Champions League Special
By Terry McGivern, Gary Murray & Phil Roberts
A second UEFA Champions League Final in as many years, but did any of your honestly believe it to be possible after the 3-0 SF 1st leg defeat to Barcelona?
Terry - I definitely believed and said so on the podcast! The lads thought I was mad as they couldn’t see us scoring four without reply but I said then and will say it again, this club never knows when it’s beaten and even more so when we’re in the European competitions. We’ve came back from 3 behind against Dortmund twice in one game a few seasons ago, we all know what happened in Istanbul etc. so I’ve definitely learned to never say never when Liverpool are up against the ropes. That being said, it was a monumental task and took something incredible; both from team and the fans/atmosphere perspective to make it happen. As a game and result, it will live long in the memory of this club as one of, if not the, best European nights at Anfield.
Phil - To be in a second final in as many years is an incredible achievement. It shows that Liverpool are the real deal, that it wasn’t a fluke and that we’re here to stay. Look at the quality of Manchester City and their manager, but getting to a final is a feat they’ve been unable to achieve in their history! So I urge Liverpool fans to really appreciate this moment, to enjoy the final, the build up to it and the fact that Jürgen Klopp and this team are giving us memories to cherish for a life time! As for whether I thought Liverpool could over come the 3-0 first leg defeat at Barcelona..... absolutely I believed! I was under no illusion as to the difficulty of the task, but having supported Liverpool for 33 years, I’ve seen it all. Unbelievable come backs in Europe and big games are part of our DNA. However, the fact Roma did it to Barca the year before, I thought made it less likely to happen because there should have been no complaincency from Barca this time around. It took the best night in Anfield’s illustrious history to get it done, but here we are again!!
Gary - It would be ludicrous for me to say “I expected us to go through”. There’s no doubt being 3-0 down to a team like Barcelona is a massive uphill battle. At the same time, you only write Liverpool off at your own peril. We’ve seen it time and time again over the years. You think back to Dortmund, Olympiakos, Istanbul and even as far back as St Etienne, big European nights are just a part of Liverpool. I expected us to win the game against Barcelona, it was just a case of “can we keep them out?”. Thankfully, it turned out to be another incredible night at Anfield to put us in another European Cup Final.
Liverpool FC seem to almost have a romantic connection with the European Cup/Champions League. The European nights and successes are always talked about arguably more so than domestic successes. What is it about the European Cup that is so special to Liverpudlians?
Terry - I think it’s a combination of factors, the first one being that the fans believe (rightly so) that based on our history of success, our club belongs up there with the elite clubs of Europe. This attitude and feeling is made clear to anyone that plays for the club. You either get on board with that and make sure you show your best in European competition or you won’t last long at Liverpool. Secondly, I think Liverpool as a city has always looked outwards and considered itself apart from the rest of the country. We were the city where British Empire met the rest of the world and that history and attitude permeates the fan base and makes Liverpool fans feel continental competition and travelling to far flung grounds is part and parcel of being a Liverpool fan. With those factors driving the club and it’s support, it just feels that everyone raises their game for this competition and our success in it, being one of only 5 clubs that have won it 5 times and the manner of some of our victories has bred this incredible romanticism and relationship with the competition.
Phil - Liverpool is a city that’s seen a lot of challenges over the years. As a city we were thrown to the dogs by the establishment but still managed to shine through with our personality, pride and defiant attitude! All those incredible scouse traits spill over into the team on European nights, especially when our backs are to the wall! The legendary Anfield crowd gets right up for it and it transforms even the most average of players into a footballing God for the night. Liverpool are European Royalty and that is clearly drummed into anyone we sign and they know what is expected of them on these big occasions. I think this special relationship with European cup football is one of the reasons why players come to Liverpool and I know Mo Salah has recently said that he sees it as the pinnacle of the game, as do most players. If this is your ultimate goal, to win the European Cup, there aren’t too many other teams where you stand as good of a chance at winning it!
Gary - I think it’s because of the huge nights we’ve had over the years on top of winning the trophy so much. It’s a massive achievement with the caliber of opposition you come up against. The fans play a huge part in it all too. The will and desire they show to want to be a European powerhouse is mirrored by the players on the pitch. There’s nothing like those special nights we’ve seen so often.
A word on the opponents, Tottenham Hotspur. It’s a huge moment in their history, probably the biggest. A team that cannot be taken lightly?
Terry - No team in a Champions League final can be taken lightly and even more so, one of Tottenham’s calibre, who are also a domestic opponent so will know us and our strengths and weaknesses well. They are a good young side, with a very impressive manager in Mauricio Pochettino and they’re currently building a good foundation for the future of their club, with a new ground now open in middle of London and a good spine to their team. A first Champions League final is a huge moment for them and one that they will be thinking, if they win it, it will set them up to challenge for domestic and European honours for years to come, given that it would give them a strong platform to compete for players in transfer windows and may be the key to them keeping hold of Pochettino. So that being the case, it would be foolish for Liverpool to take the challenge they present lightly. However, I think there is no doubt that we are a team further on in our development and look a far better all-around package than spurs currently do, shown by the respective levels reached in the league this season and this, combined with our experience of Europe and finals in this competition in particular, should hopefully translate into a little more composure and self-belief on the night, which I think will see us get the job done.
Phil - You’re absolutely right, Madrid will be Tottenham Hotspur’s “Istanbul”. Liverpool supporters of all supporters should know that an under dog in a major final is capabale of special things on the night, such is the magnitude of the occasion. Look, there’s a big gap in points in the Premier League between the sides and I don’t think you’ll find even any Tottenham fan saying they’re a better team than us, but on their day they can match anyone. Their first eleven has some serious quality and that was on show when the two sides met in the Premier League this season. Liverpool were 2-1 victors in both fixtures, but whilst the first game at their place was a comfortable victory for Liverpool, the return fixture at Anfield was a game where a draw would have been a better reflection of how the game went. That said, Tottenham are no Real Madrid, they’re no AC Milan. Liverpool are a team that always does finals the hard way, but this year I’ve got a sneaky feeling it will be a bit more comfortable for us. We’re the team with the experience and know how, we pip Tottenham everywhere on the pitch with better athleticism and higher quality, we have a tighter defence than them and a more prolific attack. As long as Liverpool don’t allow any complainancy or nerves to creep in, I think we’ll be ok. I know people say this a lot and it’s somewhat obvious, but who ever scores the first goal in this game will be a major factor towards the final result! If it’s Liverpool I don’t think there'll be any way back for the Londoners.
Gary - Of course. You don’t get this far in this competition unless you’ve got something about you. They’re obviously a good side with some dangerous players. The good thing is, we’re also a good/ great side and have got equally, if not more, dangerous players. It’s set up to be a brilliant game for the neutrals. Here’s hoping our form this season continues and our experience in this competition gets us over the line.
Finally, a 6th European Cup this weekend, what would that do for this current Liverpool team, and the club as a whole?
Terry - It would be a huge statement to our premier league rivals and the rest of Europe that this Liverpool team is the real deal and would represent another marker of the development of this Jürgen Klopp team. Each season has seen notable progress and this one, whilst falling short in league, was no different seeing us close a 25 point gap versus last year’s chase of Man City. This group of players have been nothing short of outstanding this season and deserve a trophy for their efforts and whilst the wait goes on for the league, it would certainly be made more bearable with number six in the trophy cabinet. A win in Madrid would also open the club up to really consolidating itself as one of the biggest sides in world football and at a good time, as all of the traditional giants are at the start of, or in middle of, major rebuilding e.g. Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich etc. A win here in our second consecutive CL final and third European final in 4 seasons should fill this team, club and fan base with the confidence to go on and bag more titles, with the aim being to build a dynasty the likes of which the older Liverpool fans experienced in the 1970’s and 1980’s! Come on the red men!
Phil - It would be massive for the club! To have been so good, so consistent and so impressive this season but not walk away with any silverware would be a nightmare! It would be so deflating for the players and it keeps the monkey on Klopp’s back in relation to his sides in finals. Conversely, I believe a win would vindicate just how special this team is, remove that monkey and be a catalyst for this team to go on and win a Premier League title and more trophies in the years to come. It would make our club a yet more attractive team for World Class talent to join in future transfer windows and we should see the club go from strength to strength. It would also show FSG that success on the pitch does indeed translate to pounds in the bank and confirm to them that their approach in investing in the team and striving for honours is a good business strategy! Lastly it would bring immense pride and joy to the millions of Liverpool supporters around the world, memories that will last a life time and stories that will be told for generations. Winning is everything and I can’t wait to celebrate with my LFC family in madrid! Come onnnn!
Gary - It’s no less then what this team deserves. To have to two seasons we’ve just had and come away with nothing to show for it would be criminal. Last seasons defeat in the final sort of galvanised the squad. There wasn’t any player making noises to leave like in previous seasons. Everyone is working for each other and are all pulling in the same direction. I think to get over the line this year could be the start of something glorious for everyone involved with Liverpool. We just need to get that first elusive trophy, why not make it the big one?!
“Go forth and conquer, for the world is small and you are the giant and every step you take will make the ground shake as it rises to meet you” (Atticus)