With the Europa League draw for the round of 32 coming up today at 1PM GMT, it's time to take a look at who Liverpool could end up facing in the knockout stages of Europe's second cup competition. In the simplest terms possible, the group winners along with the four Champions League teams with the best group records are seeded and can be matched up with any unseeded side other than ones that shared the same group in the earlier round or are in the same domestic federation.
That means Anzhi Makhachkala is off the table, as are Tottenham and Newcastle after both English sides advanced to the knockout rounds after finishing second in their groups. Chelsea too isn't a possibility, though they wouldn't be eligible to meet Liverpool in the round of 32 even if they weren't from the Premier League as they're one of the ranked sides dropping down from the Champions League.
However, for the round of 16 all restrictions are off—and the round of 16 drawing immediately follows the round of 32 draw tomorrow, with the winners of the matches in the round of 32 paired off with no consideration for country or group play. That means there's a chance for a potential Liverpool-Chelsea Europa League pairing to be set for the round of 16 if UEFA's bouncing balls spit out that the winner of Match 3 will face the winner of Match 10 and those just happen to be the games involving the two English clubs.
As for which clubs Liverpool can be paired with in the round of 32, we just happen to have a handy interactive widget to help you work through all the possibilities for Liverpool as well as every other side in the draw. Click on a club to lock it in and see its opponents, then click again anywhere on the widget to unlock the table.
Looking at the possibilities, any rundown of interesting potential match-ups for Liverpool has to lead off with Borussia Monchengladbach, a side that will always be remembered by Liverpool fans for their role in the club's European history—Liverpool beat the German side in 1973 to capture the UEFA Cup, their first ever European trophy, and then beat them again in 1977 to capture their first European Cup. In the process a friendly European rivalry developed, one that in recent years has seen groups of supporters from each club make yearly trips to cheer for their former opponents.
Elsewhere, there are plenty of other intriguing possibilities—and not a lot of easy draws. There's Leverkusen, currently second in the Bundesliga and with Sami Hyypia in charge. Atletico Madrid seems another standout, second in La Liga with Falcao and Arda Turan leading the attack—and the side that knocked Liverpool out of the competition in Rafa Benitez' final year at the club.
But it doesn't get any easier once one looks past those clubs, with Inter and Napoli are both solid top half sides; Levante in contention for La Liga's top four for the second year in a row; and clubs from Russia and Belarus promising an icy away leg in February when the weather could prove more difficult than any actual opponent Liverpool could be pitted against.
Whatever happens, then, it probably won't be an easy tie for Liverpool—either in the round of 32 or the subsequent round of 16. But it is almost certain to be an interesting one, and with each potential opponent looking tougher than the last it speaks to the exceptional quality of the sides in the knockout stages of this season's Europa League.