Q&A with Sky Sports Pundit Bianca Westwood

Anfield Press had the privilege of interviewing Bianca Westwood who you may see a lot on featuring on Sky Sports as a pundit.

1. Firstly, overall how would sum up Liverpool’s season?

Liverpool have had a tremendous season. Let’s face it I think most fans would have taken a fourth place finish & a Champions League final place! The Premier League is probably the most competitive it has ever been so to finish ahead of the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal & take that all-important fourth spot is a real achievement in itself in the modern era. It was always going to be a tall order to compete with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in his second season but to beat them twice as well was a real shot in the arm for Liverpool & shows just how far they continue to develop under Jurgen Klopp.

Apart from a short indifferent spell through September and some of October where they only won 1 in 7 matches in all competitions the Reds have been pretty consistent throughout & suffered very few big disappointments. They’ve been an absolute joy to watch (apart from at the London Stadium I didn’t enjoy that too much) but going forward they have played the kind of football that every fan would love to see in their team, pace, dynamism, killer instinct…which was a surprise to some considering that so many in the game predicted Liverpool would suffer after the departure of Philippe Coutinho. How wrong they were!

2. Robertson has played a vital role this season for the Reds defence. Costing 8 million. How do you rate the fullback

I was pleased for Andrew Robertson when he got the move after being relegated with Hull City. He’d been one of the bright spots in that side (I even had him in my Fantasy team for a while but he got injured early that season & Hull were conceding goals for fun so I took him out!) & I could see he had real potential.

I thought there could be a danger that he could get lost or over-awed after making such a massive move to a huge club like Liverpool but under Jurgen’s guidance he seems to be flourishing. From what I can make out he wasn’t thrown in at the deep end but made several appearances here and there until he found his feet. He has energy, is a solid performer and can put quality balls into the box.

He clearly has ability but what has impressed me the most is he seems to have a good attitude & a good work ethic to go with it. At £8m he has proved to be an absolute steal!

3. Mohamed Salah, 35+ awards this season for the Egyptian. Do you think he has the chance of beating the likes of Ronaldo and Messi to the BallonDor award?

Mohamed Salah…it’s difficult to say something about this guy that hasn’t already been said. There aren’t enough superlatives in the world to describe how good he has been this season. I’ve loved watching him rip up the Premier League (again apart from at the London Stadium!) and what I love about him is he plays the game with a big smile on his face.

Easy to do I suppose when you’re scoring goals with consummate ease & smashing records & winning awards but still, he has an infectious enthusiasm & love for the game which really shines through. The question is can he keep it up? He’s certainly got the talent and the confidence. I’d say he has a great shot at competing with the likes of Ronaldo & Messi by winning the ballon d’or. I think he would need to show on the world stage against Real Madrid that he can really mix it with the big boys though.

If it was given to a player on the strength of goals alone then Salah would obviously be a big favourite as he is undoubtedly world class but there are other factors at play. What happens in Russia will also play a big part as well. If Messi or Ronaldo lift the World Cup then that would be a game-changer. As we know the ballon d’or selection is pretty political so to get himself in the running I think a Champions League winners medal is a must for Mo.

4. One of the Reds biggest game of the decade, into a Champions League Final against Real Madrid. Would you of predicted yourself for Liverpool to get this far?

I can’t imagine many fans truly believed they’d go as far as they have in the European competition and I have to admit I did not see that coming. When they came up against Manchester City, I thought it would be curtains for the Reds but again it’s testament to the steady progression Liverpool have made since Klopp took over.

After Liverpool won that league game 4-3 I think that showed the players that City were beatable and they got it absolutely spot on in the first leg at Anfield.

Klopp seemed to have the measure of Pep after that & following the 2nd leg I thought anything could happen so I wasn’t surprised when they breezed passed Porto. It got a bit hairy against Roma in the semi final for a moment & I think Phil Thompson had massive anxiety in the Soccer Special studio during the final moments of that game…but they managed to hold on…fortunately for Thommo’s nerves!

5. Liverpool are seen as the “underdogs” going into the game itself. Do you think Klopp can lead his team to glory

Anything can happen in a cup final. Liverpool proved that the last time they won it. Despite going into this as underdogs they’re probably the strongest underdogs around! As we know they have a devastating and relentless attacking force and the front three can score goals against anybody.

Defensively I’d say there are still a few issues. There has been massive improvement since the arrival of VVD but the Roma game proved Liverpool still have those weaknesses to be exploited. Having said that Real Madrid haven’t always been impenetrable this season. If Salah, Mane & Firmino are on song then they have the pace & creativity to expose their defence especially in the full backs areas.

Of course Real Madrid have the experience & know how to get the job done. That’s their big advantage…along with Ronaldo of course. They can ruthlessly turn games in a matter of moments even when they haven’t been at their imperious best. Liverpool will need to be on high alert at all times so it’s a difficult one to call. Liverpool have such a rich European history it really wouldn’t surprise me if they won it but if I had to choose a winner I’d probably say Real simply because…well they’re Real Madrid! Plus I’m still holding a tiny grudge from 2006 so I can’t be too nice ha!

I think what happens on Saturday night will have a real impact on how Liverpool do next season. Go into the new campaign as Champions League winners, with the confidence & swagger that comes with that.

Plus the club instantly becomes more attractive to quality players, the world class players you already possess are less inclined to look towards the continent. Jurgen Klopp hasn’t won a trophy since 2012 and his past five finals have all ended in defeat so this is a huge challenge…but if he writes himself into Liverpool’s history books by leading them to a sixth European cup…then I feel Liverpool would be capable of going to the next level domestically. I’m not sure how you stop City, Pep will also have learned some valuable lessons. Finish above them you win the Premier League.

Thanks to Bianca for taking her time to answer the question for the Anfield Press website.

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