"The Champiioonnssss"—UEFA's Champions League anthem hasn't rung around Anfield since December 2009 but it will be doing so this September as Liverpool return to Europe's elite competition after four seasons away.
To Liverpool supporters it feels like an eternity since The Reds last lined up to face the best on offer in Europe and experienced those famous European nights under the lights of their famous stadium.
Brendan Rodgers' side secured a top three finish, and with it a guaranteed place in next season's Champions League, with their win at Norwich recently.
Liverpool will find out their opponents when the draw is made in Monaco on August 28, with the first matchday for 2014/15 taking place on September 16/17 and the second matchday being a fortnight later. One of those nights will see Anfield host a Champions League match for the first time since Fiorentina walked away with a 2-1 victory as Rafa Benitez's side completed their miserable exit from the competition in 2009.
Last LFC XI to play a Champions League game: Cavalieri, Darby, Skrtel, Agger, Insua, Benayoun, Mascherano, Gerrard, Aquilani, Dossena, Kuyt.— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) April 30, 2014
A lot has changed since that night at Liverpool. By a lot, you could say everything. New owners, new manager, new players, new mentality and a new direction for the club.
Of the squad that last lined up for Liverpool in the Champions League, only Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Lucas Leiva, Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly remain at the club today. A few of those may not be here by the time The Reds return next season, with doubts over the futures of Agger, Lucas, Johnson and Kelly.
The 2009/10 season was a dark time for Liverpool FC as political unrest between American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett consumed the club, its manager and its supporters.
Thankfully, those days are now gone and the transformation under FSG and Rodgers in the past two years has been quite incredible.
Rodgers has a net spend of £53.8 million since arriving at the club (using data from LFCHistory.Net) and yet he's managed to take them from eighth place when he arrived to a minimum of third place in his second season at Anfield. An incredible achievement.
Liverpool already have a very strong first XI, especially with the attacking talents of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling.
With the lure and riches that Champions League football brings, The Reds will be able to dine at Europe's top table in this summer's transfer window for the first time since 2009. Reinforcements should make Rodgers' squad far stronger.
A report in The Telegraph this week claims "Liverpool are expected to invest in up to five new players as the club prepare for Champions League football next season."
Rodgers' squad should be even better and some of the younger players will be a year further along in their development.
Watching this season's Champions League there aren't too many sides that Liverpool fans would fear their team playing against, especially over two legs.
Liverpool are expected to be named in pot three when the draw takes place in August, as per The Telegraph, which could bring about the worst-case scenario of Bayern and Juventus or Real Madrid and Paris St-Germain; or the best-case scenario of Benfica or Porto from pot one and the likes of FC Basel or Zenit St. Petersburg from pot two.
Liverpool would need to get an unlucky draw not to be considered one of the two favourites to progress from their group.
With the firepower available via 50-goal duo Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, you'd fancy Liverpool against the majority of sides in this season's Champions League.
Should Liverpool progress from their group, the 2-0 defeat to Chelsea last weekend could prove to be an important lesson for Rodgers and his side.
It is against the very best sides in Europe—Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid—where Liverpool may need to adapt their approach in order to get the result(s) they require.
Rafa Benitez's Liverpool were experts at getting results at tough stadiums, becoming the first English side to win at the Camp Nou in 2007.
Before that, during the club's historic run to the final in 2005, Benitez's side ground out results at Juventus and Chelsea. This is something that has been used in the debate since Jose Mourinho's side came away with three points this weekend. The difference being though that Benitez's side featured the likes of Djimi Traore and Igor Biscan, Mourinho's Chelsea squad has been built over years and is worth over £300 million.
Rodgers' side have been fearless throughout this campaign, taking the game to whoever they faced, blitzing sides with their fast-paced attacking style. It's not just been the smaller sides on receiving ends of big defeats.
If Liverpool can show that same fearless and attacking play in Europe next season, they have no reason to fear anybody.
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