LIVERPOOL: Liverpool’s hopes of early progress to the Champions League knockout stages were dealt a blow as Jurgen Klopp’s gamble backfired in a 2-0 defeat at home to Atalanta.
Elsewhere Manchester City and Bayern Munich also qualified for the second round while Real Madrid revived their prospects with a 2-0 win away to Internazionale in Milan.
The Reds boss made five changes from Sunday’s victory over Leicester, including altering three of his back four, and paid for it with a lack of cohesion and rhythm which allowed last season’s quarter-finalists to become the first team to win at Anfield in 90 minutes since Chelsea in September 2018.
Victory over Ajax next week would still guarantee safe passage and with December’s schedule, Klopp will want to avoid the nightmare scenario of having something to play for with the final game against Midtjylland.
Phil Foden scored the only goal as Manchester City secured their place in the Champions League knockout stages yet again with a 1-0 victory over Olympiacos in Greece.
The 20-year-old turned home from a Raheem Sterling flick in the 36th minute as City maintained their 100 per cent record in Group C and reached the last 16 with two matches to spare.
The Greek champions were stubborn opponents at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus but City, who created a number of clear-cut opportunities, were never in danger of slipping up.
Manager Pep Guardiola may be frustrated that more chances were not taken but, after a difficult start in the Premier League, progress in Europe with minimal fuss is a major objective achieved.
It is the eighth successive year City have reached the knockout phase and, having voiced concerns about the intensity of this season’s schedule, Guardiola will be pleased to have done so while resting Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker.