Why Liverpool will not win the Champions League this season
Jurgen Klopp’s men are well-placed to advance into the semifinals but, from this point on, they will be the underdogs.
It was a typically rousing performance which blasted away a stunned Manchester City at Anfield last week.
Like red ants, Liverpool swarmed all over their opponents and did not let them breathe, let alone settle into anything resembling rhythm, during the first half of their clash.
Three quickfire goals were not unreflective of the home side’s dominance and showed why they are a force to be reckoned with.
Many Liverpool fans will also point to the second half display which was a total contrast to the first – backs-to-the-wall defensive work was the order of the day for a side of players who appeared to be exhausted and out on their feet.
Yet they dug in, perhaps somewhat uncharacteristically, to take a commanding lead to the Etihad on Tuesday.
But from this point onwards, Liverpool will find themselves underdogs in the competition for these reasons.
Gegenpress is as Gegenpress does
Jurgen Klopp deserves a lot of credit for finding a system to so disrupt his counterpart Pep Guardiola, who for long periods this season has appeared to be almost imperious in his tactical preparation.
It replicated the impressive league victory at Anfield earlier in the season and brought back memories of performances which saw the Reds collect four points against City in the league the previous campaign.
The German’s high-energy style of pressing appears to be Guardiola’s Kryptonite but, while Liverpool are well on course for a spot in the semi-finals, they will need more than this Plan A if they are to have any hope of progressing through to May’s final.
They are, almost certainly, going to face one of Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich – the royalty of European football, who have provided each of the competition’s last five winners.
The opposition are just too good
Barca are no longer a side clearly in Guardiola’s image and they are unlikely to be blown away by any side. They have not yet lost a league game this season and are compact, defensively disciplined and extremely tough to penetrate.
They are experts at killing hostile atmospheres and killing teams with a sucker punch – usually delivered by Lionel Messi, one of football’s greatest ever players.
Madrid have dominated the competition in recent times and are aiming for a fourth trophy in five seasons – a streak which many thought was not possible in this tournament.
They come alive in the competition, producing their best performances and they have big-game performers throughout their side. In every position, they are superior to Liverpool and can navigate these matches like the back of their hand.
Bayern Munich are likely to complete the line-up, and Liverpool may identify the German champions as their preferred opponents due to a relatively ageing first-team.
However, in Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, they have the strongest central defensive partnership in Europe and are familiar with Klopp’s style of play due to his spells with Mainz and Borussia Dortmund.
They got lucky
Manchester City are in many ways a sensational team but they also have flaws – particularly in defence – which do not exist in any of Liverpool’s potential semi-final opponents.
Perhaps Klopp’s side will thrive with an underdog tag but any further progress will take a monumental effort.
Yes, they got lucky against Manchester City. But can they hope to get lucky twice more?
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