Liverpool just completed one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the Champions League. After their humiliating 3-0 defeat to Barcelona at the Camp Nou last Wednesday, nobody – not a single person – gave them a chance in the second leg. Not only were they down on goal difference, Liverpool recently lost their leading goal scorer Mohammed Salah following a head injury against Newcastle over the weekend and would remain without the creative engine within their attack, Roberto Firmino. Liverpool should not have won this game. But they did.
Tonight was football at its best - a beautiful night, a packed stadium, and the highest stakes of all, a place in the Champions League Final. Liverpool’s season has been historic. They will most likely become the first team in Premier League history to finish runner-up after totaling 97 points throughout the season. Their squad that mixes real footballing geniuses with practical tacticians has provided Europe with the most entertaining brand of gun-slinging play this season. In the Premier League, one can easily make the case that they have gotten lucky. Their players can be a bit dive-happy, and a couple of goalkeepers have singlehandedly given the Reds three points on multiple occasions (I’m looking at you Pickford and Lloris). Do not, however, think for a second that they do not deserve to be challenging for the title and in the Champions League Final. The blueprint at Liverpool that began with the hiring of Juergen Klopp over four seasons ago has methodically led to this very moment in time. No, they have yet to win a trophy, but that simply does not matter.
Why? Why does it not matter that after four seasons and nearly a quarter of a million dollars spent they have nothing to show? Because the trophies are a side effect of greatness – a status they have embraced this season. With a rock solid defense and an attack so lethal the US Government is going to start using it for the death penalty, Liverpool sits in a rare position on top of world football. This Liverpool team will win a trophy soon enough. They are too good not to do so. Whether that trophy is the Champions League or the Premier League, it will be a fitting cap to the club’s phenomenal achievements over the past few years.
Liverpool, along with title-rivals Manchester City, has separated themselves from the rest of the Premier League entirely. No longer should pundits and writers refer to the top-6 as the group of heated contenders fighting for domestic glory. The top-2 is a more accurate and fitting description.
Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal must look at what these two clubs have achieved. By setting an identity in place, hiring a manager that fits their philosophy, funding the manager’s needs to engage that philosophy, and – most importantly – allowing time for the squad to mature into a finished product – Liverpool and Manchester City have achieved legendary status. These are two of the greatest individual teams the league or Europe has ever witnessed.
Manchester City did not make it past the quarter-finals for the second year running. Liverpool looks like they will miss out on winning the Premier League by a single point after Sunday. Both clubs, however, have incredible managers and incredible players. With the passion and support of the fans and a beautiful product on the field – Liverpool and Manchester City make every football fan envious of their glory.
Tonight football won.