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No away-goals rule means new era for Champions League

AP – Jürgen Klopp and the other 15 managers still in this season’s Champions League have one less thing to think about when preparing their teams for matches in the knockout stage.

This is the first season in 57 years that the away-goals rule – a way of deciding two-legged matches in European club competitions if necessary – will not be in use.

UEFA announced the scrapping of the rule last year, saying it had outlived its usefulness and was holding back home teams from attacking for fear of giving their opponents an advantage.

So, when the last 16 begins this week, teams – in theory – should play freer of inhibitions.
Not that Klopp will be changing his tactics too much as a result.

“Not a massive impact on the way we play,” Klopp said in a video call on Tuesday. “We don’t go there to get somehow through the game – we try to play our best game and to
win it.”

Not all managers are as attack-minded as Klopp, though. After all, he can rely on some of the most lethal forwards in world football – in the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota – to score goals wherever Liverpool plays, a luxury other coaches don’t have.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. PHOTO: AP

A 0-0 draw away from home in the first leg of a two-legged match was once regarded as a very positive result. Now, perhaps it won’t be as much.

“Actually, I liked the rule – I was a supporter of it before,” Klopp said. “Long in my life I have watched the Champions League and I liked that rule. I don’t know exactly why they scrapped it but it’s gone and it’s OK.”

As a result, fans can expect to see more penalty shootouts in this and future seasons, with the away-goals rule no longer hovering over tied aggregate scores. Perhaps fewer chaotic endings to second legs, too, like in Tottenham’s amazing comeback over Ajax in 2019.

Liverpool will certainly hope progress is smooth into the quarterfinals, though Klopp does regard Inter Milan – the defending Italian champions and currently second in their Serie A title defense – as the best team in Italy.

In between the two legs, Liverpool will have an English League Cup final to play against Chelsea at Wembley. Indeed, the Reds are still in contention for all four trophies this season, as they are through to the fifth round of the FA Cup and are second in the Premier League, nine points behind Manchester City with a game in hand.

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