After suffering heartbreak in the Champions League final in Kiev last season, Liverpool will be itching to right the wrongs this term. Thankfully, a new rules change has ensured that the Reds last-gasp, fourth-placed domestic finish on the final match day of the season that secured European football for 2018-19 has also put them straight through to the group stage.
Now the only thing still up in the air is the difficulty of the draw, a picture that is slowly starting to take shape. As of now there are six group stage spots still up for grabs for teams around the continent who didn’t earn an automatic place. The “winners” of the qualifying round have the potential to alter the final seeding of teams currently in the tournament, which in Liverpool’s case ties their fate to that of Benfica’s.
Save for Pot 1, each team’s seeding is determined by the UEFA co-efficient, which is in turn based on the club’s recent performances in Europe. As things stand, Jürgen Klopp’s squad currently sit in Pot 3 which could see them potentially drawn in a group consisting of Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona and Inter Milan.
However, with Basel losing to Greek side PAOK 5-1 on aggregate, it is only the Portuguese top flight club that stands in the way of a better seeding for the Merseysiders. The final hurdle is the tie between Rui Vitoria’s side and Fenerbache set to take place over two legs on August 7 and 14. Reds fans, will be rooting for the Turkish giants as, interestingly enough, a win over Benfica ensures that Liverpool will take their place in Pot 2.
Pot 1: Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Man City, Lokomotiv Moscow
Pot 2: Borussia Dortmund, Porto, Man United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Napoli, Tottenham, Roma
Pot 3: Liverpool*, Schalke, Lyon, Monaco, CSKA Moscow
Pot 4: Inter Milan, Hoffenheim, Valencia*, Viktoria Plzen*, Club Brugge*, Galatasaray*
* Final placing yet to be determined; six teams still to qualify.
While no team will want to take on a Liverpool side that is even stronger this time around than last season’s free-scoring offensive juggernaut, Reds fans will be wary of the recent example of Tottenham’s group of death draw last term that saw them expend precious energy staving off Real Madrid and Dortmund over the course of four games.