Can Liverpool retain the Champions League?
European champions Liverpool begin their defence of the title next week. The holders open their 2019/20 Champions League campaign with a group stage opener against Napoli in Italy on Tuesday evening – but can they go all the way again?
A perusal of the various Champions League betting offers available suggests the bookmakers think they have every chance of doing so. You can get odds of 11/2 on the Reds lifting the famous trophy for a second successive season.
Those odds put Jurgen Klopp’s side as third-favourites behind Manchester City and Barcelona, but ahead of the likes of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.
It is Madrid’s recent three-in-a-row that has raised the prospect of Liverpool accomplishing what was once considered an impossible feat: winning back-to-back Champions League titles. Until Los Blancos won in 2016 and 2017, then against in 2018, nobody had retained the title since AC Milan lifted the old European cup in 1989 and 1990.
So, are Liverpool cut out to win the Champions League again?
Their early season form suggests there are few better teams in Europe at the moment. The Reds have stormed to the top of the Premier League table, lifted the UEFA Super Cup and are yet to taste defeat this season.
Other factors for their chances of retaining the trophy include the continuing presence of Virgil van Dijk at the heart of their defence and their impressive forward line.
And for fans of good omens, this season’s final is to be played in Istanbul: the location for Liverpool’s 2005 triumph and the recent Super Cup victory.
Liverpool were lucky with injuries last season. All of their key performers – those whose absence might have derailed their season – largely stayed fit. The likes of Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino missed the occasionally key game, but neither they nor Van Dijk, Sadio Mane or Alisson Becker were sidelined for any length of time. The early season injury to Alisson, an ever-present last season, was a reminder that things can go differently. Long-term injures to any of those players, especially Van Dijk, would be a major problem for Klopp.
The lack of new blood is another factor. While there are no signs of complacency so far, the Reds did not make any notable signings in the summer transfer window. While that didn’t stop Tottenham Hotspur reaching last season’s final, it is not normally a recipe for continuing success.
Another possibility is that, particularly if they are able to increase their points lead over City in the coming weeks, winning a first title of the Premier League era will be prioritised over another European title.
All in all, Liverpool are certainly contenders to retain their title. But the well precedented difficulty of doing so, the needs for the stars to align once again and the possibility of priorities being elsewhere means it is probably unlikely.