On form, it’s hard to argue that anyone but Manchester City are favourites to win the 2021 edition of the Champions League.
The favourites, though, don’t always come out on top, something few know better than former Reds boss Rafa Benitez, who managed an underdog Liverpool side to their fifth European Cup in Istanbul back in 2005.
“Liverpool has the potential and the manager,” Benitez told The Mail in an extended interview. “I think Man City for me are still favourites to win. Liverpool-Real Madrid it depends on the moment.
“Both teams they can be good because Liverpool they have the quality, structure, and players coming back from injuries. They can compete against Real Madrid, no doubt.”
If this year’s Liverpool can beat Madrid over two legs, they will face Chelsea or Porto in the semi finals. If they win again, they will head back to Istanbul with a chance to win their seventh European Cup.
Given they’re facing a Madrid short of their best and have managed to draw into the side of the bracket without both favourites City and Bayern Munich—the choice of many as second best in Europe right now—if they do, there will be some talk of luck, just as in 2005.
Such talk, though, would be misguided, with Liverpool having already beaten the second best side in Germany and with Chelsea, favourites to advance against Porto, on form the second best side in England right now.
Which, at least in some ways, is similar to 2005 in Benitez’ mind, as the 2021 edition of the Reds look to repeat history and make the trip to Istanbul amidst struggles in the league.
“People talk about Istanbul like we were lucky,” Benitez noted. “But we were not lucky to win the Champions League because we played against Juventus. And we played Chelsea—at this time it was the best team maybe in Europe.
“Our team had so much confidence that tactically we could manage. We were a team with belief. I think Liverpool can do the same and go to the final.”