The club had hoped for an easy draw, which, given the nonseeded teams in their grouping, was a long shot. Chances became even more slim on Thursday evening when Sligo Rovers, the only team besides Dundee that would have left Liverpool with a short travel day, fell to Spartak Trnava 3-1. So earlier this morning it was more hope than belief that Liverpool wouldn't have to make another lengthy trip just a few days after wrapping up their North American Tour, and when the draw was announced, it left Liverpool with the prospect of heading to either Belarus or Macedonia to face FC Gomel or FK Renova, respectively.
Right now it's looking far more likely that they'll take on Gomel, as the Belarusian side got two away goals last night in Macedonia, leaving them in prime position to advance after their next meeting in six days' time. Both squads have a healthy domestic pedigree; Gomel finished third in the Belarusian Premier League last season and won the Belarusian Super Cup, with their lone top-flight title coming in 2003, while Renova came in fourth in the Macedonian First League and won their league's Super Cup as well.
Both have a sparse European history, with Gomel coming in at the third qualifying round of the competition last season and playing in the first round of the Champions League back in 2004-2005. This is the second consecutive year for Renova as well, who bowed out to Glentoran last season on penalties after taking a 2-1 lead into the second leg.
We'll expect Liverpool to progress, of course, regardless of who they end up facing on August 2. The biggest challenge will be fitness and fatigue, with less than a week to recover from a preseason tour that will have been played mostly in warm-weather conditions, and a squad that to this point hasn't been up to full strength. I'm sure there'll be a few unecessarily nervy moments, but there's little doubt that Liverpool should outclass their opposition.
I mean, remember how good Joe Cole was against Rabotnicki?