Més Que Un Column

Jordan Henderson Lifting Number Six In Kiev

The week of all weeks has arrived. I’m letting you know now, if you’re looking for some sensible FA Cup analysis and Mourinho-bashing, then look elsewhere. Since starting writing for the wonderful people at gettingsackedinthemorning.com and Ronnie Dog Media I’ve tried to keep this column as all-inclusive as possible. But this week, no chance.

It’s Liverpool’s week and Liverpool’s trophy to win. On the first day “God called the light day, and the darkness he called night”. By the dawn of the seventh day, there’s every chance that Liverpool have number six in the cabinet. There’s every chance that Kiev is added to the divine list of cities where the Reds have lifted ‘Ol’ Big Ears’, forming a holy pentalogy with Rome, London, Paris and Istanbul. There’s every chance that Jordan Henderson joins the likes of Phil Thompson and Steven Gerrard as a European Cup-winning captain. There’s every chance that this Liverpool side will beat the mighty Real Madrid.

On paper, the Reds have nothing to lose. Against the holders and 12-times champions of the competition, going for a 4th win in 5 years. Without Joel Matip, Emre Can, Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain through injury. Liverpool’s starting eleven will include a Scottish left-back bought for £8 million, an academy graduate, a £4 million goalkeeper who was second-choice last season, a free-agent from Manchester City, along with purchases from Sunderland, Newcastle, Southampton and Hoffenheim. If you believe Manchester United Twitter, we’ll even be captained by the worst midfielder in the history of the sport (takes some doing that y’know).

But the one disadvantage to being ‘European Royalty’, is the weight of expectation at this stage of Europe’s premier club competition. When Liverpool’s players emerge from the tunnel of Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on Saturday evening, they won’t view themselves as underdogs. They know the history of this club, and that its’ European pedigree is a match for anyone, including Madrid. They will not enter battle with Los Blancos with an inferiority complex, meaning a loss could leave a lasting impact on the Reds.

Weird how you’re just allowed to call your ground the Olympic Stadium despite never even bidding to host the competition, isn’t it? Think I might start calling my back garden the Stadio Olympique. Has as much right to it as Kiev.

But of all the men donning the Liverbird in Ukraine, surely it is Jurgen Klopp who will feel the weight of expectation more than anyone else. Five cup final defeats on the bounce, including 2 as Liverpool boss and a Champions League final in London in 2013 means that he, as much as any of his players, is under pressure to deliver the big one. He’s under pressure to put an end to this wretched record and give his players a new hope for what will hopefully be many finals over the coming years. Imagine a loss. Imagine being Dejan Lovren in the Wembley dressing room, five minutes before the 2018/19 FA Cup final. Don’t tell me it’s not getting into his head that his manager has lost six on the bounce.

Last week marked 12 years since Liverpool’s last FA Cup win in 2006. Since then Benitez, Hodgson, Dalglish, Rodgers and Klopp himself, have only brought one trophy across the River Mersey. That came in 2012, a penalty-shootout win in against a Championship side to lift the League Cup following an uninspiring performance in a season that Liverpool went onto finish seventh. Not quite Istanbul ’05. It is both the history of the 70s and 80s, as well as recent history which means there is something to prove on Saturday.

Not a camera phone in sight.

Real Madrid have played against Liverpool 5 times before, including a European Cup final in 1981. But Real Madrid have never played against THIS Liverpool side. It’s beginning to become something you can’t prepare for. Manchester City had 180 minutes of league football to figure us out, and yet on the 4th April when they rolled into town for a Champions League quarter-final, Liverpool made them look lost at sea by just playing the same way we always do. Lost at sea and unable to cope with the flying red arrows charging at them again and again and again. Ramos and Co. will have been told all week of the danger of Liverpool’s irresistible presence going forward. They’ll have looked at countless videos and clips of what to do and what not to do against not just Mohamed Salah, but the entire front three. However, when Milorad Mažić blows that first whistle in Kiev, it’s a whole other ball game.

They’ll even know Liverpool’s starting XI in advance. Providing Roberto Firmino doesn’t fall off a bar stool in Liverpool’s Marbella training camp, the Reds will line out as follows: Karius, TAA, the Lov, big Virg, Robbo, Hendo, Haméz Milner, Gini, Sadio, Bobby, Messi.

I can even tell you the subs. Lallana on after 60, Clyne on 70, then either Solanke or Klavan depending on whether the Reds have put 5 past the Galacticos yet.

“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested”. On the seventh day, we shall rest. We shall rest as Champions of Europe.

Imagine Henderson lifting number six. The fume from the Evertonians and the Mancs. The redemption for true football fans against a culture of banter pages and social media ‘experts’ who just don’t get it.

Allez Les Rouges.

All the best.