On Wednesday night in the Champions League, a heavily changed Liverpool side put in one of the worst performances of the Jürgen Klopp era. There will, of course, have been plenty of reasons for it.
An injury crisis, an overloaded fixture list, and players knowing that they only need win one of their final three group games to advance in Europe seemed to have everyone involved in Red looking ahead of Saturday.
Saturday and an unkindly early kickoff against Brighton, a scheduling choice by the league and broadcasters Klopp has hit out against and that seemed to inform his team selection against Atalanta.
“We go in a few hours to Brighton and play there, so that’s the first thing we have to think about and when that’s over we think about Ajax,” he said. “My concern, what I think about at the moment, is not Ajax.”
If Liverpool’s injury-riddled squad survive Brighton—and hopefully more than survive as there’s less wiggle room in the league where they’re level on points in first with Tottenham—they will move on to Ajax.
Currently, Liverpool have nine points in their group while Ajax and Atalanta have seven. A win against either Ajax or Midtjylland in the final two games would assure the Reds of at least finishing second.
Four points gives them the tiebreaker against Ajax or Midtjylland and ensures a first place finish. Before that, though, comes Brighton and Saturday’s early kickoff as the unrelenting fixture list continues.