The Week In Liverpool: Reds continue warming up nicely for Basel
The week in five words
The calm before the storm.
What went well
Inevitably there’s been a preoccupation with the forthcoming Europa League final against Sevilla this week so with that massive distraction in mind a couple of 1-1 draws at home to Chelsea and away at West Brom represented a decent enough week for the Redmen.
It means Jurgen Klopp’s men sit eighth in the final table, equaling the club’s joint-worst finish since winning promotion back to the top-flight in 1962, but many Reds are taking the positives from it.
For starters, finishing no worse than eighth in the top division for 54 consecutive seasons is an impressive national record, but more importantly Klopp has managed to get a lot more out of players who were underperforming under Brendan Rodgers and, although two points worse off than last season, the Reds have finished closer to both the Champions and Champions League qualifiers.
Lots of little things – like twice coming from behind with equalisers from Christian Benteke and Jordon Ibe this week – are pointing towards Liverpool going in the right direction, but lifting the UEFA Cup in Basel would catapult them forward.
Silverware and Champions League football in 2016/17 can both be achieved on Wednesday night, making the Europa League final almost as big as those boxes of Toblerone in the airport.
The Europa League final ticket ballot. That’s not to say it wasn’t run smoothly – the Electoral Reform Service got the job done – but thousands of Liverpool supporters, who attended all seven Anfield games in the Europa League, were left disappointed on Tuesday when their names weren’t drawn out.
This column banged on about UEFA’s inexplicable decision to hold the final in Basel’s 35,000-capacity St Jakob-Park last week, but it's still the issue Kopites have been talking about all week. Nobody quite knows how many Reds will still travel to Switzerland in the hope of getting a ticket from members of the ‘UEFA family’ looking to make a few Swiss Francs.
The advice, of course, is not to travel without a ticket and Liverpool have arranged for the final to be screened live at the 9,000-capacity ECHO Arena as an alternative, but when are UEFA going to stop creating their own problems by using some common sense?
There are 111 stadia in Europe with bigger capacities than St Jakob-Park – 20 of them in the UK – but then looking out for ordinary, loyal fans has never been top of UEFA’s priorities.
Quote of the week
“There are two clubs in Germany who sing You’ll Never Walk Alone – Mainz and Dortmund. I don’t know why. They are both, in a specific way, very similar to Liverpool. So, I never want to walk alone. Maybe that’s the story of my life.” – Jurgen Klopp, reflecting on how You’ll Never Walk Alone is linked to the clubs he’s managed… or putting himself in the frame for the Celtic job.
The need-to-know facts
- Ibe is the 17th different player to score a Premier League goal for Liverpool this season, a competition record.
- Ibe's goal against West Brom, in the 23rd minute, was the final shot on target of the game.
- Liverpool used 34 players in the 2015/16 Premier League campaign, four more than in any previous season.
- Liverpool have finished outside the top five for the sixth time in seven seasons.
Video of the week
How did Klopp mark the end of the last-ever match in front of Anfield’s old Main Stand? By taking selfies with the fans. Can’t recall Shanks doing that...
Winner of the week
He got injured in pretty much Klopp’s first training session, so to see Danny Ings make his comeback as a substitute at West Brom following a seven-month absence was a highlight of the week.
Jordan Henderson’s return was also a huge boost ahead of the Europa League final, but whether the skipper is fit enough to lead Liverpool out in Switzerland is debatable. A special word too for Spanish striker Sergi Canos, who had an impressive season on loan at Brentford and was rewarded with his Reds debut at The Hawthorns.
Loser of the week
Liverpool launched their new home strip this week. Made by New Balance, it’s red (obviously), features yellow logos (white is soooo 2015) and a (rather unnecessary yet possibly fashionable) buttoned collar, but what lets an otherwise decent kit down is having a ‘there’s no noise like the Anfield noise’ slogan embroidered on it.
Maybe the sentiment is well intended, and the big Anfield European nights are great, but at many Premier League games there’s no noise. Period. Which makes such a slogan blatantly ripe for social media points scoring by rival supporters.