If Jurgen Klopp seeks it, the Liverpool manager will be able to find some mitigation here.

Perhaps a punishing run of nine games in a little over five weeks to a depleted squad finally took its toll?

Perhaps the growing number of absentees was just too much to overcome on this occasion?

Perhaps it was asking too much for an inexperienced backline containing two teenagers and a Champions League debutant to deal with a side that reached the quarter-finals of this competition just a few months ago?

But while all of the above could be justifiably used as a case for the Liverpool defence, Klopp will be doing no such thing.

No, the Reds boss is much more likely to be of the theory that his team were simply not good enough against the same players they hammered out of sight just a few weeks ago in Bergamo.

As he said straight after the game: "We have to admit, it was a deserved defeat. It doesn't sound nice, but it was the truth."

The wild celebrations from the Italians at full time showed just what this meant as the door to Group D was kept ajar by what will eventually be seen as a famous win at Anfield.

If the jarring 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa in October was something of a freakish anomaly, then this was bad as it's been for some time. It really was that desperate.

The fact Liverpool trudged off from a venue where they have gone 64 games unbeaten in the Premier League without a single shot on target lays bare the paucity of what was on offer.

Mercifully, the supporters who are within touching distance of finally re-entering his historic venue were spared from this.

The Reds, from the first whistle, lacked invention and creativity, particularly without the full-back forces of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, who belatedly joined the fray with his team a goal down.  

Klopp opted to switch it up for the visit of Gian Piero Gasperini's men, making five changes in total, bringing in Rhys and Neco Williams into the back four alongside Joel Matip and Kostas Tsimikas at left-back.

The raft of changes from that thrilling performance against Leicester were quickly evident as a disjointed home side created next to nothing during an uninspired first period.

Mohamed Salah, back into the team after a bout of coronavirus, fired the hosts' only shot of the first 45 minutes over the bar late on. That was about as close as they came all night.

With Divock Origi back in the side, the Reds failed to build up any real momentum in the final third as the Belgian frontman spent much of time being muscled out of it by the Atalanta defence.

It's a curious place Origi finds himself in at Anfield right now.

The signings of Diogo Jota and Takumi Minamino together with the re-emergence of Xherdan Shaqiri mean Origi is even less likely to feature this season.

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah

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The onus is on him to take his limited chances. Here he failed to catch flight. This listless hour leaves Klopp with more questions than answers over his long-term suitability to play a role in the supporting cast.

Origi was one of the casualties as Klopp made a rare quadruple substitution. It was one he was planning seconds before they fell behind to Josip Ilicic's goal.

On came Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho and Robertson with Salah, Gini Wijnaldum and Tsimikas making way.

Liverpool's uphill task became even harder when Robin Gosens slotted home after being given the freedom of the penalty area moments later.

It was a quick-fire sucker punch that floored the hosts. There was no getting up this time.

This defeat, while lamentable is not terminal. Liverpool still have control over Group D, even if the stranglehold was loosened on an evening to forget.

*Who was your MOTM against Atalanta? Take our quick poll here.

What was previously threatening to turn into an unassailable lead has been made all the more difficult by this result and Ajax's 3-1 victory at home to Midtjylland.

Suddenly, the visit from the Dutch side takes on huge significance next week at a time when Klopp will have been hopeful of resting, rotating and recuperating for his exhausted and hurt squad.

Fortunately, the whistle-stop tour that is this season's group stages means Liverpool can put it right in just six days when Ajax visit.

A draw will be enough to do it, but perhaps a performance will be owed.

Liverpool's name will probably still be in the hat when the draw takes place in Nyon on December 14, but they will have to improve. By some margin, too.