Liverpool’s six matches to salvage their season - starting with RB Leipzig in the Champions League
Out of the FA Cup, eighth in the Premier League, Liverpool’s season has been one to forget, but the Champions League could change all that with Jurgen Klopp’s side on the brink of a quarter-final spot – but could they really win a second European trophy in three years?
Liverpool are in a battle to reach next season's Champions League
A 2-0 first-leg lead over RB Leipzig means Liverpool have one foot in the quarter-finals, and they will look to seal their spot in the last eight when taking on the Bundesliga side in Budapest on Wednesday night.
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Navigate their way past Leipzig and then you have the lottery of facing any club, no matter the nation or group they played in, and given the draw on March 19 will also cover the semi-finals too, Liverpool will then know exactly what it takes to reach Istanbul.
Yes, Istanbul. The scene of Liverpool’s 2005 miracle. It would be somewhat poetic if they were to somehow end this so-far disastrous campaign with another shot at European glory at a stadium they know and adore so much.
The nature of a two-legged tie means no side can truly be ruled out. Leipzig and Lyon both defied expectations in last year’s knockouts to send Atletico Madrid and Manchester City packing, and though both fell short of a shock triumph, their progression to the semis served as a reminder to expect the unexpected in the Champions League.
)Mohamed Salah of Liverpool celebrates after scoring the first goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between RB Leipzig and Liverpool FC at Puskas Arena on February 16, 2021 in Budapest, Hungary
Image credit: Getty Images
Liverpool are better than Lyon and Leipzig. Maybe not on current form, but they are, and while the thought of them winning the Champions League seems a distant prospect, the bookies are reluctant to rule them out and currently have only Manchester City, Bayern Munich and PSG with shorter odds.
That is because they know, and we know, what this Liverpool side are capable of on their day.
Climbing to the European summit without their first-choice centre-back partnership makes it almost unachievable, but emphasis on the almost, for while this team packed with 2019 winners remain in contention, then there is every chance they could find the drive to salvage this season in the most emphatic way possible.
To do so, they would need luck, a favourable draw, and to rediscover their form in front of goal, but over 180 minutes of knockout football Liverpool can beat anyone. Sure, any remaining team will believe they can beat them right back, but the wiser ones will know better than to treat Liverpool as a routine rollover.
Should Liverpool advance on Wednesday night, the decision for Klopp going forward would therefore be how much he focuses on Europe compared to the Premier League.
Domestically, there are three teams above Liverpool all with a game in hand, and with the Reds needing not only West Ham, Everton and Tottenham to slip-up, but also one of Manchester United, Chelsea or Leicester, they find themselves hoping four sides mess up while turning around their own fortunes.
In the Champions League, it is simply them against whatever opponent they may come across next. After Leipzig, again – if they go through – there would be three more teams and five more matches standing between them and a seventh European Cup.
That sounds arguably less daunting than their Premier League task, so Klopp may well choose to plan around Europe, even if the stakes are higher.
It’s the Hail Mary pass to save their season, and given they’ve already thrown their title defence, it is a play worth making.