It’s almost safe to assume that Liverpool will be playing Champions League football next season, and it’s interesting to look at how they might adapt after such a long absence.
Whilst the last few seasons have seen English sides periodically progress to the latter stages of the competition, there has been a general decline in the Premier League’s collective performance on the continent - exemplified perfectly this season by Manchester City, Arsenal, and Manchester United all being destined to exit the tournament after the first knockout stage.
This year - and a previous seasons - eliminations have been at the hands of some extremely capable sides, but there’s a growing tendency for English teams to move away from traditional Premier League values when playing in Europe. Domestically, our sides all use a high temperament and impose their will on their opposition, but outside the UK there’s a tendency towards a less dynamic, more possession-based game to which a lot of our sides aren’t suited.
Manchester United are a good recent example of this; new manager or not, they would have never have been as passive against an English side as they were during the first-leg of their tie with Olympiakos. It was baffling - United had all the tools to dismantle a very generic Greek team, but chose to set a temperament which didn’t suit their strengths. They, for all intents and purposes, willingly leveled the playing field to their own disadvantage.
Liverpool will be an intriguing team next season. Obviously Brendan Rodgers’ side benefit enormously from their forward-pairing of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, but those players - as well as the side around them - are probably of greater individual value because of the system Rodgers has created around them. Liverpool are superb on the counter-attack and transition from defence to attack quicker than any other side in England, and those qualities can typically be very destructive in Europe.
It’s premature to say this and it is only theory of course, but this Liverpool team seem to posses the perfect blend of high-temperament and possession football to thrive abroad. Whereas other sides in the Premier League feel the need to make adjustments against elite European teams - often to their own detriment - Liverpool seem set to a continental rhythm by default: their style should transition seamlessly between the Premier and Champions Leagues.
Without any adjustments, this team should automatically feel very comfortable within the environment to which they’re headed.