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Champions League Preview: Fixture Lists of Liverpool's Opponents

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Liverpool aren't the only ones with a congested fixture list this fall, and their group stage opponents will have the same considerations to make as Brendan Rodgers when it comes to prioritising matches and squad rotation.

Los Blancos with their shiny new kits and even shinier new signings!
Los Blancos with their shiny new kits and even shinier new signings!
David Ramos
FC Basel September 27 — Home to FC Thun (Swiss Super League)
Wednesday, October 1 — Home to Liverpool (Champions League)
Saturday, October 4 — Away to FC St Gallen (Swiss Super League)

Saturday, December 6 — Away to FC Luzern (Swiss Super League)
Tuesday, December 9 — Away to Liverpool (Champions League)

The Swiss Super League only contains ten teams, and thus it doesn't take much to be a mid-table Swiss Baggie. Basel finished top of the league for the fifth time in as many seasons in 2013-14, and their opponents before and after Champions League matches versus Liverpool finished 4th (Luzern), 6th (Thun), and 7th (St. Gallen) last season. While it's likely that Liverpool will command most of their attention during these fixture-rich periods regardless, it's worth noting that the Swiss league's winter break means the sixth and final match of the group stage is Basel's last match of the calendar year. With a two month break ahead of them, Basel won't be nearly as concerned as Liverpool about keeping some gas in the tank for a busy December fixture list.

Ludogorets Saturday, September 13 — Away to Botev Plovdiv (Bulgarian A Group)
Tuesday, September 16 — Away to Liverpool (Champions League)
Saturday, September 20 — Home to Litex (Bulgarian A Group)

Saturday, November 22 — Home to Lokomotiv Sofia (Bulgarian A Group)
Wednesday, November 26 — Home to Liverpool (Champions League)
Saturday, November 29 — Away to Beroe Stara Zagora (Bulgarian A Group)

I won't insult anyone by pretending to know anything about the Bulgarian A Football Group. The league is not exactly in the top five in Europe and the presence of Ludogorets in the group stage is looked at as a delightful novelty, especially given how they progressed to the group stage in the first place. The odds of Ludogorets advancing out of the group are slim, and so manager Georgi Dermendzhiev will need to decide how important it is to make a good showing on the continent, or if it's best to focus on the league. APOEL FC demonstrated a few years back that dark horse clubs can not just get out of their groups but make it to the quarterfinals as well, and their results might serve as inspiration to a club like Ludogorets.

Real Madrid Saturday, October 18 — Away to Levante (La Liga)
Wednesday, October 22 — Away to Liverpool (Champions League)
Sat/Sun, October 25/26 (TBC) — Home to Barcelona (La Liga)

Sat/Sun, November 1/2 (TBC) — Away Granada (La Liga)
Tuesday, November 4 — Home to Liverpool (Champions League)
Sat/Sun, November 8/9(TBC) — Home to Rayo Vallecano (La Liga)

Let's be real here: of all the teams in this tournament, Real Madrid are one of the ones that have to worry least about rotational concerns. Los Blancos always have enough depth to cover off their various competition commitments and while they were disappointed not to win La Liga last year, winning La Decima was nothing to sneeze at either. Do they care whether they are away to Granada and home to Rayo Vallecano immediately after facing Liverpool at Anfield? Probably not. But beyond this, Madrid's fixture list has two components to it that could first hinder and then help Liverpool's chances.

The first is that there are a trio of games with unconfirmed dates in Real Madrid's calendar. The Spanish FA has in the past rescheduled league matches to help its Champions League teams better prepare for their continental activities, giving them more time off in advance of important matches. Jose Mourinho famously complained about this tactic last season, and it would not at all be uncommon for Madrid's matches to be moved to help them get a leg up in their group.

The other component is, of course, the match versus Barcelona at the end of October. The first Clasico of the year is set to be even more tasty as it will feature Luis Suarez making his debut for the Catalan club after serving his lengthy ban. Though they have the depth and the institutional backing to adequately deal with back-to-back games of this level, Carlo Ancelotti will still need to prioritise his tactical choices between an away tie at Anfield and hosting Madrid's arch rivals.