Liverpool will be relishing the opportunity to play against the big teams of European football when the Champions League draw is made on Thursday afternoon in Monaco, France.
Merseyside has been missing Champions League football for almost five years, and it’s imminent return is most welcome.
To describe Champions League nights at Anfield as "magical" would be an understatement. There is an overwhelmingly stunning sensation made up by the magnificent atmosphere and emotion of the occasion when Europe’s elite come to play Liverpool under the floodlights.
It’s not just the football—the sport itself is very much secondary—it’s the occasion.
The Kop’s sea of red and white makes Anfield sparkle on European nights, while fans singing passionately at Europe’s finest stadia on their travels make Liverpool’s participation much more than just what happens on the pitch.
The club is embodied by a historical connection with “old big ears,” the European Cup itself, having won it five times.
Brendan Rodgers’ side will be draw in pot three when the draw is made, meaning Liverpool are guaranteed to play a giant of the game—one of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Atletico Madrid or Porto. Schalke could join those teams in pot one if Arsenal are eliminated by Besiktas in Wednesday night’s qualifier.
The cream of European football will be coming to Anfield, but there should be little fear for Liverpool—more a confident swagger going into the competition.
The Reds have already shown in the last year that they can beat the best teams in Europe with victories over Arsenal and Manchester City in the Premier League.
It’s a major landmark in Rodgers’ career as Reds’ manager too—a chance to prove his managerial credentials by leading Liverpool to a good run.
The narrative of Steven Gerrard’s career swings back to Champions League football, the competition he became such a hero of the club in earlier in his career, while the Reds’ mere involvement has attracted the £117 million of talent signed during this summer’s transfer window.
Liverpool will take inspiration from the valiant runs in the competition—winning the tournament in 2005 and reaching the final again two years later.
Last season was a wonderful time to be a match-going fan of Liverpool, and this season's big European nights promise to match the intensity of the atmosphere.
That atmosphere was better than anything I’ve known and I’ve been involved in some great nights recently. The games against Roma, Juventus and Olympiakos were unbelievable, but that was something else…there’s none better than our fans or Anfield on a European night.
Football is about much more than just the result of a match, or winning trophies. It's not even about entertaining or pleasing spectators.
It's about the fans being part of something special, uniting and singing together. In a sport increasingly sanitised, including the branding of this very competition, it is wonderful to know these thrilling experiences still exist.
So bring on your Real Madrid, your Barcelona and your Bayern Munich—the Kop is waiting.