Liverpool returns to the scene of its most dramatic European triumph when it faces Chelsea in Istanbul for the Super Cup on Wednesday, the first major men’s European final to be refereed by a woman.
For any Liverpool fan, Istanbul brings back memories of the thrilling comeback from 3-0 down to win the Champions League final against AC Milan in 2005. The Super Cup is little more than a ceremonial opener for the new European season, but a win could give Champions League winner Liverpool and already struggling Europa League winner Chelsea some valuable early-season momentum.
For Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool, it’s a chance to continue a strong start to the season after their 4-1 thrashing of Norwich on the opening day of the Premier League on Friday. Chelsea must bounce back from a 4-0 loss to Manchester United, but new manager Frank Lampard must contend with what he called another “small injury” to midfielder N’Golo Kanté.
Liverpool is unbeaten against English teams in Europe over six games stretching back to 2009, when it lost a Champions League quarterfinal to Chelsea.
BREAKING NEW GROUND
Fresh off refereeing the Women’s World Cup final, France’s Stéphanie Frappart will be in the spotlight when she controls Wednesday’s game.
Frappart is no stranger to men’s games after making her debut in the French league in April. She was calm under pressure when the United States beat the Netherlands in July’s Women’s World Cup final, using the video assistant referee system to award the penalty for the U.S. to take the lead.
“Stéphanie has proved over a number of years that she is one of the best female referees, not just in Europe but across the world,” UEFA refereeing chief Roberto Rosetti said this month. “She has the ability to officiate on the biggest stage.”
Frappart is not quite the first woman to referee European men’s games — Swiss referee Nicole Petignat handled three UEFA Cup qualifiers over a decade ago. Frappart is by far the most high profile.
Lampard’s verdict: “One more step in the right direction, I’d say.”
One game into the season is a bit early for an injury crisis.
However, after first-choice goalkeeper Alisson hurt his calf on Friday, Klopp was left with new signing Adrian as his only fit ‘keeper.
“He’s experienced enough to go out there,” defender Virgil van Dijk said of Adrian. “We know how good he is. We defend as a side. We need him and he needs us. He’ll do the job.”
Two other backup options have injuries too, forcing Liverpool into the emergency signing of 35-year-old former Middlesbrough goalkeeper Andy Lonergan.
Lonergan spent time with Liverpool in pre-season and will be on the bench behind Adrian for the Super Cup despite never having played in the Premier League or any European competition before.
He’s on a short-term contract and is likely to leave Liverpool once Alisson’s calf injury clears up — expected in the next few weeks, Klopp says — Or when 20-year-old Irish reserve Caoimhin Kelleher regains fitness.
In attack, Sadio Mane could make his first start this season after coming on as a substitute against Norwich.
The Super Cup is a chance for Turkey to re-establish its reputation as a host for major sports events despite persistent security problems in recent years.
The Vodafone Park where Wednesday’s game will be played was the site of a deadly car bombing in 2016 which targeted police and was blamed on Kurdish separatists.
Turkish media reports, citing the Istanbul governor’s office, say Liverpool and Chelsea fans will be encouraged to gather in two separate neighborhoods. Roads leading to the stadium will be closed to traffic. Police squads from Turkey’s emergency, special operations, anti-terror, nautical and aerial departments will be on duty.
This will be one last reminder of just how dominant English clubs were in Europe last season, with the Premier League providing all four finalists in the Champions League and Europa League.
Liverpool was the last English winner of the Super Cup 14 years ago against CSKA Moscow and there has never before been an all-English game. Chelsea won against Real Madrid in 1998 but lost to Atletico Madrid in 2012 and Bayern Munich a year later.
Spanish clubs won the last five Super Cups, four of which were all-Spanish affairs.
AP writer Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed to this report.
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