Well, that result has really put the cat amongst the pigeons in our Champions League group.
While the 2-0 defeat in Belgrade is not terminal by any means, it has put us at a massive disadvantage. Qualification is still in our own hands but we might yet again need one of those special European nights at Anfield to get us over the line.
The 1-1 draw between Napoli and Paris St Germain keeps us well in touch with the top of the group and yet leaves our position precarious. If Napoli beat Red Star Belgrade in their next game and we lose in the Parc des Princes, we may well need to beat Napoli 2-0 in order to qualify. To flip that round however, should we win in Paris the hosts are out.
It shouldn’t have come down to these variables but after such a good start against PSG, when we played very well in a 3-2 victory, the Reds have not been on form in our continental campaign at all. We have now stumbled to two very disappointing defeats on the road – the last loss in Naples last month was also a colossal let down.
Had we performed well in both games, Liverpool would likely be as good as qualified by now but we aren’t and we are going to have to be on our toes to progress.
But this is not necessarily a bad thing because the Reds have a habit of raising their game when the stakes are high in Europe.
While the form book does not point to us going to Paris and winning, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit. But we would need to replicate our confident, energetic and enthusiastic display in the group opener at Anfield when we pressed, harassed and harried the French outfit into submission. And even so, despite all our dominance we needed an injury time Roberto Firmino winner to win that match.
We are lacking form and for my money, energy currently, but the Reds can be masters of their own fate in France in a few weeks. But we will need to be wary of the French champions, who scored two goals out of nothing last time out.
But even so, if it does come to the last game against Napoli, I would take us to win at Anfield under the floodlights. Opposition fans roll their eyes when they read about the Kop on a European night but simply put, it’s true and those who mock it do not understand the impact the crowd can have on those big occasions. The roof can come off if the crowd are fired up and we’d have the wind at our backs knowing what we need to do.
However, knowing what we need to do and turning in a performance that gets us what we need are two different things. If we don’t up our game in Paris, we won’t win and our goal difference, which may yet be critical, will decrease further.
Whilst we aren’t yet drinking in the last chance saloon, we’re in the middle of a three way shootout to get into the last sixteen.
We knew it would be a tough group when the draw was made, but I didn’t envisage us dropping points against a poor Red Star outfit. But they have outfought and outthought us on this occasion and deserved their win.
And for the sake of our season, we need to qualify. After being in the final in May, it would be a galling step backwards should we end up in the Europa League. The Thursday-Sunday scheduling does not auger well for teams attempting to do well in the league and I think it would disadvantage us. Even talk of third is presumptuous currently as Red Star are in touch with us and a shock result in Naples might put them in pole position.
It is essential that we qualify and in order to do that, we are going to have to up our game against top quality opposition. Not something we have historically had an issue doing.
*odds are subject to change.
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