Just as LaLiga did this season, the English Premier League will send five teams to the 2017/18 Champions League, with Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United all having booked their ticket to Europe’s premier club competition. Despite the fact that Liverpool are the only team which will have to navigate a qualifying play-off, they are set up for a deep Champions League run and have an excellent chance of surviving longer than any other English side. How so? Well, here are three reasons why the Reds can take the continent by storm.
1. The style
Juventus may have shown that to go all the way to the final, a stingy defence is still incredibly useful, but the general trend in the 2016/17 Champions League has been for teams to score their way through the rounds. Ahead of the final, an average of 3.02 goals have been scored per game, making this the highest-scoring Champions League season since the tournament was rebranded in 1992.
For a team like Liverpool, this is good news. If defensive solidity was a must for European success, then this would be problematic for Jürgen Klopp’s men as they had the worst defensive record of England’s five Champions League qualifiers last season. If it’s all about blowing teams away with a quick, energetic and dynamic attack – much like Monaco and Borussia Dortmund were able to do this year – then this plays into Liverpool’s hands, as they were the Premier League’s top scorers for the first two thirds of the season, before fizzling out a little towards the end.
The fact that Liverpool topped the Premier League’s ‘top six mini table’ was a further demonstration of the way their style if more suited to continental football. Against the kinds of teams they’ll face in European competition, the Merseysiders won five, drew five and lost none, an impressive return which should fill them with confidence for this European campaign. Liverpool struggled in 2016/17 against the likes of Hull, Burnley and Swansea, but they won’t be coming up against similar teams in the Champions League.
2. The Europa League experience
While this will be Liverpool’s first time back in the Champions League since 2014, it won’t be their first taste of European football. Having gone through 15 matches to reach the final of the 2015/16 Europa League, midweek trips across the continent won’t be anything new to this group of players.
While the quality in the Europa League is certainly not comparable to that in UEFA’s premier competition, it should be kept in mind that the Reds did overcome Champions League-calibre teams in the form of Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Villarreal to get there. As anyone who attended the second leg against Dortmund will know, the European atmosphere at Anfield can give Liverpool an extra edge and the fact that the majority of the current squad have experienced a momentous night like that stands them in good stead for next year’s continental campaign.
3. The coach
Not only have many of the current players already been to a European final, but Jürgen Klopp has already guided a team all the way to the last two of the Champions League. That 2012/13 run with Dortmund was a rich experience for the German coach and it included a little bit of everything.
For Liverpool, such experience is invaluable. To have a coach who has topped a ‘Group of Death’ which included Real Madrid, Ajax and Manchester City, to have a coach who pulled off one of the great stoppage time comebacks, to have a coach who was able to knock Real Madrid out of a semi-final and to have a coach who was one last-minute Arjen Robben goal from forcing extra time in the final is all priceless.
Klopp’s Liverpool side certainly isn’t perfect and probably has too many flaws to add a sixth European Cup to the trophy cabinet, but they do have what it takes to go far, possibly further than any other English side, and a quarter-final appearance would hardly be a major shock.