With the Champions League recommencing with the first matches of the round of 16, there is plenty of value in the overall Champion market with so many teams left in the competition.
English teams dominate the round of 16 with 5 still alive. Manchester City is positioned as a strong favourite at $3.75 although we believe there is strong case to be made for the Champions League trophy returning to Anfield for the first time since 2004/05 under Rafa Benitez.
We take a look at 4 reasons why Liverpool can win the Champions League Trophy in 2018.
1. World Class Attack
Despite losing Phillipe Coutinho in early January to Barcelona, the Reds maintain a world class attack in Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. Whilst the Brazilian attacking midfielder explained that he left Liverpool to ‘win big titles’ he is ‘cup locked’ this year for hte Blaugrana because he has already played in the Champions League for a different club.
You get the sense that Coutinho made his move away from Anfield simply when it was available as he had been linked to moves in Spain before that never developed beyond speculation.
With Salah in impeccable form both in the Premier League and Europe, Liverpool progressed undefeated to the knockout stage on top of group E. Whilst they had a semi-favourable draw, avoiding any big name clubs they still showed their attacking power with two 7-0 wins against Spartak Moscow and Maribor and scored at will through the later stages of the group round.
2. Virgil Van Dijk
There were legitimate concerns around the Liverpool defence earlier in the season, particularly in Europe when they gave up 3 goals to draw 3-3 with Sevilla away from home. After going up 3-0 early in the game, the Reds were unable to close out the game. ESPN described their failure to close out game as ‘rooted in fitness issues’.
The transfer of Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton recently was a clear statement from Liverpool that they feel they are only a few minor pieces away from being a serious Championship contender, whether that be in the Premier League or in Europe.
Klopp has been careful with the Dutchman and stressed that it was ‘completely normal’ to bench the defender in their recent win over Huddersfield Town. Whilst Van Dijk has made some small (albeit costly) errors since joining the Reds he will get better over time and that may coincide with some huge matches for Liverpool this season.
3. Proven record against the top teams in the EPL
Other than a 4-1 loss to fellow Champions League contender Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the Premier League season, Liverpool have been able to match up very favourably against all of the other major English UCL Contenders (and top teams).
They have drawn with Manchester United early in the new season 0-0, drawn with Arsenal (3-3), drawn with Chelsea 1-1, defeated current EPL & UCL favourite Manchester City (4-3) and drew with Tottenham recently 2-2. The main issue that Punters will notice is that they have been unable to keep a clean sheet against any of these top teams and in most cases they have conceded more than once.
4. Guidance under Jurgen Klopp
The German coach has the Reds playing what has been described as a ‘heavy metal style of play’. It is extremely aggressive, attacking football and that is reflected in the score lines against the best teams in the Premier League, why the Reds are fantastic to watch and in general Klopp is loved by fans. They promote an attractive brand of football and they have built a team that is superior to their opposition in playing that style.
The thing that we like most about the Reds being an outsider to win the Champions League is that they have a very distinctive, high tempo style that has the ‘shock factor’ necessary to claim some big scalps.
Their high pressing defence is certainly a bigger risk than sitting back, but they aren’t going to win playing conservatively. Klopp has Liverpool playing distinctive football and it might be enough to crown them the Champions of Europe in 2018.