Atalanta BC v Ajax Amsterdam: Group D - UEFA Champions LeaguePhoto by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Our tour through our Group D opponents comes to a conclusion with Italian side Atalanta.

We should all take a moment to be thankful for this year’s Champions League group. Yes, it’s more than a slight disappointment to many that they won’t be able to travel—especially to Amsterdam for reasons—but it’s a great group nonetheless.

One of the problems with the Champions League is the entrenched group of European Elite teams, which tend to create the same match ups every single year. Such as Manchester City vs. Lyon.

That is not a problem with this year’s Group D. We have FC Midtjylland, a Champions League debutant. We have Ajax, who despite their status as a European elite, haven’t faced off against Liverpool since 1966. And we have Atalanta, who just made their Champions League debut last year, and who Liverpool have never faced.

But just because Atalanta doesn’t have history against Liverpool, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have history. Quite the contrary!


History


Atalanta was founded in 1907 by a group of Swiss students based in Bergamo, in the Lombardy province of Italy. They named the club after the Greek hero of the same name, described by Stephen Fry in his fantastic book Heroes:

“Her supreme swiftness and unmatched ability as a huntress made Atalanta a natural devotee of the goddess of Chastity and the Chase, Artemis, to whom she committed herself, heart and soul.”-p. 273

Pretty badass, actually. Can we agree more sports teams need to follow this route when thinking up a name? I hear there’s a football team in Washington DC that’s having an issue at the moment. Just a suggestion.

But I digress. Because of their name, they are also known as La Dia (“The Goddess”)—Atalanta is a goddess in some versions of the myth—and I Nerazzurri (“The Black and Blues”).

The Italian Football Federation was not too impressed with Atalanta, and wouldn’t even recognize the club until 1914. The club then merged with a local rival in 1920, and moved to its current ground, Gewiss Stadium, in 1928. The club was finally admitted into the Italian football league in 1929, and earned their first promotion to Serie A in 1937. Although the club mostly remained a top-flight club throughout its history, they have been relegated frequently along the way, most recently in 2010. They even spent a solitary season, 1981, in Serie C.

Their modern history, including what brings them to the Champions League, started in 2016/17 when manager Gian Piero Gasperini took over the reins at Atalanta. He struggled, initially, but quickly righted the ship. By the end of the season, Atalanta had risen to 4th in the table, their best-ever league position. Gasperini took Atalanta to a respectable 7th placed finish the following season, and yet another best-ever finish—3rd—in 2018/19, including a 13-match unbeaten run in the league. And last year they finished 3rd again; this season also included an impressive run—a 9-match winning streak—the longest in the club’s history.


European History and Honors


Atalanta have just one major honor to their name: the 1962/63 Coppa Italia. They’ve finished runners-up in the domestic cup competition three more times, including in 2018/19, but that one victory remains their sole piece of silverware.

Although Atalanta are only in their second ever Champions League campaign, they do have some European history to boast about. In 1987/88, they became one of only two non-first division teams (an honor shared with Cardiff City) to reach the semifinals of a European competition, the European Cup Winners’ Cup. They also reached the UEFA Cup (now Europa League) quarterfinals in 1990/91, losing out to domestic rival Inter Milan.

They didn’t qualify for Europe again until 2017, when they qualified for the Europa League group stages. Atalanta made it out of the group, but fell to Dortmund in the Round of 32, 4-3 on aggregate. Their 7th placed finish in 2018 once again qualified them for Europe, but they failed to advance to the Group Stage after failing to get past FC Copenhagen in the playoff. Perhaps they had revenge on their mind when they traveled to Denmark and dished out a 4-0 thrashing to Midtjylland?

Finally, Atalanta made their Champions League debut last year. And they made it count, reaching the quarterfinals along the way. Amazingly, they became just the second team to qualify from a group after losing its first three matches. They saw off Valencia 8-4 on aggregate, before losing to eventual finalists PSG, 2-1.


Atalanta have been an exciting team to watch over the past few years. And they’ve shown the ability to ride a wave of momentum under manager Gasperini. Liverpool are likely to have their hands (or feet) full in Italy this Wednesday. But it’s the Champions League. Tough competition and excellent football is exactly what we want to see.

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Soccer - UEFA Cup - First Round Second Leg - Liverpool v Rapid BucharestPhoto by Steve Mitchell/EMPICS via Getty Images

A win or draw on Saturday will tie a 40-year-old Liverpool home unbeaten record.

Jürgen Klopp’s time as the manager of Liverpool FC has seen the club break numerous records, end title droughts, and turn doubters into believers. A huge factor in Liverpool’s success under Klopp’s tutelage has been their remarkable success at home.

In the years before Klopp was hired to put the Reds back on their perch, the reputation of Anfield as a fortress where visiting teams would be lucky to escape with a result had began to wane. That’s not to say it was an easy place for the opposition to play, but the ground didn’t seem to have the same feel that it was known for during so much of the club’s history.

Klopp himself made note of this in the early days of his tenure when he called out the Anfield faithful for not creating the atmosphere that was needed to make club’s home a fortress once more.

It didn’t take long for Klopp’s goal of turning doubters into believers to take shape, and as the atmosphere at the ground grew, Liverpool’s home form improved. Liverpool have since become a nearly unstoppable force when they play on their home pitch, where they have not lost a Premier League match since a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace in April of 2017.

Since that day, the Reds have played 62 league matches at Anfield. They have won 51 of those matches, drawn 11, and have not lost a single one. If they can continue that trend against West Ham tomorrow, they will match a club record that was set when the legendary Bob Paisley oversaw a 63 match league unbeaten run from 1978-81.

Matching a 40-year-old record that was set by one of the largest icons in the club’s history would be a remarkable achievement, especially considering how far the club has come since Klopp took the reins. It’s a wonderful reminder that Klopp is a world class manager who has put Liverpool back on their perch and turned Anfield into an extremely difficult place to play once more.

It’s a real shame that the Kop will be empty when Jürgen’s Reds take the pitch tomorrow. The believers deserve to be there to urge the boys on as they try to extend this Anfield unbeaten run to 63. But ultimately, whether the stands are full or empty, whether Liverpool match the record or not, the fact that Jürgen Klopp has managed to get us to a point where this is even a possibility is something to celebrate.

Whatever happens tomorrow, Klopp has made it a true joy be a Liverpool supporter. His side has brought light into so many lives at a time when the world can feel so dark. For that, I am eternally grateful. Up the (hopefully) record setting Reds!

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Minister of Youth and Sports Development Mr. Sunday Dare alongside Ministers from selected countries on Friday had an online meeting with the top brass of the World Football  Governing body, Fifa where it was agreed that a new course must be taken to ensure youth football development.

 

Speaking during the third edition of the Town Hall with Nigerian  Youths, Mr. Dare said “The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development is working with the Nigerian  Football  Federation in collaboration with the La Liga to organize training for coaches. We have asked the NFF to expand this program to ensure that young coaches get proper training. I would take the message of Youth coaches training back to the NFF so that this can be expanded.

 

 

“The National Institute for Sports also trains quality coaches. We encourage  youths to attend regular pieces of training.”

 

Mr. Dare disclosed that” I had a meeting with  Fifa which wants to deepen youth involvement in football,  coaches, referees, grassroots and secondary schools. They also need to deepen the information network. I want to see more youths in the coaching crew of the Super Eagles, Flying Eagles, and other junior teams.

 

“We would continue to create opportunities for our youths”.

 

 

 

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Leon Balogun is delighted with Glasgow Rangers’ defensive records this season and he’s happy to be part of the units.

 

The Gers recorded their 14th clean sheet of the season following their 1 – 0 win over Lech Poznan in the Europa League on Thursday.

 

 

The win also means they have now emerged victorious in 15 of their 17 matches in all competitions, a run that could be extended with a win at Kilmarnock this weekend.

 

 

Balogun told the press that he’s impressed with their defensive work and also proud to be in the group.

 

 

“Probably yes, but also at Wigan we have a decent run of a clean sheet when we are trying to escape relegation, but here is different because of the challenges.

 

 

“We are happy with the defensive work and we must continue to work hard because the season is still long”.

 

 

“Definitely those last two games [against Standard Liege and Lech Poznan] gave us confidence, rightfully so, and we have a good management staff and they are going to prepare us well.

 

 

Balogun, who has now made seven appearances this term, after joining from Wigan in July.

 

 

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The duo Paul Onuachu and Cyriel Dessers both find the back of the net as Genk humiliated AS Eupen 4-0 in their Belgian Jupiler League on Friday.

 

The Super Eagles striker started the game clash at the Luminus Arena and it was the first time they both registered a goal in the same match since the opening day of the season.

 

Onuachu opened the floodgate scoring for Genk from the penalty spot in the fifth minute to take his tally to ten for the season.

 

Onuachu then set up Dessers to score the second three minutes into the second half and it was his third goal for the club since joining from Heracles.

 

Onuachu and Dessers were replaced with 15 minutes left and Theo Bongonda completed the rout for Genk with two late goals.

 

Surprisingly Onuachu and Dessers were both omitted from the Super Eagles squad for the November 13th and 16th African cup of Nations qualifiers against Sierra Leone.

 

Gernot Rohr was not impressed with their performance in Super Eagles’ last friendly matches with Tunisia and Algeria in Austria.

 

 

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Forgotten Super Eagles striker Anthony Nwakaeme is back on the scoresheet after grabbing a brace for Trabzonspor on Friday.

 

Anthony Nwakaeme scored two goals and assisted another, but it was an effort in futility as Trabzonspor fell to a  4 – 3 defeat to Kasimpasa.

 

 

Mickael Tirpan scored the opening goal for the visitors in the 8th minutes, but Nwakaeme first set up Serkan Asan for Trabzonspor’s equalizer after 23 minutes.

 

 

The former Hapoel Beer Sheva forward then followed up with his brace in the 31st minute and 38th minutes to put his club in driving seat.

 

 

Yusuf Erdogan reduced the deficit for the visitors on the stroke of half time and an own goal by Edgar Le in the 87tj minutes brought Trabzonspor down to their knees.

 

 

Nwakaeme was then shown a yellow card, shortly before Bengali-Fode Koita scored the winner for the visitors in the added time.

 

 

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Swiss Super League side FC Lugano has confirmed that Sebastian Osigwe has tested positive for Coronavirus on Friday.

 

The management of the club confirmed in a press release ahead of their next game against Young Boys.

 

“The management of FC Lugano announces that the tests carried out following the positivity of Mattia Bottani also highlighted the positivity of the goalkeeper Sebastian Osigwe”, the club said.

 

Osigwe was in line to make his debut for Nigeria’s Super Eagles in the upcoming 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifier, but the recent developments could jeopardize his chances.

 

The Swiss-born goalkeeper was among the players penciled down by coach Gernot Rohr for the doubleheader African cup of Nations qualifier against Sierra Leone.

 

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Liverpool FC v FC Midtjylland: Group D - UEFA Champions LeaguePhoto by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Liverpool’s newest forward speaks about how quickly he’s settled at his new club.

With the exception of a few high profile signings (Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah come to mind), Jürgen Klopp has usually taken a cautious, slow approach to transitioning new players into his lineup. This has been especially true when those players were brought in for depth, rather than to compete for a role in the first choice 11.

This fact makes it even more impressive how quickly Diogo Jota has settled in and become a reliable attacking option for the German manager. While a dependable rotational alternative for Liverpool’s potent attacking triumvirate of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah has long been needed, few could have predicted Jota would lay such a strong claim to the role so quickly.

The young Portuguese forward was given a chance to talk about his almost instant impact in an interview with the official Liverpool club website today.

“I think it has been a great month for me, not only because I signed but everything else that has happened,” said Jota. “I have been able to help the team, which has been my biggest desire since I joined. To be able to do that this fast, I am really pleased with it.”

It’s impossible to deny that he has helped the team already. Despite signing just 6 weeks ago, Jota has already made eight appearances and scored three goals for Liverpool, each of them quite important. He scored in his Premier League debut against Arsenal to put the match to bed, netted the winner against Sheffield United, and broke the deadlock against FC Midtjylland in the Champion’s League this week.

It’s an impressive early return for a player who’s had to quickly get up to speed to fit into Liverpool’s style of play, and has to compete for playing time with one of the most talented groups of attacking players in football. According to Jota, believing in himself and listening to Klopp’s direction has been the key to settling in at his new club.

“The most important thing is to always believe,” Jota said. “Since the first day I was here, the manager spoke with me about things I needed to do. I have tried to focus on that because obviously when you change teams there are a lot of things you need to adapt to.”

Klopp has been highly complimentary of Jota since his signing, saying earlier this week that he is very easy to like because he’s not only a talented player, but also a very nice guy. The young forward was understandably thrilled to receive such a compliment from his manager.

“Obviously when I heard those kind of words from a person like him, it made me happy. When I first joined the club, I always tried to do my best on the pitch but also off the pitch. I try to have a good relationship with everyone. So, when I heard those words, I think I am doing those things well. That’s what I will always try to do.”

Jota’s hot start has been one of the most encouraging storylines of this young season. All signs point to him being a very solid option going forward when Klopp needs to give one of Mane, Firmino, or Salah a break. With a compact, hectic schedule for the next several months, Jota’s ability to effectively spell those three could prove invaluable to maintaining the health and productivity of Liverpool’s forward players.

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Liverpool Training SessionPhoto by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

All the squad injury updates in one place ahead of West Ham at Anfield

Virgil Van Dijk has reportedly undergone “successful” surgery for his knee ligament injury, and will begin to focus on his rehabilitation. This is the best possible news, as minor complications or changing situations can be discovered during surgery, but no timeline has been communicated about the Dutchman’s return to the side. The manager, when asked about the impact of Van Dijk’s near spotless injury history prior to Pickford’s lunge, was positive.

“He’s a quick healer and he’s a pain-coper, so that’s all clear. All these things, yes, they help.”

Rhys Williams, Neco Williams, Jake Cain and Nat Phillips have been seen continuing to train with the first team.

Liverpool Training SessionPhoto by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Fabinho is not in the squad for the weekend, though Jürgen Klopp has referred to his issue as a “little injury.” Though not much is known about the Brazilian’s niggle, it’s possible that Klopp is being cautious given the fixture congestion, and Reds fans should not fear a long-term absence.

Captain Jordan Henderson, who was subbed at halftime in Denmark, “did not have a fitness problem.” Instead, the shift in personnel was planned as a means to manage minutes, a move Klopp has labelled “responsible.” (Que a collective sigh of relief.)

The manager has reported that Naby Keïta and Thiago Alcântara have been making “good progress,” though fans can expect caution despite the players being back in training. Despite the loss of Fabinho and Van Dijk, the manager is insistent players will not be “rushed” back into action, which might lead to further injury.

“If somebody is in training again that doesn’t mean you can use them immediately. Sometimes we have to, but as much as we can avoid it we should try to do that.”

While gaps in personnel might be stressful for fans, a cautious approach to a challenging schedule is something that should be lauded. Klopp continues to meet with medical staff on a daily basis to ensure he is being responsible with his players — and the manager’s tendency to avoid “rushing” players back, allowing the medical team to do their jobs to the best of their ability, will certainly pay off in the long run. What fans and Klopp alike don’t want to see is a newly returned player heading off injured.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kostas Tsimikas remain sidelined with injury, though Oxlade-Chamberlain might return to action next month. No updates have been provided about their fitness at present, and Joël Matip, too, remains unlikely to feature at the weekend with a muscle injury.

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Liverpool Training SessionPhoto by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Can the Reds go 63 matches unbeaten at Anfield — and equal the club’s all-time record for an unbeaten league run at home?


LIVERPOOL VS. WEST HAM UNITED

| Saturday, October 31st |Premier League | Anfield5:30PM GMT/1:30PM EST


David Moyes comes to the home of the reigning champions hoping to right a troubling pattern in his managerial career: he has not won a single game at Anfield in his 16 attempts with four different clubs (Everton, Manchester United, Sunderland and West Ham United).

The Hammers have started 2020/21 brightly. After losing the opening two Premier League matches, West Ham have not lost in the previous four, drawing with both Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, and defeating Leicester City and Wolves — though they were defeated by Everton in the Fourth Round of the Carabao Cup. Barring the 1-1 draw with Manchester City last time out, West Ham games have been quite high-scoring affairs, with 26 total goals (17 for, 9 against) scored in just the last five fixtures.

The absence of star-man Mikhail Antonio might prove a challenge for Moyes, though Jarrod Bowen and Sébastien Haller will be expected to fill in for the tricky forward at Anfield. New(ish) boy Tomáš Souček is also one to watch: he’s been in good form for West Ham this season, recycling possession well and playing smart passes to start attacks. He is also strong defensively, and will be the major hurdle for the Reds.

As always worth mentioning with Virgil Van Dijk out of the side: West Ham are a tall squad, with their average height coming in at just below 6 feet (180 cm). Since the restart, they have created 55 shots from set pieces (including corners), scoring 10. It’s likely that Moyes will have concentrated on set plays as an area to exploit in Van Dijk’s absence.


Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)

Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Williams, Gomez, Robertson; Henderson, Thiago, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané

Real predicted lineup: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Williams, Gomez, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum; Firmino, Jota, Salah, Mané


Quite honestly, who knows what we’ll see at center of dense tomorrow and moving forward. You assume Klopp will aim to get Joël Matip back for Manchester City, as you wouldn’t imagine the manager will want to sacrifice a midfielder for the role against Pep Guardiola’s side, and it would be a big ask to field youngster Rhys Williams at the Etihad.

Reports of Mikhail Antionio being out for this one will be a boon for Klopp (just as the absence of Virgil Van Dijk will be a boost for Moyes’ side), as Antonio is hard to deal with. With Antonio’s unpredictability out of the squad, Klopp might favor minutes for Williams as Matip and Fabinho work to return to fitness.

Luckily Jordan Henderson’s halftime substitution was not required by injury but was rather a “responsible” move from the manager, so we can expect to see the captain in the side. If Thiago is fit he might get a start to help the Reds thread through what will likely be a crowded West Ham midfield and defense; he might be held to making an impact off the bench, though, as Klopp is managing a very difficult schedule and choosing how best to allocate minutes. James Milner put in quite a few minutes midweek, which might make the midfield harder for Klopp to sort out than usual. A such, return to the 4-2-3-1 with either Takumi Minamino or Roberto Firmino in front of Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum (and Diogo Jota slotting in) is possible, and is frankly quite likely.

I’ve predicted a 4-3-3 with Thiago to start purely due to optimism on squad health (and the knowledge that the 4-2-3-1 is graft to watch as the players seem to still be figuring out how the system works), but the manager kept his cards close to his chest in his pre-match press conference, and Thiago likely won’t feature. Don’t be surprised by graft regardless of system, though, as West Ham are well organized and will look to stifle creativity regardless of formation.

West Ham have started the season brightly, but Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah have been involved in eight goals in six games against West Ham, with 11 goals and six assists between them. Mané has scored in each of his last four appearances against West Ham, and will look to continue this deadly pattern. Diogo Jota, who has scored in each of his two Premier League appearances, will look to score in each of his first three if given the chance; the last player to do this was one Luis García.

Also a notable positive: should he start today, it will be Trent Alexander-Arnold’s 100th league start. This accomplishment follows quickly after Andy Robertson’s similar accomplishment and Salah’s 100th goal — these markers coming in rapid succession underscore the stability within the squad.


What the Managers Had to Say

Jurgen Klopp, speaking on the schedule challenges this season, and changing formations: “It’s more difficult — nearly impossible, but it’s possible … My job is to use the squad in the best possible way, and that’s what I try to do.”

David Moyes, looking for his first win at Anfield: “Probably the biggest thing going up to play Liverpool is without their supporters: their support makes such a difference, with no crowd behind them hopefully that might make a difference as well.”


The Officials

Referee: Kevin Friend Assistants: Simon Beck, Eddie Smart Fourth Official: Craig Pawson VAR: Chris Kavanagh Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis


Kickoff is set for 3PM GMT/10AM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.

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