The Road To St. Petersburg: Liverpool’s Champions League Hopes

Liverpool are in the mix once again as they prepare for the Champions League round-of-16 first leg tie against Inter Milan on Wednesday night.

There are no easy matches when the teams reach the knockout phase and Jurgen Klopp’s side will need to be at their best if they are to progress past Simone Inzaghi’s side and ultimately reach the final in St Petersburg on 28 May.

Serie A champions Inter Milan lay in wait for the Reds and whoever makes it through to the quarter-finals will have eliminated a strong set of opponents.

Dates for the Diary

First leg games start in the week commencing on the 14th of February. The first leg of this particular round-of-16 tie takes place in the Italian capital, Milan, on Wednesday, 16 February, with the return match scheduled for Anfield on 8 March.

Teams tend to prefer to be away in the first leg of any knockout tie – although the away goals rule is no longer a factor in this season’s competition. Nonetheless, the pressure remains on the home side to get a positive result in the first leg and Liverpool will be confident of progressing if they manage to thwart Milan’s best attempts

The neutrals are behind them, with Champions League betting markets showing the Reds as clear favourites to qualify.

It will be tough and, while Inter are a much-changed side since winning Serie A under Antonio Conte in 2021, the Italians will always play a defensive game and will undoubtedly be hard to break down.

Liverpool’s Decorated European History

Liverpool are aiming for a seventh top-level European title this season. Prior to the Champions League era, the club won the European Cup on no fewer than four occasions including a run of three titles in five seasons between 1976 and 1981.

The Champions League format took over in 1992 and The Reds claimed their first victory in 2005 after mounting a stunning comeback against AC Milan. 14 years later, a sixth title was secured when Spurs were outclassed in Madrid.

It’s the best record of any English side, while Inter Milan are also playing catch up. I Nerazzurri have won three trophies, the first of which came in 1963/64.

Future Challenges

With a perfect record of six wins from six, Liverpool breezed through the group stages of the Champions League and into the round-of-16. In contrast, Inter were shaky, winning three and losing two of their six games as they finished second in Group D.

Those results should give Reds fans some confidence but, if Klopp’s men do progress, there will be tougher challenges ahead. Among the teams still in the hat for 2022, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Chelsea, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are the biggest clubs still in contention.

Liverpool will want to avoid those sides but there are other, high-quality teams who will be hopeful of derailing one of the big clubs. Villarreal, Ajax and Benfica are all enjoying solid seasons in domestic football and it would be wrong for Reds fans to underestimate them.

The Ultimate Aim

There are clearly some big games standing in the way of Liverpool claiming a seventh European Cup. Real Madrid and the English sides could provide the biggest challenges, but Klopp’s unit are in good form and will be confident of going deeper into the competition.

The final of this season’s Champions League takes place at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg on May 28th. That’s the target for all of the remaining 16 teams - but who are the favourites to lift the trophy this season?

The Teams to Beat

The neutral verdict is supplied via Champions League markets and the bookmakers show Manchester City at the top of the outright winners’ section. Last year’s beaten finalists are putting together another strong run in the Premier League and are widely tipped to go one better in the Champions League.

Pep Guardiola’s side demonstrated their abilities once again on Tuesday night, with the Premier League leaders thrashing Sporting CP 5-0 in the first-leg in Portugal – all but confirming their place in the quarter-finals of the competition.

Next on the list are Bayern Munich, whilst Liverpool follow as third-favourites to win the Champions League in 2022. Other teams expected to make a challenge include Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid.

New bookmakers in the UK are offering generous promotions and bonuses for punters to use when placing a football bet, which is certainly worth checking out, particularly if you believe the Reds stand a chance of going all the way in St Petersburg.

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Showing Support

The football betting markets offer football followers a way to get behind their team. Of course, loyal support should be met with plenty of research into form and head-to-head results before committing to a stake. Loyalty alone isn’t a good reason to back your team if they don’t have the quality to convert.

Taking an early look at those markets can prove a wise move for those who are able to pick the winners. As the knockout rounds progress, there will be just two teams left and the odds that are in place right now will have become much shorter.

The question here is, are Liverpool a good option for the 2021/22 Champions League? We’d certainly argue they are – particularly if Man City make it clear they won’t slip up in the Premier League, with all hopes of a major trophy for Klopp’s side then pinned on the Champions League.

The Verdict

Much will depend on the draws moving forward. The seeding system can help the stronger teams at the start of the knockout phase, but the big clubs will meet each other as the tournament progresses.

If they edge past Inter Milan, Liverpool will hope for a favourable draw in the quarter-finals, but they will almost certainly face one of the favourites for the trophy in the semis.

Reds fans can certainly be positive about their team’s chances. Since breezing through the qualifying stage, the club strengthened the squad in the January transfer window with the signing of Luis Diaz from Porto.

With Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah back from the Africa Cup of Nations, Liverpool are at full strength once again and Klopp’s men look primed for a genuine challenge in this season’s Champions League.

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