Tuesday, January 26
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Dec 1, 2020 at 8pm UK
Jones (58')
Wijnaldum (70'), Henderson (90+1'), Mane (90+2')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Schuurs (42'), Blind (55')

Preview: Liverpool vs. Ajax - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Liverpool vs. Ajax - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Tuesday's Champions League clash between Liverpool and Ajax, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Just two points separate the top three teams in Champions League Group D heading into matchday five, when Liverpool welcome fellow European royals Ajax to Anfield.

A shock home defeat to Atalanta BC on matchday four saw Liverpool miss the chance to book their place in the last 16 and blow Group D wide open in the process, but Jurgen Klopp's side still only need one more win from their final two games to progress.

Match preview

Liverpool must quickly switch their focus back to on-field matters on Tuesday as their relentless and much-maligned schedule sees four-time kings of Europe Ajax visit Merseyside.

Klopp's remarkable post-match interview following Saturday's 1-1 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion understandably stole the headlines as the Liverpool manager's frustration at the timing of his side's match - the early Saturday kickoff, having been in Champions League action on Wednesday night too - boiled over.

In all likelihood, the fact that his side once again found themselves on the wrong end of contentious VAR decisions in that match would have only added to those frustrations, with the Reds seeing two goals retrospectively disallowed before Brighton were awarded a stoppage-time penalty which even the man who won it admitted was "soft".

The Seagulls had earlier missed another penalty and a glorious chance, though, so the result itself was harder to argue against than the manner in which it eventually occurred.

Liverpool have now only won one of their last four games in all competitions, following a run of five successive wins before that, although their only defeat in their last 10 came at the hands of Atalanta on matchday three.

In the grand scheme of things, that defeat may not prove to be costly with Liverpool only needing one more win from their two remaining games to qualify for the knockout stages, thanks to their three successive victories to nil in the first half of the group.

However, it does prevent Liverpool from being able to treat the final two games as dead-rubbers, which would have been an attractive prospect for a team so depleted by injuries.

It could also puncture the aura of fortress Anfield to some extent, with Atalanta the first visiting team to win there inside 90 minutes since September 2018, to win a Champions League group game there since 2014 and to win by more than one goal there in any competition since August 2015.

Home or away, it ended Liverpool's eight-game unbeaten run in the Champions League group stages and left both Ajax and Atalanta breathing down their necks at the top of Group D.

Atalanta will be expected to beat pointless Midtjylland in Group D's other match on Tuesday, which puts even more pressure on Ajax to get something from this visit to Anfield in order to prevent their matchday six showdown with Atalanta becoming a must-win affair.

The Dutch champions will have taken belief from Atalanta's performance on Merseyside last week - and perhaps even more belief from Liverpool's lacklustre display - and they will arrive at Anfield very much in a winning habit.

Erik ten Hag's side have won their last six games across all competitions, scoring 23 goals in the process including three five-goal hauls - most recently hammering Emmen 5-0 on Saturday.

Indeed, since their rather unfortunate 1-0 defeat to Liverpool in the reverse fixture, courtesy of Nicolas Tagliafico's own goal, Ajax have won seven of eight games while scoring a mammoth 38 goals, including an Eredivisie-record 13-0 obliteration of VVV-Venlo in October.

Liverpool will, of course, be a step up in quality, but Ajax are unbeaten in their last 11 Champions League away games - their longest such run since September 1994 to March 1997 - while with qualifiers included that streak stretches to 17 matches.

The Dutch giants are also unbeaten in their last five Champions League visits to England - most recently last season's unforgettable 4-4 draw with Chelsea - although Liverpool are undefeated in their last 14 games against Dutch opposition stretching back to their first-ever meeting with Ajax in 1966.

Liverpool Champions League form: WWWL
Liverpool form (all competitions): WWDWLD

Ajax Champions League form: LDWW
Ajax form (all competitions): WWWWWW

Team News

Liverpool were able to welcome Jordan Henderson back from injury off the bench at the weekend, paving the way for the captain to start this match.

No sooner had he returned than James Milner took his place in the treatment room, though, with the utility man's hamstring injury proving to be the match which lit the touchpaper in Klopp's post-match interview.

Milner is one of eight players expected to be missing for Liverpool, with Klopp having also confirmed that Thiago Alcantara and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will not be back in time for this match or Sunday's game against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Naby Keita, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Xherdan Shaqiri and Trent Alexander-Arnold are also likely to miss this match, with Keita and Alexander-Arnold thought to be closest of those to returning.

Given Klopp's complaints over the schedule there is likely to be plenty of rotation in the coming weeks too, with Sadio Mane and Joel Matip sitting out at the weekend and Mohamed Salah being taken off shortly after the hour mark.

Matip's absence was reportedly solely down to him being rested rather than any injury concerns and so he should return, while Rhys Williams is likely to partner him in central defence.

Neco Williams, Curtis Jones, Kostas Tsimikas and Divock Origi are among the other players pushing to start, although the need to win one of the remaining games - and the fact that they are not in action until Sunday night this weekend - may curb Klopp's urge to rotate to a certain extent.

A minor doubt has also emerged over goalkeeper Alisson Becker after he was not pictured in training on Monday, although there has been no suggestion yet about a possible injury.

Ajax, meanwhile, could welcome back former Manchester United man Daley Blind after he sustained a hamstring injury against Midtjylland last week.

Summer signing Mohammed Kudus is a long-term absentee after requiring surgery on the knee injury he picked up in the reverse fixture against Liverpool on matchday one.

Antony is now back fit again, however, returning on Saturday after overcoming a hamstring injury, while Noussair Mazraoui and Ryan Gravenberch have overcome minor issues to be included in the travelling party.

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; N Williams, R Williams, Matip, Tsimikas; Jones, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Ajax possible starting lineup:
Onana; Mazraoui, Schuurs, Blind, Tagliafico; Labyad, Klaassen, Gravenberch; Neres, Traore, Tadic

We say: Liverpool 2-1 Ajax

If Liverpool play anything like they did against Atalanta then Ajax could easily win this match and Klopp's side could suddenly find themselves third in the group heading into the final matchday.

Just one more win is needed for the hosts, though, and they will want to get that wrapped up as soon as possible. Ajax's free-scoring attack will cause problems for a patched-up defence, but we are backing the six-time winners to get the job done on Tuesday night.

Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data

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Premier League Table
1Manchester CityMan City19125236132341
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd19124336251140
3Leicester CityLeicester19122535211438
4West Ham UnitedWest Ham2010553024635
6Tottenham HotspurSpurs1896333171633
9Aston Villa1792631181329
12Leeds UnitedLeeds198293235-326
13Crystal Palace206592436-1223
14Wolverhampton WanderersWolves196492129-822
16Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2054111934-1519
17Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton193882229-717
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom2025131548-3311
20Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd1912161032-225
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