But since then – only problems.
Madrid is Liverpool’s main problem in European competition in the era of Jurgen Klopp.
See for yourself:
• Real Madrid knocked Liverpool out of European competition three times in five years: finals in 2018 and 2022, quarter-finals in 2021.
• Klopp has never beaten Real Madrid as manager of Liverpool: a draw and three defeats.
• In general, Liverpool have not beaten an opponent in the Champions League for 14 years (six matches). Four of them took place just in the Klopp era, two more meetings took place a year before it. Then the team of Brendan Rodgers, having lost Luis Suarez and exhausted after the title race with Man City, received in the group stage 0-3 at Anfield – the worst defeat in many years. And on the road, Rogers generally put up the second squad – with an incredible three of the attack: Adam Lallana – Fabio Borini – Lazar Markovic (yes!). Even Mario Balotelli did not appear on the field.
The last time Liverpool beat Real was in 2009 in the 1/8 finals, where they have come together to this day. And that victory was very confident – both in terms of results and emotions.
Liverpool played the best football under Benitez, looked menacing in the Premier League and the Champions League. And Rafa attacked Ferguson
The Merseysiders were a really powerful team in the 2008/09 season – perhaps Liverpool’s best season under Rafael Benitez.
Liverpool crushed rivals, at some point even went in first place, lost only once and fought for the lead with Manchester United. By February 1, the Benitez team had only 2 (!!!) defeats in all tournaments: both times – to Tottenham (in the Premier League and in the League Cup – by the way, Roman Pavlyuchenko scored twice there).
True, in order to get into the Champions League group, Liverpool suffered. Because of the fourth place in the 2007/08 Premier League, they made their way into the group through qualification (yes, there were times when not all four of the top 5 leagues automatically ended up in the group stage). And there, Liverpool scored against Standard only once: Dirk Kuyt scored in the 117th minute of the return game, saving the team from a penalty shootout.
It was easier in the group: Liverpool confidently dealt with Marseille and PSV (4 wins and a goal difference of 9-3 in four matches), but stumbled over Atlético – they played 1-1 twice, and in Spain they also saved only thanks to Steven Gerrard’s penalty goal in the 95th minute. This was enough for a confident first place.
In parallel, the Merseysiders did a great job in the Premier League. And just at the peak moment of the fight against Manchester United, Benitez gave one of the most famous press conferences in English football – about the “facts”. The Spaniard hinted at the biased attitude of the referees and the Football Association towards Liverpool and loyalty to Man United and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Here’s how it was:
“It looks like Manchester United are nervous because we are top of the table. But I will talk about the facts, I want to be clear and not get into these mind games so early. Here are the facts.
They played Hull on 1 November and Mr Ferguson received a two-match ban and a £10,000 fine after misbehaving with Mike Dean.
When they played Wigan last season, referee Steve Bennett missed Rio Ferdinand’s handball and didn’t give a penalty. They won and became champions. I think that this season in the last round with Wigan they will again be judged by the same referee.
During the Respect campaign, the FA accused Mr. Ferguson of inappropriate behavior after comments about Martin Atkinson and Keith Hackett. He was not punished. He’s the only coach in the league who doesn’t get punished for this sort of thing.
We all know what happens when you play at Old Trafford. Their coaches are always going to talk to the judges, especially during breaks. They walk side by side to the locker room and talk all the time. Every tour they put pressure on the judges, we know it, we’ve seen it. We’ve seen guests get sent off at Old Trafford, but not the hosts. This is part of the game. But complaining and having an advantage are two different things.
Ferguson complained about the calendar. Two years ago we always had early games away on Saturdays while United played on Sundays. And we didn’t complain. He now complains that everyone is against United. But there is a big difference between the early matches on Saturday, for example, after the European Cup game in the middle of the week. And in the second half of this season they will play with all the teams from the top of the table at home. Incredible advantage.
And at Christmas, United played on the 29th, and the rest of the teams played on the 28th. We were away against Newcastle two days after the Bolton game. They played about 40 hours later, when they didn’t complain.
I don’t play mind games. These are just facts. If he wants to talk about the calendar, then there are two options. The first is like in Spain, when draws are made for the first half of the season, everyone knows where and how they play, and similarly in the second half. Everyone will be the same. Then Mr Ferguson won’t complain about the campaign against United. But there is a second option – Mr. Ferguson himself will make a calendar and send it to everyone. Everyone will know everything and will not complain. Everything is very simple.
All coaches need to understand that only Mr. Ferguson is allowed to talk about the calendar, about the referees – and nothing happens. I’m talking about facts, not my impressions. You can see this every week. I’m not telling the FA to do it. But I’ve been here for five years, and I understand how everything works here.
After this speech, Liverpool swam: a month and a half before the game with Real Madrid, they won only two matches out of seven, flew out of the Cup from Everton and lagged behind Manchester United by 7 points.
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