Europa League: A Blessing in Disguise?
It’s hard to be on the outside of the Champions League. There are few positives to being in the Europa League. At least it’s this year. Not being at the top table next season, when the Champions League changes format and becomes an even bigger moneyspinner, would be much more painful. The competition also gives a second bite at Champions League qualification. Being outside the top four next May is unthinkable but, if things go wrong domestically, winning in Dublin is another route to the Continent’s most prestigious and richest tournament.
Dublin: The Next Party Destination?
Dublin would be a madhouse if Liverpool get there. Tickets would be a real problem in the 51,000-seater Aviva stadium. But it’s presumptuous to be thinking about that now. There are quite a few dangerous sides involved.
The best memories I have of any European final came from the 2001 Uefa Cup showpiece in Dortmund. Everything about it was brilliant. Everyone who went got in. We queued up and bought tickets on the day of the game and they were right on the halfway line. The Westfalenstadion is one of the best grounds in the world and the atmosphere rocked.
The Changing Landscape of Football
Istanbul was similar but the corporate age had begun. Athens was a nightmare vision of football’s future. Fans were at the very bottom of Uefa’s list of priorities.
The teams weren’t at the top, either. Rick Parry, who was chief executive at the time, recalled that at previous finals the participating clubs were given first choice of the best hotels. In Athens, Uefa bigwigs and sponsors were placed in the most attractive accommodation. The teams had to settle for second-tier hotels. This was a sign the game had entered a new epoch.
No, it’s not the Champions League, but let’s make the best of the Europa League. A wild party in Dublin – probably in the alehouse rather than the stadium – and another trophy would be very welcome.
Ryan Gravenberch: Steal at the Price
Ryan Gravenberch is a fantastic acquisition. Particularly at the price. To get the Dutchman and Alexis Mac Allister for around £70 million is superb work.
The midfield has transformed from old and tired to fresh and youthful over this difficult summer. If anyone offered Dominik Szoboszlai, Mac Allister and Gravenberch in May, you would have bitten their hand off.
The Mentality Gap: Liverpool vs Newcastle
The 2-1 victory over Newcastle United was remarkable for many reasons but the best thing about the match was observing the difference between the mentality of the two clubs.
There’s always a moment; the instant when clubs like Newcastle remember who they are. And they remember who we are. In that nanosecond, games are won and lost.
Darwin Nunez: The Rising Star
Darwin Nunez’s two goals were beautiful. He looked like the player who impressed everyone when he came to Anfield with Benfica.
By that logic this should be his breakout year. Aston Villa, who play with a typical Unai Emery high line, will be shuddering at the prospect of Nunez stalking the inside channels on Sunday. Villa are a team that appear to be set up for the Uruguayan.
Van Dijk’s Red Card: A Wake-Up Call
Van Dijk deserved to get a red. Get over it. Don’t bring up similar challenges where players didn’t get sent off. In cases like that, the referees made mistakes. Do you want them to get things right? Probably not. You just want decisions to go our way. Stop cryarsing.
There’s loads to love about modern football but deadline day is not one of them. It’s the transfer ultras’ Christmas. The confidence some of the social media ‘experts’ show at this time of year makes me wonder why they’re not professional scouts.
This is still a pretty good squad. Before the season, I worried that we may finish fifth. Three games in I’m pretty confident we’re a shoo-in for the top four. And I’ve a sneaky feeling there’s a cup or two on the horizon.