Thursday, May 19

Liverpool’s ‘group of death’ domination is as impressive as a cup win

As we get deeper into the 2021/22 campaign, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Liverpool were the team most affected by playing a season behind closed doors.

The Reds struggled for long portions against the backdrop of the pandemic. For much of last year, it looked like they would fail to qualify for the Champions League, and only just sneaked in on the final day of the Premier League season.

It’s now safe to say that last season was simply an anomaly for Jurgen Klopp’s team, who have announced that they are one of the finest teams of Europe again.

They are firmly in a three-way fight for the Premier League title – teed up to be one of the most competitive in recent memory – and have secured their spot in history by becoming the first English side to win each of their six Champions League group games.

Liverpool were drawn into the ‘group of death’ alongside Atletico Madrid, Porto and Milan, and there were questions over whether they’d be able to advance to the knockout stage after a year off the boil. But Klopp and his merry men have answered their critics in the best way possible.

They secured their flawless record with a well-earned 2-1 win at San Siro, despite some heavy rotation and the Serie A leaders needing a win to stand a chance of qualification.

The European football season is hardly decided in December, but Liverpool have almost certainly been the best side across the opening four-and-a-bit months of the campaign.

It’s overdone a little in the English media, but the Reds’ affinity with the Champions League is stronger than that of any other Premier League side for sure – and there will almost be an acceptance that their achievements thus far this season are as impressive as winning a League Cup.

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Klopp’s been known not to prioritise the domestic trophies – the Premier League and Champions League are where he really values silverware – and he will be vindicated knowing that his Liverpool side, bouncing back from a year of disappointment, have been so ruthless after six rounds of fixtures.

It would take six games – none of which need to be won over 90 minutes – for Liverpool to win the EFL Cup. That simply would not be more spectacular than what they’ve achieved in Group B.

Teams on the continent won’t care if the Reds lifted the EFL Cup in February – their fans might even value such a good record in Europe above that particular trophy and all – but they will fear Liverpool heading into the knockout stages of the Champions League beginning that same month, vindicating Klopp’s order of priorities.

Just as this chapter in Liverpool history appeared to be ending, they’ve got their act together to return to the top level in emphatic fashion. Klopp’s not done adding to the legacy of his Anfield dynasty just yet.

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