against Milan!

"We knew after Anfield it wasn’t over, but Thursday will be a historic appointment for the city, the club and our players."

Mixed form for the hosts

The Serie A side have lost three of their previous seven outings in the Italian top flight as they look to juggle cup competitions with a strong finish in the league.

Inter ran out 4-0 winners, and Bologna claimed a 2-1 win, as did Cagliari. This run of form has seen them keep just one clean sheet in the league.

And while they managed to shut out Liverpool last week, the hosts did rack up an xG total of 2.6.

Their clean sheet at Anfield was more down to luck rather than a defensive masterclass.

Atalanta do have the second-best defensive record in the Europa League but they’re up against the team with the highest xG in the competition as well as the most goals on a per 90 basis (3.1).

Some teams in this situation would throw in the towel and rest players ahead of the Premier League clash with Fulham on Sunday.

Klopp isn’t one to ever give up on a game though. He will view this game as a free hit of sorts.

It allows him to give vital minutes to returning players, such as Diogo Jota and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

It also allows him the opportunity to get his forward line firing again ahead of a final push in the race for the title.

The Reds certainly have it in them to score goals. On 24 occasions this term across all competitions, they have found the back of the net at least three times in a match.

Darwin Nunez rises for a header

Liverpool will get chances to right the wrongs of last week.

Atalanta, even though they have a comfortable lead, aren’t going to sit deep. It isn’t in their nature. They average the most possessions won in the final third in Serie A.

Gasperini sets his team up to be aggressive. They only know how to be aggressive and that is what will make it an interesting game, even though the scoreline suggests it shouldn’t be.

With Alexander-Arnold back in the mix and all five attackers available, and with something to prove, it could be the perfect storm for the Reds on Thursday evening.

One early goal changes the entire complexion of the game. One early goal could set Liverpool up for one last European comeback under Klopp.

Odds correct at 1620 BST (16/04/24)

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