5 things Reds can look forward to after Liverpool return from the international break

5 things Reds can look forward to after Liverpool return from the international break

The international break is hardly one that gets the blood pumping, but Liverpool’s return to action is set to be full of twists, turns and heart-stopping moments as we near the season’s end.

It will have been 19 days from the last time the Reds kicked a football when they take to the field against Arsenal next Saturday, the longest break of the season for Jurgen Klopp’s men.

And it comes as the campaign enters its final corner, where the need to pick up from where they left off with the win at Wolves key with a top-four battle and a place in the Champions League semi-finals on the line.

Liverpool have it all to play for and while 2021 has been far from smooth sailing, calm waters are not far away.

Klopp and Co. have all spoken of their desire to change their fortunes and now that we are at the business end it is time to put words into action.

Here are five things we can all look forward to once international duty is behind us.

 

The Champions League

2CPD2PP Soccer Football - Champions League Final - Real Madrid v Liverpool - NSC Olympic Stadium, Kiev, Ukraine - May 26, 2018 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah injures his shoulder in a challenge with Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Liverpool fared as well as they possibly could in the draw, as should they qualify for the next stage they would not be forced to meet any one of Bayern Munich, PSG, Man City or Borussia Dortmund.

It’s not to say the passage to the final is ‘easy’ for the Reds, with the competition haven proven it’s anything but straightforward.

Some of the excitement is not there because simply put, it’s not the same without the fans. But the tie against Real Madrid certainly has excitement factor and its narratives.

From Mo Salah and Sergio Ramos to retribution for the final in Kyiv, the clash is not short of talking points.

But importantly, it’s an opportunity for the Reds to rediscover their European swagger, the one that poses the challenge to the feet of their opposition and ask them to ‘catch us if you can’.

With a route to Europe’s top table no longer clear via the topflight, it could certainly be a case of putting all the eggs in one basket and that should make for some heart-stopping yet entertaining moments ahead.

But No. 7 in Istanbul has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

 

Henderson’s return

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 20, 2021: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 238th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s been a strange old season for Henderson, with injuries long dictating his position in the side, or out of it.

There’s no question that the captain is a sorely missed figure when not on the field, with his leadership and unrelenting energy keeping the side ticking over.

And just when he was on the cusp of a midfield return, another injury-hit against Everton back in February – this time in the groin region which would require surgery.

Various comeback dates have been noted from anywhere from six weeks and beyond, late April seemingly the optimistic target after Gareth Southgate conceded he had doubts over his ability to feature at the Euros.

Henderson’s season has replicated Liverpool’s so far, stop-start.

But thankfully, a defensive pairing of Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak has allowed Fabinho to shift back into midfield and restore some much-needed balance, slightly easing the weight of Henderson’s absence.

While the skipper is set to miss at least five games at the start of April, a return for the semi-finals of the Champions League, should the Reds qualify, in addition to run-in will be welcomed with open arms.

 

A fierce, potentially favourable, top four battle

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 20, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp speaks to his players before the start of the second-half during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 238th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. Everton won 2-0, the club’s first win at Anfield since 1999. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Let’s be honest, it’s not been a pleasant battle to watch unfold since the turn of the year.

And while Klopp may have publicly conceded a top-four spot will be “almost impossible,” Liverpool’s fixtures are somewhat favourable if they can finally string together results.

There’s no shying away from the fact that 20 of the Reds’ 41 dropped points this season have come at the hands of those placed 14th and below.

But should Liverpool pick up from where they left off with their two successive wins over Leipzig and Wolves at Arsenal, then a favourable run of fixtures awaits – on paper at least.

Five of their final nine games come against teams in the bottom half of the table, with Newcastle (April 24), Southampton (May 8) and Crystal Palace (May 23) yet to land at Anfield, while trips to West Brom (May 11) and Burnley (May 15) also await.

That opens up the potential for a relegation fight back for some, but Liverpool must put their fighting words into action and secure a timely return to form.

Then you also have to consider other top four rivals facing each other. The Premier League is never without its twists and turns and the Reds must make sure they are in a position to capitalise.

 

Van Dijk edges closer

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 20, 2020: Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by Propaganda)

It’s unlikely we’ll see much of the Dutchman on the pitch by season’s end, if at all, but his continual steps toward a comeback will always be a welcome sight.

Netherlands manager Frank de Boer recently said he was eight weeks away from recovery, which would take him up to the final week of the Premier League season and seven months post-injury.

And any milestones between now and then will be eagerly anticipated, as they will for Joe Gomez.

Van Dijk has been a much-missed figure and the day he can don the red shirt again in a competitive fixture cannot come soon enough.

 

10,000 Reds at Anfield

2DFPWA1 Liverpool, UK. 06th Dec, 2020. Joel Matip of Liverpool (c) celebrates with teammates in front of the Liverpool fans after scoring his teams 3rd goal. Premier League match, Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England on Sunday 6th December 2020. this image may only be used for Editorial purposes. Editorial use only, license required for commercial use. No use in betting, games or a single club/league/player publications.pic by Chris Stading/Andrew Orchard sports photography/Alamy Live News Credit: Andrew Orchard sports photography/Alamy Live News

This one is also a little way off, but that plans are in motion for fans to take their rightful place back in the stands is a welcome feeling.

The UK’s plan out of lockdown is set to see the final matchday at Anfield, against Crystal Palace, welcome 10,000 Reds back into the stands.

Football has just not been the same and while Liverpool were one of the fortunate ones to have 2000 fans at three different games earlier in the season, this is to act as another important step back to normality.

It’s no secret how much Klopp’s men have missed the raucous and feral atmosphere Anfield can create, with the supporters as much of a conductor as the manager himself.

It will prove to be another emotive day and one which will be savoured irrespective of the state of Liverpool’s season finds itself in at that point.

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