Liverpool may must re-create the so-called “Miracle of Istanbul” if they’re to qualify for subsequent season’s Champions League, however as dangerous as Jurgen Klopp’s workforce has been within the Premier League in latest weeks, the flame of European glory continues to flicker this season after a 4-0 mixture victory over RB Leipzig secured a spot within the quarterfinals.
Second-half objectives from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, 4 minutes aside, in Budapest’s Ferenc Puskas Enviornment have been sufficient to win Liverpool’s “residence” leg of this round-of-16 tie, which has seen all 180 minutes performed within the Hungarian capital as a consequence of COVID-19 journey restrictions forcing the 2 video games to be staged outdoors of England and Germany.
Regardless of a dismal run of home kind that has led to Liverpool dropping to eighth within the Premier League, seven factors adrift of the Champions League spots on the again of six successive league defeats at Anfield, Europe has as soon as once more been a sanctuary for the six-time Champions League winners.
However it now wants to supply Liverpool greater than a welcome distraction from the embarrassing defence of their Premier League title. Realistically, profitable the Champions League once more is their finest hope of enjoying within the competitors once more subsequent season.
Again in 2005, Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool completed fifth, outdoors the Champions League qualification positions, however famously went on to win the European Cup towards AC Milan in Istanbul — profitable on penalties after trailing 3-0 at half-time — to say a spot within the following season’s event.
Though that Liverpool workforce possessed excellent gamers reminiscent of Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Jamie Carragher, it was actually not one of many biggest groups within the membership’s illustrious historical past. However it overcame the percentages, and Juventus and Chelsea within the quarters and semis, to realize some of the memorable victories in Champions League historical past.
That this season’s ultimate can be in Istanbul, a 12 months after the pandemic pressured it to be moved for the Turkish metropolis, will undoubtedly have many Liverpudlians believing that the omens are on their aspect. Liverpool additionally eradicated a German membership — Bayer Leverkusen — on the round-of-16 stage in 2005, so perhaps the celebrities are starting to align once more.
But when we take away the romance and seek for comparisons between now and 2005, is it respectable to consider this Liverpool workforce can go all the best way and win the Champions League for a seventh time this season?
Having reached the ultimate in 2018 and 2019, profitable it in 2019, Klopp’s workforce actually is aware of methods to navigate the knockout levels. Klopp additionally took Liverpool to the 2016 Europa League ultimate, so this group of gamers has pedigree in European competitors.
However the accidents which have derailed the defence of their Premier League title threaten to additionally compromise their Champions League bid.
Accidents have ravaged Klopp’s squad and the lack of Virgil van Dijk to a season-ending knee damage has been probably the most damaging. Jordan Henderson‘s latest addition to the casualty checklist following groin surgical procedure that may hold the midfielder and captain out till mid-April has been one other big blow.
Defensively, Liverpool have turn out to be a mushy contact within the Premier League, however towards Leipzig, they saved clear sheets in each legs.
Whether or not they can handle that towards considered one of Europe’s extra fearsome attacking sides stays to be seen, although.
Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips saved Leipzig quiet in Budapest, however each gamers lack the expertise and high quality to do the identical towards Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester Metropolis.
In midfield, at the least, the return of Fabinho made Liverpool stronger towards Leipzig. The Brazilian has been excellent as a makeshift centre-half this season, however his vitality and tenacity have been missed in midfield. If Klopp is ready to hold Fabinho in his finest place, then Liverpool may simply have the ability to hold the perfect groups at bay.
If they’ll try this, Salah and Mane have proven they’ll rating towards any opposition in Europe, so Liverpool can nonetheless cling to the hope that they’ll go all manner within the competitors.
In the event that they get a beneficial tie in subsequent week’s quarterfinal draw, a path to Istanbul might open up, however the absence of followers inside Anfield will deny Liverpool considered one of their greatest property on a European night time.
And there’s additionally the query mark over whether or not Klopp’s depleted squad can stubbornly defend a lead, or hold it tight sufficient for 180 minutes, to beat a stronger aspect. Benitez expertly marshalled his workforce to do exactly that, however there’s the suspicion that Klopp’s workforce is solely not constructed to comprise and frustrate.
However regardless of all of their shortcomings and issues, Liverpool are nonetheless standing within the Champions League. They’re into the final eight and might focus solely on attending to Istanbul as a result of it’s now the one technique to save their season.
Liverpool may lack the depth to go all the best way, however that did not cease them in 2005. Possibly Istanbul is looking in spite of everything.