Dalglish: Liverpool’s bad season can still have a happy ending

Sir Kenny Dalglish says Liverpool need to channel the spirit of Istanbul if their “bad season” is to have a “happy ending”.

After their 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid on Tuesday, the Reds need to stage a remarkable comeback in the Champions League second leg tie at Anfield to keep alive dreams of winning another Turkish final.

The former Liverpool player and manager believes the Reds face a tougher task against Real than they did in overturning a three-goal deficit to beat Barcelona in the 2019 semi-finals, and not just because the match will be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.


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But, he hopes the pull of a return to the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul on May 29 – where they completed an incredible comeback victory over AC Milan to win the 2005 Champions League – can provide inspiration for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Dalglish, an ambassador for McDonald’s, said: “We’re 3-1 down in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, playing again on Wednesday against Real Madrid, the final is being played at the Ataturk Stadium which is the stadium where we beat AC Milan on penalties, so maybe romance is not yet dead and the bad season is going to have a happy ending.

“I think what will make it harder (than the Barcelona game) is that Real are a better team than Barcelona were. Barcelona won 3-0 at the Nou Camp and they missed a sitter late on with the last kick of the game.

“You thought at the time, ‘that’s given us a chance now’. Real Madrid have got a better team defensively even though they had to make changes (in the first leg) – (Sergio) Ramos never played and they had to bring a couple of guys in. They’re better than Barcelona were.”

Liverpool have a real fight on their hands to qualify for next season’s Champions League, with Roy Keane labelling them “bad champions”.

They sit 25 points behind leaders Manchester City, with Keane accusing them of “making a lot of excuses” for their failure to mount a strong title defence.

However, while Dalglish agrees there are no excuses, he says there are mitigating factors.

Asked why they had struggled so much, he added: “There are no excuses, but there are some reasons. For me, one of the biggest contributary factors was losing four players in the same position, because then that was the back four out of commission or certainly weaker than they were.

“When you look at Van Dijk, you’re looking at a colossus and you’re thinking, ‘how do I get past him?’

“It’s the same with (Joel) Matip beside him, Joe Gomez… they had to put the two stalwarts from midfield, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, back into the back four, so they are now 20 yards deeper than they would normally play.

“You couldn’t replace those two in the middle of the pitch. I think it was just unfortunate that that happened. Virgil has been a huge miss, but when you’re not winning games, anyone not playing is a huge miss.

“I think the players are as hungry as they were last year, they are trying to replicate what they did. They lost six in a row at Anfield which is unheard of. People might attribute it to no fans being in, and it is detrimental to Liverpool that they have not had the fan support because they have always been a huge part of the success at the football club.”

 


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