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CL hits and misses: Liverpool youngsters impress

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Liverpool joined Manchester City in the knockout stages of the Champions League thanks to their 1-0 win over Ajax at Anfield, while Pep Guardiola's team drew in Porto. Find out who enhanced their reputation for the Premier League club as we round up the hits and misses from the Champions League...

Youngsters impress Klopp

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool squad is being tested to its limits right now but the performances of three youngsters in the 1-0 win over Ajax on Tuesday evening will have delighted the manager.

Neco Williams provided the assist for Curtis Jones to capitalise on Ajax goalkeeper Victor Onana's error and finish neatly at the far post for the only goal of the game. At the other end of the pitch, young goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher was impeccable deputising for the injured Alisson.

This felt like an important performance from Williams given the fact that he was substituted at half-time against Brighton on Saturday. The subsequent hamstring injury to James Milner, who Klopp had preferred to switch to right-back rather than allow the young Welshman to continue, means that the onus will now be on him to fill the void left by Trent Alexander-Arnold. He responded in style.

Thanks to the efforts of Kelleher, Williams could also celebrate his role in a clean sheet. It would have been easy for Klopp to turn to the far more experienced Adrian but his faith in the 22-year-old Irishman was emphatically justified. Kelleher produced one full-stretch stop in the first half but it was his save to keep out Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's header from point-blank range that secured the victory that ensures Liverpool have qualified as the winners of Group D with a game to spare.

That will take the pressure off in Denmark next week and allow Klopp to put the focus back on the team's Premier League campaign. Liverpool can now do so in the belief that for all the injury problems, this is a squad that is a little bit deeper than many had thought.
Adam Bate

But those injuries keep coming…

Even so, while Klopp will have been heartened by the victory, and feeling more confident about the capabilities of the deputies, this was still an evening in which we discovered that Liverpool could be without Alisson for the visit of Wolves at the weekend.

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The Brazilian goalkeeper has been a huge figure in Liverpool's success since the moment he arrived and if Klopp is without his first-choice goalkeeper on Sunday he will need his team to improve on their record in the competition without him so far this season - that 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa and the 2-2 draw with Everton.

Image: Andy Robertson suffered an injury scare against Ajax

At least Andrew Robertson continues to battle through. The left-back went down with a heavy knock during the first half against Ajax and it looked as if Liverpool would be contesting the rest of the game without their entire first-choice back four as well as their goalkeeper.

That Robertson not only continued but shone during the second half is testament to his appetite for the fight. Liverpool are going to need him - and that spirit - if they are to press on through this difficult period.
Adam Bate

Liverpool fixtures

Sat Dec 5: Wolves (h)

Wed Dec 9: Midtjylland (a)

Sun Dec 13: Fulham (a) - live on Sky Sports

Wed Dec 16: Tottenham (h)

Sat Dec 19: Crystal Palace (a)

Sun Dec 27: West Brom (h) - live on Sky Sports

Table-topping Man City's defence shines

Since Vincent Kompany left Man City 18 months ago, you could rarely claim that Pep Guardiola's side were defensively solid, or at least consistently. However, the transformation of Man City's backline is finally paying dividends, especially in Europe.

Man City have kept four consecutive clean sheets in the Champions League for the first time, as many as they managed in the group stages in their last two campaigns combined - a truly incredible turnaround.

City restricted Porto to just two shots and 31.9 per cent possession, although it was clear that the hosts had set up to defend against a Man City side who often see the majority of the ball. Ruben Dias continues to impress at the back after his summer arrival with Eric Garcia and Oleksander Zinchenko also given their chance to stake a claim.

But turn a brief eye to the bench, and you had the likes of Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Nathan Ake all waiting in the wings. They were joined by John Stones, who should be commended on his recent turnaround in form.

Going forward will be more of a concern. It's the first time they have had a goalless draw in the Champions League group stages, but did have 18 shots. Credit for that must also go to man of the match Agustin Marchesin, but Guardiola's sides have never been goal-shy.

Ultimately, Man City needed a point to ensure they finish at group leaders, and that's exactly what they did. With that job done for now, they must now bring more of that defensive solidity into the Premier League.
Charlotte Marsh

Saturday 12th December 5:00pm Kick off 5:30pmMan City fixtures

Sat Dec 5: Fulham (h)

Wed Dec 9: Marseille (h)

Sat Dec 12: Man Utd (a) - live on Sky Sports

Tues Dec 15: West Brom (h)

Sat Dec 19: Southampton (a)

Tues Dec 22: Arsenal (a) - live on Sky Sports

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