Liverpool’s Champions League fate – for the group stages at least – was revealed on Thursday evening in Monaco, as the Reds were paired with French giants Paris Saint-Germain, Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli and Red Star Belgrade in Group C.
An incredibly tough group for sure, compared to Liverpool’s draw last season, which pitted them against Spartak Moscow, Sevilla and Maribor.
Yet regardless of the draw, Liverpool will fancy their chances of progressing far again in the competition, after last year’s incredible run to the final.
Defying the odds
Porto, Manchester City and Roma were all dispatched as the Reds evoked images of their glory days in Europe, whilst unveiling a fresh and memorable song that will always be remembered with their road to Kiev.
Unfortunately, the final did not go the way Liverpool wanted, suffering a heartbreaking defeat to Real Madrid. However, Klopp's men had already ensured qualification to this season’s competition with a second straight top four finish in the Premier League.
They may get the chance of redemption against the European champions, who will seek their fourth straight and fourteenth title overall in 2019, but the season is still young and there is plenty of football to be played domestically, let alone in Europe.
And, for this season at least, Liverpool should look inward at the expense of the European continent for success this season.
History could mean everything
Liverpool may have eighteen Premier League titles to only five European Cups, and have a special affinity with the latter, but the Reds enjoyed a superb run in Europe’s premier club competition last year. Moreover, thirteen years is a long time since Liverpool’s prior Champions League success, but twenty-nine years is even longer between league titles.
What Liverpool previously regarded as their bread and butter in the 1970s and 80s has now become the Holy Grail, having failed to regain the consistency of a thirty-eight game campaign that the club regularly possessed at their peak.
The resurgence of Manchester United in the 1990s followed by the rise of Chelsea and now Manchester City has restricted Liverpool’s opportunities to wrestle back their old crown, with their best chance of regaining the title coming four years ago.
Back in 1990, when Liverpool won their eighteenth, and final, league title, Manchester United could only point to seven titles in their trophy cabinet. Now, the Reds have fallen behind the Red Devils, with their biggest rivals now sitting on twenty league titles, and forty-two major trophies in all, overtaking the club who were previously the most successful in English football.
United have only managed to pass Liverpool during this decade, through Sir Alex Ferguson’s final flourish in the league and a few extra trophies added on by Louis Van Gaal and José Mourinho, such was the success that Liverpool enjoyed in the 1970s and 80s.
Liverpool could yet reverse a near thirty year build-up of momentum from the red half of Manchester, with an incredibly bright and talented team now assembled under manager Jürgen Klopp.
An immovable object stands in the way
However, Liverpool’s chances for redemption appear to be blocked by the blue half of Manchester instead and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side, who could become one of the all-time great club sides.
Whilst you face off against the best of the best in the Champions League, the competition only lasts for thirteen matches from the group stages to the final, with a knockout format which can benefit those seeking to upset Europe’s elite – although Real have done well to hang onto their crown in recent seasons.
By contrast, the Premier League is a thirty-eight game marathon, with six top teams fighting out for realistic success. The Champions League is almost a sprint in comparison.
In reality, however, if any team finishes above Pep’s City, then they will win the league, and that is what Liverpool must focus on. Delivering the Premier League title back to Anfield will grant Klopp and his team legendary status – even more than if they claimed a sixth European Cup.