A team with an esteemed European history, Kiev will be Liverpool’s first final in 11 years and their eighth overall, drawing them level with Barcelona – behind only AC Milan, Bayern Munich and this year’s opponents, Real Madrid. Yet, there’s been something unique about this campaign.
It’s not often you see a team utterly blitz the Champions League. Jürgen Klopp’s gung-ho philosophy has seen Liverpool score a multitude of goals this season, both domestically and in Europe with a fiery front line presenting one of the hottest commodities in world football right now.
Maribor and Spartak Moscow were teams Liverpool would have been expected to beat, but two 7-0 routs aren’t a usual occurrence in this competition. 14 goals in 180 minutes of football presented a sure-fire indication of what was to come.
The knock-out stages were testament to that. Hoffenheim were undefeated at home in the Bundesliga. Porto had an impeccable domestic record too, finishing the season with just two defeats to their name. Manchester City ended the Premier League season with a record-breaking 100 points tally having run away with the title long before the final day.
Yet, Liverpool surpassed them all with relative ease, producing a flurry of goals in short bursts. There were 3 goals in 11 minutes in the home leg against Hoffenheim; two goals in five minutes against Porto; three in 19 against Manchester City at Anfield and a five-goal romping in under 35 minutes against Roma.
Storming their way to the domestic title with a plethora of attacking talent, very few people would’ve expected Liverpool to come out on top having been handed City in the quarter-final draw. Instead, a rampant first-leg performance tore Guardiola to shreds.
It was the perfect depiction of Jürgen Klopp’s free-flowing, expansive style. First to every ball, the collective sense of unity outweighed their riches, putting Liverpool firmly back on the map with a 5-1 aggregate score over the-then Champions elect.
Following a 13-minute drought, Salah made his mark. Up next, Chambo. One swiftly executed long-range strike was enough to cue bedlam at Anfield in a hugely one-sided affair. Mane’s third was the icing on the cake on a night that merely confirmed Liverpool’s disregard of the usual script. Forget the cagey 0-0’s or the tight 1-0 affairs, Klopp’s side were out to blitz in a game plan that’s paid dividends.
Such was the case in Rome; Mohamed Salah’s curling effort followed by a clipped chipped effort over Alisson for the second confirmed his class before The Reds became only the second team to score five goals in the semi-final of the competition.
Destroyed and dishevelled by the cut-throat genius of Liverpool’s front-three, this season has brought one of the most vehement attacking performances seen in a European campaign.
Thrilling and efficacious in equal measure, Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino’s collective tally of 29 goals is the most in Champions League history, as is the 46 goals scored by the entire squad. Firmino alone is the first player in the competition to register seven goals and seven assists in a single UCL campaign. An unparalleled goal-scoring record has made Klopp’s side the entertainers.
An average of over three goals per game thus far reflects the most prolific European campaign ever. Even with the exclusion of goals scored in qualification, Liverpool have scored eight more than any other English club.
For further context, Liverpool have scored more goals in the Champions League this season than their entire Premier League goals tally in 2011/12 while 52 goals in the 2014/15 season is only six more than Salah and co. have produced.
It’s hard to think of an equivalent to this Liverpool team; Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund team of 2012/13 are probably the closest following their exhilarating run to the final after wins over Real Madrid, Manchester City and two injury-time goals against Malaga in the quarter-final.
A romping second-half in the quarter-final against Madrid saw Robert Lewandowski net three times and toss the Spaniards aside; a true testament of their electric ethos, running havoc to force their way to the final.
So too have Liverpool, with their breath-taking style of football something we’ve never quite seen before in the Champions League. An incredible potency and scintillating front three, the trailblazing Reds have been a surprise package this season.
Klopp’s use of the word ‘brave’ in his pre-match press conference was an apt description of his side’s philosophy throughout the competition, opting for expansive football rather than tightening up at the back and looking to grind out results:
“If we had of tried to play like Juventus or Bayern Munich, we would have gone out in the group stage. So we have to be a little bit more lively than other teams because we have less experience.
It was not easy to be brave against Manchester City. It was not easy to be brave against Roma, both here and there, and the boys did it.”
Exhilarating and expansive, whatever awaits in Kiev, this team has brought an innovative new approach to Europe’s elite competition. Drink it in, Reds.