Jürgen Klopp and the other 15 managers still in this season’s Champions League have one less thing to think about when preparing their teams for matches in the knockout stage.
This is the first season in 57 years that the away-goals rule — a way of deciding two-legged matches in European club competitions if necessary — will not be in use.
UEFA announced the scrapping of the rule last year, saying it had outlived its usefulness and was holding back home teams from attacking for fear of giving their opponents an advantage.
So, when the last 16 begins this week, teams — in theory — should play freer of inhibitions.
Not that Klopp, who is taking Liverpool into a first-leg match at Inter Milan on Wednesday, will be changing his tactics too much as a result.
“Not a massive impact on the way we play,” Klopp said in a video call on Tuesday. “We don’t go there to get somehow through the game — we try to play our best game and to win it.”
Not all managers are as attack-minded as Klopp, though. After all, he can rely on some of the most lethal forwards in world football — in the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota — to score goals wherever Liverpool plays, a luxury other coaches don’t have.
A 0-0 draw away from home in the first leg of a two-legged match was once regarded as a very positive result. Now, perhaps it won’t be as much.
“Actually, I liked the rule — I was a supporter of it before,” Klopp said. “Long in my life I have watched the Champions League and I liked that rule. I don’t know exactly why they scrapped it but it’s gone and it’s OK.”
As a result, fans can expect to see more penalty shootouts in this and future seasons, with the away-goals rule no longer hovering over tied aggregate scores. Perhaps fewer chaotic endings to second legs, too, like in Tottenham’s amazing comeback over Ajax in 2019.
Liverpool will certainly hope progress is smooth into the quarterfinals, though Klopp does regard Inter — the defending Italian champions and currently second in their Serie A title defense — as the best team in Italy.
In between the two legs, Liverpool will have an English League Cup final to play against Chelsea at Wembley. Indeed, the Reds are still in contention for all four trophies this season, as they are through to the fifth round of the FA Cup and are second in the Premier League, nine points behind Manchester City with a game in hand.
For Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool’s attacking right back, one trophy a season is a minimum the team should be winning.
The England international said Liverpool, a six-time European champion, is equipped to win any trophy going, and made a sly reference to City’s failure to claim a Champions League title despite Pep Guardiola’s team being among the big favorites each year.
“We don’t feel disappointed that we haven’t won enough trophies,” Alexander-Arnold said of Liverpool claiming four pieces of silverware since Klopp arrived in 2015, including the Champions League in 2019 and the Premier League in 2020. “Because we feel the trophies we have won are the biggest and the best you can get your hands on.
“Not making digs, but you look at Man City’s amazing team — they haven’t been able to win the Champions League. They’ve won a couple of Prems (Premier Leagues) but they haven’t been able to win the Champions League. We’ve won both over the last few years. It just shows we have been able to do it in both competitions.”
Alexander-Arnold said there was more of an “expectation” on Liverpool.
“With the squad we’ve got, the team, the manager, we should be winning trophies,” he said. “We expect that from ourselves and if we don’t, then it’s a massive disappointment.
“We aren’t in that phase anymore where we are happy to get to finals and it’s a little bit of a surprise and it’s a day out. There is expectation there now to be doing that every season.”
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