On the final day of the Premier League season, it was easy to hear the naysayers and fans of rival teams laugh at Liverpool. The Reds had come so close to the Premier League title, securing 97 points, yet still lost out to Manchester City.
Their criticism came off as jealousy as the Reds not only went toe to toe with Manchester City, but they did it while other teams fell away. Now, after less than four years in charge at Anfield, manager Jurgen Klopp will take Liverpool into their third European final.
The first two did not go as planned. Liverpool took on Unai Emery’s Sevilla in the 2015 Europa League Final as the Spaniards were at the height of their power in the competition. After taking an early lead through Daniel Sturridge, the Reds let in three Sevilla goals.
Two seasons later, Liverpool were back against Spanish opposition but this time in the Champions League Final. Yet again, Liverpool were beaten as Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale rose to the occasion to score twice. Coincidentally, Liverpool lost by 3-1 scorelines in both finals.
Liverpool supporters will identify two players for those finals losses. The Europa League Final against Sevilla saw left-back Alberto Moreno go from a starting defender to a player who cannot get a game for the first team. Moreno was rinsed regularly by Sevilla on the night and at fault for allowing Sevilla attackers in on goal down Liverpool’s left.
In the Champions League Final, Moreno wasn’t anywhere near the squad, but it was goalkeeper Loris Karius who made game changing mistakes. Karius made two goalkeeping blunders allowing Real Madrid to score twice and win.
Liverpool went out and spent over £66 million last summer on goalkeeper Alisson Becker to replace Karius. His addition has completely changed Liverpool’s defence. Without the goalkeeper, Liverpool wouldn’t have progressed past the group stage against Napoli. Alisson’s last-minute save on Arkadiusz Milik’s shot prevented Liverpool from crashing out of the tournament and playing in the Europa League.
Klopp has his best squad yet at Liverpool and it nearly led them to a Premier League title. Had it not been for one of the greatest Premier League teams of all-time, the Reds would have been champions. But that is the thing about great teams, they are often pushed by other great teams. Liverpool’s domestic season not only made Manchester City’s achievement more incredible, but it kept the football world engaged for 10 months.
Tottenham may prove third time lucky for Liverpool on Saturday night. Spurs striker Harry Kane is far from match fit having been out since mid-April with an ankle injury. Tottenham proved they can win big games without the striker against Ajax in the semifinals. Both clubs know each other well. Liverpool won both Premier League matches during the season with 2-1 victories in each game.
Liverpool go into the final as sportsbooks’ favourite. Winning the Champions League Final would be a sweet reward for the Reds’ accomplishments this term. Klopp could solidify himself as one of Liverpool’s great managers if he can bring a sixth European Cup/Champions League trophy back to Anfield.