Today is the day. This night is the night that the Rossoneri fans have been dreaming about for so long. The last fixture AC Milan played in the elite competition of the Champions League was back in the year 2014.
Now, Il Diavolo is back with new blood and identity, coached and led by Stefano Pioli who has the merit of the progress that Milan has done in the last 18 months, as Liverpool’s manager, Jurgen Klopp, said.
Jordan Henderson, captain of Liverpool who plays as a midfielder looks forward to facing the Rossoneri at the Anfield stadium. It will be, certainly a match full of tactical dialogues between the respective managers, physical duels in midfield and a true exam to Milan’s progress.
Looking over at Liverpool side first, who will host the Serie A giants at the Anfield for the first time ever, there will be two absences. Roberto Firmino, Brazilian attacker who is 29 years old is set to miss the game as well as Harvey Elliott, 18-year-old midfielder.
The two players are out of the team selection. However, that barely even makes Liverpool slightly weaker. This is the likely lineup that Jurgen Klopp should use tonight:
4-3-3: Alisson; Trent-Alexander Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Jota, Mané
The front three are all tough. On the wings, Salah and Mané will attack the depth and try to cut inside and drive forward to create dangerous opportunities. Diego Jota, Portuguese forward will act as the striker and try to find pockets of space between Kjaer and Tomori and ask for through balls.
The midfield is very tough technically and physically. Fabinho will be working hard defensively and will apply pressure with his teammates Henderson and Thiago Alcantara. They will try to close the space and prohibit Brahim Diaz from receiving any passes.
AC Milan, on the other hand, will try to strike hard and play their usual game, like the one we saw against Lazio. Here is the likely lineup that coach Pioli should use:
4-2-3-1: Maignan; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Theo; Kessié, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Brahim Diaz, Rafael Leao, Ante Rebic
The full-backs, Davide Calabria and Theo Hernandez will have to perform at the highest level defensively to stop or reduce the threats of Mané and Salah. Tomori and Kjaer will have to be very organised to be able to stop the attacking trio of Liverpool as well.
Alexis Saelemaekers and Rafael Leao will also have to come back and press on the full-backs of Liverpool to stop them from giving their usual attacking contribution.
In midfield, Franck Kessié and Bennacer will work intensely to establish their dominance against Fabinho and Jordan Henderson and marking Thiago Alcantara who has a great vision of the field with good passes that can create danger at any given time.
Coach Pioli, in the attacking phase, will hope that Leao gets in full form with Saelemaekers. Accurate crosses dribbles and passes to Brahim Diaz who likes to attack and move behind the lines will be needed while Ante Rebic will try to explore the spaces created and put the ball past the net. However, that is not the only plan for the Italian tactician.
In fact, Olivier Giroud, who knows English football quite well and is familiar with the Anfield Stadium, is a second weapon for the striker role. He will be on the bench ready to come on. Then, he will try to position himself well just in time for a good cross or a through ball. The French striker, former goalscorer at Arsenal and Chelsea, can also act as a aerial station, hold it and pass it to the wingers, thus creating opportunities and space for them.
This night will be very special for Milan and Liverpool. Two titans will clash with 13 Champions League titles between them.
Once referee Pole Szymon Marciniak blows his whistle to indicate kick-off, the recent forms of clubs will be forgotten by the fans, as well as interviews and tactics. What will matter is who will come out victorious at the end. Bragging rights are at stake and certainly the Rossoneri men will do their best to prove their strength and conquer the Anfield Stadium and start the group stage well.