5 talking points from Liverpool training ahead of Ajax Champions League fixture

Liverpool get their Champions League campaign underway against Ajax in Amsterdam with more than their fair share of injury problems.

The Reds are without Virgil van Dijk after his serious knee injury whilst Joel Matip will also miss out.

On top of his centre-back crisis, midfielder Thiago Alcantara and goalkeeper Alisson are both ruled out leaving some youngsters involved in training ahead of the game hoping for a chance.

After being knocked out of the competition by Atletico Madrid just before lockdown last season, the Reds have high hopes of mounting a fresh challenge for another European triumph.

But they will face a tough test against a rejuvenated Ajax side who themselves have plenty of history in the competition.

Here’s five key talking points from Liverpool’s final training session at Melwood before flying to Amsterdam ahead of the game.

Jurgen Klopp has plenty of injuries to deal with in his squad

1) Big night for Fabinho

It is a big night for Fabinho against Ajax as he again drops into defence.

The Brazilian has become a key part of Liverpool’s midfield in a holding role.

But his defensive capabilities meant Klopp was happy for him to be emergency cover as he opted not to sign a replacement for Dejan Lovren.

Fabinho is expected to step into the back four to replace Virgil van Dijk

Just a few weeks into the season, that emergency has already arrived and Fabinho is ready and waiting.

He will line-up at centre-back and could well be set for a more long-term spell in the role if he impresses given Van Dijk faces months on the sidelines.

2) Pressure on Gomez

Fabinho is set to partner Joe Gomez at centre-back – and the pressure is on.

Gomez has had a tough start to the season and was replaced by Joel Matip for the Merseyside derby.

He came on for Van Dijk after his early injury and impressed.

Joe Gomez is now under pressure as Liverpool’s remaining senior centre-back

But Gomez has now been left as Liverpool’s only remaining senior centre-back for the visit of Ajax.

Klopp will be looking for him to step up and lead the back four in Van Dijk’s absence – is he up to the task?

3) Point to prove for Firmino?

Roberto Firmino has struggled for goals in recent months – and he has now been accused of placing a “huge burden” on his team-mates.

Former striker Tony Cascarino told The Times: “It is only one goal in 20 Premier League matches now for Roberto Firmino as the Liverpool forward continues to struggle in front of goal.

“There was nothing particularly wrong with his all-round game against Everton — he linked the play well and was involved in the move for Liverpool’s opener — but his lack of productivity in front of goal is placing a huge burden on Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

“Should this goal drought continue, Firmino cannot afford the creative side of his game to slip.”

Roberto Firmino has struggled for goals of late

Thiago Alcantara blew fans away on his Liverpool debut – but he came close to signing for rivals Arsenal

Liverpool are keen to repeat last season’s success – and you don’t want to miss a thing, surely?

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Liverpool got their title defence off to a shaky start as they edged out a seven-goal thriller against Leeds.

In terms of transfers the Reds have completed the signing of Thiago Alcantara and Wolves’ Diogo Jota has arrived too, in a shock deal worth a potential £45million.

Youngster Ki-Jana Hoever is set to head to Wolves in a £10million deal, while Gini Wijnaldum continues to be linked with Barcelona. There’s a lot to keep track of.

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Klopp has insisted he has no concerns over Firmino.

“I don’t know when it becomes a problem for me… but it is not even close to becoming a problem,” the German said.

“These are the things where I have to be different to the outside world.

“I can’t judge moments, periods, like you judge them – for me what is important is how influential the player is, how he works for the team.”

Still, there’s no doubt Firmino will be keen to get back amongst the goals and prove a point to his detractors.

4) Phillips’ big chance

The defensive injury crisis at Anfield has left Jurgen Klopp short on options.

As a result, young defender Nathaniel Phillips is on the cusp of the biggest game of his career so far.

Phillips has returned from a loan spell with Stuttgart last year to be a part of Klopp’s first-team squad.

Defender Nat Phillips could get a huge first-team opportunity due to injuries

He was involved in training and is most likely to start on the bench against Ajax.

With Fabinho set to partner Gomez in defence, Phillips will be next in line to step into the back four.

Could he get his big chance?

5) Youngster to be involved?

There is a knock-on effect of Liverpool’s raft of injuries.

With Van Dijk out, Fabinho will move into defence.

That means one less option to replace Thiago Alcantara in midfield.

The result? A potential chance for a star of the future.

Young midfielder Jake Cain was involved in first-team training ahead of the game

Young midfielder Jake Cain was pictured heading to the pitch for first-team training ahead of the game.

He made his first-team debut in the FA Cup against Shrewsbury Town last year.

The 19-year-old, who has been with the club for a decade, is unlikely to feature in such a huge game at this stage of his career.

But there is a chance he could make the bench or be in the matchday squad, and being around the preparations for a big Champions League night can only be a positive experience for a teenager aiming to break into Klopp’s team.

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