By Lewis Rooke – @LV_Rooke
As the season progresses, the pressure of a Premier League title race is becoming noticeably more prominent for Liverpool as they become entangled in a straight shoot-out with Manchester City at the summit of the table.
Before the match against Leicester at the end of January, Liverpool were presented with an opportunity to put clear daylight between themselves and Guardiola’s City side after they unexpectedly lost at Newcastle the day before.
With this knowledge, the atmosphere at Anfield changed from that of fans enjoying the fight at the top of the league to an air of expectation, expectation the Reds simply must go on and win.
This shift in perception resonated from the stands, as a somewhat muted Anfield looked on anxiously as Liverpool could only muster up a draw against the Foxes. This tension spilled into the game at West Ham, as Jurgen Klopp’s men stumbled to yet another underwhelming draw. One thing was abundantly clear – both the team and the fans had forgotten how to enjoy football.
And it really got me thinking – the sheer euphoria that we felt from the Champions League run last season has been sorely missed. The stresses and strains of a title race is a different beast to that of a cup campaign, yet the return of European football at Anfield against Bayern will be a welcome one in order to instigate that much-needed feelgood factor amongst the faithful.
Whilst the win against Bournemouth was a sorely needed one for morale, nothing can compare to the heights the fans felt in that memorable and infamous European campaign. In particular the victory against Manchester City was one to truly savour.
When the tie was drawn, Liverpool went into the game against their now-title rivals as huge underdogs. A win against this all-conquering Guardiola side was difficult to comprehend, and yet in spite of all the bookies odds, the rampant Reds blew City away in the first half – scoring three unanswered goals. Anfield went wild.
It was more of the same in the semi-final too. Against Roma, it was predicted it would be a tightly contested game by most. Yet Liverpool were in no mood to play around – blowing Roma out of the water by racing into an almost unassailable 5-0 lead. Again, Anfield bounced in pure passion and disbelief.
Amidst an extremely tightly contested Premier League campaign, it has been so easy for fans to get lost in the anticipation of the the ever-elusive league title arriving back at Anfield, such so that we have forgotten Liverpool are still making waves in Europe – and are still well and truly in the running to win the competition.
The game against Bayern Munich at Anfield presents ample opportunity for the fans to revel in what could be yet another famous European night under the lights. Will we see another continental heavyweight fall to the canvas courtesy of a Jurgen Klopp right hand? Time will only tell.
But one thing is certain, the return of the Champions League is a welcome one for Liverpool. It’s a relief of pressure, and a chance for the players to enjoy and test themselves against the best the world has to offer and the fans to find their voices once again.
Last time out, we were richly treated to moments like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s screamer against Manchester City, Mohamed Salah’s wizardry against Roma and Sadio Mane’s clinical hat-trick against Porto.
It should serve as a reassuring reminder in this fiercely contested season that more special moments like these beckon for Liverpool in Europe – and that maybe, just maybe, Jurgen Klopp’s men can go one better than last time out.