A LOOK INTO LIVERPOOL’S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FIRST ROUND OPPONENTS

Finally, fans waiting to see Liverpool play again in the Champions League will get their wish fulfilled on Tuesday when the Reds host Bulgarian A-League champions PFC Ludogorets Razgrad at Anfield. Liverpool fans have had to wait five painful years to watch them compete in Europe’s most prestigious tournament and I dare say that no faithful Kopite will really want to miss watching their European journey. Liverpool are in Group B of the tournament and it is perhaps fairly safe to say that they have great chances to progress to the knockout stages.

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So who are our opponents in the group stages and what are their strengths and weaknesses. We have all the details covered for you in this article.

OPPONENT #1: REAL MADRID C.F.

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Real Madrid is one team that needs no introduction. They are not only the defending champions, but are the most successful team in the history of the UEFA Champions League winning 10 titles. Real Madrid is also the most expensive team in world football with a combined talent worth of £500 million. Judging by their current lineup, it will be fair enough to say that Real Madrid is in fact the most difficult opponent for Liverpool. However, strangely enough, if history is to be judged, Liverpool have so far proved to be the overwhelmingly dominant team against Real Madrid, winning all of the 3 fixtures without conceding a single goal. Yet, I don’t expect this impressive record to continue this time, especially with the presence of manager Carlo Ancelotti, who boasted an impressive record against Liverpool during his managerial tenure at Chelsea.

Team Facts

Founded: 6 March 1902
Location: Madrid, Spain
Home ground: Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (Cap. 81,044)
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti
2014/15 Full Champions League Squad:


Goalkeepers
1 Iker Casillas
13 Keylor Navas
25 Fernando Pacheco
Defenders
2 Raphaël Varane
3 Pepe
4 Sergio Ramos
5 Fábio Coentrão
12 Marcelo
15 Dani Carvajal
17 Álvaro Arbeloa
18 Nacho
28 Guillermo Varela
30 Abner
Midfielders
6 Sami Khedira
8 Toni Kroos
10 James Rodríguez
11 Gareth Bale
19 Luka Modrić
23 Isco
24 Asier Illarramendi
Forwards
7 Cristiano Ronaldo
9 Karim Benzema
14 Javier Hernández
20 Jesé
29 Eero Markkane

 

OPPONENT #2: FC BASEL

FC Basel has lately been labelled ‘the giant killers’ and it would certainly be a grave mistake by Liverpool to take this Swiss team lightly. Basel is the second most successful team in the history of Swiss football, with 17 domestic league titles and have been playing regularly in Europe for more than a decade. The team’s best achievement in the tournament came in the 2011/12 season, when it reached the round of 16.

Yet, we can agree on the fact that compared to Basel, Liverpool does have a stronger squad. Liverpool and Basel have met each other only twice before, with both the fixtures ending in draws. Brendon Rodgers will certainly have to ensure that this record improves, if he wants to see the team progress to the next round.

Team Facts

Founded: 15 November 1893
Location: Basel, Switzerland
Home ground: St. Jakob-Park, Basel (Cap.: 37,500)
Manager: Paulo Sousa
2014/15 Full Champions League Squad:
Goalkeepers
1 Tomáš Vaclík
18 Germano Vailati
23 Pascal Albrecht
Defenders
4 Philipp Degen
5 Arlind Ajeti
6 Walter Samuel
15 Ivan Ivanov
16 Fabian Schär
17 Marek Suchý
19 Behrang Safari
27 Naser Aliji
32 Michael Gonçalves
Midfielders
7 Luca Zuffi
8 Geoffroy Serey Die
10 Matías Delgado
14 Yoichiro Kakitani
20 Fabian Frei
21 Marcelo Díaz
24 Ahmed Hamoudi
33 Mohamed Elneny
34 Taulant Xhaka
39 Davide Calla
Forwards
9 Marco Streller
11 Shkelzen Gashi
25 Derlis Gonzalez
30 Giovanni Sio
36 Breel Embolo
38 Albian Ajeti

 

OPPONENT #3: PFC Ludogorets Razgrad

Ludogorets is an opponent that Liverpool have never faced before. This is also the first time that the team has qualified in the UEFA Champions League group stage, after a narrow penalty shoot-out win against Romanian champions Stueua Bucharest in the playoffs. Ludogorets also will be Liverpool’s first opponents in the campaign and Rodgers will definitely not take the team very lightly, considering that the Reds are back after a long absence from the tournament. Formed only in 2001, the team has steadily progressed the ranks in Bulgaria and its also only the second team in the history of the country to play in the group stages of the Champions League. Liverpool’s champions league progression hopes definitely depend a lot on some good results against Ludogorets.

Team Facts


Founded:
18 June 2001
Location:
Razgrad, Bulgaria
Ground:
Ludogorets Arena (Cap. 8000)
Manager:
Georgi Dermendzhiev
2014/15 Full Champions League Squad
Goalkeepers

1 Emil Gospodinov
21 Vladislav Stoyanov
91 Ivan Čvorović
Defenders
5 Alexandre Barthe
15 Aleksandar Aleksandrov
16 Brayan Angulo
25 Yordan Minev
27 Cosmin Moţi
37 Ventsislav Kerchev
55 Georgi Terziev
80 Júnior Caiçara
Midfielders
8 Fábio Espinho
12 Anicet Abel
17 Dani Abalo
18 Svetoslav Dyakov
23 Hristo Zlatinski
28 Tomas Tsvyatkov
34 Oleg Dimitrov
38 Kristiyan Kitov
84 Marcelinho
88 Wanderson
Forwards
7 Mihail Aleksandrov
9 Roman Bezjak
11 Júnior Quixadá
93 Virgil Misidjan
99 Younes Hamza

 

Judging by last season’s performance and the strength of the current squad, the Reds do have a realistic chance of progressing further in the competition. However, fans are probably relieved that Champions League nights are back at Anfield and perhaps it may not be difficult to imagine Liverpool being labelled as one of the major contenders of the trophy, given their history as well as their quality in the present. Come Reds, bring back the glory days!

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2 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Whilst this makes interesting reading, the first game of the competition against Ludogorets is at Anfield!

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