Following the conclusion of the turbulent, drama-packed 2022/23 Premier League season, the selection of English sides competing in European competitions has been confirmed. Unfortunately for Liverpool fans, their fifth-place finish has meant that, instead of playing in the Champions League, which they have qualified for in each of the previous six seasons, they will be competing in Europe’s second tier competition, the Europa League.
Whilst the Europa League, which had previously been named the UEFA Cup, remains a fiercely competitive tournament, one that has been largely dominated by Spanish sides (and Unai Emery) in recent years, it certainly feels like a downgrade for the six-time UCL winners. So, have the Reds ever won the Europa League? That is what we will be answering in this article, as well as taking a look at if the club ever won the UEFA Cup, before finally analysing Liverpool’s chances of winning the 2023/24 competition.
Have Liverpool Ever Won the Europa League?
Well, since the Europa League took on its current name, after the competition’s format was tweaked, Liverpool have qualified for it on five occasions, but have so far failed to win it. The club’s UEL campaigns have been nothing short of a mixed bag, ranging from reaching the final in 2015/16 to losing on penalties in the Round of 32 in 2014/15. Below, we have compiled a table detailing the club’s (rather disappointing) Europa League campaigns.
|Defeated 1-3 by Sevilla
|Round of 32
|Defeated 5-4 on penalties by Besiktas (1-1 on aggregate)
|Round of 32
|Defeated 3-3 on away goals by Zenit Saint Petersburg
|Round of 16
|Defeated 1-0 by Braga
|Defeated 2-2 on away goals by Atletico Madrid
As you can see, the Reds have a tendency to be defeated by sides you would generally expect them to beat, such as Zenit, Besiktas and Braga, and seem to love losing on away goals! This is a trend that the club will certainly be desperate to end in next year’s competition. So, we have concluded that Liverpool have never managed to lift the Europa League trophy, but have they won its predecessor, the UEFA Cup?
Have Liverpool Won the UEFA Cup?
Liverpool were actually much more successful when the competition was under its previous name, as the club managed to win the UEFA Cup on three occasions, which we will round up below.
Liverpool’s first UEFA Cup triumph came in 1972/73, which was actually just the second season of the competition, and it is clear from the first round’s results that UEFA were still perfecting the qualifying criteria! Whilst Liverpool faced Eintracht Frankfurt (always a tough opponent) in the opening round, fellow English side Spurs defeated Norwegian club Lyn 12-3 on aggregate, and Feyenoord even managed to demolish Luxembourg side Rumelange a whopping 21-0!
After defeating Frankfurt, the Reds were then able to progress to the semi finals after victories over AEK Athens, BFC Dynamo and Dresden, setting up an all-English tie against Tottenham. The first leg went Liverpool’s way, with the Merseyside giants winning 1-0 at Anfield, leaving them in pole position to reach a first ever UEFA Cup final. Although the north London side won the return leg 2-1, leaving the two clubs tied on aggregate, Liverpool were crowned victorious, thanks to their solitary away goal, and progressed to the final.
Their opponents: Borussia Monchengladbach. At this point, the final was played across two legs (the players must have been shattered!) and Liverpool were able to take control of the tie after winning the home leg 3-0, thanks to a Kevin Keegan brace, surely securing the trophy, bar a disaster. Well, although the club flirted with danger, as the German side managed to score two quickfire first half goals, Bill Shankly’s men stayed strong and held out for a 3-2 aggregate victory, securing the Reds’ first UEFA Cup.
The Merseyside giants’ second UEFA Cup triumph came just three years later, where they were able to defeat Belgian side Club Brugge in the final. There were a total of four English clubs competing in this year’s competition, with the Reds joined by Aston Villa, Ipswich Town and even local rivals, Everton, but only Liverpool and Ipswich made it past the first round.
Whilst Liverpool’s 3-2 aggregate victory over Hibernian in the opening round was tight, as the Scottish side won the first leg, the second round saw them demolish Real Sociedad 9-1, showing the attacking deadliness of Bill Shankly’s team. The club then continued their red-hot form, beating Polish outfit Slask Wroclaw 5-1 in the next round, before overcoming Dresden in the quarters to set up a very tricky semi-final against Barcelona.
However, Shankly’s side managed to engineer a 1-0 away win at the Camp Nou before drawing 1-1 in the second leg, sending them through to a second UEFA Cup final. The club maintained their excellent record in the competition, defeating Club Brugge 4-3 on aggregate, with Kevin Keegan once again starring with a goal in each game. At this point, the club had entered the competition twice, and won it both times! However, it was not until 2000/01 that the Reds were able to return to a UEFA Cup final.
Liverpool’s third UEFA Cup trophy, which they won in 2001, made them the first English club to have won the competition since 1984, largely due to the fact that English teams had been banned from competing in Europe between 1985 and 1990 following the Heysel disaster. This marked a hugely successful season for the Reds, as they also managed to lift both the FA Cup and League Cup under French manager, Gerard Houllier.
Victories over Rapid Bucuresti, Slovan Liberec and Olympiacos saw Liverpool progress rather smoothly to the fourth round, where they were to face Roma. The English club managed to win the first leg 2-0 in the Stadio Olimpico, courtesy of a clinical brace from a young Michael Owen, who happened to win the Ballon d’Or that year! After progressing with an aggregate of 2-1, the club were then able to defeat Porto 2-0 in the quarters, leaving just Barcelona in their way of a European final.
After securing a 0-0 draw in the away leg, the Reds then managed to defeat the Catalan giants 1-0 at home, setting up a final where they were to face another Spanish side, Deportivo Alaves. The showpiece was fiercely contested, ending 4-4 in normal time thanks to a late Alaves equaliser from Jordi Cruyff, son of the great Johan, meaning that the game went to golden goal extra time, A.K.A next goal wins! Although the game seemed destined to go to penalties, a 115th minute own goal by Alaves defender Geli gave the Reds their third, and so far final, UEFA Cup.
Are Liverpool Likely to Win the 2023/24 Europa League?
Although the Merseyside giants have never managed to win the Europa League, they will surely be firm favourites to do in 2024. Considering that they have become accustomed, under Jurgen Klopp, to competing for the Champions League trophy, it seems that they will have a great chance of winning Europe’s second-tier competition, although they might have to get past some top teams to do so.
The Europa League will include high-profile sides, such as Atalanta, Roma, Brighton, Leverkusen, Villareal and Sporting Lisbon, as well as whoever finishes third in their Champions League group.