Liverpool are 90 minutes away from their third Champions League final in five seasons, having taken a 2-0 lead over Villarreal in their semi-final first leg.
But travelling to El Madrigal tonight, Jurgen Klopp and his players are aware of the challenge ahead, with the manager accepting that Villarreal would “go with all they have.”
Klopp is likely to rotate his side just three days after a tough 1-0 win at Newcastle, but thankfully, he has one less issue to worry about when preparing his lineup.
In previous rounds of the Champions League, the threat of a one-match suspension would have been at the back of Klopp’s mind, for players who had been booked twice.
Mane and Jota are both within that threshold, and that has led to some supporters being concerned over either of the pair picking up another yellow card and missing a potential Champions League final.
However, a change in UEFA’s rules in 2020 means that yellow cards are now wiped out after the quarter-final stage, meaning only a red card tonight would bring a suspension for the showpiece clash in Paris.
Article 52.04 of the Champions League regulations confirms: “All yellow cards expire on completion of the quarter-finals. They are not carried forward to the semi-finals.”
In the past, a number of high-profile players have missed Champions League finals due to the accumulation of yellow cards over the previous 13 games.
Roy Keane and Paul Scholes both missed Man United‘s 1999 final victory over Bayern Munich, while Dani Alves joined Eric Abidal in being suspended for Barcelona’s win over United in 2009 – which saw Yaya Toure fill in at centre-back.
A total of six players missed the 2012 final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich, with UEFA turning down an appeal to overturn yellow-card suspensions for Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles, Ramires, David Alaba, Luis Gustavo and Holger Badstuber.
In 2014, Xabi Alonso criticised UEFA’s rule as “not fair at all” after he was forced to miss Real Madrid’s meeting with Atletico Madrid in Lisbon, saying: “It needs to be changed.”
Fortunately, it now has been, and Liverpool should avoid any unnecessary suspensions if they reach this year’s final.