Liverpool failed to impress in their Europa League final dress rehearsal against Chelsea, but Dave Tindall is still feeling incredibly confident.
As dress rehearsals go, it wasn’t exactly the best, was it?!
With the Europa League final exactly a week away, Jurgen Klopp did what we all wanted him to do against Chelsea and sent out his likely starting XI for the showdown with Sevilla.
Mignolet in goal; Clyne, Toure, Lovren and Moreno across the back; Can and Milner holding in midfield; and Coutinho, Firmino and Lallana in a three behind Sturridge.
Have some of that, Chelsea.
All good in theory except it turned into one of those disjointed, flat performances that can still crop up with this young Liverpool team.
There was simply no rhythm or intensity and Chelsea had our number. Eden Hazard decided to give a sh*t, waltzed through our defence to score what looked the game’s only goal and was head and shoulders the best player on the field.
The final home game of the season looked set to be a damp squib, but one of the many things Jurgen Klopp has brought to the club this season is a refusal to throw in the towel.
That extends to the crowd too. Since Klopp gave them a ticking off for leaving early in the defeat to Crystal Palace, the terraces stay packed in situations like this. Keep believing is the Klopp mantra as you never know what might happen. They did and were rewarded.
Shuffling his pack, Klopp brought on Christian Benteke and Sheyi Ojo as late substitutes, and when the talented youngster’s probing cross was flapped into the air by Asmir Begovic, the big Belgian was there to nod home.
To be honest, it was probably undeserved against an impressive Chelsea, but good teams win points from bad performances and here was another example.
As well as sparing Reds blushes on the night and making all the end-of-season carrying the kids around the pitch and waving seem a little awkward, it also protected a record.
Klopp wants Anfield to become a fortress again and the last-gasp draw extended our unbeaten home record to 13 games. Dortmund and Chelsea have both now threatened to punch through the wall, but we’ve found a way to repel them.
The seeds were actually sewn before the current streak in the games with West Brom and Arsenal. As with Chelsea, those matches were rescued with injury-time equalisers. It’s no coincidence. Both the players and crowd are getting Klopp’s message.
I saw numerous comments on social media on Wednesday night along the lines of ‘if this is going to be our starting XI against Sevilla, we’ve no chance’.
It’s an obvious Twitter-style reaction, but the logic is never that simple. Let’s not forget, this was also the exact same team that overpowered another Spanish outfit, Villarreal, in the semi-final second leg.
The intensity was never going to be the same against Chelsea and it showed. Things will be very different at St Jakob-Park in Basel next Wednesday night.
Sevilla’s away-day blues
If Liverpool often seem a bit of a conundrum, what must Sevilla fans be thinking?
Those that watch their team perform at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium every other week should be full of confidence. They’ve witnessed 14 wins out of 19 on their own patch and seen lots of goals fly in (only Barcelona and Read Madrid have scored more at home).
But as for Sevilla’s travelling supporters, they must wonder what’s going on.
Astonishingly, Sevilla are the only team in La Liga without an away win this season. The fans have travelled to 18 different stadiums and watched nine draws and nine defeats. Their tally of 12 away goals is also the joint worst in the Spanish top-flight.
It’s been better in the cups of course but, of their four wins, two were at Spanish Segunda (second division) teams. The other two were against Betis in the Copa Del Rey and against fellow Spaniards Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League so they haven’t actually won a game outside of their homeland.
Home and away defeats to Manchester City in the Champions League are also likely to give Liverpool encouragement.
Like us, though, they have been able to raise their game in this competition and securing a 2-2 draw away to Shakhtar via a late penalty in the first leg of their semi-final was obviously a fine result.
However, despite their record in this tournament, should we really be too worried about them?
We’ve already beaten Dortmund, Manchester United and Villarreal so have performed superbly against teams who have either played in this season’s Champions League or will do so next term.
The stakes are obviously massive next Wednesday. Win and it’s a golden ticket straight into the Champions League group stage. Lose and, depending on Sunday’s result against West Brom, there could be no European football at all at Anfield in 2016-17.
Contemplating the latter seems horrid, although remember this. In 2013-14, we nearly won the Premier League. This year, Leicester did. The common denominator? Both teams didn’t play in Europe that season.
I hope I don’t have to resort to consoling thoughts like this, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
So far, I’ve been offered accommodation in Basel (friend of a friend), but no ticket has emerged yet and I’ll be incredibly lucky to get one given the huge imbalance in supply and demand.
Wherever I am, though, it’ll be a night to remember and, obviously, all Reds know that since that incredible fightback against Dortmund our name has been on the Cup (** turns to camera and winks).
So forget that messy dress rehearsal against Chelsea because it’s going to be more than alright on the night.