The Champions’ League triumph of 2018-19 was full to the brim with iconic moments that will be remembered forever in the history of Liverpool Football Club. The Alisson save in the dying moments against Napoli, the audacious Trent Alexander-Arnold corner in the seemingly impossible comeback against Barcelona at Anfield and, of course, the Origi finish late on in Madrid, to name just a handful. These events will live eternally in the memories of all Liverpool fans, and rightfully so. However, that is all they are now – memories. Once the celebratory parade had concluded it signalled the end of the final chapter in a truly remarkable season; it was now time to place the campaign alongside our happiest recollections in the comfiest recesses of all of our minds and readjust our focus onto the next one.
It is difficult not to be optimistic about the coming season, especially when thinking about the Champions’ League. Since Jurgen Klopp arrived at the club, his record in European football is nothing short of astounding. In his 3 seasons that the Reds have qualified for European competition, he is still yet to lose a two-legged knockout tie. We reached the Europa League final in 2015-16, the Champions’ League final in 2017-18 and then went one better by winning Old Big Ears in 2018-19. It has not been plain-sailing, though, during those journeys to the tournament’s culmination; with no better example being the group stage struggles of last season. Poor results away from home saw us requiring a last-gasp example of goalkeeping brilliance from Alisson to see us through to the last-16. That leads on to the first reason why Liverpool fans can be hopeful of a similarly successful cup run in 2019-20. For the first time since 2009, we will be placed in Pot 1 for the group stage draw. Being in Pot 1 does not guarantee an easy group, nor does it ensure qualification to the knockout stages. Liverpool learnt this the hard way in 2009-10 when they crashed out of the Champions’ League after coming third in the group, beaten to the two qualifying positions by Fiorentina and Lyon. However, it certainly doesn’t hurt. As it stands, it means the Reds will avoid the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, PSG and, of course, any of the English teams that have qualified. Although Liverpool should be confident of advancing past the group stage no matter who gets drawn alongside them, having a better chance of topping the group will, in theory, grant them a simpler task in the first knockout round.
Another reason fans should be confident Liverpool can repeat last season’s success in the Champions’ League is the impenetrable fortress in which they live: Anfield. The bringer of nightmares for its enemies and creator of dreams for its supporters, the Reds’ home ground is unquestionably the most feared location in all of football. Many have tried to dismiss its power of the years, scoffing at the tales of previous casualties who have fallen victim to the suffocating atmosphere within its walls, adamant they would not follow suit. The lack of respect further guarantees their failure as they inevitably succumb to the immeasurable pressure like so many before them. These foolish quotes of faux confidence soon get lost to the darkness and are replaced by the many stories of great men who have found themselves drowning, unable to stay afloat as the relentless waves of attack flood over them. They eventually wash up on land with no recollection of what had transpired in the 90 minutes prior; battered, bruised and in a state of complete disarray – and this is if you’re lucky enough to get off lightly. Jose Mourinho, for example, is still seeing ghosts 14 years after his visit in 2005. He can thank Luis Garcia for that. As long as Liverpool have Anfield, they will be a force to be reckoned with. The 4-0 demolition of Barcelona will have turned any remaining doubters of Anfield’s influence into firm believers, which will do nothing but increase the fear in any potential opponents that may arrive next season.
Perhaps the most obvious but also most important reason Liverpool fans can be buoyant when thinking about next season’s Champions’ League campaign is due to the squad. It looks certain that they will retain all of their important players following the close of the summer transfer window, meaning that everyone who played a vital part in their success in 2018-19 will remain with the club. From a more specific viewpoint, though, the Liverpool team’s set up is perfect for cup football. They own an electric front three, an industrious midfield which now includes significant portions of class since the arrivals of Naby Keita and Fabinho, plus a defence that offers incredible stability as well as attacking support from the full-backs. This blend of vital characteristics means that they are more than capable of rattling in a hatful of goals at one end, whilst keeping it rock-solid at the other. Even if the first leg doesn’t go to plan, the Reds have the weapons at their disposal to turn the tables in the second.
Liverpool have had a love affair with the European Cup for decades. There is just something about the most prestigious trophy in club football that brings the best out of both the team and the fans. With the club being in such a strong position, too, there is no reason whatsoever why that shouldn’t continue to be the case. Most of us are still getting used fact we are now 6 times champions of Europe, with songs needing to be rewritten and banners updated. Don’t get too used to the new versions, though, as they may need another tweak in around 11 months’ time.