Last week, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp surprised everyone by running out a heavily changed side against FC Midtjylland in their mid-week Champions League tie, and it would hardly be a shock for there to be more rotation on the cards against Atalanta.
According to Klopp, the reason is quite simple: a compressed season and fixture overload that means the Reds playing at least two games a week start to finish if they make it into the knockout rounds in Europe and then go deep in the FA Cup in the new year.
“It was always clear this season we would have pretty much the same amount of games in a shorter amount of time,” he noted ahead of tonight’s match. “That’s the challenge already and it was always clear that it will be the most difficult season we’ve ever experienced.
“We knew that before we experienced it and now we are in it. So it’s really a tough challenge but it’s not about having everybody available, playing your best football, being in the best mood, best atmosphere. Football is about performing on the [hard] days.”
Even in a normal season, a road trip to face Atalanta would post a difficult—and unusual—challenge. This year, with legs already growing tired and half an eye looking ahead towards the rest of what promises to be a difficult, over-busy season, will be tougher.
It’s the same for everybody, though, not just in England but in Europe’s other top leagues as well, and playing an over-busy season is something this group of players at least do have some experience with having taken part in the Club World Cup last year.
“It’s really intense but we enjoy it and let’s hope we can continue result-wise like we did in the last few weeks,” Klopp added. “Apart from that, we know each game is a massive challenge for everybody because of the number of games we have.”