With United Dispatched, It’s Time To Get Serious About Europa
By Dave Turner
The scene from Anfield just over a week ago was astounding.
Supporter flags waiving, songs so loud that they were almost drowning out the announcers.
Anfield was in full throat, with good reason. What more can be asked for than a great performance against Liverpool’s most hated rival.
Fast-forward to the St. Patrick’s Day tilt against Manchester United from Old Trafford and it was a business-like performance that saw the Reds through to the next round.
Sure, the result against the most despised of foes was wonderful, especially with Liverpool becoming the first English side to oust United from a European competition, but now the real test begins.
Realistically, any shot at a top-four Premier League finish would take a run of form we have yet to see from the men of Merseyside this season. With a match at hand on current 4th place holding Manchester City as well as 3rd place Arsenal, three points could cut the lead to four points with nine matches to play. Okay, that’s do-able, but would take a lot of work and some help to accomplish.
With Liverpool now on to the final eight of the Europa League, the most clear path back to the promise land of Champions League Football lies within the confines of the aforementioned tournament.
The fact is, finding a way into a Champions League spot is crucial to any big summer plans that Jurgen Klopp has in terms of reshaping this roster. With the names of Mario Goetze, Ilkay Gundogan and others being floated around, more than likely, none of the world class players that have been linked to a Merseyside move in any fashion will come to fruition if Liverpool are without a spot in the most coveted tournament in all of club football.
With the announcement of the quarterfinal draw pitting LFC against Borussia Dortmund, it adds even more intrigue. With Klopp’s former squad now the opponent, there will certainly be added incentive, if they even needed more.
In Dortmund, Liverpool draws quite possibly the best remaining side left in this tournament. With Dortmund coming off of an absolute shellacking of Tottenham in the previous round, the Reds will need to bring their best effort to survive the first leg which is being played in Germany.
The familiarity with many of the players on the German side’s roster should certainly help Klopp prepare for the showdown, but the players will also know a bit of what to expect from Klopp’s Liverpool team in terms of tactics.
A few additional thoughts:
- Mahmadou Sahko, who has at times been in the crosshairs of detractors has played some really good defense as of late. Sure, his passing game leaves a lot to be desired, but he competes and gives Liverpool a strong physical presence on their back line.
- Also, praise for Emre Can. With his run of form lately, it’s starting to look like he’s arriving at the potential that many thought he may have. He continues to make some excellent plays and his confidence is growing with each passing match.
- That was by far Nathaniel Clyne’s worst game in a Liverpool shirt. He was unnerved early and seemed to be chasing for most of the evening instead of using his speed and strength to legally defend with purpose.
- The violence following the match is deplorable, but unfortunately kind of expected. With a bunch of jubilant Liverpool supporters in the stands, Man U fans aren’t going to take it lightly. The one thing that should NEVER happen are certain illicit cheers and songs. Not getting into it further, but you know what I’m talking about, from both sides.
- The Dortmund draw just added so much pizzazz to Liverpool’s Europa quest. It’s not going to be easy, but if Klopp is able to will the team to best his former squad, it would be yet another huge European win. These are the kinds of wins Liverpool supporters have grown to expect over the years, so Klopp gets yet ANOTHER chance to show he’s piloting this team in the right direction.
- Let’s not forget that there are quite a few Premier League matches coming up in succession, as Liverpool have to make up a could of matches due to cancellations. Right now, top-four seems like a long shot, but if they can go and rattle off something like three wins in a row, things will get interesting as well.
- Divock Origi should start over Daniel Sturridge. Plain and simple, he’s more dynamic right now. To be frank, even a seemingly more confident Christian Benteke might be a better option. (Did I really just say that?)