When Liverpool last played in the Europa League

The first time Unai Emery ever pitted his wits against Jurgen Klopp, he led Sevilla to the Europa League title at Liverpool’s expense.

Seven years later, the same wily Spaniard all but confirmed that Klopp’s Reds would be back in the second-tier continental competition for the first time since that hollow night in Basel.

Roberto Firmino’s romantic equaliser on his last appearance at Anfield earned Liverpool a point against Emery’s Aston Villa last weekend. However, if the Reds are to leapfrog Manchester United into fourth place, they need the Red Devils to lose both of their home matches with Chelsea and Fulham.

While it’s not impossible, Klopp has conceded the inevitability of the situation, pledging to make the Europa League “our competition”. Here’s how Liverpool fared when they were last knocked back to Thursday nights in the 2015/16 season.

Liverpool won fewer games (two) in the Europa League group stages of 2015/16 than Partizan Belgrade (three) who didn’t even qualify for the knockout round. Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers after successive 1-1 draws against Bordeaux and Sion before overseeing the same scoreline at home to Rubin Kazan.

Jordon Ibe, still operating under the guise of a promising youngster before blossoming into a 27-year-old that was released from Turkish second-tier side Adanaspor last summer, scored the only goal in a narrow win over Kazan. Liverpool eked out a 2-1 victory over Bordeaux before yet another draw with Sion, finishing the initial phase with the fewest points (ten) of any group winner.

One James Milner penalty across 180 minutes against Augsburg teed up a mouthwatering quarter-final against arch-rivals Manchester United. In one of the most rampant displays of Klopp’s debut season on Merseyside, Liverpool pummelled United in the first leg at Anfield with a performance not reflected by the 2-0 scoreline. A 1-1 draw at Old Trafford set up an even more emotive tie for the German manager.

Just 11 months after a gut-wrenching goodbye, Klopp was back at Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park sitting in the opposite dugout. Dortmund director Hans-Joachim Watzke urged the players to get into “competitive mode, out of hugging mode”.

After the 1-1 draw in Germany Klopp certainly wasn’t in the mood for pleasantries. “Anfield will burn,” he promised. Ahead of a truly bonkers second leg, BVB team manager Fritz Lunschermann greeted Klopp in the tunnel but was rebuked with: “Listen you arse. I don’t want to see a good game, I want to win.” In the end, he got both.

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Dortmund were 2-0 up within the opening ten minutes, wiping out Liverpool’s away goal advantage. Divock Origi reduced the deficit shortly after the interval but Marco Reus had the visitors 3-1 ahead with half an hour to play.

Klopp had told his players to “create something that we could tell our grandchildren about one day” at half-time. Philippe Coutinho cemented his spot in the story with a crisp strike after 66 minutes before Mamadou Sakho equalised on the night. Heading into the stoppage time, Mats Hummels admitted that the Dortmund players “started s**ting ourselves” before Dejan Lovren completed the fairytale with a 91st-minute winner.

Liverpool overturned a 1-0 loss to Villarreal in the first leg of the semi-final with a 3-0 win at Anfield in less dramatic circumstances.

Emery had led Sevilla to consecutive Europa League titles heading into the 2016 final and completed a unique hat-trick by inspiring his side to a second-half comeback against the Reds in Basel. Daniel Sturridge bent a stunning opener into the far corner with the outside of his left boot but Kevin Gameiro’s equaliser seconds after the restart crushed Liverpool’s mental fortitude. As Klopp’s assistant Peter Krawietz summarised: “They were like: ‘hurray’. We were like: ‘aargh’.”

It may have ended in weary heartache, but if Liverpool’s Europa League campaign next season is anything like the white-knuckle ride of 2015/16, it will certainly be worth a watch.





Group stage

Bordeaux 1-1 Liverpool


Group stage

Liverpool 1-1 Sion


Group stage

Liverpool 1-1 Rubin Kazan


Group stage

Rubin Kazan 1-1 Liverpool


Group stage

Liverpool 2-1 Bordeaux


Group stage

Sion 0-0 Liverpool


Round of 32

Augsburg 0-0 Liverpool


Round of 32

Liverpool 1-0 Augsburg


Round of 16

Liverpool 2-0 Man Utd


Round of 16

Man Utd 1-1 Liverpool



Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Liverpool



Liverpool 4-3 Borussia Dortmund



Villarreal 1-0 Liverpool



Liverpool 3-0 Villarreal



Liverpool 1-3 Sevilla


On this week’s edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders is joined by Toby Cudworth and Graeme Bailey to discuss all the latest transfer news. On the agenda: Tottenham’s pursuit of Feyenoord manager Arne Slot, Bayern Munich’s interest in Declan Rice, Joshua Kimmich, Neymar & more!

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