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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool look to recapture past glories in the Uefa Champions League

Chance for the Merseyside club to bounce back from heavy loss to Mancheser City against Sevilla at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a tough time on Saturday at Manchester City, but they will be confident of their chances of fighting back in the Uefa Champions League on Wednesday. Phil Noble / Reuters
Jurgen Klopp and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a tough time on Saturday at Manchester City, but they will be confident of their chances of fighting back in the Uefa Champions League on Wednesday. Phil Noble / Reuters

It was another era. Liverpool were down to 10 men. They needed two goals. They turned to their usual rescuer.

Steven Gerrard duly fired a free kick into the top corner. Even he, however, could not conjure another goal or another act of escapology. And so it proved his final Uefa Champions League game: Liverpool 1 Basel 1.

It was December 2014 and Liverpool, five-times champions of Europe, made an ignominious exit from the competition that brought their greatest nights.

Thirty-three months later and after negotiating a play-off with Hoffenheim, Liverpool can savour a return to the Champions League itself.

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The sense they were different days is illustrated by the possibility that only Dejan Lovren and Jordan Henderson of those who began against Basel will also start against Sevilla on Wednesday.

Gerrard was a symbolic, emblematic figure at a club where hopes tend to be invested in one individual. Now the man in question brings dynamism to the technical area, not the midfield.

Gerrard’s aura owed something to his status as a Champions League winner. Jurgen Klopp is a Champions League finalist.

He took Borussia Dortmund to the 2013 showpiece in a season when their wage bill was smaller than Queens Park Rangers’s as the London club were relegated from the Premier League.

It was an eye-catching form of overachievement and while three Liverpool managers have won the European Cup, none has ever arrived at Anfield after piloting a club to the final.

So far, so good. The omens are auspicious for Liverpool. Or some of them are, anyway. Klopp’s maiden Champions League campaign was a failure.

Dortmund won a solitary game and propped up their pool in 2011-12. Liverpool must hope that part of history does not repeat itself.

Nevertheless, they can console themselves with the knowledge that they have a manager who has reached two European finals in the last five years, which is more than either Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola has done.

The second of those finals was against Sevilla. A rematch amounts to a chance for revenge for the 2016 Europa League final.

Liverpool led, courtesy of Daniel Sturridge, before a trio of Sevilla goals secured the “three-peat”, their third consecutive Europa League win.

Besides the consequences, costing Liverpool Champions League football, it was notable for being one of the few times under Klopp that they could be accused of capitulating.

Saturday provided another: even without the sent-off Sadio Mane, it was a shock to see Liverpool lose 5-0 to Manchester City.

Given the importance Klopp attaches to commitment, collectivity and spirit, a response should be expected.

Facing the prospect of a three-match domestic ban, Mane should start. Another of Liverpool’s premier attacking talents ought to be involved in some capacity.

Klopp omitted Philippe Coutinho at the Etihad Stadium. The Brazilian missed the start of the season, allegedly injured and ill and definitely courted by Barcelona. Liverpool remained defiant.

Now their classiest talent should be back in the fold. “Phil is a fantastic player, and hopefully we can use him as quickly as possible,” said Klopp.

He has a surfeit of midfield options, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain available for a first start following his £35 million (Dh170.6m) move from Arsenal.

In a game where omens abound, the Englishman offers unhelpful ones: his last two club games have been lost 4-0 and 5-0.

The sequence should not continue. Klopp has never won in five meetings with Sevilla, but this is a very different side.

They have sold and rebuilt, whereas Liverpool have strengthened.

Their last two Champions League campaigns have been demoralising affairs, yielding only wins against the minnows of Debrecen and Ludogorets.

This promises to be better.