Too Early for Reds to Start Believing in Champions League Glory?

By Ray Hamill

With their recent thrashing of FC Porto, the Reds have all but officially punched their ticket into the elite eight of the Champions League.

And that – as well as the manner in which it was achieved – now has Liverpool fans daring to believe in the so-called impossible.

But then again, this is a club that has achieved the so-called impossible before, and a club that has conditioned its fanbase to believe in the so-called impossible with even the slightest encouragement.

When it comes to European football, the Reds are like Peter Pan. We never grow old. We’re not afraid to believe like other fanbases are.

But how realistic are the chances of – dare I say it out loud – Liverpool winning the Champions League this year?

Well, let’s not get too carried away. There are some supremely talented teams standing in the way, teams are that are more consistent at the back than the Reds have been, teams that are more consistent in midfield than the Reds have been, and teams that know firsthand what it takes to lift the world’s most coveted annual sports trophy.

Any chances will depend on the luck of the draw – both literally and figuratively.

Who we might match up against in the quarterfinals could be crucial, and it would be best to avoid the very best teams – like a City or Barcelona – until a one-off showdown in the final, rather than a tougher two-legged affair where the better squads usually win.

Potential injuries to any of our elite players will also quickly end any potential run. Our bench isn’t winning the Champions League for us this year.

There are, however, also plenty of reasons to suggest why it might happen. Reasons why we should listen to our inner Peter Pan.

Last week, it wasn’t just the Reds who served notice to the rest of Europe. All three English clubs in action did.

This is a different Premier League to that of the past five years. The teams here are ready again to compete with the best on the continent. And Liverpool are among the best in England, so why not us?

This club also has a greater European pedigree than any other English club – and a greater pedigree than most clubs on the continent for that matter.

Traditionally, we overachieve in Europe, the way that United, City and – in particular – Arsenal all underachieve there.

And then there’s the Anfield effect.

Any big club in Europe can claim a potential goal advantage when playing at home, and most will intimidate the opposition to some extent.

None, however, lift their team emotionally as much as Anfield can on a big European night, and that’s an invaluable commodity and a huge part of why the Reds are – I’ll say it again – the most successful of all English clubs in Europe.

At the very least, no club in Europe will relish the prospect of traveling to Anfield for a midweek fixture this spring. That much is certain.

Another reason to believe the Reds can go on and lift the CL trophy is their front three.

Whether or not Sadio Mane has truly rediscovered his form remains to be seen. If he has, then a dynamic frontline just got even better.

But even without him at the top of his game, this season the Reds have continued to wreck havoc on opposing defenses, scoring more goals in the CL than any other team.

Roberto Firmino has been getting some attention from the national media recently, as the rest of the world discovers what Liverpool fans have known for a long time – that he is supremely talented, sees the game as well as anybody, and is quite probably the hardest working player in the Premier League.

Anybody who still believes Liverpool should sign a more traditional front man and dump Firmino is clearly deranged.

Mo Salah, meanwhile, could be the best player on the planet right now. If he’s not, he’s been doing a petty good impersonation of him in recent months, and I say that with the greatest respect for City’s Belgian starlet.

A fifth reason Reds fans might believe in the so-called impossible is Virgil Van Dijk and a rejuvenated defense.

If Van Dijk looked out of sorts at times in his first few games for us, he has since looked like the anchor we needed at the back, lifting the play of those around him, including the unlikely Loris Karius, who suddenly looks like a reformed and confident man.

It remains to be seen if this group can continue to look composed on a consistent basis, but for now they’ve shown us enough to start believing.

And finally, a sixth reason to believe in Liverpool’s European dream is Jurgen Klopp.

The Klopp effect is evident in so much of what the Reds are about right now, but crucially he knows how to compete in continental play, even if he has yet to win the ultimate prize there.

You can say that about many managers, but few of them can lift the emotions of their players for the big occasion the way Klopp can. It’s not just the fanbase that believes in the Klopp effect. The players do as well.

So there you have it, six reasons why Liverpool can dare to believe in the so-called impossible.

It might still be a long shot, but doesn’t it feel good to be back in the conversation when it comes to Europe’s top competition?

Ray H

A Reds fan since the early days of the Paisley era, Ray was born in Dublin, but long ago transplanted to Northern California. There he has been spreading the Reds gospel to the enthusiastic natives for 20 years, and saving many souls from the perils of the rest of Premier League, perhaps even entertaining one or two along the way with his eternal optimism for the cause.