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Why Liverpool can never be written off despite the odds in Europe – European talking points

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History teaches us never to write off Liverpool

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Sky Sports football writer Peter Smith makes the case for Liverpool pulling off an incredible Europa League turnaround at Atalanta – but Sam Tighe has the stats on just how unlikely it is!

“Awful result and performance,” wrote Jamie Carragher after Liverpool imploded in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie against Atalanta. “The only consolation is Jurgen should play a full second string and go all in for the league,” he added.

That was before they followed up last Thursday’s humbling by getting beat by Crystal Palace at the weekend. Now there’s a real dilemma. Manchester City are in the driving seat for the Premier League crown, but Liverpool and Arsenal remain in hot pursuit. Neither will abandon their hunt based on one loss, nor should they.

Can Liverpool be seen to down tools in Europe, then? In short, no. Three-nil is not an unassailable scoreline, besides, Liverpool and famous European comebacks have history. Let us journey back to 2019 – the Reds fought back from three goals down against Barcelona, and not just any Barca, the Lionel Messi brand of Barca. Then there’s 2005. Champions League final in Istanbul. If you know, you know.

Atalanta's Mario Pasalic celebrates scoring their third goal against Liverpool
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Italian side Atalanta put three goals past Liverpool at Anfield

Pride and momentum are at play too. Klopp said so himself after losing to Palace on Sunday – Liverpool lacked conviction based on a rocky run of results. No better way to bounce back from a rough patch than a morale-boosting fightback. Imagine the scenes.

There are no guarantees Liverpool can go to Bergamo and summon extraordinary powers of recovery, of course, because Atalanta won’t roll over easy. But they have to at least try.
Laura Hunter

Moyes the man to end Alonso’s remarkable run?

Bayer Leverkusen are now the champions of Germany and, 43 games into this most spectacular of seasons, remain unbeaten in all competitions. Given Liverpool’s surprise thumping at the hands of Atalanta, Xabi Alonso’s side are now favourites for the trophy.

A 2-0 win over West Ham in Leverkusen puts them in control of this tie and few supporters of the London side are particularly optimistic about the prospect of a turnaround. They were outplayed in Germany and followed that up with a home defeat to Fulham.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Fulham’s win against West Ham

Maybe Leverkusen overdoing the celebrations is the best bet? The first goal would certainly make things interesting and even if West Ham are unable to progress, a one-goal win could have consequences behind the prize of being the first to beat Leverkusen this season.

A Premier League team beating a Bundesliga team in the Europa League would impact the coefficient race given that only one will be able to claim the additional Champions League place. Even a win for West Ham on the night would be enough to earn points.

That could be important for West Ham because if the Premier League do take the extra place then, unless Coventry pull off an unlikely FA Cup win, eighth would be enough to qualify for the Europa Conference League. And West Ham have fond memories of that competition.
Adam Bate

Will Villa rise to occasion in biggest European tie for 26 years?

Ollie Watkins celebrates scoring for Aston Villa against Lille
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Ollie Watkins scored in Aston Villa’s first-leg win over Lille and at Arsenal on Sunday

The ease with which Aston Villa reached the Conference League quarter-finals has served to underplay the size of their achievement. It’s 26 years since they were in the last eight of a major European competition.

Back in 1998, they fell agonisingly short against Atletico Madrid, who progressed on away goals. Villa won the second leg at Villa Park thanks to two goals in three second-half minutes, but couldn’t add the third that would have secured a famous victory.

Unlike John Gregory’s side 26 years ago, Unai Emery’s outfit are in an advantageous position as they travel to Lille, having won the first leg 2-1.

Villa will arrive in France on a high after their stunning win at Arsenal on Sunday – but Lille were impressive in the first tie and are capable of bringing their Premier League opponents back down to earth.

Emery spoke of the need for consistency from his side after the victory at the Emirates. If they can replicate that performance in north London, a first major European semi-final since 1982 – the year they won the European Cup – will be within their grasp.
Joe Shread

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