Liverpool’s Rocky History with French Teams
Liverpool host Toulouse in the Europa League on Thursday, in a fairly rare meeting with a French side for the Reds. It will be the first clash with a French Side since the 2018-19 Champions League-winning campaign where Klopp’s side faced Paris Saint-Germain in the group stages. Although supporters will be expecting a comfortable three points against Toulouse, history suggests that the Reds have a patchy record against French opposition over the past 15 years. Today we’re going to take a deeper look at that recent history, ahead of Thursday’s Europa League game.
Reds’ Past Clashes with France’s Elite
2008- Marseille (UEFA Champions League)
Liverpool travelled to Marseille in the opening game of their 2008/09 Champions League campaign, with Rafael Benitez looking for a strong start in the competition. Lorik Cana’s strike gave the French side the lead in that game, before Steven Gerrard’s brace rescued the three points for the Reds. The game finished 2-1 in the end, but Marseille would have the opportunity at revenge in the return game at Anfield in November. However, Gerrard’s first-half header sent Liverpool on their way to a 1-0 victory. Benitez’s side would go on to reach the Quarter-Finals of the Champions League that season.
Liverpool vs French Clubs: A Recent Retrospective
2009- Olympique Lyonnais (UEFA Champions League)
A year later, Liverpool would face the test of Olympique Lyonnais in the 2009/10 Champions League Group Stage. The Reds came into the game on the back of three consecutive defeats to Fiorentina, Chelsea, and Sunderland. Benitez’s side would be thrown into complete crisis as they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Lyon at Anfield. Yossi Benayoun gave Liverpool the lead in the first half, but late goals from the visitors silenced the Anfield crowd. Just two weeks later, the Reds missed the chance at revenge as they could only manage a 1-1 draw in the return game. Ryan Babel’s strike would once again give Liverpool the lead, before the Reds would again concede an injury-time goal to leave them on the brink of elimination from the competition. After another defeat to Fiorentina, Liverpool were demoted to the Europa League after finishing third in their group.
French Opposition: Liverpool’s Mixed Fortunes
2015- Bordeaux (UEFA Europa League)
Six years later, Liverpool would be in the Europa League once again and would face Bordeaux in the group stages with Brendan Rodgers as manager. The Reds travelled to Bordeaux in their opening game of the Europa League campaign, and Adam Lallana’s goal would give them the lead in the second half. Rodgers’ side couldn’t hold on though, and an 81st-minute goal from Bordeaux summoned the Reds to a 1-1 draw. A month later, Brendan Rodgers would be sacked as Liverpool manager and be replaced by Jurgen Klopp. Klopp would be in charge for the return game at Anfield, which Liverpool emerged 2-1 winners. After going 1-0 down in the first half, a James Milner penalty and a Christian Benteke winner would secure the three points. Liverpool would go on to reach the Europa League final that season, ultimately losing 3-1 to Sevilla in the final.
The Reds’ Ups and Downs vs French Sides
2018- Paris Saint-Germain (UEFA Champions League)
Definitely the most notable opposition on this list, Liverpool faced the challenge of a PSG side with Kylian Mbappé and Neymar Jr in 2018. The two sides faced off in the opening game of the Group Stage at Anfield, where a Roberto Firmino injury-time goal would secure the three points. Daniel Sturridge and James Milner both scored to give the Reds a 2-0 lead going into half-time. Kylian Mbappé seemingly saved a point for the visitors with an 83rd-minute equaliser, only for Firmino to score a brilliant solo goal in the 91st-minute. In the return game, Liverpool didn’t quite put in the same performance as they fell to a 2-1 defeat. Juan Bernat and Neymar Jr scored early goals, before James Milner scored a penalty at the end of the first half. However, Liverpool would go on to win the Champions League that season, beating the likes of Napoli, Bayern Munich, Porto, Barcelona, and Tottenham Hotspur on the way to the trophy.
The overall statistics: In total, Liverpool have played eight competitive games against French sides in the past 15 years, winning four, drawing two, and losing two. Across those eight games, the Reds have scored 12 goals and will be hoping to boost that number considerably on Thursday. Defensively, Klopp will also be looking for improvement with the Reds only keeping one clean sheet in those 12 games and conceding 10 in the process.