Liverpool’s Best & Worst Case Champions League Group Stage Draw for 2020/21

Who can Liverpool get and who do we want? | FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty Images

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Yes, it’s d̶e̶a̶d̶l̶i̶n̶e̶ ̶d̶a̶y̶ the Champions League group stage draw!

2019 winners Liverpool take on this year’s Gazprom having disappointed somewhat in 2019/20 – failing even to make the makeshift August mini-tournament in Lisbon.

Added squad depth and revenge on the mind means anything other than going deep into the knockouts will be considered a failure in 2021.

Virgil van Dijk
Holders Liverpool went out in last season’s round of 16 | Alex Livesey – Danehouse/Getty Images

But without getting ahead of ourselves, who’s the best and worst they could the Reds get in Thursday’s group draw, you ask? Well, let me walk you through it…

Pot 2 – Ajax

Dusan Tadic
Dusan Tadic remains Ajax’s danger man | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Key man: Dusan Tadic

League position 2019/20: N/A

Other possible teams in the pot: Barcelona, Atletico de Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dortmund

Ajax would’ve been Liverpool’s Champions League final opponents in 2019, but for a once-in-a-lifetime performance from Lucas Moura, of all people.

Much has changed in Amsterdam in the year a bit since. Six of Ajax’s starting XI from the second leg against Spurs has moved on, and Erik ten Hag’s side looked like a sad cover band of the side that had torn apart Juventus and Real Madrid so recently in 2019/20’s Champions League,

Nicolas Tagliafico (possible) and Sergiño Dest (definitely) could be the latest stars to be cherry picked from the club before deadline day.

With a 100% record so far in the Eredivisie, Ajax are still dangerous but it’s probably the least intimidating draw from Pot 2.

Pot 3 – Dynamo Kyiv

Mamadou Sylla, Alessio Castro-montes, Vladyslav Supryaha
Dynamo Kyiv don’t have a good recent record against English sides | BSR Agency/Getty Images

Key man: Viktor Tsyhankov

League position 2019/20: 2nd

Other possible teams in the pot: TBD

Kyiv’s high coefficient makes them a shoo-in for Pot 3. However, Reds’ unhappy memories from the Ukrainian capital aside, Mircea Lucescu’s team are hardly a draw to avoid, considering the strength of some of the other sides available.

The Ukrainian league runners-up have qualified for the group stages after beating Benelux duo AZ and then Gent in the qualifiers, but their European record hasn’t been great of late.

After being defeated by Brugge in last season’s Champions League playoffs, Kyiv failed to get out of their Europa League group, drawing four times out of six with Malmo, Copenhagen and Lugano.

Their last six meetings with English sides have produced an aggregate score of 13-2 to the Barclays.

The main things in the ‘cons’ column for drawing Kyiv are, of course, the infamously long away trip and chilly winter weather.

Pot 4 – Club Brugge

Simon Mignolet
Simon Mignolet’s new club could be the plum draw from Pot 4 | James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

Key man: Hans Vanaken

League position 2019/20: 1st

Other possible teams in the pot: TBD

Brugge’s reward for fighting off Kyiv in the playoffs last year was a Champions League group with Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Galatasaray. Yikes. They did register three draws, including an impressive 2-2 at the Bernabeu, but did not manage a single win.

Later in the Europa League, Simon Mignolet’s new side were stuffed by Manchester United.

Though second in Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League after seven games of 2020/21, Brugge have already lost twice.

Beaten by the Reds in the 1978 European Cup final, Brugge have not beaten an English side on the continent since 1985.

More than all that though, it’s just a lovely city to visit.

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Pot 2 – Atletico Madrid

Luis Suarez
Suarez already looks fearsome in an Atleti shirt | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Key man: Luis Suarez

League position 2019/20: 1st

Other possible teams in the pot: Barcelona, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dortmund, Ajax

Barcelona (whatever their many off-field problems) and Dortmund are also ones to give a wide berth in a pretty gruesome looking Pot 2, but Atletico might just be the least appealing.

Diego Simeone’s side Simeone’d their way past the Reds in last season’s round of 16 and are consistently one of the toughest, most uncomfortable opponents to face in Europe.

As Diego Costa put it ‘one bites, the other kicks’.

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In six meetings, Liverpool have only ever beaten Atleti once – and that was 2-1 win in the Europa League semi final that saw them eliminated on away goals anyway.

Adding to the ‘narrative’, former Liverpool great Luis Suarez looks as sharp as ever at his new side, having scored twice and bagged an assist in his 20-minute debut cameo, while Joao Felix appears to be growing into his role as the club’s crown prince.

Pot 3 – Inter

Lautaro Martinez, Danilo D Ambrosio, Aleksandar Kolarov
Inter have one of Europe’s deadliest attacks with Lautaro Martinez leading the line | Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Key man: Romelu Lukaku

League position 2019/20: 2nd

Other possible teams in the pot: TBD

Serie A runners-up Inter’s high coefficient puts them in line for Pot 3, where they edge out Lazio, Atalanta and last season’s semi-finalists RB Leipzig as the ones to steer clear of.

Antonio Conte’s side came undone in the Europa League final in 2019/20 and have struggled in tough Champions League groups in recent seasons. However, they are building year by year and have genuine quality throughout the team, from Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku to Nicolo Barella and exciting summer addition Achraf Hakimi.

Inter also scored the second most goals in Serie A last season (81) and conceded the fewest (36).

Pot 4 – Red Bull Salzburg

Erling Braut Håland
RB Salzburg gave Liverpool problems last year | Michael Molzar/Getty Images

Key man: Dominik Szoboszlai

League position 2019/20: 1st

Other possible teams in the pot: TBD

Though not yet actually qualified (Salzburg still have the second leg of a playoff against Maccabi Tel Aviv) Jesse Marsch’s side could be dark horses from Pot 4, ahead of probables Borussia Monchengladbach and Istanbul Basaksehir.

The Austrians caused Liverpool all kinds of problems in the 2019/20 group stages, fighting back from 3-0 down before eventually losing 4-3.

Though without Erling Haaland, Takumi Minamino and Hwang Hee-chan this season (all three goalscorers from that game against Liverpool have since moved on), the Red Bull group famously have a knack for finding some of the world’s best young talents.

Dominik Szoboszlai and Patson Daka are ones to watch from this year group in Naby Keita and Sadio Mane’s alma mater.