Liverpool’s history with the Champions League means that the competition always has a special place in the hearts of all at Anfield. The 6 titles won by the club is the third most in history, level with Bayern Munich and behind only Real Madrid and AC Milan. While this history hasn’t caused the deluded expectation that Liverpool should always win it (unlike at some other clubs), it does means Champions League nights at Anfield are always special. The Reds most recent win, in 2019 is still fresh in many fans’ memory and with 10 of the starting 11 of that win still at the club, the team has the experience and knowhow to do it again.
Group of death
Despite all of this, once the teams were drawn for this year’s group stage, not many observers were tipping Liverpool to win the competition. Due to them being drawn in the so-called “group of death” alongside Porto, Atletico Madrid and Milan, some pundits were even predicting that Klopp’s team would struggle to make it out of the group stage. As well as being in the toughest group on paper, last season’s disappointing Premier League campaign which saw Liverpool scrape a top four place on the final day, as well as the European Campaign itself, where Liverpool were eliminated in the round of 16 by a weak Real Madrid meant that not many saw them as serious contenders.
According to a lot of the transfer-obsessed football media, the fact that Liverpool hadn’t signed many players during the summer was also a factor that counted against them. So far however, the Reds’ Champions League campaign has gone better than many of those outside of Anfield expected. After Liverpool’s four consecutive victories against tough opponents, oddschecker have the Reds up there as favourites with the likes of Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
Benchwarmers to get some minutes
So, with qualification to the knockout stage already secured Liverpool can afford to take it easy in the remaining games, however knowing Jurgen Klopp we can be sure they’ll do anything but. With nothing to play for, the Red’s can use these games to give minutes to players who are out of form or out of favour.
Joe Gomez is a player who could benefit from meaningful minutes against top class European opposition. The young English centre back has struggled for gametime so far, with Van Dijk irreplaceable and Matip in good form. Injury problems have stopped Gomez becoming the permanent partner to Van Dijk as many expected, and caused him to lose his England place, much to his and Klopp’s frustration. Time is on his side however, at 24 he has 3-4 years before he reaches his peak, but he needs to regain his place if he is to fulfil his potential.