Is Europa League glory a realistic target for Liverpool?
After the weekend thrashing of Aston Villa, in which Daniel Sturridge made his first league start since October, Liverpool now face a Europa League double header with German outfit FC Augsburg. With a League Cup Final to look forward to at the end of the month against Manchester City, it remains to be seen just how much emphasis Jurgen Klopp will place on the tie and the tournament in general. Undoubtedly, a mixture of youth and experience will make up the starting eleven and bench, as seen with varying success in cup competitions this season.
With key men such as Daniel Sturridge and Martin Skrtel looking to return to full fitness in the coming weeks, Klopp will be looking to slowly establish key members of his squad back into first team duties. While the Europa League seems to be the perfect opportunity to achieve such a thing, the manager looks set to continue with his selection policy for such games. Liverpool supporters will be keen for the club to challenge in a competition that could potentially lead to a shot at Champions League participation next season. Klopp himself would also love the opportunity to mark his first campaign with the club with some silverware. The passionate German has slipped seamlessly into the culture of the club, with the supporters seeing him as one of their own already. With his celebratory, lung busting runs down the touchline already becoming a trademark, the charismatic leader will no doubt be wary of stretching his already thin squad to the limit in the wake of a trip to Wembley just around the corner.
With all this in mind it remains difficult to predict Liverpool’s progression in a tournament which plays second fiddle to the superior Champions League this week. While certainly one of the most historically successful teams left in the competition, the likes of Klopp’s old club Dortmund as well as Leverkusen and Napoli are perhaps more likely victors. bookies.com helps to provide the best odds for those of you who fancy a flutter on the round of 32 ties, as well as Champions League fixtures this coming week.
Other players who will be looking to continue to impress under the guidance of the new manager are youngsters Cameron Brannagan and Kevin Stewart. The latter came off the bench on Sunday late on, and showed composure and confidence beyond his years. Despite the game already being won by the time Stewart entered the field, his role in the final goal as well as his assurance on the ball, will surely lead to more first team opportunities in the coming months. Despite the youngster being ineligible for both Europa League and League Cup action, Stewart will surely gain valuable minutes in the remaining Premier League fixtures, as he looks to establish himself in the Liverpool midfield.
Liverpool have in some cases, famously failed to deliver when push comes to shove in recent years. Players and supporters a like will this year be hoping and praying that their side can deliver a positive end to the season and give Klopp something to build upon in his first full season next time around.