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.