This story has been reproduced from today's media. It does not necessarily represent the position of Liverpool Football Club.
For any club with European pedigree, a return to the Champions League after a few years of absence brings an understandable thrill. For Liverpool, five times winners who have spent the past five seasons either knocking around in the Europa League or out of continental competition altogether, watching this year's final will simply whet the appetite.
There is an interesting trend that links three clubs returning to the Champions League next season after a break. Liverpool, Roma and Monaco all qualified by making eye-catching inroads in their domestic competitions while they were free of any European distractions. None of them played any overseas football at all this past season. This left them to concentrate more intensely on their gameplan, on progressing a way of playing, on invigorating their style. They benefited from the luxury of being able to train creatively and with continuity. It is a pattern of which some top coaches would be enviable, even though competing in the best competition plus a serene training schedule is a sum that unfortunately won't add up.
Obviously no manager of a Champions League club would ever get away with expressing any wistfulness observing the work of teams who are not dining out in Europe but all top developmental coaches would welcome more practice time. The squeeze on the timetable that becomes cluttered by the extra preparation, travel and recovery that European football demands, leaves much less time for the most rewarding work.
It does not feel like a coincidence that two of the teams whose style took off last season were Liverpool in the Premier League and Roma in Serie A. The Anfield attack ignited by Brendan Rodgers, which made sparks fly when Luis Suárez, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and company set off into enemy territory, has the potential to scare any opposing defence (but let's not get so far ahead of ourselves to ponder any potential knockout matches against José Mourinho's Chelsea just yet).
Roma's revival was even more unexpected. Last summer the club sold off their two top scorers, Pablo Osvaldo and Erik Lamela, as well as their highly rated defensive shield Marquinhos, and they recruited a new head coach whose name meant little in calcio. Rumour has it that the midfielder Daniele di Rossi had to Google Rudi Garcia's name and was somewhat bewildered to see videos of his new boss playing the guitar. The Frenchman Garcia has inspired a new style, the players signed up for it wholeheartedly, and Roma chased valiantly for a scudetto that Juventus won powerfully in the end.
At the start of the season Garcia, rather like Rodgers, targeted a return to European football as a primary aspiration. The Frenchman hoped for the Champions League but would have taken the Europa League as a symbol of progress. Roma have outstripped expectations, winning not only points but a lot of friends for their bravura. Miralem Pjanic, the Bosnian playmaker, had a fine season, Gervinho rediscovered his mojo, and Francesco Totti continues to delight at the age of 37.
Monaco's last appearance in the Champions League came almost a decade ago, the season after they reached the final only to be outmanoeuvred by Mourinho's Porto. The club have been on an upward curve in that they qualified to rejoin Europe's finest straight after being promoted to Ligue 1. However, in terms of their style, it was not the most dazzling campaign. Claudio Ranieri knew that this was a situation comparable to his last at Chelsea, when it was obvious he was keeping the seat warm and preparing the team as best he could for someone else to waltz in and take the project on.
Despite having two coveted Colombians in Radamel Falcao (for half a season until his injury) and James Rodríguez, and the Portuguese João Moutinho, there is something unbalanced about the current Monaco collective. They are not as free-flowing as was expected. With Ranieri fired, the owner, Dmitry Rybolovlev, expects greater things from the next incumbent.
Naturally the wealthiest are the ones who seem to carry an extra expectation from within that they should make a Champions League impression. Manchester City, who reached the first knock out phase, and Paris Saint-Germain, who slipped out at the quarter-finals, are both under pressure to make more of an impact next season. Juventus, too, are obliged to fly the Italian flag with more fortitude. Last time round they fell at the group stage, with Galatasaray advancing in their place.
Among the less fancied clubs who need a play-off to make sure of their participation, André Villas-Boas will be hoping to make a positive impression with Zenit St Petersburg. Athletic Bilbao have the chance to return to the Champions League stage for the first time in 16 years, which would be a remarkable achievement for a club with a regionalist policy. Indeed, although their coach, Ernesto Valverde, was born outside the Basque country, he qualified to turn out for the team during his playing career as he moved there as an infant.
Arsenal, too, will be preparing for another play-off, to ensure their 18th successive shot at Europe's grandest prize - Arsène Wenger knows all there is to know about the complications of trying to juggle domestic and Champions League hopes.