There is no telling, really. In fact, even after their 5–2 victory over Rome in the semi-final’s first leg, it is not certain yet that we will be seeing them in Kiev (though it is very likely.) Liverpool have everything that it takes to conquer Europe once again and put their hands around their 6th UCL trophy, and here are some of the reasons why:
- Mohamed Salah. This just might be the most important reason. Salah is in an incredible shape. The impact that this player alone is having on the overall structure and psychology of the team is indescribable. Not only is he scoring every time he is given even the slightest of chances, or creating opportunities out of thin air and thus becoming a massive threat going forward:
- The Egypt international is simply a sensation amongst the people and, unlike with Messi and Ronaldo, (because of personal and club rivalries) everyone wants to see this man succeed. In huge moments when Liverpool needs it the most, Mo is there to deliver and that brings stability and confidence to himself and his teammates.
- Liverpool know who they are. It is reasonable to argue that a club’s history should carry no weight, and that all that matters is right now. I personally used to believe this, until I took a look at clubs like PSG and Manchester City who have never won this trophy before. These two both exceeded €120 million in signings for the 2018 summer transfer window to reinforce their squads and create what seemed like unplayable sides. Both teams completely dominated their respective leagues. They were impressive even in the Champions League group stage. But as soon as the moment came to step up and play at their highest level to beat the big clubs, they froze. This seems to have become the norm: PSG are exceptional this year! The Champions League has got to be theirs for sure. And then the disappointment follows. They are out in the round of sixteen. On the other hand, we have clubs like Real Madrid and Liverpool (who happen to have eliminated the two clubs just mentioned this season, and certainly not by chance.) The players know it. At Anfield, a reminder of who “the lads” are playing for is literally on the walls of the dressing room tunnels. At Santiago Bernabéu, well, they don’t even have to be reminded of their club’s greatness. The fans know it more than anyone. The vast majority of them have seen their team lift a Champions League trophy, and that alone carries significance. Games in these stadiums are a nightmare for any rival that should cross their path. The atmosphere is perfect for the home team. Fans of most European clubs are not even close to being able to create such a determinant factor.
- Attacking trio. The numbers certainly speak for themselves, but watching these three play together is simply a privilege in this era of football. When I talk about it, I like to start with Roberto Firmino. Before coming to Liverpool, the Brazilian used to play in a different position. He has never been a natural striker, and will likely never be. And he should not! He fits this squad’s system perfectly, and has a massive influence with and without the ball. Going back deep allows him to confuse defenders and open up a lot of space for the other two, providing many assists. His work rate and physicality are outstanding. Mané and Salah are very similar to each other. Both are able to create chances in the counter attack, which is arguably Liverpool’s best attribute, because of their pace. They are usually there at the right place and time to hit the back of the net. The three of them have unquestionable talent and intelligence, and one would have to look back some years to find an attacking trio as brilliant as this one.
- Jürgen Klopp. One has to appreciate what this manager has been able to achieve both with Borussia Dortmund and right now. His tactics are effective beyond doubt and the fact that he has UCL experience, having led a club even in a final, make him highly prepared to finish this job off. At this point he has few to lose. Of course, he will be doing everything in his power to win this competition, and that tends to be enough when we are talking about Klopp.
- Style of play. I am getting to the real catch of this question, and of course it involves Real Madrid. Not very surprisingly, they have done it again. Their 1–2 victory over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena puts one of their feet inside the final. So the real question here could become, can Liverpool beat Real Madrid in a single, decisive match? Well, if there is anyone in the world that can do it in this specific competition right now, it is Liverpool. There is a lot of merit to consistently scoring 3 to 5 goals against any rival that they have been put in front. Even if the final will be a much higher level of football than before, they can manage to score goals. Their offensive dominance should greatly concern Zidane, as he has yet to face such a unique style of play. The experience, leadership, composure, and talent that Sergio Ramos possesses should be key in this matchup, but I cannot see even him being able to stop this goalscoring machine completely. Now, the same argument can work for Real Madrid too, so I will get to the next point.
- Defense stability. In recent seasons, Liverpool’s defense has been their weakest attribute. They have conceded too many unnecessary goals and that has been one of the reasons for the club’s lack of elite competitiveness before this year. Although not yet nearly perfect, their defense has taken a step forward with the arrival of Virgil van Dijk. He has brought organization and leadership to the backline. There are never guarantees against Madrid, but at least they will not have it easy. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been remarkable so far. He has remained calm and done his job well. Regardless of this, just thinking about having to defend Cristiano Ronaldo (or even Franck Ribéry, whoever it turns out to be) in the most important game of his career so far, AS A 19 YEAR OLD? That is a nightmare, to say the least. I still believe he can manage it.
- They must do it for everyone. This is not even a proper reason. But I know that many of us are getting somewhat tired of seeing the same story repeated year after year, and it would be very refreshing to see a team which has not done it in 13 years win the Champions League this season. Too many people have started to believe in this possibility. Just knowing that they have a realistic chance of going all the way and that most of the people following this sport across the globe know it too, and want to see this happen, is a reason for Liverpool to commit their heart and soul to this. The Reds want to bring trophies back home because they have not done so in many years. They have all of the motivation and reasons to do so, and right now it really is their time to prove themselves to those in doubt, because as usual there are people who are already handing this trophy to another team.
I personally am excited for what is coming.