Liverpool’s one remaining chance to salvage any kind of success from this season rests in the Europa League. The Reds have reached the semi-finals as they seek their first bit of silverware since 2006.
They face Spanish side Atletico Madrid, who, like Liverpool, have vastly underperformed this season and will be desperate to win the trophy to appease their fans.
The two sides met in the Champions League last season, with both games finishing 1-1, and Atletico were highly unlucky not to win at Anfield after being denied by a controversial late penalty.
But after their strong display against Benfica in the quarter-finals, Liverpool will be confident of progression to the final.
However, despite Atletico arguably being the toughest opponents the Reds could have faced at this stage, should they make the final, whoever they face will be very awkward opposition.
It will be either Fulham or Hamburg, who play each other in the other semi-final.
Fulham have been the surprise package of this season’s competition, dispatching reigning champions Shakhtar Donetsk, Italian heavyweights Juventus, and the winners of last season’s Bundesliga, Wolfsburg.
Hamburg have also been impressive en route to the semis, seeing off the likes of Villarreal and PSV Eindhoven, and will be relishing the chance of playing in a final in their home stadium, as it takes place in the Nordbank Arena on May 12.
Home advantage would obviously be a huge boost to the German side, and Liverpool have lost their last two away games in the Europa League.
On the other hand, a final against Fulham is likely to be just as edgy. Most neutrals would be behind Fulham, as they would be the underdogs, and the weight of expectation on Liverpool could be a hindrance. They have also failed to beat Fulham in either of the sides’ league encounters this season.
Atletico Madrid will be a very tough test for Liverpool. Should they defeat the Spanish side, having recovered well from first leg defeats against Lille and Benfica, Liverpool would believe the trophy was their’s for the taking.
But despite Hamburg and Fulham arguably being weaker sides than those the Reds have already faced, both could be, for differing reasons, their toughest test by far.
Written By Sean Mullan