For Liverpool, the big games only continue. Jurgen Klopp has called this "the most intense period of the year", and…
For Liverpool, the big games only continue.
Jurgen Klopp has called this “the most intense period of the year”, and it’s hard to argue with Red’s boss. A certain period? It can only be.
Merseyside derby, for once, can wait. Sunday’s Premier League conflict is a big one, but it is currently in comparison with the challenge of the red on the continent.
Klopp and his players looked relaxed as they moved in Paris on Tuesday, but there is no room for self-esteem. Paris Saint-Germain, a club built for the Champions League success, awaits them.
The stadium is set, the bets are high and Neymar is expected to be appropriate; Kylian Mbappe too. Edinson Cavani will be there. Thiago Silva. Gigi buffon Big names, big tests, stagnated, in more ways than one.
Win, and Liverpool will almost certainly be in the last 1
6. Draw and they will also be in the box.
Lose though, and the unthinkable will be seen. Could last season’s finalists, the team who delighted the world on the way to Kiev, be about to crash out at the first hurdle this time?
It should not really have been this, but a last minute concession in Naples and a shock of a performance in Belgrade has left Klopp’s side on the precipice. The probability is that they will have to hit Naples at Anfield in two weeks, maybe with two goals, to progress.
Not the worst scenario in the world – the red have handled such challenges before, remember – but one still worries.
As the emotional factor around Anfield grows with every weekend – the victory at Watford won his unbeaten start to the Premier League season to 13 matches – a Champions League exit would be a big blow.
Economically, the effects would be obvious. Liverpool earned just under £ 70m ($ 89m) from their last to last season and have obviously been heading for an equally exciting successful campaign this time.
Their participation in the group phase guarantees them £ 13.5m ($ 17.3m), with extra payouts of £ 2.4m ($ 3.1m) per win and £ 800,000 ($ 1m) per dividend, in addition to their share of the big TV rights pool and UEFA’s new “coefficient ranking” which pays clubs according to their performance in European competition over a ten-year period.
End now and Reds lack a guaranteed £ 8.4m ($ 10.8m) to be shown in the past 16, with incremental payments available after progression thereafter. For example, a run to the final would give them an additional £ 33.1m ($ 42.5m) in prize money only.
More significant, however, would be the sporting changes. Liverpool has been on an upward curve, but failure here would control their progress. It would in many ways be a bigger blow than their defeat to Real Madrid back in May.
This is a strength strengthened to meet the demands of competing on multiple fronts. And while their domestic campaign goes well, the idea of Liverpool releasing the Europa League after Christmas goes to appeal to nobody. Apart from maybe Manchester City.
Thursday night tours to Krasnodar or St. Petersburg would do a bit to help the Red’s title bidding and selling the club to potential transfer targets is undoubtedly easier if you light up your TV screens on the big stage every week.
As Virgil van Dijk, Near Keita, Fabinho and Mo Salah have bought in the vision, Klopp showed them, but that vision ultimately demands significant success on the top. Without what Liverpool has been for more than six years, there is a risk of operation. You’re fine, but you’re not it.
Last season was in many ways more than Liverpool football. It marked a return to prominence for Reds, a reminder that the five times European champions can still be a force in this modern era of petrodollars and super clubs. It came with hope and excitement that the future could only be as brilliant as the past for English football’s most storied club.
Defeat in Paris, or in fact, against Naples, would not put it off, but it would certainly raise questions. The Liverpool team was a tough one, but they will still have fancied their chances of being progressive. Even more after slamming PSG on matchday one.
That night was a continuation of last season’s form, a stirring atmosphere and a match that matched. You can say a special Anfield. That night, it felt like nothing had changed. The machine should roll on.
Away from home, however, there has been another story, the shows in Naples and Belgrade represent a significant step backwards and place Reds in this uncertain situation.
Klopp’s team has lacked confidence and conviction, they have gone badly and saw waste, especially in the midfield.
Klopp risked by tinking with their team in Belgrade, handing out key players and relying on them without full match sharpness. Do it too often and you will be punished. Liverpool have now lost their last four European matches from Anfield.
A return to the form on Wednesday would be most welcome. PSG is a team of stars, but their Champions League record shows that they are still far from an elite team.
Ligue 1 is their comfort zone – they have won all 14 matches so far this season – but out of it can struggle to raise their levels. A victory from four group matches says he, who goes out into the hands of Real Madrid, Manchester City and, most famous, Barcelona in recent seasons.
Klopp has had the measure of Thomas Tuchel, his opposite number, at the recent meetings, memorably shutting down his Borussia Dortmund side in the Europa League in 2016 and amazing PSG late back in September.
Tuchel has more reason than most to be sick of men in red and knows that a group stage exit would ask questions about his future at the Parc des Princes.
Klopp’s position is of course much safer. There would be no knee reaction about Liverpool crashes, and it should not be. The club, clearly, is heading in the right direction during German.
The trick is now to make sure the trip is not delayed. A victory should do it. How Reds would love to get it in Paris.