I know what you’re thinking. I’m thinking it too. With our defense, my heart couldn’t possibly handle us trying to cling on to a draw and a precious spot in the last 16 of the Champions League. However, on paper, that might be the best result for the Reds.
For the Round of 16 draw, the group winners will be placed in Pot 1, and group runners up will be in Pot 2. Also, teams from the same country and ones from the same group are not allowed to play each other until the quarterfinals. The upshot of this is that Liverpool cannot play Chelsea if they win their group, nor Sevilla (as much as we might want another crack at them). As things currently stand, here are Liverpool’s possible opponents if they top the group (UEFA coefficient ranking in parentheses):
- Real Madrid (1)
- Bayern Munich (4)
- Juventus (5)
- Porto (12)
- Shakhtar Donetsk (16)
- Basel (20)
Just from looking at the above list, it seems about 50/50 that we’d draw a team we’d rather avoid for as long as possible. The average coefficient ranking of that group is 9.67. On the other hand, as things stand, here are the four possible teams we could draw if we finish second:
- Barcelona (3)
- Paris Saint-Germain (6)
- Besiktas (28)
- Roma (30)
Again, you have the same 50/50 chance of landing one of those teams, but the average coefficient ranking is 16.75.
This is not to say that coefficients are everything. On current form PSG is probably the last team we’d want to draw, and we’d probably pick Basel over Roma if given the choice. Further, with a current ranking of #32 on the list, Liverpool would be, on paper, the weakest team in the Round of 16 (though it is safe to assume that most teams would not be thrilled to face Klopp’s side).
On balance, it’s hard to say if there is truly an advantage one way or another. From a purely psychological and an emotional stand point, simply winning the match, and hence the group, is probably the best way to go. Also, being up by several goals would be much better for the ol’ ticker.