Although it isn’t the best competition to take part in, the UEFA Europa League offers Liverpool a great chance for silverware and a platform on which to build for next season.
Despite last night’s draw against Sparta Prague, the Reds still have a good opportunity to progress all the way to the final should they take this competition seriously. While it may not have the glamour or prestige of its big brother, the UEFA Champions League, it is a competition that holds special memories for the Merseysiders and has provided as many memorable moments in years gone by.
Under its former guise, the UEFA Cup, they have won it a joint record three times and their most recent success in 2001 is still fondly remembered as much as any other triumph in Europe over the years. Not only did they beat the likes of Roma and Porto, they also managed to overcome Barcelona in the semi-finals before taking part in one of the most dramatic finals in recent history, defeating Alaves 5-4 after extra time.
With that in mind, everyone connected to Liverpool should see this year’s competition as a chance to put some much needed silverware in the Anfield cabinet, which has been gathering dust for almost five years when they last won the FA Cup. After all, the philosophy of England’s most successful club is to win trophies so why turn down the chance to win the Europa League if that is the case?
Should Liverpool defeat Sparta Prague next week and then prevail against Braga or Lech Poznan, they will surely fancy their chances in a competition with few favourites.
Although Manchester City with their vastly expensive squad and capable of the odd excellent performance, they have rarely set pulses rating with their inability to defeat teams such as Aris on Tuesday night. Plus, their defeat to Lech Poznan in the group stages showed that Mancini’s men are vulnerable when teams attack them.
Another side that are seen as potential favourites, FC Porto, continue to impress under Andre Villas-Boas having gone through the group stages unbeaten and most recently defeating Sevilla 2-1 away from home last night. Should they carry on their rich vein of form then they will surely be favourites to reach the final in Dublin in May.
But there is still a lot of football to be played between now and then, and a lot can change. Should Liverpool reach the final, then it will surely be considered an achievement given the difficulties they have endured during the course of this season.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.