David Freeman looks forward to Liverpool’s Champions League return and looks at how the Reds can reach the same level as the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus.
Hard times look set to be behind Liverpool, but with great results come great expectations. Jürgen Klopp held off the customary late surge from Arsenal to seal Champions League qualification.
Although this may have been the primary objective for the season, it marks an impressive campaign for the club. The objective for next season will be vastly different, as Klopp will have to strategise his way to sustained challenges for glory in domestic and European competitions.
Nobody is expecting Klopp to take Liverpool to Champions League glory next season, although imagine the scenes on Merseyside if he did but a club of this stature will expect to deliver a dignified showing in the knockout stages. Liverpool will also be aiming to challenge for the Premier League title, so it is evident that Klopp will require higher quality in the squad to match higher ambitions.
The striker conundrum has yet to be solved, with Daniel Sturridge enduring another disappointing campaign and Divock Origi not at the standard of spearheading an attack chasing success on several fronts. Meanwhile, questions over the goalkeeper and defence refuse to dissipate. If Liverpool are to make a mark on their return to the Champions League then they will need to invest.
It will also be imperative that the club can keep hold of its biggest assets. A talent like Philippe Coutinho will always be coveted by the ilk of Barcelona, with Whoscored.com attesting that the Brazilian makes an average of 2.1 key passes per match. In conjunction with his compatriot Roberto Firmino, a resurgent Adam Lallana and a devastating Sadio Mané, Liverpool have attacking midfield options unparalleled in England. This is an attack ready to grace the biggest stages.
The biggest stage in club football
Liverpool will be looking with envy towards Wales for the first time since they coveted Swansea’s Brendan Rodgers and Joe Allen. This time, however, the envy is borne out of a desire to recapture a spot at Europe’s top table and compete in the biggest final. The Champions League final will take place in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on June 3rd, with heavyweights Real Madrid and Juventus slugging it out for one of football’s greatest honours.
The red of Liverpool used to be synonymous with European success; Betway have investigated the correlation between Champions League final kits and outcomes, with Liverpool’s iconic home shirt their outfit of choice for their five European Cup triumphs.
One particularly notable fact that the article explains is how AC Milan consider their white shirt, their away kit, as lucky due to its involvement in six titles. Yet when Liverpool beat AC Milan in the 2005 final, the Italians found their shirt lacking in luck, as Liverpool’s red was the colour of victory in one of the great footballing finals.
The growing divide
Twelve years is not considered a particularly substantial length of time in most walks of life, but in football, it can feel like an eternity.
In the years since that night in Istanbul, the richest clubs have become even richer. Even though there are rumours of vast financial outlays at Liverpool this summer, as reported on our site, the elite clubs will maintain an economic advantage. Traditional powerhouses like Liverpool and Manchester United have become hamstrung in recent years by an inability to make an impression in the Champions League.
Klopp will be determined to change that, but he is working within unfortunate parameters. Consider the two teams dreaming of Cardiff, whose squads Four Four Two have rated as equally impressive.
Juventus have found strength in their consistent defence, but they have the spending power and the prestige to snatch stars away from their biggest domestic competitors. Having the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic, and their rivals subsequently not having these players, means that the league is less of a struggle and the focus can shift to European nights.
As for Real Madrid, the Spanish club can essentially buy whoever catches their eye. Zinedine Zidane may well prove to be as great a coach as he is a player, but even those who adore Madrid can concede that he is blessed with a remarkable squad. Although there is a fragility to this Madrid side, with an uncomfortable tendency to go behind in games, their firepower means that most setbacks are only temporary; Squawka makes note of the remarkable statistic that Madrid have scored in 64 consecutive matches across all competitions.
Hope for the future
Liverpool face a sizeable task to overcome opposition such as this whilst challenging for the Premier League title, but it is not an insurmountable task. Even though Liverpool’s squad may currently lack the depth in star quality that other clubs can boast, in Klopp they have a manager who is incontrovertibly world class.
World-class players want to play for world-class managers, and with a place in the Champions League to offer Liverpool will be a far more enticing option than a couple of years ago. As already discussed on this site, it is set to be an exciting transfer window at Anfield.
People will probably point to Leicester’s unlikely league triumph as an indicator of how anything can happen so frequently that the fairytale story will eventually become stale, but its sentiment holds true. Anything can happen, and the most important requirement for Champions League success is to be in the Champions League. Liverpool have achieved this, and now will be looking forward to next season with unbridled anticipation.