Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp expects Darwin Nunez to face Ajax in midweek after missing Saturday's shock defeat to Nottingham Forest with a hamstring injury.

Uruguay striker Nunez scored the only goal of the game on Wednesday as the Reds beat West Ham, building on a lively – albeit chaotic – cameo against Manchester City last weekend.

But he was withdrawn in the second half with a hamstring strain and that prevented him from featuring at the City Ground, his absence a blow as the Reds lacked presence in attack.

Forest won 1-0 thanks to a goal from former Liverpool youngster Taiwo Awoniyi, and Klopp will be desperate for his side to get the defeat out of their system as quickly as possible.

Liverpool can secure their progression to the last 16 of the Champions League when they face Ajax in Amsterdam on Wednesday and Klopp expects his big-money signing to return.

"Darwin should be back, this game was just too early," Klopp said.

"I think another day recovery would have helped him, but we played today. At least that is my knowledge in the moment.

"Ibou [Ibrahima Konate] will train from [Sunday] on and Naby [Keita] as well, but Naby is far off so he starts training now after a long period."

Liverpool's preparations for Saturday's match were also hampered by Thiago Alcantara falling ill in the 24 hours before kick-off and Klopp is unsure if he will face Ajax.

"Thiago got a bad ear infection last night and there was no chance for him to do anything. We drove him home," Klopp added.

"The decision was [made] in the moment he woke up and had the pain. The doctor went there and they tried everything, went to the hospital and stuff like this. It didn't work out."

That proved to be a spanner in the works for the Reds, with Klopp acknowledging the Spain international's absence left his side lacking creativity in midfield.

But he praised Curtis Jones for filling in, as he played in a deeper, unfamiliar role.

"We were obviously lacking up front a bit runs in behind, we were lacking vision in the centre, that's all true," he continued.

"I thought Curtis did really well but is not used to the position. He can play that definitely, but he was not even in my thoughts to start, so that all happened last night. But he did really well.

"But that we then did not create that much, I am not concerned about that, I'm not surprised – that's things that can happen."

Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti hailed the atmosphere at the sold-out Stadio Maradona as his side fought past Ajax 4-2 to secure their place in the Champions League knockout stages.

Goals from Hirving Lozano, Giacomo Raspadori, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, and Victor Osimhen saw Napoli continue their unbeaten campaign in Group A in front of a raucous home crowd.

It was a result that secured a place in the last 16 with two matches to spare.
 
Speaking to Sky Sport Italia, Spalletti said about the home support: "On evenings like this, you are swept along by the atmosphere. At one point, I felt dizzy and thought I could see stars going around my head.

"This qualification is down to the lads and I am fortunate to be working with a group like this. The entire city is proud of them, a city that pushed us on with the right motivation."

With another four goals tonight, the Partenopei have further demonstrated their goalscoring capabilities. 

They have now scored 17 goals in the group stages, representing the most ever by an Italian side in the group stages of the competition.

When asked about the tactics behind his free-scoring side, Spalletti said: "Systems no longer exist in football, it’s all about the spaces left by the opposition. 

"You must be quick to spot them and know the right moment to strike, have the courage to start the move even when pressed," he added.

Lozano, whose header in the third minute opened the scoring, was Napoli's ninth different goalscorer in the Champions League this season. 

And Napoli's final goal, scored by the returning Osimhen, was the their 10th, the most of any side in this season's competition.

Speaking to Sky Sport Italia, Lozano said: "It was a great game, I think the whole team did a good job.

"I am very happy with the victory and my goal. We are all pleased to enter the history books. It was very difficult against a strong side like Ajax.

"We continue to work game after game to keep improving."

Napoli's next fixture is home to Rangers as they look to maintain their unbeaten group stage record and secure the top spot in Group A.

Inter have a chance to become the first Italian side to ever beat Barcelona twice in a Champions League campaign when they meet at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Club Brugge are on the brink of their first trip to the knockout stages as they play Atletico Madrid.

Mohamed Salah can make history with one more Champions League goal for Liverpool on their trip to Scotland to take on Rangers, and Bayern Munich are one win away from their own record as they try to win an 11th consecutive group stage match.

Tottenham will look to break out of a scoring slump when they host Eintracht Frankfurt, while Porto and Bayer Leverkusen are battling it out in Group B.

With plenty of important matchups, Stats Perform has parsed through the data to preview the eight fixtures on Wednesday and shine a light on some of the more interesting angles.

Barcelona v Inter

Inter's 1-0 victory against Barcelona at San Siro last week was their first triumph over the Spanish giants since April 2010, with Barca collecting four wins and one draw since.

With another win, Inter can become the first Italian side to ever beat Barcelona twice in the same Champions League campaign, although they have lost all five of their away fixtures at Camp Nou – their most losses at any away venue in the competition.

In fact, Camp Nou has not been a happy hunting ground for Italian sides in general, with a 3-0 victory for Juventus in 2020 marking the country's only win at the venue in the last 17 tries (L13 D3).

It is not just Barcelona who have given Inter trouble on away days, with their last away win in the Champions League against a Spanish opponent coming back in 2004 against Valencia.

Working in Inter's favour is road warrior Lautaro Martinez, who has scored six of his seven Champions League goals away from home.

Tottenham v Eintracht Frankfurt

After banking four consecutive wins against Borussia Dortmund between 2017 and 2019, Tottenham are now winless in their past five Champions League fixtures against German sides (D1 L4).

On the other side, Eintracht have enjoyed success when travelling to England in European competition, winning both of their previous two attempts – against Arsenal in 2019, and West Ham in April this year – in the Europa League.

However, this is a clear step up from the Europa League, and after winning their first ever Champions League away game last month (1-0 at Marseille), Frankfurt will be looking to become the only German team to ever win their first two away fixtures in the competition.

The 0-0 draw between these two sides in Frankfurt a week ago was the second consecutive Champions League game where Tottenham have failed to score a goal – also losing 2-0 to Sporting. The last time they went three games in the competition without scoring was back in 2011.

Striker Harry Kane will be key, as he boasts the best minutes-per-goal figure – 20 goals in 27 appearances for a goal every 118 minutes – of any English player with at least 10 goals in the Champions League.

Atletico Madrid v Club Brugge

Not many, if any, would have tipped Club Brugge to top Group B ahead of Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Porto, but they have defeated all three to lead with a perfect nine points and zero goals conceded.

One more win for Brugge would see them progress past the group stage for the first time, in their 10th Champions League campaign. By defeating Atletico, they would become the first Belgian side since Anderlecht in 2000 to win four games in a row in the competition.

Brugge are also one goal away from matching their highest goal tally from a single Champions League campaign, with eight goals in 2020-21.

Surprisingly, Atletico have struggled at home in the Champions League, snapping a streak of eight games without a win (D5 L3) by defeating Porto this season.

Brugge's Ferran Jutgla has registered a goal and an assist in each of his past two Champions League games, and if he can manage to do it again, he will join Robert Lewandowski and Leroy Sane as the only players since 2003-04 to have a goal and an assist in three straight games in the competition.

Bayer Leverkusen v Porto

With Brugge seemingly cruising, Porto, Leverkusen and Atletico are likely fighting it out for one automatic qualification spot, and Leverkusen will feel good about their chances as Porto are winless in their last seven away games against German teams (D2 L5).

After defeating Atletico at home on the second matchday, Leverkusen will be looking to win consecutive Champions League home fixtures in the same campaign for the first time since 2014.

Patrick Schick is Leverkusen's focal point going forward, attempting more than twice as many shots (12) as any of his team-mates this Champions League season, but he is yet to score, having missed a penalty against Porto in last week's 2-0 loss.

Porto's Mehdi Taremi assisted both goals in the reverse fixture, marking the first time he has been involved in multiple goals in a Champions League game, while the sending-off of Jeremie Frimpong gave Leverkusen their 11th red card in their history in the competition, trailing only Bayern Munich (21) amongst German sides.

Other fixtures:

Napoli v Ajax

5 – Napoli beat Ajax 6-1 in the reverse fixture at Johan Cruyff Arena, with the five-goal margin marking the heaviest defeat Ajax have ever suffered in European competition.

10 – With one more win, Napoli would become the fourth Italian club to ever mount a 10-game unbeaten streak in the Champions League, with six wins and three draws from their past nine fixtures.

Rangers v Liverpool

5 – Rangers have failed to score in their past five European games against English competition, including a 2-0 loss against Liverpool last week.

35 – Mohamed Salah has scored 35 Champions League goals for Liverpool – only Didier Droga (36 for Chelsea) and Sergio Aguero (36 for Manchester City) have scored more for a single Premier League club in the competition.

Sporting v Marseille

9 – Marseille have lost their past nine away fixtures in the Champions League, and with one more loss they would become the sixth team to ever post 10 consecutive away defeats in the competition, and the first from France.

18 – It has been 18 years since Sporting lost a home fixture against a French side in European competition, with that loss coming against Sochaux in the 2004 UEFA Cup.

Viktoria Plzen v Bayern Munich

31 – Bayern Munich are undefeated in their past 31 Champions League group stage matches (28W 3D) – which is an all-time high – and with one more win they will set the new record for consecutive group stage wins with 11.

32 – Viktoria Plzen have faced 32 shots on target in their first three games of this Champions League campaign – more than any other side. In the reverse fixture, Bayern had 13 shots on target.

Sebastien Haller says he "can't complain" over his battle with testicular cancer, with the Borussia Dortmund forward stating it is "the first big ordeal" he has had to face in his life.

The Ivory Coast international joined the Bundesliga outfit from Ajax ahead of the current campaign, but was promptly sidelined following the discovery of a malignant tumour.

Since then, he has been undergoing treatment, with hopes he may yet be able to feature this campaign for Dortmund, as Edin Terzic's side hunt for domestic and European silverware.

Haller hopes to have the green light to return to action in the near future, stating he has ideas in his head - but admits it is all dependent on how his illness takes its course.

"I'm lucky enough to feel well," he told UEFA's official website. "I am physically able to work, I feel fine from both a mental and a physical point of view, which is of course helpful to fight this disease.

"I have a timescale in mind. If I'm lucky enough not to need surgery, things can go very quickly. Checks are made three weeks after the final phase.

"If I don't need an operation, with the way I train, I'd like to think that I will be in good condition at the end of those three weeks.

"One of the first things I told myself was: 'OK, it's happened to me. I am going to do everything to be good mentally and physically'.

"I was a spoiled child; I never had any worries. This is the first big ordeal I had to face.

"Some people start their lives like that. I was lucky that it came later in my life, so I can’t complain. It's a challenge, a huge challenge, and the fact that you were able to overcome it means that you’re a warrior."

Luciano Spalletti declared "even Diego Maradona will have been proud" after Napoli thrashed Ajax 6-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Despite falling behind to Mohammed Kudus' ninth-minute opener in Amsterdam, Spalletti's side responded with goals from Giacomo Raspadori, Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Piotr Zielinski putting them 3-1 up at the break.

The visitors' task was made easier after Dusan Tadic's second-half dismissal; Raspadori and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia increasing the advantage, before Giovanni Simeone sealed an emphatic victory.

Spalletti referenced the late Maradona after Napoli scored six times in a European game for the first time in their history, while Ajax suffered their heaviest defeat in all competitions since November 1964.

"When you go into a stadium like this, with that roar there, it's not easy to immediately regain the conviction in pressing and recovering after going a goal down," the Napoli coach told reporters. 

"It could have disturbed us a lot, but the team did the things it had to do; they never let themselves be influenced and won a great match.

"More than the result, it is beautiful as the performance shows us our qualities; the boys played important football and will benefit because they have all seen it. They played very good plays, even Maradona will have been proud tonight."

Continuing their perfect start to the competition after making it three wins from three, Napoli are three points clear of Liverpool at the halfway point in Group A, and in the driving seat to reach the knockout stages.

"With this victory, we have excellent chances [to qualify], but we have to achieve other results," Spalletti added. "What gives context is the quality of the opponents who we produced this performance against, they are a great club."

Liverpool face Rangers in a battle of Britain and Barcelona will attempt to apply more pressure on Inter boss Simone Inzaghi with a Champions League victory on Tuesday.

An army of Gers fans will travel south of the border to descend on Merseyside for a Group A clash that will give them another opportunity to secure a first point, with the Reds in second spot behind Napoli.

Barca moved top of La Liga last weekend and Xavi's side will start their third Group C game level on points with out-of-sorts Inter after losing 2-0 to leaders Bayern Munich last month.

Bayern will be expected to maintain their 100 per cent record at the expense of Viktoria Plzen, and Serie A table-toppers Napoli travel to Ajax looking to continue their brilliant start to the season.

Ahead of another mouthwatering set of matches, Stats Perform trawls through the Opta data to highlight the most noteworthy facts for each contest.

Liverpool v Rangers

This will be the first European meeting between Liverpool and the Glasgow giants in a European competition.

The Gers have only won one of their seven away games in England, that being a 2-1 Champions League victory at Leeds United in November 1992 courtesy of goals from Mark Hateley and Ally McCoist. They have suffered six defeats and drawn twice.

Liverpool's last meeting with Scottish opponents in the European Cup was back in the 1980-81 campaign, winning 5-0 on aggregate against Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen (1-0 away, 4-0 home). The Reds went on to win the competition that year.

Jurgen Klopp's side have won 13 of their past 15 home Champions League group stage matches (D1 L1), scoring 36 goals in process. Their solitary defeat was against Atalanta in November 2020

Rangers have failed to score in their two group games so far. Indeed, only Plzen (2) and Sevilla (3) have had fewer shots on target than the Scottish club (4) in this season's first two matchdays.

Inter v Barcelona

Inter have won just two of their 14 European matches against Barcelona (D4 L8), a 2-1 victory in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in January 1970 and 3-1 Champions League triumph in April 2010.

Barca's two away wins against the Nerazzurri came 60 years apart, winning 4-2 in the Fairs Cup in September 1959 and 2-1 in the Champions League in December 2019.

Inter have lost six UEFA Champions League matches against the Catalan giants, their most against a single opponent. Barca have only beaten Celtic (8) more times in the competition.

Barca have lost three of their past four away Champions League group stage matches (W1), as many as in their previous 25 matches on their travels in the competition (W15 D7). Xavi is only the second manager to lose his first two away Champions League matches in charge of Barcelona, along with Louis van Gaal in 1997.

Inter have lost their past two Champions League games at San Siro (0-2 v Liverpool and Bayern). Only once previously have they suffered three consecutive home defeats in the European Cup/UEFA Champions League (a run of three between February-September 2011).

Bayern Munich v Viktoria Plzen

Bayern have won all four of their European matches against Plzen, beating them twice in the 1971-72 Cup Winners' Cup and the Champions League in 2013-14.

Plzen's two away European matches against Bayern have seen them concede at least five goals on each occasion, losing 6-1 in September 1971 in the Cup Winners' Cup and 5-0 in the Champions League nine years ago.

Bayern are out to record three wins at the start of a Champions League campaign for a fourth consecutive season. In their opening three games in the previous three seasons and their two games this year, they have won all 11 matches by an aggregate score of 41-7.

Plzen have conceded seven goals in their two Champions League games this season and only kept one clean sheet in their 20 matches in the competition.

Leroy Sane has been directly involved in 14 goals in his past 11 Champions League starts for Bayern (8 goals, 6 assists). The winger could become only the second player to score in Bayern's first three Champions League games in a season, with Robert Lewandowski (in 2019-20 and 2021-22) being the other.

Ajax v Napoli

Napoli have never won away from home in the Netherlands (D2 L3) in any European competition.

Ajax have failed to win any of their past 11 home European matches against Italian opposition (D6 L5) since winning 2-1 against Roma in this competition in December 2002.

Napoli will be looking to win their first three Champions League group stage games for the first time. They are unbeaten in eight matches in the group stage of the competition (W5 D3).

Ajax have won their past four home games in the group stage of the Champions League, scoring four goals in each of the previous three (4-0 v Borussia Dortmund, 4-2 v Sporting CP and 4-0 v Rangers).

Napoli are the top scoring side in the Champions League this season with seven goals. Luciano Spalletti's side have had more shots (43) and shots on target (19) than any other team.

Other fixtures:

Marseille v Sporting CP

6 - Marseille have lost six of their eight European Cup/Champions League matches against Portuguese opponents (W1 D1).

16 - Marseille have lost 16 of their past 17 Champions League matches (W1), failing to score in 11 matches in this run, including both games this season.

Porto v Bayer Leverkusen

7 - Porto have won seven of their eight home Champions League games against German opposition (D1), winning five in a row.

2 - Leverkusen have only won two of their past 13 away matches in the Champions League (D5 L6), with three of the previous four ending in defeats without scoring.

Club Brugge v Atletico Madrid

3 - Brugge are unbeaten in all three home meetings with Atleti in European competition (W2 D1).

7 - Atleti have never won a European match against a Belgium club in seven attempts (five away, two neutral). They have played more major European games on Belgian soil without winning than in any other country.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Tottenham

4 - Tottenham have lost their past four Champions League matches against German opposition by an aggregate score of 14-3, losing twice to Bayern Munich (2-7 and 1-3) and twice to RB Leipzig (0-1 and 0-3).

3 - Eintracht have won three consecutive European games against English teams (one versus Arsenal, two v West Ham), as many as in their first 14.

Newcastle United are reportedly prepared to launch a third bid for Leicester City midfielder James Maddison in the January window.

Maddison, 24, has had a strong start to the season despite Leicester sitting bottom of the table through seven games, with the midfielder registering three goals and an assist.

Newcastle reportedly placed bids of £40million and £45m in the last window – which prompted manager Brendan Rodgers to say "that might just cover three-quarters of his left leg" – but January will mark 18 months remaining on his contract, with a voluntary extension looking extremely unlikely.

 

TOP STORY – MADDISON OPEN TO NEWCASTLE UNITED MOVE

Maddison is said to be more open to the idea of leaving Leicester after failing to break back into the England setup for the World Cup, with his only international cap coming as a substitute during a win against Montenegro in 2020.

With Newcastle players Nick Pope and Kieran Trippier both being involved with the Three Lions, it is viewed as a more favourable situation to capture the attention of Gareth Southgate.

The report from The Times indicates Leicester do have the option to extend Maddison's contract by one extra season, which could give them the freedom to see out the remainder of the campaign.

However, if Newcastle are willing to move into the £60m range, that kind of spending power could fund some significant moves to address the Foxes' problems, and there is no guarantee his value will remain this high if they delay.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to Spanish publication Beteve, Lionel Messi will refuse any contract extension and will leave Paris Saint-Germain at the end of this season.

– Kicker is reporting Tottenham's Harry Kane remains Bayern Munich's top target, and with only one more season left on his deal after this campaign, Tottenham could be forced to cash-in if he indicates he is ready to leave.

– Juventus will not renew the contracts of Angel Di Maria, Juan Cuadrado and Adrien Rabiot in order to reduce their wage bill, per La Gazzetta dello Sport.

– Calciomercato is reporting Roma will join Bayern Munich and Manchester United with interest in €30m Ajax centre-back Jurrien Timber.

– According to Fabrizio Romano, Newcastle United are monitoring highly regarded Vasco da Gama 18-year-old Andrey Santos.

Harry Kane remains at the centre of significant transfer speculation after the Tottenham striker failed to secure a move to Manchester City last year.

The England star appears more settled under Antonio Conte but has been linked with Bayern Munich recently.

Kane has started this Premier League campaign strongly, netting six goals in seven appearances.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA PLOTTING KANE-LUKAKU SWAP

New Chelsea boss Graham Potter wants to bring Harry Kane across town from Tottenham, claims Calciomercato.

The Blues boss is ready to offer Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, currently on loan at Inter, as part of an exchange for Kane. The England forward's contract at Tottenham expires in 2024.

Chelsea are at the start of a new era after Potter replaced Thomas Tuchel, while they are set to appoint Salzburg's Christoph Freund as their new sporting director.

 

ROUND-UP

– Fichajes reports Atletico Madrid are desperate to add a versatile attacker to their squad next year, with Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, Brighton and Hove Albion's Leandro Trossard and Liverpool's Roberto Firmino on top of their wish list.

– Calciomercato claims Liverpool are considering a move for Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk. Newcastle United, Sevilla, Bayer Leverkusen and Ajax are also tracking the Ukrainian, according to CBS' Ben Jacobs. TalkSPORT reports that the Reds are also keeping an eye on Flamengo midfielder Joao Gomes .

– Manchester City are interested in a big-money move for Milan winger Rafael Leao next year, according to the Manchester Evening News.

– Football Insider reports West Ham have informed Manuel Lanzini he is free to leave the club in January.

– Former Italy international Fabio Cannavaro is close to a return to management with talks to take over at Serie B club Benevento progressing well, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Louis van Gaal's final pre-World Cup Netherlands squad includes three first-time call-ups, including talented Ajax midfielder Kenneth Taylor.

Seven players have been dropped from the provisional squad announced earlier this month, including Bayern Munich midfielder Ryan Gravenberch and Feyenoord goalkeeper Justin Bijlow.

Gravenberch, 20, has not been called-up by Van Gaal since November 2021 and faces a battle to make the squad for Qatar as he instead takes a spot in the Under-21s along with Brian Brobbey and Jeremie Frimpong.

Jordy Clasie, Pascal Struijk and Joey Veerman are the others to be dropped from the provisional selection.

Ajax goalkeeper Remko Pasveer and 20-year-old midfielder Taylor are included for the first time, as is Heerenveen stopper Andries Noppert.

"We have included a number of new players in the squad. For us, this is the last opportunity to see the boys at work, before we have to announce our World Cup selection," Van Gaal said.

"As I have said before, the preparation time for this World Cup is extremely short, so I have to make good use of all available time. After this training camp, we won't get back together until November 14, a week before we play our first game at the World Cup."

The Netherlands will face Poland on September 22 in Warsaw, then hosting Belgium in Amsterdam three days later as the Nations League group stage comes to a close.

Netherlands squad : Jasper Cillessen (NEC), Mark Flekken (Freiburg), Remko Pasveer (Ajax), Andries Noppert (Heerenveen); Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Daley Blind, Devyne Rensch, Jurrien Timber (all Ajax), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Denzel Dumfries, Stefan de Vrij (both Inter), Matthijs de Ligt (Bayern Munich), Tyrell Malacia (Manchester United), Bruno Martins Indi (AZ); Steven Berghuis, Davy Klaassen, Kenneth Taylor (all Ajax), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Teun Koopmeiners, Maren de Roon (both Atalanta); Steven Bergwijn (Ajax), Memphis Depay (Barcelona), Cody Gakpo (PSV), Vincent Janssen (Royal Antwerp), Wout Weghorst (Besiktas)

Virgil van Dijk took a swipe at Liverpool's critics after a vital Champions League win over Ajax lifted spirits at Anfield.

Captaining Jurgen Klopp's team on Tuesday, Van Dijk saw his fellow centre-back Joel Matip head home from a corner in the 89th minute to earn three priceless points for last season's runners-up.

Mohamed Salah had earlier broken his seven-game barren streak in the competition by firing Liverpool ahead, before a fine goal from Mohammed Kudus brought Ajax level.

The atmosphere inside the stadium was electric as Matip's goal was awarded, after Dusan Tadic's attempted clearance came from behind the line.

It meant Liverpool cast aside the misery of last week's 4-1 defeat to Napoli, and Dutchman Van Dijk said it should serve to remind players-turned-pundits of the team's great strengths.

Van Dijk told BT Sport: "Coming back from the horror show in Naples, it was very important for us to show a positive reaction, and it's not easy to turn it around, but this is a step to the right direction.

"It was very important to win today and get the good feeling going into the international break."

Asked about the key to turning around the team's fortunes, Van Dijk said: "Not listening to the outside world, that's the most important thing.

"It's funny sometimes, because there's a lot of ex-football players and they know exactly what we go through. They say a lot of things to try to get us down.

"We know that last week was unacceptable, it was very bad, and we tried to make it right. This is a step to the right direction. Don't get carried away of course, because we play so many games."

Van Dijk had a team-high four goal attempts and said: "I should have scored. We felt like we were dangerous at every set-piece, especially the corners, so it was our responsibility to at least convert one, and luckily the one and only Joel Matip did it."

Matip now has 10 goals across all competitions for Liverpool, and the team have nine wins and a draw from the 10 games in which he has found the net.

"I had a few opportunities before and I was happy that I could score," said former Schalke defender Matip. "I wasn't sure [it would be awarded], to be honest, but when I saw the referee then my emotions came out.

"It was a long and tough game, we tried over 90 minutes to create chances and were pushing forward, the whole team."

Manager Jurgen Klopp enjoyed the moment, with Liverpool playing between blank weekends, their latest Premier League games having been called off amid national mourning over the death of Queen Elizabeth II and a subsequent squeeze on police resources.

"I think everyone could see we understood we had to put a completely different shift into the game," Klopp said.

"We played a lot of good stuff against a really hard-fighting and good opponent. We should have scored more goals from set-pieces especially, I don't know how these balls didn't go in."

He was more than happy for it to be Matip, rather than a striker, coming up with the late heroics.

"I'm not picky in that sense," Klopp said. "It was a nice celebration and showed everything the boys thought today. Nothing is over, negative or positive, it is a first step and a very important step for us."

Joel Matip was the Liverpool hero as his thumping late header handed the Reds a much-needed 2-1 win over Ajax at Anfield on Tuesday.

The defender secured three priceless Champions League points with his 89th-minute heroics, a huge relief for boss Jurgen Klopp after last week's 4-1 humbling by Napoli.

Mohamed Salah earlier ended a seven-game goal drought in the competition to nudge Liverpool ahead, but Ajax were level before the half-hour mark as Mohammed Kudus capped a 26-pass spell of possession.

Ajax went close through Daley Blind late on, but Matip was more precise as his header crossed the line despite Dusan Tadic's desperate attempts to keep it out. 

The hosts edged ahead in the 18th minute as Alisson's kick reached Luis Diaz, who found Diogo Jota. From a central position, Jota fed the eager Salah, who lashed past Remko Pasveer and into the bottom-right corner.

Diaz and Jota went close as Liverpool threatened to add to their opener, but the Reds were caught out by a rapid Ajax break down the left, which culminated with Kudus' sublime finish into the top-left corner. 

Pasveer saved well from Virgil van Dijk's header, and then denied Trent Alexander-Arnold twice in quick succession before the interval.

Both Van Dijk and Matip then headed over the crossbar from set-pieces as Liverpool kept up the pressure after the break, but Blind almost stunned Anfield from Tadic's right-wing cross when he nodded a foot wide of the right-hand post. 

Liverpool Substitute Darwin Nunez shot wide with seven minutes remaining, but Matip came good with time running out, rising to meet Tsimikas' corner and power the ball towards goal.

While Tadic nodded away, the former Southampton man was was a foot behind the line when doing so, and the relief inside Anfield was obvious as the goal was awarded.

A small minority of Liverpool fans interrupted a pre-match silence to honour Queen Elizabeth II ahead of the Champions League game against Ajax.

Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish had urged all supporters to respect the silence after the Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance made a similar plea.

Some in Liverpool hold strong anti-monarchy views, but the club had hoped those represented among their fanbase would manage to respect a short silence before Tuesday's fixture.

Sporadic shouting at Anfield began with a "Liverpool, Liverpool" chant that was hushed by many other supporters, and the silence was halted after 25 seconds by referee Artur Manuel Soares Dias.

It had not been specified as a minute's silence, with Liverpool describing it on their website ahead of the game as "a period of silence".

The Premier League club laid a wreath at the stadium to mark the death of the long-reigning monarch, while captain Jordan Henderson signed an official book of condolence in the city.

 

Joel Matip thinks struggling Liverpool must go back to their "successful roots" in order to reverse their underwhelming start to the season.

Jurgen Klopp's men won both domestic cups and finished as Premier League and Champions League runners-up last season, but have made a stuttering start to the 2022-23 campaign.

Liverpool were thrashed 4-1 by Napoli in their opening game in Group A last week, the heaviest defeat by a Premier League side in their first game of a Champions League campaign since Arsenal lost 3-0 to Inter in 2003-04.

They have also drawn three and lost one of their six Premier League games so far, and speaking at a news conference on Monday, Matip revealed the players have made it clear to one another that their current standards are unacceptable.

"I think in the team we are all quite clear; sometimes it hurts, this is normal, but as a good team, which I think we are, you can speak out this truth," the defender said.

"You don't like to hear them maybe in the first moments sometimes, but everybody knows that something has to happen and that we have to improve.

"We have to work on these kinds of things and for these kinds of things you have to talk.

"There was a big focus on defending [after losing to Napoli] because this is the biggest thing to get successful. I think this is the first step, defend good.

"I think it always helps if you go back to the roots and these are successful roots. If you're based on this, this can give you help for a struggling time."

Matip has made just one start for Liverpool this season after struggling with injury, but came off the bench in their last two games and could be in line to start against Ajax on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old has been at Anfield since 2016 after arriving on a free transfer from Schalke, and has accepted his status as a role model for younger players, especially when things are not going well.

"You need to lead, you need to talk with each other and need to help each other," he added.

"That's the only [way], you cannot go as a person out of this, only as a team. For this, you need to have team-mates and you need to help your team-mates.

"If you are old and experienced, you should do it."

Jurgen Klopp conceded Liverpool's 4-1 humbling at the hands of Napoli in the Champions League was their worst game since he took charge in 2015.

Liverpool were comprehensively beaten by the Serie A side in their opening game in Group A, the heaviest defeat by a Premier League side in their first game of a Champions League campaign since Arsenal lost 3-0 to Inter in 2003-04.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of their second group game at home to Ajax, Klopp did not hold back in his assessment of the "horror show" at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

After Premier League games were postponed following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Klopp also said his team would rather have played this weekend but "respected" the decision not to.

"Yes, we would have wanted to play," he said. "But for the reasons we all know it didn't happen and, of course, we respect that.

"Now we try to use the time for analysis and training, which made absolute sense after the game we played at Napoli.

"I have lots of thoughts [on the Napoli game]. I watched the game back plenty of times and it was a real horror show, to be honest.

"It was the worst game we played since I'm here. We've had a few bad games, I know that. Everyone remembers Aston Villa [7-2 loss in 2020-21] and some others where we were just not up to speed, but there were always glimpses in these games. In this particular game, [there was] nothing.

"You have to understand why that happens, it's not a common thing, that's more an individual thing. Eight out of 11 [players] were absolutely below their level, three others were not on top level, just [played] a normal game.

"In football it's like this, you sort all individual problems as a team, and that's the first thing we have to do, to follow a common idea again.

"Everything we did since I'm here and everything teams do in football is based on really solid, if not perfect, defending. That's what we had to work on, and that's what we did."

Liverpool have made an uninspiring start to the season, drawing three and losing one of their six Premier League games so far, and Klopp revealed there have been some home truths within the camp following the performance in Naples.

"I know that the players want to sort the situation, we are not over the moon about our season so far," he added. 

"In the end we all agreed that we could have conceded more goals in [the Napoli] game. We could have scored one or two more as well, but we could have conceded more, which is really crazy.

"We had absolute truth - didn't hide anything, we didn't hold back anything, there was no need for that... but not to knock the players down, just to make sure where we are now after this game, this is the starting point for us and now we have to make sure we sort the problems together on the pitch." 

Klopp confirmed that midfield duo Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – who were both left out of the Champions League squad – will not return from their respective injuries until October, despite the former being called up to the Guinea squad for the upcoming international break.

"No, I don't expect [Keita] to go on international duty," he said. "The return date is sometime in October, that's why we had to make the decision, with Ox it's the same, and that's why the two boys are not in the Champions League squad."

The Reds boss will also be without Andrew Robertson for the clash with Ajax, confirming the Scotland captain suffered an injury near the end of the Napoli defeat.

"Robbo is not 100 per cent," he said. "Very late, 93rd minute, he actually felt it the next day only, but he's out. I would say at least until after the international break."

Champions League football resumes on Tuesday, with Robert Lewandowski's return to Bayern Munich with Barcelona being an obvious highlight.

Barcelona travel to Bavaria in a match few would be disappointed to see replicated in next year's final, with Atletico Madrid also travelling to Germany to take on Bayer Leverkusen.

After Premier League football was suspended at the weekend as a mark of respect following the death of the Queen, Liverpool are back in action against Ajax and are seeking to respond to a defeat to Napoli last week, while Tottenham travel to face Sporting CP.

Elsewhere, Inter face Viktoria Plzen after both sides lost their opening fixture and Eintracht Frankfurt, following defeat to Sporting, travel to Marseille – and the only remaining match of the day is Porto against Brugge.

For a closer look at all the action you can look forward to, Stats Perform has dived into the Opta data to highlight the most interesting facts for each match.

Bayern vs Barcelona

Scoring a hat-trick on his Champions League debut for Barcelona against Viktoria Plzen, Lewandowski returns to Bavaria with a devastating record this season and his goals in the 5-1 triumph saw Barcelona scoring more in one game than they had in their previous nine matches in the competition (4).

While that will give the visitors confidence, Barcelona have a poor record against the Bundesliga champions having suffered eight defeats in the competition to Bayern – twice as many as they have lost against any other opponent (4 vs Milan, Chelsea and PSG).

Four of those losses have come in the group stages, with Bayern winning both matches in 1998-99 and 2021-22 to boast a 100 per cent record against Barcelona in that regard, who have not lost more than twice against any other opponent in the group stage.

On top of that, Bayern have won 35 of their last 37 home matches in the group stages of the Champions League – the only exceptions being a 3-2 defeat to Manchester City in December 2013 and a 1-1 draw with Ajax in October 2018.

Liverpool vs Ajax

Liverpool won both meetings with Ajax in the 2020-21 Champions League group stages, the only campaign in the competition when they have met, with the Dutch side not beating Liverpool in any competition since a 5-1 win in December 1966.

Ajax's defeat to Liverpool in December 2020 is one of only two defeats that the Eredivisie champions have experienced in their last 25 matches (W13, D10) away from home in UEFA competition, the other being a 2-0 defeat to Getafe in February 2020 in the Europa League.

Having suffered defeat to Napoli last week, Liverpool are looking to avoid back-to-back defeats to start a Champions League campaign for the first time, while they have only lost their first home match in two of their previous 46 major European campaigns (W35, D9).

With seven Champions League wins in a row, Ajax travel to Anfield with a stellar run in the competition as only Bayern (8) boast a better winning streak currently.

Sporting vs Tottenham

While the two sides have never met competitively, Sporting are winless in all six of their Champions League matches against English opposition (D1, L5) and have lost all three of those games in Lisbon without scoring a single goal.

Tottenham's record against Portuguese opponents is scarce, winning against Pacos de Ferreira in the qualifying phases for the 2021-22 Europa League but not facing an opponent from the country in the Europe's premier competition since a 4-3 aggregate defeat to Benfica in the 1962-63 semi-final.

Sporting have never won their opening two matches in the Champions League, while Antonio Conte is looking to follow in the footsteps of Mauricio Pochettino as Spurs seek back-to-back wins to open a Champions League campaign for the first time since 2017-18 season under the Argentine.

Bayer Leverkusen vs Atletico

Neither side has a particularly good record to encourage them heading into Tuesday's tie, with Leverkusen having won just four of their last 20 Champions League matches (D8, L8), while Atletico have only kept one clean sheet in 21 away matches against German opposition in major UEFA competitions.

Atletico have only won one of four away matches against Leverkusen, a 4-2 victory in February 2017 in the Champions League, and have won only one of their last seven matches in Germany – though that was the match in 2017.

Late drama is to be expected whenever Atletico compete in the Champions League, with five of their last 10 goals in the competition coming in the 90th minute of matches.

Other fixtures:

Viktoria Plzen vs Inter

8 - Viktoria Plzen have won their last eight home European matches (including qualifiers), scoring at least twice in every win (21 in total). They have only lost one of their last 19 on home soil in European football (W16 D2), a 5-0 reverse against Real Madrid during their last UEFA Champions League campaign in November 2018.

2 - Since the start of the 2020-21 campaign, Inter striker Lautaro Martínez has scored just two goals from 48 shots (inc. blocks) in the UEFA Champions League. The Argentine’s shot conversion rate of 4.2 per cent (including blocks) is the lowest of any player to have attempted 30+ shots during this period.

Porto vs Brugge

3 - Porto have lost their last three UEFA Champions League matches, with two of those coming against Atletico; they have never lost four in a row in the competition before.

1 - In major European competition, Club Brugge have lost five of their six away matches in Portugal (W1), their one win coming against Sporting Braga in September 2011 in the UEFA Europa League.

Marseille vs Eintracht Frankfurt

15 - Marseille have lost 15 of their last 16 UEFA Champions League matches (W1), with the exception coming in their last home game in the competition in December 2020 against Olympiacos.

2 - Marseille and Eintracht Frankfurt will face in European competition for only the second time, also meeting in the 2018-19 UEFA Europa League group stages. Frankfurt won both matches (2-1 away, 4-0 home).

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