What is it with Liverpool in Europe?
Mocked relentlessly by rivals for not having won a league title since 1989/90, the saving grace for Reds fans is their amazing performances on the continent.
And they’ve only gone and done it again.
Despite a nervy final minutes against Roma this morning, they largely controlled the semi-final to prevail 7-6 on aggregate and book a final’s berth against Real Madrid in Kiev on May 26 (4:45am May 27 AEST).
James Milner when asked if the players will enjoy some wine tonight…
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) May 2, 2018
Punters are already predicting goals galore, and for good reason.
The trio of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are arguably the world’s best attacking force at present. Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale (if he starts) aren’t too shabby on the other side either.
2017/18: Salah, Mané & Firmino = 29 goals ⚽️
2013/14: Bale, Benzema & Cristiano = 28 goals ⚽️
Liverpool's front three are officially the most prolific trio in Champions League history. pic.twitter.com/yEGwVFRXS6
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 2, 2018
But perhaps more importantly – or worryingly if you’re a fan of either side – both teams are just leaking goals.
In their last three Champions League games, Liverpool have conceded seven goals while Real have conceded six. They’re also the only two sides in the top-three of Europe’s best competitions (EPL, La Liga, Serie A) who have conceded on average more than a goal a game.
‘Stats don’t mean anything in a final’, I hear you say. Well, internet heckler, I think in this case they do, and an early goal could set the tempo. Liverpool’s default mentality is to attack. In a crazy Italian cauldron at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday morning, they walked onto the pitch with a three goal lead. Imagine if Mourinho was in that situation? He’d have drafted Rio Ferdinand and Jaap Stam back into the squad to sure-up a six-man defence.
Instead, Klopp’s side went 2-1 up within 25 minutes. Fearless stuff.
Since taking over in October 2015, the touchline enigma that is Klopp has yet to win a trophy for the club. For all their brilliance this season, they could walk away empty-handed. Liverpool fans would have bitten your hand off if you offered them a spot in the Champions League final at the start of the season, but now (naturally) they want and expect to win. Their front three may never sync career-best form as they are right now, so Klopp must strike while the iron’s hot.
They face a side who just know how to win knockout games. Under Zinedine Zidane they’ve never been knocked out the Champions League, and are gunning for an incredible third-straight title. No one had won back-to-back titles until last year, and they will extend the record with a win in Kiev. There’s been some calls for Zidane’s head after a poor domestic season has seen Barcelona gallop 15 points clear. But another European trophy will quash all that chat.
Either way, most neutrals are hoping the floodgates open.
Check out our markets for the final here.