Why Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes were boosted by win over Bayern
Liverpool were choking on the Premier League title pressure, but Wednesday’s victory over Bayern Munich could prove to be just the distraction the team needed – writes Eurosport’s Tom Bennett.
Liverpool’s Premier League title challenge was rejuvenated on Wednesday night at the Allianz Arena.
It might seem strange to attribute a Champions League result as directly boosting the domestic chances of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side, particularly with many arguing that progression in the competition could be a distraction.
But a distraction is exactly what Liverpool have been crying out for.
This is a club built on emotion, that thrives off momentum. Just look at last year’s run to the Champions League final. That was a series of results which defied expectation, but Liverpool as a team, as a club, as a city, became so awash with fanatical positive energy that they were carried to the final on a wave of passion.
But that emotional approach can be difficult to sustain across an entire league campaign.
Indeed, the enormous weight of expectation that this is the year Liverpool will end their Premier League drought has threatened to take too heavy a toll on the team.
At the turn of the year they had a chance to go ten points clear at the top of the table.
Now they find themselves a point behind Manchester City and have failed to win four of their last seven league games.
The wave of emotion has turned to nerves, while Jurgen Klopp has transitioned from faultless talisman to a tetchy complainer, obsessed with blaming everyone but himself.
Only two times in the last ten years of the Premier League has a club been top at Christmas and not gone on to win the title. Both times that club was Liverpool. And their dip since the start of January seems to have put them on course for an unwelcome hat-trick.
Liverpool needed a spark; something to change the momentum. And they might just have got that with the win over Bayern Munich.
Liverpool's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring the 1-2 goal with his team-mates during the UEFA Champions League, last 16, second leg football match Bayern Munich v Liverpool in Munich, southern Germany, on March 13, 2019Getty Images
Nothing quite excites Liverpool like a big European win, and a result as huge as their 3-1 victory over Bayern is exactly the sort of moment required to shift the mood around the club.
The fans will sense another glorious European run, and that itself will lift the pressure off the league title race. No longer should all of the eggs be in the Premier League basket. Liverpool have it all to play for, and plenty to take their minds off their domestic fortunes.
For many clubs that could be seen as a disadvantage.
For Liverpool it is anything but.
Klopp will be secretly delighted about his team’s progress. Prior to the second leg he described the Champions League as a “money-throwing competition”, downplaying the significance of the match due to the difficult of the task facing his team.
But playing against teams of a calibre as high as Bayern breathes life into Liverpool, it builds confidence through the counter-attacking opportunities they so rarely receive in the Premier League, and it gives the supporters a chance to embrace being underdogs – a status they relish.
And speaking after the match it was notable how much more positive Klopp seemed. There’s been a hint of trepidation behind his eyes in recent weeks, while his increasingly short temper has done little to disprove those who think he is choking on the pressure.
But at the Allianz Arena, Klopp seemed back to his old self, brimming with positivity:
" It’s a really big one. I’m so proud of how the boys did it … The size we have, the power we have, we are a massive threat."
That is the attitude change Klopp needed, and this was the result Liverpool have been crying out for.
It may yet be enough to stop the Premier League title slipping from their grasp.