UEFA gave Liverpool major advantage as Jürgen Klopp escapes four nightmare scenarios
When the Champions League draw took place, Liverpool needed several things to increase their chances of winning not only this competition, but also the Premier League.
As is the case in the current era of Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, the fortunes of Liverpool and Manchester City are usually linked. Only one can earn each of the three remaining trophies on offer, though both might ultimately earn it.
The UEFA draw – done correctly on first request this time – matched liverpool with Benfica: a big check in the “what we wanted to see” box. But the good news didn’t stop there.
Manchester City and Chelsea are both on opposite sides of the draw, with Guardiola’s men facing what could prove to be a tricky double game with Atlético Madrid, although an Atlético Madrid that Liverpool already have beaten home and away this season.
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The winner will face either Chelsea or Real Madrid; just as tricky as Bayern Munich (assuming they overtake Villarreal), who await the Reds if they can beat Benfica.
More interestingly, Liverpool and Manchester City will be playing on the same night in the Champions League, so neither have a huge advantage ahead of the clash between the two in the league in terms of recovery time and preparation time. The two have five days after the first leg before they meet at the Etihad Stadium, sandwiched between the two European fixtures.
But Atlético should be a tougher test and closer bond overall than Liverpool’s visit to Benfica, although Manchester City will ultimately be favorites to get the job done against Diego Simeone’s well-prepared side. It’s not the Atlético of three or four years ago, but they will always make it tough and keep the scoreline tight, especially against a team that has struggled to score goals at times lately.
The way is there for a Liverpool vs Manchester City final in Paris although there is plenty of action to be played before then. The top two in England are the competition favorites and that is, statistically, the most likely outcome, although football does not always follow that pattern.
Whether Liverpool would rather face Guardiola over two legs or one is a point that can be debated, but they have at least avoided the possibility of having to play against Manchester City four times in 18 days. There’s still a chance it could be two weekends in a row if the duo go head-to-head in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, but that would be far less daunting than a four-time header in pursuit of four trophies .
Frankly, playing as little as possible at Manchester City is better. If the teams played each other four times in such a short time, it would have been a nightmare – after all, it’s hard to imagine a team winning all four encounters (or at least making the most progress in each of the three competitions) .
If Liverpool are to claim the treble this season, they will always need a bit of luck in the draw for each competition, and so far the Gods of Football (if Mikaël Silvestre, the man chosen by UEFA to select meetings, can be called like that…) played ball. The quadruple is still on the way and while it remains an almost impossible task to win it all, it is undoubtedly more likely than it was a few hours ago.