Are Liverpool learning to cope with the pressure?
By Joe Harker
After a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their Champions League match against Bayern Munich, Liverpool would have been forgiven for wondering whether they'd let a prime opportunity to progress to the next round of the competition slip.
Having failed to win the home leg, Jurgen Klopp's men will have been pleased to beat the Bundesliga champions 3-1 and guarantee progression to the quarter finals. All four goals came from Liverpool players, with a brace from Sadio Mane and one from Virgil Van Dijk ensuring victory despite an own goal from Joel Matip.
It's a win that comes at a time when Liverpool have been facing accusations of feeling the pressure, having drawn four of their last seven games in the Premier League. At one time top of the table, Klopp's team are a point off Manchester City now and appear uncomfortable with the suggestion that they have been struggling.
Simon Hughes of The Independent writes that beating Bayern so comprehensively confirms that Liverpool are one of the favourites for the Champions League.
Liverpool not only won, they won well. For the most part they had Bayern's attacking talents well marshalled and Mane's own forward play bamboozled goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, once regarded as the best in the world but appearing to struggle in recent months after returning from injury.
The Liverpool of this season are a different animal to the one that reached the final last year and that is no bad thing. Klopp is known for his "heavy metal football" but Liverpool are solid defensively and slightly less adventurous than they were.
They might not rack up so many goals during the wins but they won't be so easy to defeat either. With a little bit of balance Liverpool have become a little less dangerous but far more resilient. In a knockout competition that is incredibly important.
The Counter Claim:
However, experienced Premier League manager Sam Allardyce, currently unemployed, thinks Liverpool and their manager look "rattled".
Klopp has been somewhat irritable in recent weeks, giving out excuses and terse comments where the magnanimity of victory once allowed him to be cheerful.
Allardyce thinks the Liverpool manager has made a mistake by displaying a sign of weakness and it will cost the team in the final stages of the season, giving opponents an avenue to exploit.
Liverpool will also be wondering whether their victory against Bayern was a true slaying of one of Europe's elite clubs.
The German champions have had a sickly season by their standards and appear to be declining, only top of the Bundesliga because of a recent collapse from Borussia Dortmund. Liverpool will hope the 3-1 win was confirmation of their progress rather than blowing away a paper tiger.
Four English clubs, Liverpool, Man City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, have progressed to the quarter finals of the competition. This is the first time in 10 seasons that half the quarter final spots have been occupied by English teams.
Liverpool may be hoping to go one better than they did last season and win the Champions League. They reached the final last season but were defeated by Real Madrid.
The quarter final draw takes place today and the Liverpool Echo reports that Klopp would probably prefer his side drew Porto or Spurs. However, they would also fancy their chances against Ajax or rivals Man United. Ties against Barcelona or Juventus would appear to be best avoided until later on.