Match 64
Game Details
Match 63
Game Details

Transfer Rater: Krychowiak to Liverpool

Football Whispers

Transfer Rater: Marco Asensio to Liverpool

Football Whispers

Transfer Rater: Alex Telles to Liverpool

Football Whispers
 By Steven Kelly

Sevilla clash crucial for Klopp and Liverpool in Champions League

It might annoy some Liverpool fans to not see their side mentioned as Champions League Group E favourites, but Wednesday's opponents Sevilla have an excellent recent European record and are ranked sixth by UEFA. They were only in Pot 2 of the draw as a curious anomaly of the selection system, where the champions of the biggest eight countries are automatically the top seeds.

Few need reminding they also defeated Liverpool 3-1 in the 2016 Europa League final. Spartak Moscow, the group's top-seeded club, rank an incredulous 105, so clearly Liverpool must treat the Spaniards as their main threat when they kick off their campaign back in the competition.

Liverpool have generally fond memories of their Champions League exploits, but the past two campaigns ended in ignominious exits at the group stage. In 2009, Rafael Benitez's team won one point in their four games against Fiorentina and Lyon, while the less said about Brendan Rodgers' 2014 efforts the better.

Holders Real Madrid were clearly going to be too good for everybody else in 2014, so Liverpool's main task was to get the better of Basel -- which they couldn't do.

Rodgers was roundly condemned for choosing damage limitation at the Bernabeu that year, an interesting memory recall in the week Liverpool were hammered 5-0 by Manchester City. Perhaps discretion is the better part of valour after all?

Jurgen Klopp actually did make a pragmatic decision on Saturday by replacing Mohammed Salah at half time. It made little difference, the gap subsequently being widened by three more goals.

To some it again indicated the importance of Sadio Mane to the team. At least the Senegal speedster won't be banned from European matches, but his dismissal and Klopp's adjustments did spark criticism of the German's tactical prowess.

With European football returning, it isn't a good time to have doubts about your manager's ability to change direction in unforeseen circumstances. That said, Klopp had a good record in Europe at Borussia Dortmund and steered Liverpool to their first European final in nine years by securing knockout wins over Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Villarreal in the Europa League in 2016.

Klopp will want to avenge the final defeat and one of his players, Alberto Moreno, has even more reason to produce a good performance. It was his horrendous error seconds after the restart which allowed his former club back into a match the Reds looked more than capable of winning.

With two games a week about to become the norm, fans will hope to see more of Andrew Robertson. He had a good debut against Crystal Palace but hasn't been seen since, despite also playing well in the international break for Scotland.

Jurgen Klopp will be looking for a reaction from his side after their 5-0 humiliation at Manchester City.

The balancing act with the squad this season is going to be the key factor in determining whether Klopp really does have the stuff to take Liverpool further forward.

Fears of naivety have arisen again after the debacle at the Etihad, but it's worth remembering Hoffenheim were no easy touch and Liverpool beat them home and away in the Champions League qualifier.

The European campaign begins with an incredibly tough fixture. Pot 4 team Maribor are seen as the one everyone needs to take points off, making all other matches a scramble to secure those extra points vital for qualification.

Back in 2004 only 32,000 fans attended that opening game against Monaco. After years of a real competitive edge under Benitez, it's fair to say Liverpool fans' hunger for European nights returned in a big, big way.

Much has always been made of the effect Liverpool's crowd can have on their own team and the opposition. It irks many outsiders, yet the facts speak for themselves. In that 2016 run to the Europa final they overcame some great sides. Even Dortmund, who held a 3-1 lead with 25 minutes to go, found themselves at a loss to figure out how they lost 4-3.

Sevilla are such a good team that an atmosphere like that will be necessary, particularly as the Reds may still be reeling from their weekend humiliation. There is so much focus throughout any season on finishing in the top four that it sometimes feels an anti-climax when the actual prize -- Champions League football -- eventually comes around.

The frenzy at Anfield will symbolise how such nights are becoming a little rarer than they should be for such a big club.

The need to get back on track after such a big loss at City could be turned to Liverpool's advantage. Though it's only the group opener, it already feels like a vital game.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.


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