It’s back. That glorious, money-grubbing monstrosity called the Champions League that we know and love is finally returning—a mere two months after 2019-20 trophy was lifted in Lisbon. Of course, it’s been a slightly longer layoff for Liverpool supporters, having gone out in the round 16 of last season’s tournament to Atletico Madrid back in February.
The exit was an aberration for Liverpool in the Jürgen Klopp era, with the Reds having made rampaged to the final in the three previous European runs, winning the 2018-19 edition of the Champions League. While a maiden Premier League crown went a long way towards compensating for the disappointing continental campaign, Klopp and his squad will be raring to make amends.
It’s set up to be an entertaining group stage for the Red men, with two matches each against fellow Group D teams Ajax, Atalanta and FC Midtjylland brimming with the potential for some high-octane, attacking clashes. Klopp, for one, is ready to go and gave his assessment of his opponents over the next six matches.
“Everybody knows how good Ajax was two years ago,” the German manager said after the draw. “And they will always build a proper new squad and a proper team. Midtjylland is for different reasons: [they are] one of the most interesting teams because they have quite a specific way.
“These are the few pieces of information I have without knowing that we will face them, and Atalanta is obviously a really exciting project since a couple of years. They play pretty good stuff as well so for me it looks like it’s a proper football group.
“All teams try to play real football, all the teams run a lot, so the games will be intense and that we only fly one-and-a-half or two hours instead of four-and-a-half or five, yeah that’s good but we would have played in Moscow or Greece as well, no doubt about that.”
Of course, the entire group stage is set to be played without fans, depriving Liverpool supporters of raucous Anfield nights and entertaining away days on the continent. The squad who will be doing the traveling will fortunately not have to go far, as exhausting trips into the far east were thankfully avoided.
“That’s ok but we don’t think about the miles we make in the Champions League, we think about the games we play and I think it’s a really strong group.”