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Rodgers Targets Champions League Knockout Rounds

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With Liverpool back in the Champions League for the first time since 2009, manager Brendan Rodgers is looking forward to facing Real Madrid and wants to see his side advance from Group B.

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Clive Brunskill

Ahead of today's Champions League draw, many Liverpool fans expected to end up in a tough group offering slim hopes of advancing to the knockout rounds. They got a tough group—as a club seeded in the third pot it was always going to be tough—but one that gives them as good a chance as they could have hoped for on their return to the Champions League.

Real Madrid are Group B headliners and offer the chance for Liverpool to get back into the action in style against the ten time winners and defending champions. FC Basel, an opponent that on paper at least Liverpool should handle, and Bulgarian champions PFC Ludogorets, who they kick things off against in September, round out the group and will have fans already dreaming of the knockout rounds.

"Initially, we're excited," said Brendan Rodgers. "That was last season's hard work, what we're working towards—getting Liverpool back into a competition where we are synonymous. To be back in it again, no matter who we were going to play, it was always going to be exciting. But to have Real Madrid in your group, the champions last season, is going to be special."

FC Basel, though, are no pushovers, even if Liverpool are the stronger side and from a stronger league. They reached the knockout rounds two years ago and in last season's competition beat Chelsea twice in group play. Compared to the likes of Juventus, Dortmund, and PSG, though—all pot two sides along with Basel—the Swiss are a relatively forgiving draw.

"I'm already thinking of Anfield on that night," Rodgers added about the chance to host Madrid before quickly moving on to caution against overlooking the other opponents. "But there are two other good teams in it along with us. It's a tough group, but we'll really look forward to the challenge of getting out of the group."

Certainly Liverpool can have no complaints compared to Manchester City, who were finally able to raise themselves into pot two only to end up in an incredibly difficult Group E with Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, and Roma. Group F, meanwhile—which many Liverpool fans expected to end up in because of the Luis Suarez connection—has Barcelona, PSG, and Ajax.

"The notion for us [is] to get out of the group stage—we can look no further than that," Rodgers concluded. "Now we know the teams that we're playing, we'll focus on getting out of the group. That's as far as you can look. Once you get out of the group stages, you take it from there. Preparation will start straight away."