Cup competitionsPosted by Leif Larsson Mon, September 15, 2014 15:13:47
Tomorrow night Liverpool enters the group stage of the Champions League for the ninth time. We face Ludogorets from Bulgaria, a team we never met before. Here I take a look at a specific angle, namely how Reds fared in the first game of the group stage on the eight previous occasions. No particular pattern emerges, no recurring results to build hopes on. Only a couple of small things is there to cling on to and be positively superstitious about.
However, here are some facts:
Of the eight starting matches Liverpool has played three on home turf - and managed to avoid defeat on each occasion. Two wins an one draw was the outcome. Hopefully the streak continues tomorrow. The five starts on away ground has ended in mixed results; two wins, two draws and one defeat. On the whole Liverpool has started well when it comes to group stage level in the CL. Four victories, three draws and only one setback is a decent record.
Five times Liverpool´s first game at Anfield has been match two in the programme. On these occasions the the Reds has gained two wins, drawn two matches and got beaten once.
Liverpool has progressed from the group stage six times out of a possible eight. Only a minor fact indicates that the result in the opening game has any bearing on the forthcoming events. And it´s this: The only time Liverpool lost the first match it was followed by elimination after the group stages. On the other hand, when Liverpool didn´t progress from the group stage we won the first match once and lost the first game on the other occasion. And in in 2007/08 we drew away, lost at home in the two initial fixtures and still progressed. So results in the initial games doesn´t seem to be all that important.
The first match is a tough proposition goal-wise. Shown in Liverpool´s record in the first match: 1-1, 0-2, 2-0, 2-1, 0-0, 1-1, 2-1, 1-0. As you can see, the Reds has never scored more than twice in the introductory contest. Twice we have been shut-out and three times the Reds has found the net with two strikes.
All starting games in the group stage has taken place in September, from the 11th to the 18th. This time Liverpool play on the 16th and in this a good omen can be found. It´s the same date as the two previous starting games, in 2008/09 and 2009/10, and on both occasions Liverpool won the game.
Only once has Liverpool won the first game with two clear goals. It was against Monaco on the 15th of September 2004. We all know what happened at the end of that CL season, a pretty merry night in Istanbul. So a 2-0 win versus Ludogorets would be something to get our hearts racing and hope to rise.
If it´s another result, feel no despair because:
We Go Again.
Cup competitionsPosted by Leif Larsson Fri, August 29, 2014 19:29:58
On the return to Champions League Liverpool got a pretty favourable draw. But is the actual game schedule also beneficial to the chances of progress into the knockout stages? Well, in short, yes.
Liverpool will face Ludogorets of Bulgaria, Basel from Switzerland and the mighty Real Madrid in group B of this season´s Champions League group phase. It could have been much worse with for instance Borussia Dortmund instead of Basel and Roma in place of Ludogorets.
Liverpool have not met the three teams particularly often before. Ludogorets never, Basel two times in 2002, when two draws was enough to send Basel through from the group with Liverpool eliminated. Real has been beaten three times by the Reds, in the European Cup final in 1981 and two times in the last 16 of the CL in 2009.
So we have never lost to any of the upcoming opponents. Let´s keep it that way. Perhaps it can be done and the match programme favours Liverpool in that respect.
We start with Ludogorets at home. Arguably the easiest tie of the six. If Reds win it then a boosting start is achieved. The problem is that Ludogorets probably will be better in the early stages and then lose enthusiasm when defeats arrive. But regardless of that I think this is the easiest way for Liverpool to get off to a flying start.
Then it´s Basel away, a really tricky tie but they have probably lost to Real in the first match, and could be a bit disheartened, nervous and desperate for a win. A circumstance that can play into Liverpool´s hands.
After that Real awaits, first at Anfield then in Madrid. Even this is a advantageous set-up for the Reds. At home we are a match för anybody and if Real can be defeated or at least held then we can go to Bernabeu with assurance and knowing that three points from the last three games will be enough for further qualification. (That is of course if we´ve taken seven points from the first three matches as ten points in total almost always guarantees advancement). In other words, a defeat in Madrid isn´t a catastrophe.
In the last two games we have Ludogorets away and in the final encounter it´s Basel at home. Also convenient. The Bulgarians should be without chance to progress when they enter game number five and therefore an simpler task for Liverpool. And if the Reds and Basel go head to head for the second qualifying place (Real is likely to occupy top spot) then it´s nice to know that the decisive game is at Anfield with the twelfth man behind the team. A fact that increases the possibility of the right result.
So the programme is good. It could have been Real at home first and then Basel away and nil points in the bag. Because of how the schedule turned out I believe Liverpool will line-up in the final 16.
Speaking of 16, on the 16th of September it´s time to reentry Europe´s most prestigious tournament and then Liverpool at long last can confirm:
We Go Again.
Cup competitionsPosted by Leif Larsson Wed, August 27, 2014 18:07:47
Tomorrow evening Liverpool´s fate in the Champions League could be determined, at least to some extent. Then the draw for the group stages takes place.
Liverpool is in the third pot due to a five year absence from the competition. Some big guns are in pot one and two and could be drawn against Liverpool.
A really tough group for the Reds would be to face Real Madrid, Juventus and Monaco. Another tricky one could be Bayern Munich, Paris SG and Roma.
A somewhat easier group, at least on paper, could be Benfica, Basel and Maribor of Slovenia.
Whatever Lady Luck or Lord Bad Luck comes up with it´s gonna be six difficult matches. And Liverpool must be on song the autumn through to advance to the knock-out stages.
Let´s bring Europe on. The waiting has been long and finally:
We Go Again.