Liverpool look to continue their European form
Liverpool will bid to reach their third consecutive Champions League final this season and it is hard to see anyone stopping them. The Reds only lost the 2018 final due to a pair of howlers from Loris Karius, and they have been close to invincible since replacing him with £67 million man Alisson. Their home form is superb, the fans create a sensational atmosphere inside Anfield and that really should be enough to carry them all the way again in 2019/20.
The top-rated online sportsbooks make Liverpool the third favourites to win the Champions League this season. They appear to underestimate Jurgen Klopp’s men once again. Man City are the favourites to win the tournament, despite crashing out at the quarter-final stage for the last two seasons. Liverpool beat them home and away in 2017/18, and they came unstuck against Spurs last term. Man City have thrived in the domestic game over the past couple of years, but Europe has proved a bridge too far and backing them at short odds of 3/1 to win the Champions League looks risky.
Barcelona are the second favourites, despite Liverpool beating them 4-0 at Anfield to complete a stunning comeback in last season’s semi-finals. Barca’s players – including Luis Suarez and the now-departed Philippe Coutinho – looked shell-shocked after that game. The Catalan club responded by splashing out on Frenkie De Jong and Antoine Griezmann in the summer. The former should make them more agile and dynamic in midfield, while the latter may ease the burden on Suarez and Lionel Messi upfront, but it is hard to argue that Barcelona are a better team than Liverpool. They are conceding goals for fun in the early stages of the season, their midfield still looks cumbersome and they really struggle when Messi is missing.
Meanwhile, Liverpool just keep winning. They have started the season with five straight victories to sit comfortably top of the Premier League, and this group of players looks stronger with each passing week. The defence is extremely solid. Virgil Van Dijk is a colossus and the World Player of the Year, but Joel Matip and Joe Gomez are also rock-solid. You will not find a better or more energetic pair of full-backs than Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold in world football.
The midfield is fine. The players are not world-class, although you would be hard-pressed to find many better holding midfielders than Fabinho, while Naby Keita has bags of potential. Georginio Wijnaldum is great on the ball and the likes of Jordan Henderson and James Milner work really hard. Most importantly, they play the roles that Jurgen Klopp assigns them with aplomb, and do enough to get the ball to Liverpool’s superstar attacking triumvirate.
Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané are three of the best forwards in the world. The pace, movement, intelligence and rapid interplay between them is devastating. They can rip any defence in the world to shreds at will. It appears there is generally healthy competition between Mané and Salah to outscore one another, and that battle could go either way, but Firmino is emerging as the real star of the show. He is the glue that holds the frontline together and his intelligence is peerless.
Liverpool also have better strength-in-depth than they are given credit for, with players like Divock Origi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ready to come in and do a strong job. In Jurgen Klopp, they have a great tactician, a brilliant motivator and a really inspirational figurehead. They know how to get the job done in the Champions League, so there is every reason to think that Liverpool could successfully defend their trophy this season.