2018 has been something of a renaissance for English clubs in the Champions League. Five out of five made it through the group stages, Tottenham ripped Real Madrid apart at Wembley, Chelsea ran Barcelona close in the last 16 despite an indifferent league campaign and Manchester City waltzed through the quarter finals. It makes you wonder why the national team can’t perform similarly! The world cup odds for a England wining the world cup give them very little chance.
However, it was a domestic foe that stopped City in their tracks as Liverpool produced a stunning display to beat the Premier League champions home and away. Jurgen Klopp’s team then blitzed Roma 5-2 in the first leg of the semi-final to leave them on the cusp of a first Champion’s League final for 11 years. Their opponents won’t relish the prospect of playing the free scoring Reds, who will be gunning for their 6th European title. Here are five reasons why they could get it.
- The Mo Show
It would be silly to start this list anywhere else. Few could have predicted the incredible season that Mo Salah has enjoyed at Anfield since joining from Roma last summer. He’s dispelled all memories of a disappointing stint at Chelsea earlier in his career to earn the PFA Player of the Year award and is on the verge of beating Ian Rush’s record single season goals tally of 47 in all competitions. If he fires Liverpool to European glory, he may just provide real competition to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo when the Ballon D’or votes are counted. It’s been a remarkable rise for the Egyptian.
- Klopp’s Clout
Jurgen Klopp is a big name manager and he’s proved it again this season. In addition to the two Champions League victories over Man City, his Liverpool side also beat them at Anfield in the Premier League – City’s only away league defeat of the season. The German has a big personality and relishes the big occasion. His brand of football always provides a threat to the big sides, especially those who like to control territory. Expect him to instruct his team to counter attack at will in Rome and he’s likely to devise a similar plan for the prospective final. His effervescent personality is reflected in his team’s play.
- Pace and Power
Salah has rightly grabbed all the headlines in recent months but let us not forget the contribution of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. They have terrorised defences across Europe with their powerful running and quick combination play. Firmino has been just as productive as Salah in the Champions League – both have 10 goals – while Mane’s 8 means the trio have scored 28 goals between them. It would appear almost impossible to successfully stop all three in the same game. Liverpool will hope that the triumvirate will maintain form as the Champions League builds to a crescendo.
- Midfield Maturity
Liverpool’s attackers attract most of their plaudits due to their incredible achievements in front of goal. However, the spine of this team looks much stronger than it did a year ago, and it’s underpinned by an increasingly strong defence and a hard-working, efficient midfield unit. You’d be wrong to dismiss the midfield as merely functional, though. Liverpool’s personnel is perfectly capable of creativity too, as evidenced by James Milner’s 9 assists in this year’s competition – a new record. Salah, Mane and Firmino need a supply line, and Liverpool’s midfield provides it.
- Precedents and Pedigree
It’s now the 27 years since Liverpool won the domestic league title. Few could have predicted that given their dominance in the 1970s and 1980s. Despite that, no other British team can boast their record in Europe. The Reds because European Champions for the fifth time back in 2005 when Steven Gerrard inspired them to victory having trailed 3-0 to AC Milan in the final. They’ve also won the UEFA Cup in 2001, the UEFA Super Cup twice and reached another Champions League final since they last tasted domestic success. The personnel may change over the years, but big European nights seem to bring out the best in Liverpool players of any generation. Who would bet against the latest crop lifting the club’s sixth European Cup/Champions League trophy in 2018.