No Great Escape for Liverpool
Liverpool hopes of one more great Champions League escape were dashed on Tuesday night, as Fiorentina sealed their place alongside Olympique Lyon with a 1-0 win over the French side, leaving the English team’s 1-0 success against Debrecen irrelevant.
Liverpool, of course, only have themselves to blame for leaving their fate in the hands of a team that had already secured their own qualification.
There will doubtless be a lot more criticism of Rafa Benitez, his transfer dealings and the perceived failures of man management, but the analysis of exactly why Liverpool failed to progress can wait for another post.
For now, consider one question: Might this result actually work in Liverpool’s long-term favour?
The club could certainly have done with the revenue from a run to the semi-finals or beyond but, with the best will in the world, did this season’s team ever really look capable of making it as far as Madrid?
With a squad that (everyone has said) is inferior to last year’s, maybe it will prove in their interests that they no longer have to juggle Champions League and Premier League campaigns. They can now have a leisurely tilt at the Europa League — if they make it to the final it will be an enjoyable run, if they don’t … well, who really cares? — and concentrate on doing something about that dreadful domestic form.
The priority, as always, must be to secure qualification for the group stage of next year’s Champions League. That 19th league title looks as elusive as ever but a top-four finish may have just become a more realistic possibility.
PHOTO: Liverpool’s coach Rafael Benitez looks on as Steven Gerrard walks off during the Champions League soccer match against Debrecen at the Puskas stadium in Budapest November 24, 2009. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh