Has Liverpool FC finally reached "the end of the storm?"
Fans certainly have a good reason to be optimistic. Since German football manager Jürgen Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers in 2015, there's been a remarkable change. The team is playing with energy, hunger, and passion that hasn't been seen in years.
No one expected Klopp to possibly return Liverpool to Champions League football until perhaps a couple of years from now, after he'd settled in and after he'd had a couple of transfer windows to shuffle around players.
Yet, under Jürgen, this Liverpool team will be able to boast two cup finals in a matter of months. This one marks the first time LFC will feature in a European Cup final in about nine years.This cup final is significant for a couple of reasons. First, of course, it represents a chance for Liverpool players to raise the club's first major trophy in a few years. Second, this win would put them back into the Champion's League.
This one tidbit alone will make the Europa League title far more competitive than it's ever been. The Europa League has long been treated as an unwanted consolation prize for "not ready for prime time" football clubs. With the change, the competition becomes a crucial backdoor into (or back into) the Champions League.
For Liverpool to be able to say it won a trophy and found its way into Champions League contention would be amazing. To have done so with a coach that hadn't been part of the Merseyside establishment for a full season would be nothing short of miraculous.Of course, it's important for Liverpool fans to remember that the possibility of these wonderful things isn't the same as a definite reality. To have the Europa League cup in hand, the Reds must first defeat defending champions, Sevilla. The Spanish La Liga team has already won the Europa League cup two years in a row. Sevilla's set for its third consecutive final; this team has an eye fixated on history as well.
The good news for Liverpool? Despite how tough many anticipate Sevilla will be as an opponent, the English team can rise to the occasion. Liverpool already knocked out Borussia Dortmund, the previous favorites to win the Europa League. In an odd twist, Klopp's old team would be knocked out by his new team in a truly memorable quarterfinal performance.Before that matchup, Liverpool sent their bitter Premier League rivals Manchester United packing. Stacking the odds purely in Sevilla's favor does the Spanish team no favors. This will likely be a hotly contested final.
For this reason, football fans were disgusted by the news that the UEFA chose to hold the Europa League final in Basel's St. Jakob-Park. The 35,000-seat arena could practically hold all over Liverpool's season ticket holders alone. But the Reds only have about 10,000 tickets exclusively available for their fans. It's the same with Sevilla, but with a sense that the defending champions likely won't be able to sell all of their allocated tickets. If that happens, Liverpool fans may be able to snag a few extra thousand seats. To say that tickets to the May 18 final will be highly coveted by Red fans is an understatement.
Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp didn't seem the slightest bit concerned when asked his opinion on the location. Said Klopp, "I have been to Basel one or two times, it is a wonderful stadium and a wonderful city." He added, "It is even worth going there without having a ticket for the game to be around the stadium and enjoy yourself and enjoy life as a Liverpool supporter."
Indeed, this is a very good time to be a Liverpool supporter after years of disappointment and uncertainty. For fans, it feels that the club finally has the right mix of owners, coach, and player talent. Not only that but a unifying passion and belief.
[Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images]