Sixteen goals in their last three Group matches have definitely sent a strong message around Europe.
The Reds may have only finished second in Group A, but they have shown that they are a team capable of producing the result they need when they are up for it.
Rafael Benitez is a master when it comes to European two-legged fixtures. His record says it all. Including his time at Valencia, he has only lost one two-legged fixture in Europe over the last four seasons and that was to Benfica in the Champions League two seasons ago.
Over that same period he won an UEFA Cup, a Champions League title, and emerged as runner-up once. This record is perhaps only second to AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti in recent times.
What Benitez excels in are tactics and motivation. He has proven he can adopt the appropriate tactics to achieve results, even if it means playing boring football.
Over the years, his Liverpool side has overcome technically stronger opponents, including Juventus, Barcelona, and Chelsea. While other managers may just ask the team to go out and get a result, Benitez focuses on the opponents’ strengths and weaknesses and work the team to counter the threats accordingly.
This is perhaps why Benitez has seen more success in Europe than in England. While it is possible to work meticulously on cracking European opponents, it may not be effective to analyse every Premier League team on a weekly basis. It is evident when Liverpool loses to ‘lesser’ teams over the years—the Readings, the Evertons, the Fulhams.
In any case, a third Champions League Final in four years is still a possibility. Liverpool fans have been taken to Istanbul and Athens, so I am sure none of them will complain if they have to make the trip to Moscow this time around.
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