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Thursday 18 September 2014

Liverpool in pot three could face nightmare Champions League draw

Chris Bascombe

Published 28/08/2014 | 08:19

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Liverpool players look dejected after the final whistle during the Barclays Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday August 25, 2014. See PA story SOCCER Man City. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. Maximum 45 images during a match. No video emulation or promotion as 'live'. No use in games, competitions, merchandise, betting or single club/player services. No use with unofficial audio, video, data, fixtures or club/league logos.
Liverpool players look dejected after the final whistle during the Barclays Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium on Monday

Liverpool face the prospect of an intimidating return to the Champions League when the group draw takes place in Monaco this evening.

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The five-year absence from the competition has reduced the club ranked top of the coefficient table as recently as 2009 to among the lower seeds.

Liverpool are in pot three, while the Premier League champions Manchester City are among the group of second seeds and Chelsea are established in the top tier of European clubs. Arsenal, who won their qualifier on Wednesday night, are rated seventh best in Europe based on previous performances in the elite competition.

With teams from the same country kept apart, Liverpool and Manchester City could be paired with Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. Porto and Benfica are also among the top seeds.

Pot two includes the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Paris St-Germain, Juventus and Zenit St Petersburg. All are possible opponents for Liverpool.

Even pot four has some illustrious names, with Roma and Monaco among the bottom ranked sides.

Liverpool's position reflects a barren spell following their last Champions League campaign which ended in a 2-1 home defeat by Fiorentina in December 2009.

In the preceding eight years, Liverpool failed to qualify for the competition just once, reaching the quarter-finals in 2002, winning in 2005, being runners-up in 2007, and losing to Chelsea in the semi-finals in 2008 and the last eight in 2009.

It has been a period of exile from Europe's top table since then, a couple of forgettable Europa League campaigns the only means with which Liverpool could maintain their third seeding on their comeback. Their Uefa coefficient has dropped to 58.945 from the heights of 114.077 just five seasons ago.

City moved into the second tier last season, ensuring a more favourable draw than when they made their return to Europe and initially struggled under Roberto Mancini. Last season they qualified for the knockout stage for the first time.

Chelsea are now the highest ranked English club, being rated fourth in Europe.

Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, will be hoping to avoid some of the more formidable clubs as his side seek to re-establish themselves, but when the draw takes place in France at noon on Thursday, it is a fair assumption that the chief executives of the more fancied teams will be equally anxious when the names from pot three are read out. Liverpool are sure to be the club every other top seed in Europe most want to avoid.

Here are the best and worst possible outcomes for the English quartet.

CHELSEA

Best: Chelsea, Basle, Sporting Lisbon, Maribor

Worst: Chelsea, Paris St Germain, Ajax, Roma

ARSENAL

Best: Arsenal, Basle, Sporting, Maribor

Worst: Arsenal, PSG, Ajax, Roma

MANCHESTER CITY

Best: Benfica, Manchester City, Olympiacos, Maribor

Worst: Real Madrid, Manchester City, Ajax, Roma

LIVERPOOL

Best: Benfica, Basle, Liverpool, Maribor

Worst: Real Madrid, PSG, Liverpool, Roma

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