It’s 2005, I’m 15 years old, starting to really hone my obsession with Liverpool Football Club, sat in the living room of our Wolverhampton council house, waiting for the Reds to kick off in Istanbul.
|Image via The Metro|
Like many Liverpool fans back then I never seriously thought we would find a route to the final with that team but the magic was tangible. The Olympiakos game and that infamous Gerrard goal, Hyypia scoring against Juventus and the ghost goal at Anfield. None of those things really should have happened, but I quickly learned as a 15 year old that Liverpool in Europe are just something else.
Twenty years after reaching their last European Cup final in 1985, Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool side proved they had the stamina to not only make it to the final but also come back from 3-0 down to win on penalties. At half time I had retreated to the bathroom and I’m not afraid to say, I had tears in my eyes. I was absolutely gutted, we’d worked so hard to get there and it was crumbling away. Still a bit young and perhaps a bit naive, I was adamant I would not watch the second half, but my Dad being the wise man that he is convinced me to continue to watch. I was running out into the street with my Liverpool flag, utterly elated by the final whistle.
Any neutral would vote that as one of the best football matches in history and this season the Reds have captured some of that tenacious 2005 spirit.
Depicted as the underdogs once again, Liverpool may be unfavoured by most but Jurgen Klopp and his side have 100% earnt their place in the final on Saturday. Brushing aside teams like Porto and comfortably beating Manchester City does not come easily. The two legs against Roma were perhaps not as straightforward but we wouldn’t be Liverpool if there weren’t a few blips along the way.
Looking at the opposition, they are of course European royalty in their own right but they are by no means perfect. For me, it’s a good time to be playing Real Madrid, the Spaniards have had questions hanging over their defence the whole season and while they clearly have a solid attack you would be stupid to question the power of Liverpool’s forwards.
It’s going to be a huge challenge for the Reds, no doubt about it but they are hungry, prepared and able to win this final.
A back four rejuvenated by the introduction of Virgil van Dijk will have its work cut out but the Reds have improved immensely on the defensive front and are could keep out Real Madrid. Perhaps not for the whole 90 but for enough time to get the upper hand.
In the midfield, Jordan Henderson must get a mention, I can’t say I’m his biggest fan. I’ve never disliked him but I haven’t always sung his praises, however, he has led his team in this European campaign and nobody can doubt his passion. He will be willing the team on from the centre of the field and pulling the strings with a bit of luck.
Then there’s the matter of the forwards, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah are a force to be reckoned with. Madrid will argue they have come up against similar, dealing with Messi, Suarez and co but I honestly don’t think they’ve met this type of attack in a very long time.
The Reds’ ability to switch up the play so quickly, a front three all injected with immense pace and a real connection on the pitch? I genuinely think they could get stung. Mo Salah has had a phenomenal season, you’re telling me he’s not going to be giving his absolute all to find the net in the Champions League final?
Salah WILL score and he will be supported by Firmino and Mane who will both also be chomping at the bit to score for their team mates, manager and fans.
The Spanish papers can brand this a piece of cake all they want. I don’t think they truly understand what is coming for them in Kiev on Saturday 26th May.
We’ve conquered all of Europe, and we’re never gonna stop. Fingers crossed for number six.
Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching! I will be in Liverpool with me fella, me brother and me mate if you spot me, say hi!