In the midst of a trademark dull UEFA semi-final draw, furnished with a huge preamble, lots of slow motion videos and general faffing, UEFA competitions director Giorgio Marchetti opted for a truism: “Liverpool are a member of European aristocracy.”
Who could deny that? Liverpool are well and truly cemented amongst the continent’s elite. There’s something special about Liverpool and Europe. They’re synonymous.
Anfield is notorious for its atmosphere in Anfield. – particularly in Europe. It makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, like a bolt coursing through your body. Goosebumps rise in a way that can be done by no other, everybody sings that little bit louder, everybody gets that little bit closer.
Of late, Liverpool have been in a European hiatus. The likes of Hicks and Gillett, Hodgson and sales of some of our best ever players – and Sterling – served to derail the club for a very long time.
Domestically, Liverpool have become a club of nearly beens, and not quite there yets.
Losing finals to Manchester City in the League Cup and Sevilla in the Europa League were a sickener for the players and fans alike. And while the club never does things the easy way, managing the disappointment is tough.
But Liverpool now have an opportunity.
An opportunity to put all previous disappointment to one side and finally make that push and win their first trophy under Klopp.
It’s not unthinkable, either. Liverpool are the top scorers in the Champions League and also have the least porous defence – to many people’s surprise.
However, the first half against Manchester City at the Etihad showed us just how fragile we could be, and for 45 minutes we were outclassed and outfought – something that we’re not used to as a fanbase. The last ten minutes of the Roma game were similar, regardless of whether the Milner handball was a penalty and now Roma have two away goals.
The latter is certainly not a travesty, and it’s hard to see a situation where Liverpool don’t progress. But we gave them a sniff of a chance and everyone in football knows what happened in Roma’s last Champions League game at the Stadio Olimpico.
Liverpool’s problems are oft blamed on defensive fragility and many a pundit has lamented Klopp’s apparent aversion to focussing on Liverpool’s defence. Frankly, that’s bollocks. Particularly since the signing of the big Dutch fella and the integration of Liverpool’s best Scot since Gary McAllister, Liverpool have looked secure in defence, no longer over committing men to attacks.
Liverpool’s real problem is a lack of winners.
That can, of course, be rectified with money. The likes of City, United and Chelsea regularly snap up professional footballer’s in their prime, many of them with trophy cabinets more full than Everton’s. Those players are used to winning and winning becomes a habit.
It’s a habit of winning ugly and grinding out results that really separates the great from the good. What Liverpool have to do is re-cultivate that winning mentality and arrogance in the team’s own ability. Lessons have to be learnt from the games where we switch off, particularly late on.
If Liverpool can learn and adjust, number six will come home.