Liverpool failed to top their group in the Champions League for the first time since the 2018/19 season, when they went all the way to lift the trophy with elephant ears for the sixth time in their history. The Reds did achieve a hard-fought victory in their penultimate Group A game over Napoli, but couldn’t topple the Italians off the top of the table pertaining to their inferior goal difference. Two late goals from Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez helped Liverpool return back to winning ways at Anfield after their shocking defeat against Leeds United in their last home game in the Premier League.
However, a second place finish in the group stage now means Liverpool will have a difficult way through their Round of 16 expedition. As it is known, the table toppers of the group stage are placed in the Pot 1 for the knockouts draw, and the runners-up in Pot 2. With Klopp’s men runners-up in their group behind Napoli, they will now be placed in the Pot 2, and pitted against one of heavyweights from the opposite Pot. We take a look at who could the Reds come up against in the first round of the knockouts, as the official draw will take place on November 7, in Nyon, Switzerland.
Liverpool’s Round of 16 menace – Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG in the fray
As Liverpool will be placed in the Pot 2 for the Round of 16, they are slated to face one of the table toppers from the remaining 7 groups. However, since the rules tell, the Reds won’t be drawn against a fellow Premier League team in this round. As a result, Tottenham Hotspur who topped the Group D, Chelsea who are well on course to lock in a first place finish in Group E and Manchester City winning the Group G means Liverpool will avoid the trio in the Round of 16.
However, that means the following could be one of their possible opponents in the first round of the knockouts:
Porto – Group B winners
The most unexpected of results were witnessed in the Group B. With Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid competing in this group, it was almost certain they will be one of the two team to qualify through. However, they managed just 1 win, meaning they finished rock bottom in the group, crashing out of Europe. And Porto thumped the La Liga giants on the last match-day to pip Club Brugge, who are in a sublime form to finish first place. Liverpool and Porto last time faced each other in the Champions League was the quarter-finals of the 2018/19 season, where the Reds walked over the Dragon with an aggregate score of 6-1 over the two legs. This season’s story could be a different one since Porto have improved a lot, and Liverpool have suffered a lot.
Bayern Munich – Group C winners
Bayern Munich have once again dismantled their fellow group opponents Inter Milan, Barcelona and Viktoria Plzen to achieve a 100% record and top the group. A two legged matter with the Bavarians could prove to be too hot to handle for the Reds given their abysmal form. If Liverpool are to face Bayern in the Round of 16, it will be a replay of the 18/19 match-up, where Klopp’s men embarked towards their sixth title by defeating the German giants 3-1 in their own backyard at the Allianz Arena, after a 0-0 draw at Anfield. Moreover, it would also mean an emotional homecoming for Sadio Mane who left Liverpool for Bayern this summer.
Real Madrid/RB Leipzig – Group F winners
Things are still between the two in Group F. Real currently sit first with 11 points, followed by Leipzig on 9. The last match-day will only tell who triumphs the group. If the reigning champions are to finish as table toppers, a potential match-up with Liverpool will break the hell loose. The Reds will be fuming to avenge their last season’s defeat as well as 2016/17 loss at the hands of the Los Blancos in the Campions League finals.
On the other hand, if Leipzig topple Real to win the group, and go on to meet Liverpool in the Round of 16, Klopp’s men will have some breather. Leipzig have been pretty much inconsistent, despite playing exciting football as they have in recent years. However, powered by Christoph Nkunku, the Germans could well cause an upset to the six time winners.
PSG/Benfica – Group H winners
Both PSG and Benfica sit level on points in the Group H. Even the head-to-head record cannot separate them as they drew both the games against each other. Only PSG vs Juventus, and Benfica vs Maccabi Haifa will decide who finishes first. If PSG top, and are paired with Liverpool, it will be the two sides’ first meeting since the 18/19 season when they were placed in the same group. Both won their respective home games, but equations will be different this time as it is quite evident Liverpool are not yet ready to sustain an attack of Messi-Neymar-Mbappe who have amassed 70 goals contributions between them so far.
On the other hand, it will be a return for the Merseyside club’s record signing Darwin Nunez to his Benfica, if the two sides are paired. Many had thought Benfica will struggle after Nunez’s departure, who had bagged 34 goals for them last season in all competitions, including 2 against his current employers in the quarterfinals of Champions League. However, the Portuguese side looks more improved as they gave a tough time to PSG, and their star-studded team. A Liverpool vs Benfica tie would certainly result in another enthralling fixture this season.