Liverpool players, staff and fans alike are eagerly awaiting this week’s Champions League draw that will map out the first hurdles that lie between the Reds and becoming only the second club in 30 years to successfully defend their title.
With the draw to take place in Monaco on Thursday, Jurgen Klopp’s side will take their place among the top seeds in pot one and will be an opponent feared by many.
Here's who they could face, who they'll be hoping to meet and who they'll want to avoid...
Pot one is reserved for the Champions League holders, the Europa League holders and the reigning national champions of Europe’s six top-ranked domestic leagues, meaning Liverpool and Chelsea join the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
None of these teams will face each other in the group stage as the draw will place one club from each of the draw pots (1-4) into the eight groups (A-H).
|Pot 1||UEFA Club Coefficient|
|Zenit St Petersburg||72.000|
Best Case Draw: N/A
Worst Case Draw: N/A
As holders, Liverpool have no need to fear anyone in the competition, but pot two holds plenty of potential dangers for the Reds. They cannot face Tottenham in a repeat of last season’s final because country protection will remain in force until the quarter-final stage, but it would certainly be preferable to avoid Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in particular at this stage.
Shakhtar Donetsk would represent a lengthy midweek away trip at some point. So, as things stand, before all the qualifiers and pots are fully finalised, Benfica are the lowest-ranked team in pot two and probably the most favourable to get drawn with.
|Pot 2||UEFA Club Coefficient|
This is where it gets a little more complicate, depending on the final qualifiers on Wednesday night, Ajax or Lyon could be the final club in pot two. Ajax will make it if they overcome APOEL in the playoff round, but Lyon would take that place if not. Despite a lower ranking, both Ajax and Lyon would arguably be less preferable than facing Benfica.
|Pot 2 or 3||UEFA Club Coefficient|
|Pot 2, 3 or 4||UEFA Club Coefficient|
|APOEL or Ajax||25.000 or 70.500|
|Pot 3||UEFA Club Coefficient|
|Red Bull Salzburg||54.500|
|Pot 3 or 4||UEFA Club Coefficient|
|LASK Linz or Club Brugge||6.250 or 39.500|
Best Case Draw: Dinamo Zagreb
Worst Case Draw: Inter
For big clubs looking to reach the knockout stages with minimal strain, pot four is always about drawing a favourable team that doesn't involve a lengthy or hostile away trip. That is why Galatasaray and Red Star Belgrade, the latter of whom beat Liverpool last season, are probably best avoided. However, closer to home, Atalanta and RB Leipzig are also tough prospects.
|Pot 4||UEFA Club Coefficient|
|Red Star Belgrade||16.750|
|Cluj or Slavia Prague||3.500 or 21.500|
Having lost Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal, as well as other top players, Lille might be a good team to face on their return to the Champions League. Genk, similarly, or Romanian champions Cluj would be the lowest-ranked side in the competition if they make it through qualifying.
Best Case Draw: Genk
Worst Case Draw: RB Leipzig