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Europa League | Quarter-Finals | 2nd Leg
Apr 18, 2024 at 8pm UK
Gewiss Stadium
Liverpool logo

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Why Diogo Jota must start for Liverpool in Atalanta BC second leg

Why Diogo Jota must start for Liverpool in Atalanta BC second leg
© Reuters
Sports Mole analyses why Liverpool attacker Diogo Jota must start if the Reds are to overturn their 3-0 deficit against Atalanta BC in the Europa League quarter-finals.

Europa League history must be written by Liverpool if they are to somehow prolong Jurgen Klopp's final continental journey on the Reds touchline, which seems destined to come to an end in Bergamo on Thursday night.

Immediately regarded as one of the favourites to lift the Europa League trophy aloft once their top-four failure last season was confirmed, putting a staggering 11 strikes past Sparta Prague over two legs would seemingly be a harbinger of doom for an Atalanta BC side flattering to deceive domestically.

As it was, Liverpool were the ones who left a lot to be desired in front of the Kop last Thursday, where Klopp was left aghast as Gianluca Scamacca's brace and Mario Pasalic's strike sealed an unforeseen 3-0 triumph for Gian Piero Gasperini's troops.

While Liverpool's first-leg showing was nothing short of abysmal - as was their worrying profligacy in the weekend's Premier League loss to Crystal Palace - no Atalanta fan needs reminding of how the Reds have become synonymous with extraordinary European fightbacks since the turn of the millennium.

Twenty-seven points won from losing positions in the 2023-24 Premier League season is also the best record of its kind - three more than closest challengers Manchester City - although Liverpool are yet to fight back from three goals down in the top flight this term.

Liverpool's Diogo Jota warms up in August 2023© Reuters

Diogo Jota thrives in Europa League action

Furthermore, 132 previous Europa League/UEFA Cup ties have seen an away team win a first leg of a knockout match by at least three goals, and on 132 occasions, the victorious travellers progressed to the next stage.

However, Klopp is now ready to unleash the Europa League ace up his sleeve in the form of Diogo Jota, who has once again been bedevilled by injuries this season, spending several weeks out with a knee issue during the final stages of winter.

The Portugal international's latest affliction has now cleared up, though - he was brought on as a second-half substitutes in defeats to Atalanta and Crystal Palace - and he has ostensibly built up enough minutes to justify a return to the first XI.

Thursday's second leg is crying out for a player of Jota's credentials, as the former Wolverhampton Wanderers man has developed an affinity for standout showings in the Europa League, having a direct hand in 17 goals from 18 games including qualifying.

From matches solely in the group stage and beyond, Jota has an impressive nine goals under his belt from just 12 contests, including back-to-back hat-tricks against Besiktas and Espanyol during the 2019-20 campaign with Wolves.

Jota in a Liverpool league of his own

Prior to his latest muscular and knee issues, the 27-year-old also notched in three successive group games versus Union SG and Toulouse (twice), and he averages a goal every 64 minutes in the competition.

Since the competition's rebranding in 2009, no player with at least five strikes possesses a better goal-to-minutes ratio, and Jota also out-performs his fellow Liverpool attackers in a crucial metric.

Indeed, the Portuguese is the only one out of himself, Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz to be bettering his Premier League Expected Goals (xG) this season, registering nine despite an xG of just 4.91, enhancing his credentials as a ruthless finisher.

Jota has also put 62.5% of his big chances away in the top flight - for comparison, the ever wasteful Nunez has only converted 19.4% of such opportunities, making the Uruguayan statistically the most profligate player in Europe's big five leagues in that regard.

Jota is no stranger to success in Bergamo either - netting a terrific treble in the 5-0 Champions League crushing of Atalanta BC in 2020 - so Klopp simply must find a way to accommodate the ex-Wolves man in his starting XI if Liverpool are to shock the continent again.

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Group A

QWest Ham650115
4Backa Topola60151

Group B

4AEK Athens61144

Group C

QSparta Prague631210
4Aris Limassol61144

Group D

QSporting Lisbon632111
3Sturm Graz61144

Group E

3Union SG62228

Group F

3M. Haifa61235

Group G

QSlavia Prague650115
4Sheriff Tiraspol60151

Group H

QB. Leverkusen660018

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