Liverpool have chance to become ‘immortal’ after Villarreal win
“It’s impossible… but now you’re thinking, can it happen?”
Liverpool moved to within eight games of “immortality” in the shape of an unprecedented quadruple after beating Villarreal 2-0 in the Champions League semi-final first leg.
The only negative for the Reds was that they should have won by more in a completely convincing performance.
Their goals came in quick succession through a Pervis Estupinan own goal and Sadio Mane.
The winners will face either Liverpool’s Premier League title rivals Manchester City or La Liga champions-elect Real Madrid in the final.
So can the Reds really win all four trophies, what did boss Jurgen Klopp make of the win and do Villarreal have a chance at home next week?
Is quadruple dream on?
Manchester United, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Celtic, Ajax and PSV have all won the treble of European Cup, league title and domestic cup.
But Liverpool – who have already won the Carabao Cup – are still in the running for an unprecedented quadruple.
“That’s got to be the aim,” said former England defender Rio Ferdinand on BT Sport.
“They are going to set themselves the target. If they achieve it, they’re immortal, they are above anyone that has played the game in this country.
“Whether they can achieve it remains to be seen. But they’re ticking boxes along the way at the moment.”
Liverpool, who face Chelsea in the FA Cup final, need Manchester City to slip up in the Premier League. The Reds trail City by one point with five games to go.
Ex-Reds defender Luis Enrique said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “They can win all four trophies. It is nearly impossible but they have that 1% chance.
“You have to look game by game and I really believe they can do it. I have never seen a Liverpool squad like this – the players look like they believe as well.”
Ex-England international Karen Carney added: “There was a period of 10 minutes in the second half where they just turned it on and that’s the sign of a fantastic team, they sense the moment and take it.
“That’s why they’re in the hunt for four trophies because they are experienced enough to know when to do it.”
BBC senior football reporter Ian Dennis said: “Liverpool have got eight games in 31 days and every single of them is a cup final. They stand on the verge of greatness.”
Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen, speaking on BT, said: “Imagine it [the quadruple]. It’s impossible… but now you’re thinking can it happen?”
‘A brilliant game’
Liverpool boss Klopp said: “It was a brilliant game. I liked the first half a lot. We didn’t score, that is the only problem.
“In the second half we finished the situations off in a superb way. Both goals were outstanding. We wanted to score a third but from that moment on it makes sense that we control the game and that is what we did.
“In football it is always the same. You show the respect to the opponent in the way that you defend them.”
‘The best Liverpool team I’ve ever seen’
Liverpool have scored 135 goals in all competitions this season. Their only defeat in 2022 was in the second leg of the Champions League last-16 tie with Inter Milan.
Ferdinand said: “This is the best Liverpool team I’ve ever seen. They’re relentless with and without the ball. It’s the way they press teams, the energy, effort, application, you marvel at it.”
Former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch, also on BT, said: “I was too young for the [great Liverpool] teams of the 70s. This is the best I’ve seen.
“Liverpool are kicking on again. They’re making subs very well. This is a Champions League semi-final and they’re making subs like they’re resting players.
“From where they were [a few years ago] to where they are now is chalk and cheese. It should be a blueprint for other clubs behind like Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United.”
The Reds won the English title in 2019-20 after a 30-year wait, having previously gone close in 2013-14.
Owen said: “We should give credit to [former Liverpool manager] Brendan Rodgers. I didn’t think I’d ever see a trio like Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez up front. Oh my word it was unbelievable and now a new set of attackers have taken it on again.
“It’s dreamland for Liverpool fans. The last 10 years have been a dream. It’s Liverpool’s turn in the cycle. It’s just how many they can collect while it’s their turn. Inevitably other teams will come back.”
Is the tie over?
“Villarreal have just got a pulse,” said Owen. “If Liverpool had nicked another one it would have been game, set, match.
“If Villarreal get an early goal in Spain you never know.”
Only twice have a team lost the first leg of a European Cup semi-final 2-0 and gone through – Hamburg against Real Madrid in 1979-80 and Roma against Dundee United in 1983-84.
The Reds have never gone out after winning a first leg 2-0 at home in Europe.
But they have conceded at least three goals in the away leg of each of their last three Champions League semi-finals.
Villarreal boss Unai Emery has said his team will play differently next week, having only had one shot – a joint record low for a Champions League semi-final.
He said: “It’s not a good result but we will try to dream and do something different in our home.
“The match next week will be very different than tonight. It is very important in our home to change something, maybe tactically. They are going to suffer more than tonight.”
Klopp said: “We didn’t go to Roma thinking we were through [after winning the first leg 5-2 in 2018].
“For me it’s the best example of 2-0 at half-time. You have to be alert and play the second like the first.
“It will be a tricky atmosphere for us. They will fight with all they have. It’s always the same.”