What a strange start to the UEFA Champions League campaign. One of the things to come from the 2nd place finish in the Premier League is, rarely for Liverpool FC, automatic qualification into the group stages of Europe’s top competition.
There’s been four finals since Gerrard lifted ‘Old Big Ears’, and barring our 2005/06 exit to Benfica, we have always been one of the main contenders to lift it again. AC Milan stopped us in 2007 when we were so close in Athens, Chelsea stopped us in 2008, and repeated that task earlier this year – to go on to be knocked out by the eventual winners.
Nobody can doubt that it’s one of the toughest competitions to win in the world – there are no fixtures which are deemed over before they’re begun, even facing off against the lower seeded teams can be a daunting task, as nobody plays for a draw. You can play Marseille and get beaten, You can play Besiktas and break a record. You can play Athletico Madrid and think its all over, You can play Real Madrid and be on top of the world.
Sitting here, mid-August with no Champions League qualifying game to fret over is a strange situation though, and I’m glad for once that my heart will get a rest until mid-October time during mid-week. It’s going to be a joy watching Arsenal, for once, face a tough challenge against Celtic to join in this years competition, instead of sitting head in hands at Anfield preparing for the humiliation the next morning when it looks like Standard Liege are going to have their name inside one of those plastic balls, being drawn out into Group D to face off with Marseille, Athletico Madrid and PSV instead of your team. Your team who were there in Istanbul, creating dreams, there once again in Athens having them broken. Your team who had knocked Inter Milan, Arsenal, Chelsea, amongst other giants out of the competition over the past few seasons.
There would be none of that this year, instead Tuesday and Wednesday nights would be spent watching Coronation Street, trying to avoid the Champions League altogether because you’re so ashamed, and heartbroken, that your team isn’t in it, instead Standard Liege. How do you explain this one at work?
117th minute, Reina to Aurelio. Aurelio to Babel. “Come on Babel, run with it”. Babel to Alonso. “For crying out loud Babel, shouldve run with it. Sell him, Rafa.” Alonso to Babel. “RUN WITH IT!” 118th minute. Babel to Kuyt. 1-0. Thank the heavens.
Thank the heavens we won’t have to go through that this year.