Liverpool goal-scoring great John Aldridge believes Jurgen Klopp’s men are the team to beat in their section of the Champions League draw, but he admits they may not be favourites to win the competition if they get to the final.
Holders Bayern Munich, English champions-elect Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are all in the opposite half of the draw to Liverpool, with Aldridge suggesting his former club are in good shape to come through a section featuring quarter-final opponents Real Madrid, as well as Chelsea and FC Porto.
“The path is open for Liverpool to reach a third Champions League final in four years,” Aldridge told the Sunday World.
“All four sides in Liverpool’s section of the Champions League draw know that opportunity is knocking after challenging seasons domestically and Liverpool won’t fear any of them.
“Manchester City, Bayern Munich and PSG are the teams to beat in the competition this season. But all of those are in the other half of the draw.
“So while Liverpool might not be favourites if they were to get to the final, the negative mood around the team will change if they make it through to the Champions League showpiece.
“Yet the big factor that worked in their favour in the last round (against RB Leipzig) was playing both matches away in Budapest, as that took out the Anfield problem.
“If you had said a year ago that Liverpool’s biggest issue would be playing matches at a stadium that has been so crucial to their European glories down the years, I’d have thought you had gone mad.
“Champions League nights at Anfield are the stuff of legend, with The Kop blowing the opposition away before a ball is kicked and Liverpool’s players drawing on that emotion to pull off incredible victories.
“The Barcelona win in 2019 was probably the best of all time, as they came back from 3-0 down to beat Lionel Messi and the rest. But Anfield has a very different vibe around it right now.
“There is no way Klopp and his players should have lost six games in a row on home soil for the first time in Liverpool’s history. But that horrible record is etched into the record books now and they have to end their Anfield misery to have any chance in the Champions League.
“Away form is not a problem and Liverpool will always score goals against sides that come at them. So I can see a scenario where they score away goals against Real Madrid on Tuesday night and possibly against Chelsea in a semi-final.
“The big question is what happens at Anfield, because we have seen the same story played out time and again in home matches over the last couple of months – and, clearly, Klopp’s players have a psychological problem playing there now.”
Keep Firmino on the bench
Aldridge wants to see Klopp leave Roberto Firmino on the bench as he is urging him to pick the in-form Diogo Jota to start against Real Madrid, as he suggests the balance of the Liverpool is now looking better than it was in the opening weeks of 2021.
“Firmino now has to be back-up striker for the rest of this season, as Jota needs to play every game, with his goals in recent games for club and country confirming his return to fitness,” he added.
“Two clean sheets at Anfield could be enough to take Liverpool back to Istanbul for another Champions League final and by then, Virgil van Dijk may be fit to play, and captain Jordan Henderson would also be back from injury.
“Given everything that has happened to Liverpool this season, the prospect of Henderson getting his hands on the Champions League trophy and the club adding a seventh European title to their proud list seems hard to envisage.
“Yet Klopp would take the scenario he finds himself in against a depleted Real Madrid, as he knows he has the tools to have a real go at winning this competition.”