Liverpool are European champions and 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League but Joe Gomez insists his side are underdogs against Atletico Madrid
It turns out the team careering away with the Premier League and threatening to conquer Europe once more have a form of self-doubt.
Strange though that might sound, it is there in the dressing room. All those records that have been broken over a remarkable 13 months have not created a culture of contentment.
With the title all but sewn up thanks to a 1-0 victory at Norwich, courtesy of Sadio Mane’s goal, the focus turns to the Champions League and the quest to see if this squad can replicate the achievements of Bob Paisley’s team from the late 1970s and retain their European crown.
Joe Gomez insists that Liverpool will be underdogs in their clash against Atletico Madrid
Liverpool have been masterly in Europe since regaining their place in the competition in 2017, reaching the last two finals, but on Tuesday they will return to the scene of ‘one of our most special nights’ — the words of Jurgen Klopp — believing they still have it all to prove.
Joe Gomez was the man to articulate the argument, providing an insight into the mentality that is driving this group towards a place with the club’s immortals.
‘It’s just about establishing yourself,’ said Gomez, whose outstanding form will be appreciated as much by Gareth Southgate as it is by Klopp.
‘You aren’t proven winners until you show you can do it again and again. We went (to Madrid) last season and beat Spurs in one game. Now it is about maintaining that reputation in the Champions League.
‘People might say, “Oh yeah, they’re performing well”, but as a team we have still got an underdog mentality.
Gomez was eager to point out that Jurgen Klopp’s team still have an underdog mentality
‘We’ve won the Champions League, but everyone is eager to win it again. The focus within the camp is just one game at a time. It comes right from the gaffer through the spine of the team — the skipper (Jordan Henderson) and Milly (James Milner).’
There is something about Liverpool right now that demands comparison with Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan team of 1989-90, who suffocated teams with their pressing and intensity and had wondrous talent all over the pitch.
You will recall the names of that collective with ease — Marco van Basten, Franco Baresi, Ruud Gullit, Paolo Maldini, Frank Rijkaard, Carlo Ancelotti — and they put themselves into the highest echelons of history by retaining the European Cup. Liverpool are not in that realm yet but that is the objective.
Gomez says the Wanda Metropolitano is ‘just a venue’ despite Liverpool’s success there
‘Look, it’s just a venue,’ Gomez replied, when asked what memories would be stirred in Madrid. ‘It’s a pitch with four white lines and two goals. You could say the same about Anfield. We have had loads of good games there, too. You can’t correlate last June to playing Atletico.
‘It doesn’t need saying to anyone in the team. That’s what is making this such a pleasant journey. We just keep going forward.’
They are going forward because, like AC Milan were, they are so good at the back. Liverpool have conceded one Premier League goal in 990 minutes since Gomez and Virgil van Dijk resumed their partnership.
Relentless winning may have robbed the season of drama but there should be immunity to what Liverpool are doing. The self-doubt and feelings of being underdogs is carrying them to greatness. With such an attitude, they are odds-on to obtain it.