Now that the draw has been made for the Champions’ League group stage, the competition has taken shape. It is a very mixed bag for Liverpool, with some unexciting ties heading their way, but a very attractive clash with Real Madrid also scheduled. The Reds will have wanted a testing group, and they have got one. They will have also wanted a group that they stand a chance of getting out of, and they have that as well. The following is an assessment of Liverpool’s chances, and of the teams they shall face:
The reigning European Champions and ten time winners of the competition, Real Madrid are the kings of this particular cup. Picking up half of their victories as part of an incredible consecutive run between 1956 and 1960, ‘Los Blancos’ could be entering into a new era of football domination right about now.
In Cristiano Ronaldo they have the current Ballon d’Or holder and all-round superstar. In Gareth Bale they have the world-record transfer man, and established iconic winger. In Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez, Real have two of the most exciting transfers that this summer has thrown up. Such is the quality in their squad the likes of Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric fall a little under the radar!
However, though Madrid have ‘La Decima’, Liverpool also have a proud history in the European Cup. The Reds have won the tournament more times than any other English club, notching the 5th of their five victories on a historic night in 2005. In general, the Liverpool/Madrid match has to be identified as the game of the round!
The Swiss Superleague champions and regular Champions League participants, Basel can prove a very tricky team to overcome. Chelsea have been beaten by them in the European tournament recently, as have Manchester United. Liverpool will have to work hard to prevent a similar outcome in their own match-ups, but they should be able to get some points on the board.
There are no household names within the Basel ranks, but there are a few dangerous players regardless. The Argentine midfielder Matias Delgado is definitely one to watch, whilst the Swiss international Fabian Frei has also picked up many admirers. It is in their midfield ranks that Basel are at their most dangerous, meaning that a lot will depend upon the performances from Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and co.
For all the history that Real Madrid and Liverpool are proceeded by, Ludogrets are busy compiling a back-story for future generations. The Bulgarian side have only been around since 2001, but they have enjoyed a rapid rise to success in recent years. They will be massive underdogs in this group, but with nothing to lose and everything to gain, they could prove dangerous.
They have won three consecutive Bulgarian titles, landing the domestic treble in 2014. Knocking the likes of CSKA Sofia and Levski Sofia from their perch, Ludogrets have become very used to winning matches. They have never once played Liverpool, though, so they represent a complete unknown. The Reds should expect a bruising encounter, but they have some flair players as well – Marcelinho is one to particularly watch.
The battle in this group lies between Liverpool and Basel. Real Madrid should top the table, and they should do so fairly comfortably, whilst Ludogrets will prove a tough task but one that can be overcome. Basel have proven the thorn in a Premier League club’s side before now, and Liverpool’s progression will depend upon how they play against the Swiss. Win against Basel, and Brendan Rodgers will be in the second round.