PREVIEW | Midtjylland v Liverpool: Changes likely as Reds conclude Champions League Group D in Denmark

JAMES NOBLE looks ahead to what we can expect to see in Wednesday evenings European encounter against FC Midtjylland at the MCH Arena.

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Jürgen Klopp’s men travel to face Brian Priske’s Danish champions in Herning on Wednesday evening, having already qualified for the Round of 16 as group winners – meaning several changes can be expected within the Reds’ line-up. 

With FC Midtjylland already consigned to fourth position in the group, this fixture is pretty much a dead rubber and chance for both teams to test things on the biggest stage. The Danish sides debut season in Europe’s premier club competition has – somewhat harshly – only rendered a single point so far, with a battling performance in Bergamo on matchday five.  

It was an impressive display by the European rookies, where they switched to a back-three and were ahead through Alexander Scholz’s 13th-minute goal. Unfortunately, they were unable to hold on as Cristian Romero’s 79th-minute leveller for Atalanta sent them towards an early exit from Europe. 


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Following the performance in Italy, Midtjylland should be additionally confident off the back of their 2-0 Danish Superligaen win at Vejle Boldklub on Saturday. With nothing to lose and Liverpool seemingly looking to rotate, this could be an opportunity for the Danish side to register their first Champions League win. 

On the other hand, victory for the Reds would lift them onto 15 points – the club’s highest ever group stage points total in the competition. With major targets achievable for both sides, both will be looking for three big points on Wednesday evening.

Key details

Who: FC Midtjylland v Liverpool

What: UEFA Champions League, Group D: Matchday 6

Date: Wednesday December 8, 2020

Time: 5.55pm GMT

Location: MCH Arena, Herning

Team news

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s presence in team training for the first time since his previous-season knee injury was an immensely pleasing sight in Tuesday afternoon’s open training session. It appears unlikely that he will be ready to feature in Denmark, although a place on the bench could be a possibility. 

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Naby Keïta should again be available after making their respective returns from injury against Wolves on Sunday. It is possible Klopp may opt not to put them in the firing line for this one, but the game could be a source of valuable competitive minutes. 

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez remain in the early stages of rehabilitation, following their knee operations. Nat Phillips is another centre-back who is unavailable, due to the 23-year-old not being included in the Champions League squad. 

With rotation highly likely, it heightens the chances of teenagers Rhys Williams and Billy Koumetio featuring in central defence. An appearance for Koumetio would see him become the club’s youngest representative in the European Cup or Champions League, at 18 years and 25 days. 

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Caoimhín Kelleher looks set for a third consecutive start between the sticks, following his impressive displays against Ajax and Wolves last week. “Usually a goalie you don’t have to change that often and nobody told me anything different, that Caoimh should be ready again,” said Klopp in Tuesday’s pre-match press conference. 

Alisson Becker remains out, although it seems possible, he could be ready for Sunday’s trip to Fulham. Andy Robertson has started 12 of the last 14 games for Liverpool and Scotland, meaning another opportunity at left-back for summer signing Kostas Tsimikas looks on the cards. 

In midfield, James Milner is still absent with the hamstring issue sustained at Brighton on November 28, while Thiago Alcântara continues to work his way back from the impact injury caused by Richarlison’s challenge in October 17’s Merseyside derby. 

Georginio Wijnaldum is arguably the man in this area of the pitch who is most due a rest. The Dutchman has started 11 consecutive games for club and country since he was on the bench for the October 27 reverse fixture. With that in mind, there appears a very solid chance that 19-year-old midfielders Jake Cain and Leighton Clarkson will feature in at least some capacity – quite possibly from the start. 

There are fewer availability issues up top, at present. Xherdan Shaqiri remains absent after an unspecified muscle issue side-lined him in mid-November, but Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino should be ready to come into the forward line. The fact Diogo Jota only featured from the bench on Sunday suggests he could be set to join them. 

For Midtjylland, the most notable doubt looks to be 21-year-old Swedish midfielder Jens Cajuste, who hasn’t featured since November 22. Captain Erik Sviatchenko should return in central defence, though, after he was suspended for last week’s Bergamo trip. 

One of the most intriguing questions for the hosts could, actually, be the shape they opt for. A 3-4-2-1, rather than their more regular 4-2-3-1 – which they returned to on Saturday – helped earn the Atalanta draw. It should become clearer on Wednesday evening whether it is a potential long-term approach or was simply a response to the Italians’ own back-three system and Sviatchenko’s absence.

Likely lineups

FC Midtjylland (4-2-3-1):

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1. Jesper Hansen; 6. Joel Andersson, 28. Erik Sviatchenko (C), 14. Alexander Scholz, 29. Paulinho; 38. Frank Onyeka, 10. Evander; 36. Anders Dreyer, 7. Pione Sisto, 11. Awer Mabil; 9. Sory Kaba

Substitutes:

2. Dion Cools, 5. Daniel Høegh, 15. Bozhidar Kraev, 16. Valdemar Birksø Thorsen (GK), 26. Lasse Vibe, 30. Oliver Ottesen (GK), 33. Luca Pfeiffer, 34. Mikael Anderson, 43. Nicolas Madsen, 44. Nikolas Dyhr, 45. Gustav Isaksen, 89. Ronnie Schwartz

Manager: Brian Priske

Liverpool (4-3-3):

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62. Caoimhin Kelleher; 66. Trent Alexander-Arnold (C), 46. Rhys Williams, 89. Billy Koumetio, 21. Konstantinos Tsimikas; 64. Jake Cain, 8. Naby Keïta, 65. Leighton Clarkson; 20. Diogo Jota, 18. Takumi Minamino, 27. Divock Origi

Substitutes:

3. Fabinho, 5. Georginio Wijnaldum, 9. Roberto Firmino, 10. Sadio Mane, 11. Mohamed Salah, 13. Adrián (GK), 14. Jordan Henderson, 17. Curtis Jones, 26. Andrew Robertson, 56. Vítezslav Jaroš (GK), 76. Neco Williams

Manager: Jürgen Klopp


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