Liverpool begin their Champions League campaign with a mouthwatering match-up against AC Milan at Anfield on Wednesday night. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter.
"19 of the Reds’ previous 22 triumphs across all competitions arriving in a match that featured no more than four goals"
Liverpool v AC Milan
Wednesday September 15, 20:00
Liverpool kept pace with the Premier League's leading pack as Mohamed Salah's 100th English top-flight goal helped the Reds to an eye-catching 3-0 victory at Leeds on Sunday. However, the match was somewhat marred by a dislocated ankle to teenage midfielder Harvey Elliott, who was stretchered off following an initially innocuous-looking challenge.
The Merseysiders were already firmly in control of the contest by then though, with Egyptian forward Salah tapping in Trent Alexander-Arnold's low cross and Fabinho bundling home a second following a corner five minutes after the break. Sadio Mane missed a number of chances to extend the lead before finally grabbing the third goal late on.
Jordan Henderson is expected to come into the midfield after a lively half-hour cameo at Elland Road, while Naby Keita is a similarly strong contender having started the term in good form. James Milner is another option for Jurgen Klopp, who could also hand Andy Robertson a rest after a hectic period following his own return to full fitness. Roberto Firmino is out.
Milan overcome Lazio
AC Milan maintained their perfect start to the Serie A season with an impressive 2-0 dismissal of Lazio at San Siro on Sunday night. Ante Rebic provided assists for both Rafael Leao and returning star Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the Rossoneri dominated proceedings, with Franck Kessie also missing a first-half penalty for Stefano Pioli's charges.
With Olivier Giroud out of action through COVID, Pioli sprang a surprise by starting Alessandro Florenzi alongside Brahim Diaz and Leao in support of Rebic in Milan's preferred 4-2-3-1 system. But with Giroud expected to be available again, and Zlatan making a major impact from the bench, the Italians now have options in forward areas.
The Rossoneri are returning to the Champions League after a seven-year absence and the seven-time European champions are determined to make a splash in a difficult Group B. Asked whether his side were dreaming of going big in Europe, Pioli said: "We should only be dreaming at night, in the day we need to work hard to realise those dreams".
Reds strong favourites at Anfield
It's impossible not to mention Liverpool and Milan's most recent meetings in European competition ahead of Wednesday night. The duo contested the 2005 and 2007 Champions League finals with the Reds securing a remarkable comeback victory in Istanbul before the Rossoneri took top honours when the pair crossed swords in Athens two years later.
Liverpool 1.548/15 have looked close to their old selves during the embryonic stages of the new season. The Reds have benefited from Virgil van Dijk's return to full fitness alongside Joel Matip in central defence, as well as Fabinho's switch back to midfield. Jurgen Klopp's squad are pressing with vigour, whilst playing with real intent when in possession.
Milan 6.6011/2 have been Italy's second-best performing side since the beginning of last term, in terms of points per-game earned domestically (W27-D7-L7). But the Rossoneri's best displays have tended to come against Serie A's lesser lights and this tough trip to Anfield on matchday one will be Stefano Pioli's first taste of the Champions League as a head coach.
The market is anticipating a goal-heavy game on Merseyside with Over 2.5 Goals trading at 1.674/6. The selection has paid out in three of the duo's combined seven league encounters thus far in 2021/22 and is probably best left alone with Milan unlikely to take a gung-ho approach to proceedings at Anfield.
Arguably the visitors' strength is their defence.
With that in mind, I'm happy to support Liverpool to succeed but in a match involving Under 4.5 Goals at an appetising 1.768/11 on the Bet Builder with 19 of the Reds' previous 22 triumphs across all competitions arriving in a match that featured no more than four goals. The same wager has also paid out in seven of the hosts' last eight Champions League wins.
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