This weekend’s UEFA Champions League final sees Liverpool take on reigning champions Real Madrid, with the Reds hoping to get their hands on the trophy for the first time in 13 years.
Saturday’s clash of the titans in Kiev holds huge significance for the Premier League, as Liverpool’s re-emergence as a force in Europe this campaign has breathed new life into English football.
Victory for Jurgen Klopp’s side could prove to be the catalyst for the birth of a new golden generation of Premier League clubs on the continental spectrum, and an opportunity to derail the Spanish dominance which has taken a firm grip of UEFA competition since 2009, when Barcelona brushed aside Manchester United.
Prior to that famous finale, English football was at the forefront of UEFA Champions League dominance, consistently enjoying success in the latter stages for over a decade.
From Manchester United’s triumph in 1999, right up to the end of 2009, at least one English team qualified for the last eight of the UEFA Champions League. Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea all appeared in the final, and also in the semi-final stages at least twice.
2005-2009 saw a true golden era, with an English side appearing in the final every year for five straight. Manchester United triumphed in 2008, while Liverpool lifted the crown in Istanbul in 2005.
Guardiola’s Barca triumph in 2009 spelled the birth of a new era for the following decade – as his team would conquer Europe on a regular basis, with English sides falling short of the mark.
There was no English representative in the 2010 final, while in 2011 Barca again made light work of Manchester United at Wembley – before Chelsea stopped the demise of English sides in unlikely fashion in 2012, courtesy of stunning victories away to both Barcelona and Bayern Munich to lift their first title.
However, since then no English side has appeared in the UEFA Champions League final.
In fact, there were only two semi-final appearances in the last six years, Chelsea in 2014 and Manchester City in 2016, both losing out to Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid respectively.
Since Chelsea’s triumph in 2012, four of the last five editions have seen a Spanish side crowned the champion – the only exception being Bayern Munich in 2013.
Liverpool have the opportunity to stop Real Madrid making it three titles in a row – but in terms of the future, a victory would mean a lot more. It would also revitalise the Premier League sides and place them as a leading force in Europe once again.
The dynamic of English football is now a changing one largely due to the influence of two foreign managers whose sides have achieved an abundance of success this campaign; Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.
City manager Pep, idolised as the father of modern football, won the Premier League title with 100 points, amassing record figures for goals, victories, goal difference, goals scored and winning margins among others.
With an average age of around 26, one must imagine that a maiden Champions League triumph is next on the agenda for the blue side of Manchester.
Liverpool have lit up the UEFA Champions League under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp this campaign, scoring in astronomical figures, and hitting seven twice in the group stages.
Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have been a revelation up front, whilst the calming presence of James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has provided a steady axis in midfield. The addition of Virgil Van Dijk in defence has breathed new life into their potential challenge.
Liverpool do not only stand ninety minutes away from the cusp of glory, but also find themselves knocking upon the door of change. They could be the ones to end the prolonged spell of Spanish dominance and propel the Premier League back to the heights of old.
It won’t be easy – but if any club is capable of toppling a giant on the day it matters, it is Liverpool. History proves that, as do their exploits on the European stage this season.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are standing on the edge of something special – not just for themselves, but an entire footballing generation in England.
Should Liverpool achieve what was once deemed impossible, its significance may kickstart a new era of English footballing dominance in Europe.
Jordan Norris, Pundit Arena.
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