Liverpool face Middlesbrough this Sunday at Anfield, in what is a final Premier League game of the season with plenty weighing on the outcome.
If you haven’t already read the script, it may only seem like an easy tie against an officially relegated outfit, however, the Reds’ clash against Boro carries major significance, the same significance a huge European night or even a cup final would were Liverpool involved.
Winning this match would see Jürgen Klopp’s men qualify for a place in next season’s UEFA Champions’ League, an achievement that wouldn’t only see them fend off competition from two of the Premier League’s biggest clubs in Arsenal and Manchester United but take an important step in the direction of developing into a top club again under their German manager.
That said, Liverpool fans will surely be raring to see their team gun for this top target and a pre-match tradition that has over time been forsaken – and one that could be used to add to the team’s motivation on Sunday – is the fans’ welcoming of the team bus into the Anfield stadium.
Last season, Liverpool enjoyed a strong run to the UEFA Europa League final. On the Merseyside club’s way to the showpiece in Switzerland, they enjoyed some memorable knockout round encounters at Anfield, namely their second-leg quarter-final clash against Borussia Dortmund and a semi-final second-leg match against Villarreal.
On both occasions, the Reds came into the match under challenging circumstances: against Dortmund, they had to come back after conceding early in the second leg, whereas Klopp’s men had to overcome a 1-0 first leg loss against Villarreal.
Both matches were won fabulously, as Liverpool displayed both grit and quality to earn progression and – without taking anything away from the players involved that night – it can and should be said that the Reds fans played a great role in achieving the results.
Forget what happened during the games, the atmosphere outside Anfield before the encounters was simply pulsating, as the Liverpool faithful gathered to welcome their team’s bus with banners, flairs and of course passionate cheering – more of the same this Sunday shouldn’t have a bad impact on Klopp’s team at all.
In fact, it can only have a tremendously great impact.
Liverpool fans gathering outside of Anfield to welcome their side ahead of a match serves to fill the team with great motivation. Not to assume that playing for a club as huge as Liverpool and in a league as tough as the Premier League players should even lack motivation, however, it is always good to add to the positive mentality of a team and to remind each player and coach that the supporters believe in their ability to deliver a good result.
Even more vital, though, is how the opposing team may respond to this sea of Reds heading into Anfield. In last year’s Europa League semi-final second leg match, Villarreal looked a complete shadow of their confident first-leg selves, slumping to a 3-0 defeat. It’s already been said that Liverpool were simply the better team that night, however, it can definitely also be said that the fans’ pre-match welcome (and support during the match) played a massive role as well. One can only imagine what the same welcome would do to a relegated and hopeless Middlesbrough side.
Pre-match welcome or not, though, Klopp’s men must deliver a win. Motivation should not be far from the minds of each player and the Anfield faithful will surely offer great inspiration from the word go, as Liverpool are just a good 90 minutes away from achieving Champions League football and establishing Klopp’s first full season in charge as a good one – at least in the eyes of most.