'There is a visible change' - John Aldridge on the key factor that has taken Liverpool to the next level
John Aldridge believes Liverpool's run to last May's Champions League final has changed the mindset of Jurgen Klopp's players, as they continued their sparkling start to this season with a 3-0 home win against Southampton on Saturday.
Liverpool are sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League with six straight wins and also won their first Championship League game with a thrilling victory against Paris Saint-Germain last week.
Now Sunday World columnist Aldridge has suggested a new focus is evident in the Liverpool squad, as they now believe they are ready to mix it with the best in European football.
"There is a visible change of mentality in Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team this season and it's not just down to key signings they have made in the last year," states Aldridge.
"I look at the way this team is going about their business and even though they have yet to hit top form in my view, they are a side that has a belief running through their veins that suggests they are ready to got to the next level.
"Liverpool may have lost the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Kiev last May and all of us who love the club felt the pain of that defeat, but the run in Europe’s elite competition has changed the aura around this team for good.
"The players now believe they belong on the biggest of stages, they expect to challenge for the big trophies and most significantly, the opposition are fearful of them now.
"When you look to the Liverpool side that started last season in such uncertain fashion and compare it to the team that have been winning games in impressive fashion over the first month of this campaign, it's clear the team gave taken two or three leaps forward."
Aldridge is expecting Klopp to name as second string line-up for Wednesday's Carabao Cup match against Chelsea at Anfield, but he suggests that will still be a team capable of winning the competition.
"Liverpool’s substitutes bench has been a real weak link over the last few years, but that is looking so strong now and it gives Klopp a real opportunity to have a right go at winning a domestic cup competition as well as pushing for the Premier League and Champions League," he adds.
"We will see two reserve teams doing battle as Chelsea come to Anfield in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, but I’m pretty confident Klopp’s back-up players are better than Maurizio Sarri’s right now.
"Fabinho, Naby Keita, Roberto Firmino and Xherdan Shaqiri were some of the names on the Liverpool bench for the PSG game the other night, James Milner and Joe Gomez were sitting it out on Saturday, while Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson missing out on starts against Tottenham last weekend.
"That is a lot of quality footballers to be watching from the sidelines, but it highlighted the strength Liverpool now have and it reminds me of the days when the club were the dominant force in English and European football.
"There are so many players fighting for three places in the Liverpool midfield at the moment and if anyone allows their form to dip, they will be out of the team and replaced by someone better.
"When you have this kind of quality in reserve, it makes dropping a star player a little easier for a manager and it also keeps everyone on their toes as they know their place in the side is constantly under threat."