After a three-week hiatus, the Anfield giants have now had adequate time to recharge their batteries ahead of the final stretch of Premier League action.
The break has allowed Jurgen Klopp and his troops time to take stock of their recent performances and look ahead to the important matches still on the horizon.
Combine this with the international break, which has been a nice change of scenery for the players, it has given everyone connected with the club some much valued breathing space.
Mohamed Salah became Egypt’s second all time top scorer as he notched twice in his country’s impressive 4-0 win against Comoros.
Xherdan Shaqiri provided two assists in Switzerland’s 3-1 win away to Bulgaria. ‘Big Shaq’ as he is so often called by his teammates and fans, then scored the winner a few days later, against Lithuania, as his side won 1-0.
This ensured the Swiss began their World Cup qualifying campaign with two wins from two to secure maximum points.
Meanwhile Neco Williams enjoyed mixed fortunes, starting Wales’ 3-1 loss to Belgium, in which Liverpool’s on loan Harry Wilson scored as the Welsh initially threatened an upset.
Neco came off the bench to help his country bounce back to beat Mexico 1-0.
Wales managed to back this up with another hard fought 1-0 win, this time against Czech Republic, with Williams again starting.
Full back Andy Robertson captained Scotland in their draw against Israel. Ozan Kabak was also in action for his country, along with Thiago Alcantara for Spain and Sadio Mane for Senegal.
Gini Wijnaldum has excelled this season for Liverpool, the rare high amongst many lows, but he has played equally well, if not better for Holland.
Gini inspired the Dutch to a 7-0 victory against Gibraltar. The skipper even managed to get on the scoresheet.
If you thought 7-0 was a high score, then think again. Japan destroyed a sorry Mongolia 14-0 for their second biggest win in their history, with Liverpool’s on loan winger Takumi Minamino, finding the back of the net.
However, the best performance of the lot came from Diogo Jota as he netted two headers in Portugal’s 2-2 draw with Serbia.
Captain Cristiano Ronaldo was controversially disallowed a stoppage time goal as the referee ruled that the ball had not fully crossed the line. The replays showed the ball had indeed crossed the line much to Portugal’s frustration.
Jota then scored another header as Portugal triumphed 3-1 away to Luxembourg.
Jota and Salah gliding into form
For a man that has spent 3 months on the sidelines, he has impressively stormed back into form for club and country in no time.
Jota seems to be getting on the end of every cross that comes into the box and loves headers. This is surely something Klopp and Liverpool will want to utilise in the upcoming weeks.
Salah also is loving playing for his country. He is showing why Liverpool and Egypt fans so fondly call him the ‘Egyptian King.’
If the duo can keep up this hot streak of form, it bodes well for Liverpool in the long term. They will also be very difficult to stop.
Positive vibes in training
Meanwhile, over at Liverpool’s new AXA training complex at Kirkby, Klopp put his small squad through their paces.
The likes of James Milner, retired from international duty, and the overlooked Trent Alexander Arnold were at the German’s disposal. They all looked to be having fun as the mood has begun to shift towards a more positive one.
Although, TAA’s omission from Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad may have come as a shock to many, Klopp may privately be delighted that it gives his star more time to work on his form and conditioning.
It may even prove to be a blessing in disguise for both Trent, Liverpool and England if he is able to reset and consistently capture his best form. On his day he is Southgate’s number one right back. This is ahead of the likes of talented trio Kieran Trippier, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Kyle Walker.
Last time out
A gritty but deserved 1-0 win against Wolves, courtesy of that man Jota, against his former club, was enough to seal a big three points for Klopp’s men.
Nat Philipps and man of the match Kabak formed a solid partnership in the heart of defence, earning a rare clean sheet for their side.
Following Leeds’ draw with Chelsea, Liverpool stayed in touch of the top four to keep their hopes alive of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
It also relieved the pressure on the boss and bought them vital respite going into the international break.
The hope now is that Liverpool can build some momentum going into the final stage of the season.
Champions League draw
Luckily, Liverpool avoided the two strongest teams, last season’s winners Bayern Munich and beaten finalists Paris St Germain. Bayern won every match on their way to sweeping all before them.
However, the French giants can exact revenge as the two were pitted against each other in a rematch of last August’s Lisbon final.
PSG led by former player Mauricio Pochettino and with Mauro Icardi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe up front, the Parisians will fancy their chances of winning the competition for the first time in their history.
2019 winners Liverpool avoided English opposition in the form of Manchester City and Chelsea. Pep Guardiola’s City will take on Erling Braut Haaland’s Borussia Dortmund, while Chelsea take on Porto.
Leaving Klopp’s Premier League champions to entertain Spanish giants Real Madrid in a rematch of the 2018 Kiev final. Liverpool ultimately lost 3-1 with Gareth Bale scoring a brace including a fine overhead kick.
Goalkeeper Loris Karius committed two blunders for Karim Benzema’s goal and Bale’s second.
While the drama of Sergio Ramos’ poor pulldown challenge on Salah left the Egyptian in tears and with a dislocated shoulder.
Salah has in the past flirted with a move to Spain through interviews with Marca. Another such interview took place last week in what Liverpool sources believe is the Spanish newspaper’s intention to unsettle them ahead of the game.
The belief around Liverpool is that Salah remains committed to the club and will stay for next season.
All of these ingredients added to the mix, make for a spicy quarter-final encounter between two of European football’s heavyweight clubs.
Between them they have won 19 Champions League crowns.
Arsenal preview (Saturday 8pm)
Mikel Arteta’s team are languishing in mid-table themselves as they sit in ninth place, nine points off the top four.
Arsenal will therefore need to overcome Czech side Slavia Prague in the Europa League quarter-finals if they are to stand any chance of qualifying for next season’s European elite competition.
Liverpool has a similarly challenging task, as they seek to win a seventh Champions League crown in order to ensure they book their place at Europe’s top table next term.
This adds an extra layer of anticipation to this game. A draw is no good for either team. Both need a win.
A win would be nice for Liverpool. The international break may leave the players feeling one of two ways. The first is rusty, having not played together for over three weeks. Or they will relish the occasion of playing as a team once more, and run out winners.
A win in memory of Ian St John would be a nice tribute to the former striker who died at the beginning of the month aged 82.
It really depends which Liverpool turns up. I do think the champions will have a point to prove after all the recent criticism against them. Jota and Salah could well hold the key and if they are firing on all cylinders at front of goal, I would have to back Liverpool to win 2-1 at the Emirates, thus securing a morale boosting win.