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Liverpool

Are Liverpool potential 2017/18 Champions League winners?

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Reuters

Jurgen Klopp has guided Liverpool to the knock-out stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2009, but can the German replicate the club’s impressive long-standing history of success in European competitions and guide The Reds all the way to the final?

Here, The Boot Room examines whether Liverpool have the potential to win the Champions League.

Progress so far

Liverpool were able to safely navigate the Champions League play-off against Hoffenheim back in August, running out 6-3 victors on aggregate, and they were rewarded with what appeared to be a relatively favorable group draw which paired them up with Sevilla, Spartak Moskva and Maribor.

Jurgen Klopp would have been delighted to have finished as group winners without suffering a defeat although the only consistency in his team’s performances were how inconsistent they were.

The Reds scored ten goals across two games against Maribor and netted seven times against Spartak at Anfield in the final fixture but also demonstrated their defensive frailties by throwing away a three-goal half-time lead at Sevilla.

Overall, Liverpool’s progress so far has been positive, entertaining and enthralling although much tougher challenges will lie ahead.

 

Squad Strength

Jurgen Klopp has built a squad that possesses an abundance of firepower and when Liverpool have their offensive players fit and firing they are capable of scoring goals against any team in Europe.

Mohamed Salah has been a revelation since arriving in the summer and has been well-assisted by the likes of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, although the loss of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona has dealt the Reds a significant blow.

Defensively the reds still remain fragile with neither Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius cementing the number one jersey as their own whilst questions still remain over whether Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip or Ragnar Klavan have the quality or consistency to be regarded as to-quality defenders.

The arrival of Virgil van Dijk for £75 million will certainly help to ease Liverpool’s defensive woes but it remains to be seen whether one player will transform an entire defensive unit.

Manager

There have been gradual signs of progress at Anfield since Jurgen Klopp succeeded Brendan Rodgers in October 2015 although this has yet to be transferred into actual silverware.

The 50-year-old has built a team that is full of pace, power and technical quality in the final third of the pitch and that plays exciting, dynamic and expansive brand of football, yet he has yet to secure a major trophy for any team since Borussia Dortmund won the German Cup in 2012.

Klopp has had a degree of success in European competitions, guiding Dortmund to the Champions League final in 2013 and Liverpool to the Europa League final last season, although both occasions ultimately ended in defeat.

The charismatic German is still widely perceived as being one of the leading coaches in world football, but he still lacks the success in the Champions League to cement his place among the elite.

Chances of winning

Liverpool have won eight European trophies in their history, which would equate to five Champions League and three Europa League titles, but have failed to live up to that level of success in the last decade or so.

The Reds are back in the knock out stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2009 and it would take a heroic effort for Jurgen Klopp’s side to reach the latter stages of the tournament.

The team possesses the attacking quality to threaten any of the remaining opposition in the competition but have retained a defensive fragility that realistically undermines their ability to reach the final.

Anfield on a European night is a fortress, yet the problems will occur on their travels. Will Liverpool be able to go away to a leading club and grind out a clean sheet and a result to keep a tie alive? Probably not.

So, it is unlikely that Liverpool will win the Champions League outright this season, but they still possess the qualities to make a significant impact in the latter stages of the tournament.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

Liverpool

Naby Keita’s Bundesliga struggles could prove crucial to Liverpool’s transfer window

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Photo: Getty Images.

Liverpool‘s transfer business could be heavily influence by events in Germany over the final few weeks as reports indicate that the deal with RB Leipzig for Naby Keita could see the fee depend upon the German team’s league finish this season.

The Times say that a Champions League finish for Keita’s team will see the final fee cost Liverpool £59 million, whilst a Europa League place would see it lower to £52.75 million and seventh position or lower will see it fall as low as £48 million.

Leipzig’s woeful run of form has seen them lose two and draw one of their last three league games, being knocked out of the Europa League by Olympique Marseille in the process.

Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim have capitalised to climb above them, and now they may even struggle to make the Europa League with Eintracht Frankfurt hot on their heels only a point behind.

(Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Liverpool have already paid part of the fee for the midfielder, but a saving of £11 million is not to be sniffed at and could give Jurgen Klopp more money to spend in the summer.

The German coach is not expected to spend big to spark substantial changes at Anfield, but improvements are needed in some areas of the squad, such as in goal and in midfield, and £11 million could go a long way to bringing one of those in.

Given that Andrew Robertson joined for a fee believed to be in the region of £8 million, Liverpool fans would love the chance of making another such signing purely with the money saved by RB Leipzig’s struggles.

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Liverpool

“Pathetic”: Is Garth Crooks right to criticise Jurgen Klopp for Liverpool draw?

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Photo: Getty Images.

BBC Sport pundit Garth Crooks has hit out at Jurgen Klopp after the Reds were held to a 2-2 draw by West Brom, with Jake Livermore and Salomon Rondon cancelling out Liverpool‘s two goal lead.

In his BBC Sport Team of the Week column, Crooks slammed the Liverpool coach, criticising his tactics and team selection as well as his comments after the Baggies mounted a late comeback.

“Jurgen Klopp’s suggestion that the Albion pitch not being watered at half-time was somehow responsible for his team losing a two-goal lead is about as pathetic as it gets,” he wrote.

He also said that Liverpool “had two eyes firmly fixed on their mid-week Champions League game against Roma.”

“The Reds made five changes to their starting line-up, let a two-goal lead slip from their grasp and made a poor substitution.

“Yet manager Jurgen Klopp thinks he had nothing to do with this 2-2 result. Wow!”

It is hard to see exactly why Crooks took exception with such a move, given that even with the draw and assuming both Tottenham and Chelsea win their games in hand, Liverpool would still be in the top four by five points with three games left to play.

Given that, for the first time, all top four sides will qualify directly for the group stage, it is of little real consequence to the Reds if they finish in second or fourth and rotating is vital to have players fresh for a Champions League semi-final.

Klopp was criticised in 2016/17 for not rotating the likes of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, leading to injuries, but he seems to be managing his squad more effectively this campaign.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

In one piece of praise, Crooks was pleased to see the return of Danny Ings, as he said “It was great to see Danny Ings back in a Liverpool shirt and looking so effective.”

“Two years he spent recovering from injury and, from the look on his face, putting Liverpool 1-0 up must have felt like winning the lottery.

“Why Klopp took off the striker, I don’t know. Ings needs game time and was running Ahmed Hegazi ragged at the time.

“The West Brom central defender must have been delighted to see Ings substituted. Liverpool’s game started to fall apart the moment the striker left the field.”

In fact, this criticism is the most bizarre of them all. Ings played over an hour for only the second time since October 2015 and was taken off in the 66th minute, replaced by a capable alternative in Roberto Firmino.

Mohamed Salah doubled Liverpool’s lead after that point and it was almost a quarter of an hour before Jake Livermore halved the deficit. Whilst Ings may not have been on the field for the collapse, correlation does not equal causation and Liverpool taking their foot off the gas and poor defending were to blame, rather than a substitution.

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Championship

Conor Coady shows Liverpool what they’re missing in masterful Wolves campaign

The Wolves captain was tipped for big things at Liverpool but never made the grade.

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Back in 2011, Liverpool had one of their young starlets being tipped to become the ‘next Steven Gerrard.’ It was a tag being occasionally branded around the club about young talent Conor Coady. With good reason as well. The teenager was looking like the most natural successor to Gerrard yet.

The summer previous, he had helped England win the UEFA under-17 Championships, which is where the hype all began. Liverpool had unearthed a gem who immediately found himself tipped to become a future Kop captain.

But it never happened for the young man.

(Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

Instead, he headed to Sheffield United on loan – where he excelled. After getting a taste for regular football, the idea of returning to the reserve life with Liverpool clearly did not appeal to the utility man. Therefore, he left Liverpool in 2014, joining Huddersfield Town.

Liverpool fans soon forgot about him. Just another hyped up youngster who could not match the expectations laid at their door?

Well, this season Coady has finally looked like the real deal.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

The Melwood talent did not stick with Huddersfield for long. In 2015 he joined Wolverhampton Wanderers and he is now looking like the talent Liverpool thought they had at Molineux.

One issue with Coady has always been his position. Often moved around the park, this season he has played as a settled central defender. The results have been exceptional. Coady has been one of the best players in the Championship this campaign. That was highlighted by his inclusion in the Championship team of the season. The 25-year-old is now looking like a future Premier League star and will be playing in the big time next season after captaining Wolves to the Championship summit.

When Liverpool sold Coady to Huddersfield, they did so for a fee reported to be just £500,000 by the Liverpool Echo. The Reds obviously felt he would not live up to those once lofty expectations.

Based on his form this season, Liverpool could be rueing this mistake in the not so distant future.

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