When Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool line up against Real Madrid in Kiev in less than a week’s time, it will be the culmination of results and hard work stretching back months. It has been a long road where they have had to overcome various obstacles, with multiple memorable moments along the way.
Ever since Klopp arrived at Anfield towards the end of 2015, he has been working to put the Reds back amongst the elite, or as he put it, to “turn doubters to believers” again.
In his first season at the club, Liverpool reached the Europa League final, missing out to Sevilla, a team they met in this year’s Champions League group stage, having been part of incredible matches against the likes of Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund en route to Basel, where the showpiece event was staged.
In his first full campaign – between 2016 and 2017 – he guided them back into the top-four, and has replicated the feat this season, as well as being in charge of another thrilling European campaign. That significant progression has been made is now undeniable.
It has been a long journey to Ukraine for the final, where Liverpool will face a team vastly more experienced in the big matches, having won both of the previous two tournaments. Whatever happens from here on in, these are the six most crucial moments that got the Reds within touching distance of their sixth European Cup triumph.
On the final day of last season, with Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal having put together a run of four victories in their final four league games, Liverpool had to beat already-relegated Middlesbrough to finish in the top-four, having crawled towards the line with a depleted squad.
With Arsenal winning at home to Everton on the final day despite having ten men, Liverpool could not afford to slip up.
There were two crucial instances inside the Middlesbrough game: the first of which required a helping hand from referee Martin Atkinson.
As Patrick Bamford went past Dejan Lovren, the Croatian hauled down his man inside the penalty area. With no deliberate attempt made by Lovren to play the ball – he had simply brought down Bamford in desperation – it would have been a red card had Atkinson pointed to the spot.
Anfield waited for the whistle to arrive, but instead the referee waved his arms in a motion that suggested he felt Bamford had made the most of the contact, and play continued.
It was a blatant penalty that Liverpool had somehow got away with: how much differently the game could have panned out had it been given and Lovren had been made to walk after just 22 minutes.
At the other end, with only a minute to go before half-time, Gini Wijnaldum blasted a shot into the top corner to break the deadlock and send Liverpool on their way.
After the Dutchman scored, it was a stroll in the park for Liverpool as Anfield turned from a nervous wreck into a 54,000-strong celebration of jubilation. Two more goals from Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana made it easy in the end, but it could have been very different.
At that stage, no one could have predicted the run that was to follow. In the knowledge that there was still a play-off tie to navigate, with some very decent sides set to be involved, no one wanted to pre-empt a place in the competition proper, forget a place in the final two.
Having put themselves into a position, play-off result pending, to compete at Europe’s top table once again, the next task was to purchase players worthy of that status.
When Mo Salah arrived from AS Roma for £36 million, the common consensus was initially that he was a back-up option for Sadio Mané, who has missed a large period of football in January and February the previous year, much to Liverpool's cost.
44 goals and 16 assists later, the number 11 has made a mockery of that suggestion; the Egyptian has had an incredible effect that probably even he, deep down, could never have predicted.
Virgil van Dijk was made to wait for his move from Southampton, but it was worth the delay. He did not make the switch from the south coast until January, moving for £75 million, and has been imperious ever since, improving those around him with his confidence and charisma.
The world-record fee for a defender has not even been mentioned as his performances have made him look a bargain.
Liverpool's recruitment has been faultless in recent times. Andy Robertson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are other notable additions that have taken to life on Merseyside with aplomb since they established themselves in the team.
Oxlade-Chamberlain would have been a certainty to start for England at the World Cup had he not been cruelly ruled out for most of the rest of the year with an injury.
Putting the right players together in the squad has been crucial, even though most of the signings raised eyebrows for one reason or another when they were announced.
Having gained a place in the Champions League qualifying round, Liverpool drew the team they would have wanted to avoid in 1899 Hoffenheim, the exciting German outfit masterminded by Julian Nagelsmann, who at 30-years-old is younger than the likes of James Milner and Ragnar Klavan.
12 minutes into the tie, and it looked like the worst possible start had come to fruition as Lovren was adjudged to have fouled Serge Gnabry, the former Arsenal winger. The culprit against Middlesbrough, too, he had clumsily bundled into his man.
It was a harsh decision from the experienced Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers, given Gnabry had fallen awkwardly and forcibly, but despite protestations, the decision was to stand.
Former Leicester City forward Andrej Kramaric stepped up, but his kick was poor and Simon Mignolet dived to his left to push the ball clear.
Who knows what the rest of the tie would have looked like had he not done so: perhaps a brilliant team goal, finished off by Emre Can, who still hopes to back for the final despite looking like a move to Juventus is imminent, would not have been scored, and the Reds could potentially have crashed out.
Thanks to a change in UEFA ruling, another qualifying round will not have to be endured next season, as fourth spot in the Premier League is now awarded an automatic place in the group stages.
After emerging from Group E in first place having accumulated 12 points from the six games, Liverpool could have drawn Real Madrid, who finished second in their group to Tottenham, or Paris Saint-Germain, who were runners-up to Bayern Munich. Instead, they got FC Porto.
As much as this was clearly a favourable draw, the 28-time Portuguese champions and Champions League veterans were still seen as a tricky opponent to overcome.
In the first leg, though, away at the Estádio do Dragão, Liverpool ran away with the tie, scoring five times and keeping a clean sheet in the process, making the return leg a formality.
With Mané central and grabbing a hat-trick, and Roberto Firmino and Salah on the scoreboard too, it was the first time Liverpool were noted by the rest of Europe as a serious contender.
Liverpool have scored more than anyone ever has in the Champions League so far, with an average of 3.46 goals per game including the qualifying round with one more game to go. This was a prime example – what was meant to be a tough tie turned into a breeze thanks to some devastating attacking play.
Manchester City tamed
Liverpool finished 25 points behind Pep Guardiola’s side in the Premier League, but this tie ensured they have beaten them in three consecutive matches, scoring nine goals in the process.
Over the course of the tie, Liverpool blew City away, prevailing 5-1 on aggregate, including winning 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium.
Salah was the star of the show, opening the scoring at Anfield with a sensational atmosphere behind the team, and then scoring what proved to be the winner in the second leg, showing incredible composure to dink the ball over Ederson in the Manchester City goal.
Having knocked out what was regarded as being the best team in the world at the time, who were to go on to break multiple domestic records including securing 100 league points, Liverpool had put on a show that proved they were right back at the top.
Over the two games, the energy of Oxlade-Chamberlain, capped with a fantastic strike that was voted Liverpool's goal of the season, the prowess of the front three and the relentless nature of James Milner was a joy to behold. This was peak Liverpool.
Having overcome possible the best team in the competition in the quarter-finals, Liverpool avoided big-hitters Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, drawing AS Roma.
The team who Liverpool had beaten in the final in 1984, and the team that had sold them Salah the previous summer, were rightly perceived as being the best possible opponents to face, but an exciting tie was to follow.
In the first leg that took place at Anfield, it was again the front three – led by Salah – who took centre stage. Liverpool, of course, took a five-goal lead before the game ended 5-2; that sort of thing just does not happen in usual circumstances.
Conventional semi-finals are tense and tight affairs, but Klopp's Liverpool just do not do conventional.
The second leg should have been far more comfortable when Mané scored an away goal early on, but it finished 4-2 to the Italians. It was a far closer aggregate score than the pattern of the tie overall should have produced, but it was to be Liverpool who went through regardless.
If doubters have yet to be turned to believers, they certainly will have been should Liverpool overcome the odds and beat Real Madrid in the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev next Saturday. Jurgen Klopp will be hoping there is one more key moment still to come.