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Champions League 'I wouldn't count them out' - 2005 hero on Liverpool's Champions League hopes after draw

Liverpool appear to have been handed as good as draw as they could have hoped for in the Champions League

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Jurgen Klopp (left) and Zinedine Zidane (right). (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Jurgen Klopp (left) and Zinedine Zidane (right). (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Jurgen Klopp (left) and Zinedine Zidane (right). (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Maybe Liverpool's luck has finally turned.

In a season when everything has been stacked against Jurgen Klopp's outgoing Premier League champions, the football gods were looking down on them with kind eyes as the final draw for the Champions League knock-out stages was made on Friday morning.

Not only did Liverpool avoid tournament favourites in Manchester City, in-form Paris Saint-Germain and defending champions in the quarter-final draw, they also managed to evade them all in the semi-final draw that followed.

A clash against a less than convincing Real Madrid side in the quarter-finals offers Klopp's side a chance to avenge their 2018 Champions League final defeat against the Spanish giants and that could be followed by a last four battle against Chelsea or FC Porto in the round that follows and while any opponent is a threat to fragile Liverpool right now, that path to the final suddenly seems negotiable.

And so a Champions League that will end in a city that is already a mystical place for Liverpool following their famous win against AC Milan in the 2005 final seems within touching distance once more for a side that has collapsed in alarmingly cataclysmic fashion over the last couple of months.

A six that is currently on a run of losing six home matches in succession for the first time in Liverpool's long and illustrious history hardly appear to be Champions League winners in the making, but the same was said about Rafa Benitez's side 16 years ago and they ended up being crowned as European champions on a famous night when they came from 3-0 down to beat AC Milan in an iconic final.

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Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard holds the  Champions League trophy with former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul, 2005. MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images

Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard holds the Champions League trophy with former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul, 2005. MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images

Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard holds the Champions League trophy with former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul, 2005. MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images

"We played poorly in the league that season, but we had that European run that gave us confidence," recalled 2005 hero John Arne Riise, in an exclusive interview with the Sunday World.

"Player for player, we were not as good as this Liverpool team, but we knew in one game we could beat anybody. That's how we managed to believe we could win the Champions League.

"This team is so much better than we were in 2005 and the squad is also bigger. One win can change a lot and one win could put them back on track again.

"How did we win that final in 2005? It's a mystery to us as well as everyone else! It shows what can happen in football. That's why we love it. You never know what's going to happen.

"Even at half-time when we are losing 3-0 and 99.9 per-cent of the players in the dressing room thought we were getting hammered, which we were, but one goal changes everything.

"As soon as we scored one goal, AC Milan got a little bit edgy, we get confidence back and it changed. That game proves what football can do and why we all love it so much.

"Can Liverpool repeat that this year? Why not. I don't think anyone in the competition would like to draw Liverpool. Everyone knows that on their day, they are still capable of beating anyone.

"I wouldn't count them out, but there are a few other teams that are stronger and more capable of winning the Champions League than Liverpool right now."

The power in the Champions League draw appears to be weighted in the other half, with Erling Haaland and his talented Borussia Dortmund side getting a crack at Manchester City.

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain will contest a repeat of last season's final, with the winners potentially facing a clash against Premier League champions-elect City in what is a perilous path to the final.

Chelsea will also be hugely encouraged by a draw that offers them a path to their first Champions League final since 2012, with Thomas Tuchel's side arguably the favourites to emerge from a section of the draw that also includes Real Madrid, Liverpool and Porto.

Yet a ray of hope has suddenly punctured Liverpool's dark tunnel and it might well be arrowing through their cloud from Istanbul.

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