What next for Liverpool after Champions League humbling?

After Liverpool’s shocking 5-2 defeat to Real Madrid at Anfield, their Champions League hopes hang on a thread. A four-goal deficit will be needed to overturn the damage the 14-time European champions inflicted on them, and with Carlo Ancelotti’s experience and the intimidating atmosphere of the Santiago Bernabéu, things look bleak. When checking any sports betting website, Madrid are clear favourites. The two sides met as equals last May in Paris but Los Blancos were too hot to handle on Merseyside and despite going two goals down inside 20 minutes, they displayed the composure and relentlessness that has earned them so many compliments in recent years.

The game only served to expose the underlying issues in the Liverpool squad. Thiago’s absence in the middle of the park and the lack of quality defensively made the game far too routine for an experienced Madrid squad. It looks to be back to the drawing board for a stunned Jurgen Klopp, who is still not giving up faith just yet. 

“I think Carlo thinks the tie is over”, he said. “And I think it as well in the moment, but in three weeks… it’s how it is in these moments, the closer you get to the game the bigger our chances become and the less likely it is the tie is over.

“Tonight, with the 5-2 and you see the game, they are pretty good in counter-attacking and we have to score three goals there and take some risk, so that could be a bit tricky. It is really not even in my mind. We go there, I can say it now already, and try to win the game. If that is possible or not, I don’t know now but that’s what we will try and from there we will see.”

Liverpool’s capitulation served to undo all the good work they had put in during the build up to that game. They had passed big tests in the Merseyside Derby, especially when you consider Everton’s new manager bounce under Sean Dyche, as well as a comfortable win away at Newcastle United, beating a side in the League Cup final with the best defence in England 2-0. It’s more frustration for the fans who had expected owners Fenway Sports Group to sell the club, another move that has backfired.

Liverpool appear to be going around in circles. Investment is needed. You look at the squad and it’s threadbare, with five of the starting 11 still in the squad that went to Kyiv to lose the 2018 final to Madrid. It leaves you wondering about the Reds pulling power if they are to go without European football for a season. 

While there’s still time to close the gap on the Premier League top four, we could well have witnessed the last Champions League night at Anfield for a while, and with the club linked to Jude Bellingham — also one of Ancelotti’s top targets come the summer — the Borussia Dortmund midfielder must have an easy decision to make, similar to when Paddy Power news tipped Aurélien Tchouaméni for a move. The Frenchman was absent at Anfield but another who opted for Madrid over Merseyside when Klopp tried to sign him. 

The remaining weeks of the season are crucial for Liverpool. With nothing else to play for but the league it’s a stark contrast to the quadruple pursuit at the tail-end of last season. As we approach the business end of the campaign it will be interesting to see if Liverpool can regain their consistency, or if Klopp’s seventh-season curse indeed proves to be real.