Assessing Liverpool's potential route to the Champions League final

Liverpool and the Champions League. The Reds’ affinity with the European Cup runs throughout the club’s history. From their first in 1977, King Kenny’s chip in Wembley and Alan Kennedy, an unlikely goal scorer. The miracle of Istanbul and number six in Madrid. Under the Anfield floodlights, the roar of the Kop, corner taken quickly, Divock Origi.

There is an unending list of unforgettable and historic Champions League moments. And maybe a reunion with the Ataturk Olympic Stadium will see the story continued.

Liverpool’s season has been chaotic. The Reds have been plagued with injuries which have hampered their season. From top of the Premier League on Christmas Day to now chasing Europa League football, Liverpool have plummeted down the table.

Could the Champions League be the distraction that the players need and a blessing in disguise? Can Liverpool actually win the competition? Only time will tell but as history has shown with Liverpool in the Champions League, you never know.

  • Trauma of Kiev

Liverpool’s quarter-final opponents are Real Madrid. Jurgen Klopp’s side will have painful memories of the Spanish giants and will be seeking revenge for how they lost the 2017/18 final in Kiev.

Mohamed Salah was forced off in the 30th minute of the game after being taken out by Sergio Ramos. The Madrid captain man-handled Salah to the ground and damaged his shoulder, which left him with sprained ligaments in his shoulder.

Liverpool fans need no reminder as to why they lost the final. Loris Karius’ calamity in the biggest game of his career cost the Reds two goals in the final and ultimately the German’s future with the club.

As painful as it is to look back at the final in Kiev, the Liverpool players must use this as motivation to finally seek revenge for the loss. Whilst Liverpool are not at the peak of their powers due to injuries but, Madrid are also not the team that they were in the final that year that saw them win their 13th Champions League.

They have not won the Champions League since then and in the last two seasons have been knocked out of the competition in the Round of 16, with defeats from Ajax and Manchester City. They have also lost key personnel from the last time Liverpool met them.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been a massive loss for them and affected them in the same way losing someone of that calibre would to any team. Ronaldo’s ability to drag teams to the finish line was so important to them dominating European football and without that they have struggled since. They are also without Gareth Bale who is on loan at Tottenham Hotspur. Bale scored two goals in the final and despite overall disappointing at his time in the Spanish capital, has an immense amount of quality.

Though their midfield has not changed, it has certainly become older, with the players no longer at their peaks. Luca Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro have an average age of 31 and are much more immobile now. This is a similar story to the rest of their starting 11 which has not changed too much since Kiev.   

Madrid are also currently third in La Liga and are six points off rivals Atletico Madrid. Diego Simeone’s side were beaten comfortably by Chelsea in the Round of 16 of the Champions League, showing how poor the current standard is for Spanish football.

With both teams seemingly not at their bests, this tie will be interesting. If Liverpool are able to build on their last two wins and refrain from any more injuries during the international break, they may be favourites going in to the tie. That being said, however poor Madrid are, there are very few times that they are an easy game. They certainly will test the Reds and despite their team being quite old now, they do still possess match winning players.

 

  • Familiar foes in the semis

Should Liverpool see off Real Madrid, they will face the winners of Porto or Chelsea in the semi-finals. Liverpool have history with both sides and in particular Chelsea who faced the Reds when they reached the final in 2005. This may be an omen of history repeating itself or merely a coincidence.

Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’ secured the victory, putting the Reds in a Champions League final for the first time in 20 years.

However, Klopp’s side would probably prefer to face Porto in the semi-finals as they have a good recent record against them. In 2018, on their route to the final in Kiev, Liverpool beat them 5-0 in the first leg of their Round of 16 game, securing their place in the last eight before the second leg. Liverpool faced Porto the following year meeting the Portuguese side in the quarter-finals. A 2-0 first leg win was followed by a 4-1 second leg win to see them into the semi-finals.

Although history works in Liverpool’s favour, either team will be a test for Klopp’s side.

  • Too early to dream of the final?

Should Liverpool manage to progress all the way to the final they will face either, Man City, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich or Paris Saint-Germain.

It is of course too early to imagine Liverpool in the final and if they do manage it, their opponents in the final will be very difficult. 

Both City and PSG are looking for their first European cups, whilst Bayern are the current Champions of the world after winning the Champions League last year and the Club World Cup earlier this season.

But, as already mentioned, it is Liverpool. And you never know with them.  

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