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Liverpool Joins U19 Champions League, and Other Thursday Notes

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One year ago today, Christian Purslow sacked Rafa Benitez and the club began its nosedive into the abyss, descending from a stumbled-to seventh place finish towards Roy Hodgson, Joe Cole, Christian Poulsen, and Paul Koncheskey, while backroom battles brewed and potential suitors fell by the wayside. Relegation and receivership loomed, fans protested, and it started to become clear just what Benitez had been fighting against in his final season with the club. What a difference a year makes...


* With that tumultuous season now over, all sorts of places are doing their part to look back, reflect, and otherwise wrap up the loose-ends of ten-odd months of football. And one of the best efforts so far comes from LFC photographer David Rawcliffe, who sorted through the thousands of photos taken over the year and picked out some of his favourites—and more than a few that also help to tell the story of the past season. Fog and rain and celebration and tears, it's all there. From the squad celebrating the birth of Lucas' son to Maxi's hattrick, new owners, and Rafa's moving moment at the Hillsborough service.

* Elsewhere, Oh You Beauty is in the thick of infographic week—that's charts and graphs to the rest of us—with Nate using all sorts of colourful images to help review the season via visual aid. Today it's comparing wins and losses between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. Though Liverpool finished a spot higher in the standings this year, the club registered fewer points, and a handful of draws on the road turning into losses is the main reason for this as yellow squares on his charts turn red. There are also interesting team-by-team comparisons to be made, from a pair of losses to Chelsea rather surprisingly turning into a pair of wins, to a pair of wins against Everton last season being replaced with rather worse results this time around.

* Moving from the past to the present, there's a whole pile of u19 news to pass around today. First off, England played Switzerland in the second game of the round-robin stage today after a 1-0 victory over Montenegro on Tuesday. Once again Liverpool's Andre Wisdom captained the side, with Conor Coady and Jack Robinson starting. After coming on for Tom Ince in the second half on Tuesday, Michael Ngoo also started today while Ince spent the game on the bench. The change payed off for England, with Ngoo scoring a goal in a 3-2 victory over Switzerland that saw the Swiss pull level on 91 minutes only for England to pull back ahead on the 94th.

This sets up a winner-takes-all group match against Spain on Sunday, though with England's first two games being untelevised it remains to be seen whether anybody outside of the stadium will witness Sunday's match.

* Meanwhile, perhaps the biggest news of the day also involved Liverpool's kids, as the club officially announced its involvement in a u19 version of the Champions League. It's currently called the Nextgen Series, but try not to let the silly name throw you. Competition will start up this August, and though more teams may be added before things are finalised, as of right now it would involve four groups of four squaring off late in the summer, with the top two advancing to the knockout rounds the following January.

At present, Liverpool will compete alongside Barcelona, Inter Milan, Sporting Lisbon, Wolfsburg, Celtic, PSV, FC Basel, Fenerbahce, Rosenborg, Molde, and Marseille, plus English sides Tottenham, Manchester City, and Aston Villa.

And that just about does it for Thursday's news and notes as we sink further into the lulls of the offseason. A relatively busy weekend of Euro 2012 qualifiers and a couple of prestige friendlies starts up tomorrow, however, so we'll be back later with all the information you'll need on that front. In the meantime, thanks again, Christian Purslow...