Ajax vs Liverpool preview: How to watch, kick-off time, predicted line-ups and ones to watch
(Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Liverpool must put their Merseyside Derby agony behind them as they begin their quest for European glory away to Ajax on Wednesday night.

The Reds were left seething with the perceived injustice as Jordan Pickford escaped punishment for a potentially season-ending challenge on Virgil van Dijk before they were denied a stoppage-time winner by a controversial offside call.

They will look to channel that dismay into motivation in Amsterdam, kicking-off a Group D campaign which will also see them face Atalanta and Midtjylland.

Liverpool's Champions League title defence was halted at the Round of 16 stage in March when they were dumped out by Atletico Madrid, but they are third-favourites among the bookmakers to land a seventh European crown this year.

Ajax, memorably semifinalists in 2019, suffered a similar fall from continental grace last season, finishing third in their group before bowing out of the Europa League at the first hurdle.

Erik ten Hag's men have begun their Eredivisie campaign strongly after their 2019/20 title ambitions were thwarted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Having been beaten by Groningen before the international break, they made an emphatic return to winning ways against Heerenveen last weekend, Dusan Tadic netting twice in a 5-1 victory.

That was their fourth win in five matches, keeping them just a point adrift of early leaders PSV in the table.

Team news

Joel Matip will not be risked for Liverpool amid concerns over his match-fitness, meaning Fabinho is likely to fill in at centre-half as he did successfully against Chelsea.

Neither he nor Thiago Alcantara, who limped through the closing minutes following Richarlison's red-card challenge, have travelled to the Netherlands. 

It is hoped that both absences will be brief.

Alisson Becker is closing in on a return but this game will come too soon, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kostas Tsimikas remain sidelined.

Naby Keita is back in contention after returning a negative Covid-19 test.

Ajax, meanwhile, will be without 20-year-old winger Antony, who scored last weekend to continue an impressive start to life in the Dutch capital.

Defender Jurrien Timber is the only other player on their injury list.

Ones to watch

Ryan Gravenberch

Having made his first-team breakthrough at the back end of the curtailed Eredivisie season, the 18-year-old is preparing to embark on his first Champions League campaign.

And by the end of it, he could feasibly have established himself as one of Europe's most prized talents. 

Gravenberch will either operate in a double pivot with Davy Klaassen or sit at the base of a three-man midfield. He will be tasked with maintaining a solid foundation as well as effective ball progression.

It is surely the biggest night of fledgling career so far.

Nicolas Tagliafico

Only five of the starters from the classic 2019 Champions League semifinal against Spurs remain at Ajax, one of whom is left-back Nicolas Tagliafico.

The Argentine international was the subject of reported interest from Chelsea, Manchester City and Leicester City this summer.

And he could build his reputation further on Wednesday night as he bids to pass the daunting test of marshalling Mohamed Salah and, perhaps more so, Trent Alexander-Arnold. Can he, with the help of his midfielders, neutralise the threat from the Liverpool right?

Fabinho

Once the emergency centre-half, Fabinho may now become a de facto centre-half with Van Dijk sidelined and Joel Matip struggling for long-term fitness.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Georginio Wijnaldum emphasised the importance of players standing up to be counted following the injury to arguably their most important player, and a great part of the responsibility will fall on Fabinho.

He has shown he is capable of delivering in an unfamiliar role, and another assured display here would help to ease supporters' anxieties.

Predicted line-ups

Ajax: Onana; Mazraoui, Schuurs, Blind, Tagliafico; Klaassen, Gravenberch; Neres, Kudus, Promes; Tadic.

Liverpool: Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Gomez, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane. 

What the managers have said

Erik ten Hag

"I think Liverpool are the best team in the world.

"Even though they have some setbacks with injuries now, they can absorb that, even if the defeat against Aston Villa shows that they are not infallible."

Jurgen Klopp

"It's a sensational club with an outstanding philosophy, with a really world-class coach and world-class talent.

"Meanwhile, from what I see from the outside, they change their philosophy slightly. They're bringing in more experienced players or bring them back – apart from Tadic, I think pretty much all the others played already there before – and mixing up with the youth.

"They are ambitious and they are top."

Last meeting

It was 1966 when these two giants last locked horns in the European Cup second round.

Ajax thumped Liverpool 5-1 in Amsterdam before a 2-2 draw at Anfield secured an emphatic aggregate victory.

Johann Cruyff, after whom Ajax's stadium is now named, scored three times over the two legs against Bill Shankly's side.

Where to watch

The match will be broadcast live on BT Sport 1 and BT Sport 1HD in the United Kingdom. Coverage begins at 19.00, with kick-off at 20.00

VAVEL Logo