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.