Champions League winner Luis Garcia reckons that Liverpool’s current team is better than the one he was part of in that glorious season. Because there is an hour until Swansea vs Newcastle United, we examined that claim. Here’s our combined XI…
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet vs Jerzy Dudek
The weakest battle of the lot. Mignolet has improved since his troubles at the start of last season, but Dudek turned up when it really mattered. Mignolet is forced to play behind a weaker defence too, but the Pole is just getting this one.
Selection: Dudek, by a whisker.
Right-back: Steve Finnan vs Nathaniel Clyne
Fair bloody play to Steve Finnan for being the easiest member of the 2004/05 first-choice team to forget, and yet playing 52 matches over the course of that season. Only John Arne Riise and Jamie Carragher made more. Came into this expecting to pick Clyne, but have gone and changed my mind now.
Selection: Finnan was a no-frills defender, but he makes it here.
Left-back: John Arne Riise vs Andrew Robertson
Riise was actually picked higher up the pitch in Istanbul, but comes in as left-back in their first-choice team because of reasons that begin with ‘D’ and end in ‘jimi Traore’. Whether you put Robertson, James Milner or Alberto Moreno up against Riise, the Norwegian wins easily.
Selection: Riise, battering the ball very hard like an Alexandar Kolarov who could defend.
Centre-back: Jamie Carragher vs Joel Matip
Matip might be the best of the current bad lot, but there would be scenes if he made the grade here over Carragher. Doing this feature makes you realise how much Liverpool should have bought a defender this summer, doesn’t it?
Selection: We don’t want to make Jamie angry. In comes Carra.
Centre-back: Sami Hyypia vs Dejan Lovren
I might offer my arguments for a number of these selections, but not here. If you think Lovren is better than Hyypia you are either a member of Lovren’s close family or have a weirdly specific xenophobia towards Finland. What did the Moomins do to you in that sauna?
Selection: Hyyp, Hyyp, hooray.
Central midfielder: Xabi Alonso vs Jordan Henderson
Look at the two names. Don’t make me explain this. Just don’t.
Selection: It’s Alonso against Henderson, for goodness sake.
Central midfielder: Dietmar Hamann vs Georginio Wijnaldum
Right, now here is where the formation gets a bit tricky. Rafa Benitez chose to leave Hamann on the bench in Istanbul but he was clearly a wonderful central midfielder and came on to drag Liverpool to victory. I have opted for Wijnaldum here but it could quite easily have been Adam Lallana or Emre Can. I think Hamann still wins either way, doesn’t he?
Selection: A possible controversy here, but Hamann is in.
Advanced central midfielder: Steven Gerrard vs Philippe Coutinho
Now Gerrard played a slightly more reserved role during the first half in Istanbul, but was released following the introduction of Hamann and did play further up the pitch that season. Gerrard was hardly the same type of player as Coutinho, but the Brazilian will be asked to play far deeper this season to accommodate the pace of the front three.
Selection: Possibly a slightly forced comparison, but Gerrard certainly wins it.
Left forward: Harry Kewell vs Sadio Mane
Kewell started the final as a roaming No. 10 who drifted left. He missed plenty of the 2004/05 season through injury, which makes it hard to conclude that he was first choice, but in truth it doesn’t matter who plays here. Mane wins.
Selection: All we hear is Sadio Mane…
Right forward: Luis Garcia vs Mohamed Salah
Luis Garcia says that this squad is better than the 2005 version, so he can have no complaint at being pushed out of an entirely hypothetical team by Mohamed Salah. Garcia was great, but Salah works better with these forwards.
Selection: Salah wins. But it’s close…
Centre forward: Milan Baros vs Roberto Firmino
Ah, lovely Milan. You had no particular standout skill, and yet you somehow were the top league goalscorer in this team despite only scoring twice in 14 Champions League games. Sorry champ, but Bobby F wins.
Selection: Firmino? For me yes.
We make it 8-3 to the class of 2005. You could probably make it 7-4 or even 6-5 by changing the team’s shape or opting for Mignolet or Clyne, but that’s just faff. Basically, 2005 defence and 2017 attack is the sexy stuff.