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Liverpool have met their toughest opponent – but can still win Champions League


Following their loss to Fulham, Liverpool were ranked 92nd out of 92 teams in the top four English leagues on home form.

They are eighth in the Premier League table and eight points adrift of the Champions League spots with just 10 games remaining. Their league form is embarrassing for a club of their stature.

Yet surprisingly, in the Champions League, Liverpool have been excellent. Two disciplined displays against an RB Leipzig team that lie second in the Bundesliga saw the Reds progress to the quarter-finals with a 4-0 aggregate win.

Leipzig are undoubtedly a higher-quality team than Southampton, Burnley, Brighton and Fulham, all of whom have beaten Liverpool since the turn of the year. So how do you square Liverpool’s excellent displays in the Champions League with their dire league form?

As a former athlete, I recognise this issue. Liverpool have a mental block in the league.



Liverpool are suffering from a mental block in the Premier League
Liverpool are suffering from a mental block in the Premier League

Six losses from seven matches have dealt them psychological blow after psychological blow. Defeats by city rivals, title contenders, top-four competitors and relegation candidates will all have taken their toll for different reasons.

I know how coaches and managers motivate. After a loss they look to the future and try to hit reset. They give you a reason why you lost.

They build up the next game even more than the one before and try to rebuild your shattered confidence. If you win your next game, it can be the spark that ignites a decent run of form. But if you lose it, having been built up in the preparation, you fall even further.

If this process repeats, a run of losses can have devastating effects. You no longer believe in the reset button and losses become embedded in your club’s culture. Sport is as much about mental fortitude as it is physical strength and athletes are much more emotionally frail than people realise.



Liverpool have still be on good form in the Champions League
Liverpool have still be on good form in the Champions League

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As crazy as it might sound, the Champions League will feel completely different for Liverpool. All the scar tissue they associate with the league isn’t there.

As athletes we compartmentalise competitions and move on. It is why, for example, Great Britain hockey were able to finish last in the pre-Olympics Champions Trophy on home soil in 2016, only to go on and win gold at the Olympics a few months later.

Jurgen Klopp and his men return to league action at Wolves and, while there is reason for optimism following their midweek Champions League win, it guarantees nothing against a dangerous Wolves side.

If Liverpool’s league form continues to worsen, the team will find strength in that adversity and that strength is seemingly being channelled into the Champions League.

That is why I wouldn’t be surprised if Liverpool went on to lose in the league again at Wolves on Monday, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they go on to lift the Champions League, for a seventh time, in Istanbul at the end of May.





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