After Wednesday night’s hammering of Porto in the Round of 16 of The Champions League, Liverpool have more than a week off football to rest themselves ahead of the business end of the Premier League season.
Records upon records were broken in Liverpool’s 5-0 demolition of Porto, where Sadio Mane grabbed himself a much-needed hat-trick of goals. The win was the joint-biggest away win in the competition, equalling Bayern Munich’s 5-0 victory at Sporting Lisbon at the same stage of the competition in 2009 and Real Madrid’s against Schalke in 2014. Mo Salah got himself his 30th goal of the season, the first player to do so in Red since Luis Suarez in the 2013/14 season and the first Liverpool player to score in five consecutive games since (believe it or not) Divock Origi in 2016, whilst Trent Alexander-Arnold became Liverpool’s youngest player to feature in Champions League knock-out game.
Speaking after the game, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said: “It was a very good performance… I think everyone saw in the game all the moments when we were not as compact as we wanted to be, and Porto were immediately strong. They had their moments and we scored fantastic goals in the right moment.”
When asked if the tie was over, Klopp said: “No, of course not, why should I? We came here to create the basis for the second leg at Anfield – and that’s what we did, not more, not less. I am too long in the business to think anything is sorted before the final whistle.”
“We owe our supporters at Anfield a 100% performance and that’s what we want to deliver. That’s all.”
Critics of Liverpool are never too far away but for a while now, they have been reclined to their homes. Time for some more stats. In what in their first involvement at this stage since 2009, only French giants PSG have mustered more goals (25) than Liverpool (23) in this seasons Champions League. Scoring goals seems to be easy for this Liverpool side at the moment, the hammering of Porto was the 17th time that Liverpool have netted 3 or more in a game this season, and the 10th time that they have done it away from Anfield.
All these facts and numbers signal a strong chance of winning the competition, but if you say that to any football fan then there’s a good chance that you will be greeted by mockery. ‘There are too many bigger teams’ the critics will say – ‘Barca and Madrid have too much quality’, but do they? Yes, they have the two best players in the world but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the best squads.
Now Liverpool is a team that are firing on all cylinders, and they are doing so AS a team. Goals are flying in from all over the pitch for the Reds at the moment, not just from our Egyptian sensation. I now return to some more (you guessed it) facts to show you why Liverpool could win this year’s Champions League.
The omen for Liverpool fans is that EVERY time we have won on Portguese soil in a Champions League campaign, we have gone on to win the whole thing. The journey starts back in 1978 where an Emlyn Hughes winner against Benfica in the semi-final of the European Cup helped Liverpool on their way to a third European Cup, retaining the trophy from the season before. Six years after it was Benfica again, but this time managed by Sven-Goran Erikkson. Liverpool won the tie 4-0 on aggregate before beating Dinamo Bucharest in the final for their fourth win in the competition.
I leave you to ponder these facts. With the Premier League title seemingly in the hands of Manchester City, is it time to put all our focus on the European campaign?