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Liverpool's team of misfits against Real Madrid in 2014 demonstrates radical Klopp effect

Just five of the Liverpool side that played against Real Madrid three and a half years ago will feature on Saturday.

THE RESULT WAS never in doubt.

Liverpool traveled to one of Europe’s great cauldrons in the Santiago Bernabeu to limit the damage on 4 November 2014. Real Madrid had already crushed the Reds 3-0 in Anfield a fortnight earlier in the reverse group stage fixture.

Karim Benzema scored the only goal in a largely uneventful tie that saw Liverpool do what they intended, simply stop the bleeding and give themselves half a chance at qualification from their group, leaving them three points behind Basel with two games to go.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group B - Real Madrid v Liverpool - Santiago Bernabeu Liverpool's Joe Allen in action against James Rodriguez in the 2014 tie. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Brendan Rodgers’ side were simply not good enough to compete against the defending champions. He took a gamble and made seven changes to the side that started the previous game a few days before.

A fragile Simon Mignolet started in goal with Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure forming a centre half partnership, the latter having played just a handful of minutes of football all season.

On the left, a naive Alberto Moreno, the Spaniard beginning his career at Liverpool after arriving from Sevilla that summer. Javier Manquillo played on the right; the 21-year-old was on loan from Atletico Madrid and yet to make any impact of note.

The experienced Lucas Leiva was joined by a youthful Emre Can and fringe man Joe Allen in the middle in a strange midfield. Captain Steven Gerrard could only make the bench.

Up front, Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic were entrusted with supporting Fabio Borini. The front three finished that season with 10 goals between them in all competitions.

A team of misfits.

Three and a half years on, a Jurgen Klopp and Mo Salah inspired Liverpool have replaced that team and now face Real Madrid again, this time in a Champions League final on Saturday.

Just five of those who were among the 18-man squad for the 2014 meeting can potentially feature this weekend. Simon Mignolet, Emre Can, Adam Lallana, Alberto Moreno and Jordan Henderson are the only survivors.

Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Gini Wijnaldum are just a few of the successful signings Klopp has made while the German has moulded players like Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino into key men for the club.

Klopp took over 11 months later and in two and a half years since, he’s turned a sorry group of players into roaring world beaters ready to defy the odds once more on Saturday.

What Klopp has done at Anfield is bring belief, pride and the conviction to back it up. Rodgers had the belief and pride until the summer of 2014 when a double sucker-punch of losing a Premier League title race and the loss of talisman Luis Suarez weeks later hit the club hard.

When he needed the conviction most, he couldn’t bring a broken team back together.  Instead, those pieces just turned to dust month after month as a host of signings failed to make an impact. They crashed out of the Champions League and they failed to qualify for the competition later in the season.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Liverpool v Newcastle United - Anfield

The poor form persisted and in the first week of October in 2015, Rodgers was sacked. Klopp took over just four days later and instantly brought the pride back into the Liverpool shirt.

An excellent League Cup run ended in heartbreak as Manchester City triumphed on penalties but Klopp was able to pick up his players and guide them to a Europa League final including a dominant Manchester United victory and an inspired comeback to beat Borussia Dortmund.

Liverpool lost the subsequent final at the hands of Sevilla but this is where Klopp brought his conviction.

He instead signed a contract extension that will see him stay at the club until 2022, committing to the project. The investment came and Klopp ensured that his team would not suffer the same fate of 2014.

Imago 20180502 The German manager has developed an affectionate bond with the fans and players since his appointment in 2015. Source: Imago/PA Images

Liverpool qualified for the Champions League in May 2017 and this season managed to hold onto Philippe Coutinho until January before he departed for Barcelona and again Klopp faced a challenge that could have derailed his season.

Instead of panic buying in January, Klopp demonstrated the faith he had in his attacking players in one simple way; he didn’t replace Coutinho.

His side have just gotten better and better since Coutinho’s departure. Klopp’s actions since he took over has instilled this confidence and self assurance in his players, unlike anything we’ve seen from Liverpool in a long time. Perhaps not since a certain night in Istanbul.

Imago 20180424 Mohamed Salah has been a key figure for Liverpool, he has been in exceptional form all season. Source: Imago/PA Images

Liverpool now face a Real Madrid team hungry for a third Champions League in a row. Given Liverpool’s potent attack and energetic midfield, it’s not exactly a David versus Goliath match-up either.

If you told a Liverpool fan in the Bernabeu on that cold November night that just three seasons later his side would be in a final, terrorising defences and very much in with a shout of taking home a sixth Champions League, it would be greeted with disbelieving laughter.

Yet, here we are.

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