Liverpool’s crunch clash with Salzburg isn’t the first time their Champions League group has gone down to the wire… but how have they fared each time they faced a crucial decider?
- Liverpool will likely need at least a point to reach Champions League last-16
- They could lose and still go through but would need other results to go their way
- Last year, Liverpool beat Napoli in the final group game and then won the trophy
Jordan Henderson has labelled Liverpool’s decisive Champions League clash with Red Bull Salzburg as their most important game of the season.
The holders of Europe’s biggest trophy have made harder work than most would have anticipated of their group.
A Napoli side engulfed by off-field turmoil, Salzburg and Genk should have been easy pickings for Jurgen Klopp’s men and if they had beaten Napoli two weeks ago at Anfield, the Reds boss could have rotated his squad for what would have been a dead rubber for the final group match in Austria.
Liverpool’s game with Red Bull Salzburg is their biggest this season, Jordan Henderson said
Last year, their Champions League group went down to the last game and they beat Napoli 1-0
Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the decisive goal for Liverpool at Anfield last December
Instead, they are in Austria knowing that a point is enough to advance to the last-16 and they could even lose and still advance. Napoli would have to lose too, at home against Genk, or they would have to score at least four and still lose by one – 5-4 would be good enough for Liverpool, for example.
If Liverpool win, they will advance as group winners which means they will avoid all the other group winners in the knock-out draw, such as Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Barcelona.
Liverpool do have history of leaving it late to qualify out of their group and fans might see a similarity in last season’s trophy-winning campaign in that then, it went down to the wire in another group that involved Napoli.
Liverpool defeated the Italian side 1-0 that day, thanks to a first-half strike from Mohamed Salah, and went all the way in the competition.
The year prior, Liverpool’s four-man attack of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Salah all scored in a 7-0 rout of Russian side Spartak Moscow in the final group match to seal a place in the last-16. That season, Liverpool ended up losing against Real Madrid in the final.
Philiuppe Coutinho led Liverpool a 7-0 win over Spartak Moscow back in 2017
Steven Gerrard scored a super goal on a famous Anfield Champions League night in 2004
Brendan Rodgers saw his Liverpool exit the 2014 Champions League in their last group game
LIVERPOOL’S LAST CL GROUP GAMES
2001: 2-0 v Dortmund THROUGH
2002: 3-3 v Basle OUT
2004: 3-1 v Olympiacos THROUGH
2007: 4-0 v Marseille THROUGH
2014: 1-1 v Basle OUT
2017: 7-0 v Spartak Moscow THROUGH
2018: 1-0 v Napoli THROUGH
But three years before that, a 1-1 draw with Basle in 2014 when Brendan Rodgers was at the helm was not enough for Liverpool to make it out their group and they were demoted into the Europa League.
Under Rafa Benitez, Liverpool needed a 4-0 win away to Marseille to reach the knock-out stages in 2007 and, of course, in 2004 when Steven Gerrard scored a stunning late goal for Liverpool to beat Olympiacos 3-1 at Anfield. They went on to win the tournament that season, as well.
Two years before that, Gerrard was part of a Liverpool team that were again dumped out of Europe by Basle.
Liverpool drew 3-3 with the Swiss side away from home that night and headed out of the competition. It was a far cry from the previous season, where Liverpool defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-0 at Anfield to make the knock-outs.
Fernando Torres led Liverpool to the knock-outs in 2007 as they defeated Marseille 4-0
In 2002, Liverpool and Gerrard crashed out after a 3-3 draw with Basle in Switzerland
A year prior in 2001, Liverpool defeated Borussia Dortmund at Anfield to reach the last-16
Salzburg will prove a tricky task – spearheaded by Erling Braut Haaland, one of the most in-demand players in Europe, they gave Liverpool a tricky game at Anfield in October before a Salah double led them to a 4-3 victory.
But it is a hurdle a full-strength Liverpool should overcome. They have only lost once this season in all competitions and that was against Napoli in the first group match.
If they navigate their way into the last-16, they will be as strong a bet as ever to advance into the latter stages of the tournament.