Liverpool’s tour celebrating its magical return to the summit of European football with their sixth Champions League trophy is not quite done. Coincidentally, their campaign in search of their seventh (and, hopefully, a few other desired pieces of silverware along the way) is also just beginning. It is what some might call a paradox.
And while that beginning isn’t exactly one that has taken place on the pitch, Liverpool having finally learned the names of the opponents they are to face in the group stage does mean they can finally look at their preparations with actual tactical designs in mind. A start to planning in earnest, as it were.
To that end, Liverpool fans might be a pleased to know that they will once more have to square up against Italian side Napoli in the group stage. Unlike last season, though, they won’t have to worry about another European heavyweight in their group as Liverpool are certainly favored to advance with Napoli over Red Bull Salzburg and Genk.
Even with that likelihood, it should be no surprise that Jurgen Klopp isn’t looking at the draw and taking the teams lightly. Speaking to the official site, Jurgen stressed the importance of not taking the either of Salzburg or Genk too lightly.
“With the other two teams, I know how people are and immediately they will say these are the two ‘smaller teams’ of the group. They are not. I am not sure how it is for Genk, but for Salzburg they fought for so long and so hard to be part of the Champions League, so they will fight with whatever they have.”
And, of course, with old friends Napoli, it certainly won’t be an easy task. Especially given that Carlo Ancelotti will be manning the sidelines opposite Klopp. Bring on the tasty matchup.
But before we get to any of those tasty matches, we still have that bit about celebrating the glorious season we’re still basking in. To that end, two Reds took home UEFA honors at the draw ceremony. Alisson Becker was chosen as the Goalkeeper of the Season for UEFA on the strength of one of the best season-long goalkeeping efforts I’ve ever seen.
Virgil Van Dijk, though, received extra praise as he took home both Defender of the Season and Player of the Year. Obviously deserved and the only person I could think of that would overshadow Alisson’s stellar year, given that oft repeated stat that the Dutch defender had never been dribbled past in the entire season. The boss had, of course, nothing but praise for his colossus center half.
“Virg is an exceptional defender, in the moment 100 per cent the best defender in the world, so he deserves that prize absolutely. It’s now the icing on the cake of the Champions League campaign last year. It’s really big and I’m completely happy for him and his family.”
A big night overall for Reds. A little bit of celebration and, now, time for some preparation. Bring on the Champions League.