Even without resorting to statistical analysis, common sense would tell most Liverpool fans that last night’s results were huge for the Reds. Roberto Firmino’s late winner to clinch all three points for the Reds, paired with Red Star Belgrade holding Napoli to a point, makes Liverpool the front-runners after the first match.
This is all good and logical, but let’s take a moment to appreciate just how much these results helped our campaign for #6.
According to the website Five Thirty Eight Liverpool, despite being resigned to lowly Pot 3 for the draw, were the group favorites from the outset. The site ranked the Reds as the 5th best team in Europe, ahead of Paris Saint-Germain (7th), Napoli (10th), and Red Star (30th). Our odds of winning the group were pegged at 47% (PSG and Napoli had a 34% and 17% chance of winning the group, respectively), with a 78% chance of getting out of The Group of Death™. Pretty good, right?
With one match in the books, Liverpool’s odds of winning the group jumped to 64%, with a 90% chance of making it through to the knock-out rounds. The odds of making it to each subsequent round are up as well, including winning the whole thing, with a modest jump from 9% to 10%. Moreover PSG and Napoli both dropped in the SPI rankings, to 8th and 11th in Europe respectively.
On one hand, it’s easy to get carried away from one set of results. Liverpool did not look like eventual group winners after a disappointing 2-2 draw to Sevilla at home last year (a result they nearly replicated last night).
On the other, the whole Champions League campaign is only 13 games long (for those lucky enough to play each and every round). Therefore, one matchday in the Group Stages can be very meaningful in determining how the competition will shakeout.
Liverpool still have a lot of work ahead of them, both in the group and (hopefully) beyond. While one great night can massively improve our odds, it only takes one horror show to send the Reds packing back to Merseyside.
In two weeks Liverpool need to take this advantage to Napoli, and look to once again earn a vital result on the road in Europe. It won’t be an easy test, but a win could effectively see Liverpool with one foot in the Round of 16.