Monday 21 January 2019

John Aldridge: Why Liverpool now need to change their targets for this season

Jurgen Klopp is on his best run as Liverpool manager (Martin Rickett/PA).
Jurgen Klopp is on his best run as Liverpool manager (Martin Rickett/PA).
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Liverpool goal scoring great John Aldridge believes Jurgen Klopp’s Reds have a realistic shot of being crowned as European champions this season.

After their thrilling 4-3 win against Champions League favourites Manchester City at Anfield in their last Premier League game, Aldridge suggests Liverpool are emerging as dark horses to claim the biggest prize in club football.

"Liverpool hammered the Champions League favourites at Anfield and that win should inspire them to believe they can win the biggest prize in European football this season," he states.

"The final score line may have read 4-3 to Liverpool against Manchester City, but the reality was Klopp’s side comprehensively beat Pep Guardiola’s side in a wonderful game of attacking football.

"Okay, so the final ten minutes of the game exposed Liverpool’s weak spot once again as they had chances to add to their lead when they went 4-1 ahead and then opened the door for City to come back at them.

"If there was another five minutes added on to the game last weekend, City may well have equalised, but Liverpool got the win they deserved.

"It was a triumph for a team and a manager who believed they could trouble City and didn’t go into the game believing they were beaten before the first whistle was blown."

Aldo suggests this may be a year for a dark horse to emerge as Champions League winners, with so many of Europe’s top clubs enduring challenging seasons.

"This Liverpool team is far better than the team that won the Champions League back in 2005 and while Klopp and his players will need a few slices of luck to reach the final in Kiev next May, they should believe it is possible," he added.

"At Anfield, Liverpool can beat anyone and the atmosphere on European nights has shaken so many high profile players into submission down the years.

"I’ve seen experienced players crumble amid the cauldron of noise the Liverpool fans can create on big Champions League nights and that will be a huge factor in the favour if they can get through to the latter stages of the competition.

"Being drawn against FC Porto in the last-16 of the competition was a decent outcome for Liverpool and you look around Europe and maybe this is a year for a surprise winner.

“Barcelona and Real Madrid have dominated the Champions League over the last few years, but both of the Spanish giants have had some problems this season.

"Barca are being carried by Lionel Messi’s genius once again and they will be big contenders for Europe’s big trophy again, but Real Madrid look to be in trouble after their back-to-back Champions League wins.

"Bayern Munich appear to be getting back on track after their decision to replace Carlo Ancelotti with Jupp Heynckes, while Paris Saint-German will be a threat after spending so much money to sign Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

"Yet Liverpool probably don’t need to beat all of those teams to be crowned as European champions for a sixth time, so let’s be optimistic about their chances.

"I would worry about their tendency to concede silly goals away from home, but the hope has to be that Virgil van Dijk’s arrival will help to address that problem and you would always fancy a forward line featuring Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah to nick an away goal  that is always so crucial in the knock-out phase.

"Cup football is unpredictable and Liverpool are the kind of team that can turn it on for 20-minute patches to blow the opposition away.

"United and Mourinho will have a very different approach in their Champions League games as they will look to grind out wins and that can also be successful, especially in away games.

"Whether that defensive mindset will be good enough to take a team all the way in a competition loaded with teams boasting outrageous attacking talent remains to be seen, but I would fancy Liverpool, PSG, Man City and Barcelona’s more attacking approach to prevail in the end.

"Klopp’s team have won nothing yet, but they have proved that they are not too far behind the outstanding team in the Premier League by inflicting a first defeat on the season on them. Now they should target the ultimate glory in the Champions League."

Read John Aldridge in the Sunday World every week.

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