After an incredible FA Cup, English League Cup and UEFA Cup treble last season, Liverpool FC are in dreamland as they head for their quarter-final meeting with Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League. With manager Gérard Houllier back after serious heart problems, Liverpool will feel that, after a stressful qualification campaign which saw them come through the qualifying round, a famous FA Premiership and Champions League double is within their reach.
As one of the most famous clubs in Europe with an extraordinary record of achievement in the European Champion Clubs' Cup, tradition is certainly on Liverpool's side. Additionally, with a squad that mixes some of the finest English players with some exceptional European talent, they are a team with immense potential. Their first-choice striking partnership of the powerhouse Emile Heskey and lightning-fast Michael Owen can be superb in full flight, while in the combative Steven Gerrard they have one of the finest young midfield talents in Europe. However, for all that attacking guile Liverpool are the lowest scoring side in the quarter-finals and it is the defensive pairing of Stéphane Henchoz and Sami Hyppiä that has proved their greatest asset. With their 'none shall pass' attitude and Polish international goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek's superb form, on their day they are an extremely difficult side to beat. They remain unbeaten away from home in Europe in the last four years and share the meanest defensive record in the competition with FC Bayern München.
Without Owen - a frequent absentee with a hamstring problem - Liverpool can seem a little toothless at times. With much of their attacking edge dependent upon making good use of the England striker's extraordinary pace and balance, Liverpool's attacking threat has been reduced more than once by allowing defenders to drop deep and deny the striker room to run in to. More than anything else, this has left Liverpool as a side with a strong suit in 0-0 and 1-1 draws - seven so far in the Champions League this season. While they have only lost one game in their European campaign so far, they only scraped through to the last eight.
First group stage:
Having reached the first group stage of the competition with a 9-1 aggregate win against Finnish side FC Haka in the third qualifying round, Liverpool took a while to get going in Group B but ended as clear group winners. Successive draws against BV Borussia Dortmund and Boavista FC were quickly cancelled out by back-to-back wins against FC Dynamo Kyiv. A second draw with Boavista followed by a 2-0 win against Dortmund at Anfield earned them top spot.
Second group stage:
A 2-0 win at home against AS Roma on Matchday Twelve saw Liverpool just squeeze past the Serie A side into the runners-up spot in Group B. The two teams finished level on points but, having drawn 0-0 in Rome, Liverpool's head-to-head results were superior. Liverpool lived on their nerves after losing 3-1 to FC Barcelona in their first group game and drawing their next four, but the Roma game at Anfield saw them produce perhaps their best performance of the competition.
UEFA Champions League statistics (not including qualifying round):
Played: 12 Won: 4 Drawn: 7 Lost: 1 Goals scored: 11 Goals against: 7
Top goalscorers: Heskey, Owen, Murphy (2 each)
Last five results:
30 March FA Premiership Charlton Athletic FC (h) 2-0
24 March FA Premiership Chelsea FC (h) 1-0
19 March UEFA Champions League AS Roma (h) 2-0
16 March FA Premiership Middlesbrough FC (a) 2-1
13 March UEFA Champions League FC Barcelona (a) 0-0
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