Its been too long.
After 5 years out of the competition, Liverpool finally had the privilege of having an ex-pro draw their mini soccer ball out of that magical pot and awkwardly unravel their tiny little name. Millions of fans across the world anxiously awaited their fate, while offices around the world wondered why their productivity fell on a random Thursday in August.
Liverpool should be very thankful for the group that they have drawn. It could have been a lot worse.
It is everything fans could have asked for; they get to play the reigning champions and fellow European superpower Real Madrid, while also having a good chance of making it into the next group.
It was the perfect draw for Liverpool. Being in pot 3 could have placed them in Ajax’s position, facing the daunting task of advancing over Luis Suarez’s Barcelona or PSG.
Having avoided this group, Liverpool players and fans alike can now sleep easy, knowing that their risk of being bitten by an opposing player has been reduced by 99.9%. For the group stages at least.
Besides Chelsea winning the whole thing back in 2012, English teams have generally been outclassed on Europe’s biggest stage. The last few years, Liverpool players and fans have had to watch fellow English teams go up against top European opposition, wishing they could have the opportunity.
Now it’s their turn.
The one thing that may hinder Liverpool is their lack of European experience. Gerrard and Skrtel are the only players who are still around since the last time Liverpool faced Real Madrid. The score was 4-0 to Liverpool, just in case anybody forgot.
The majority of their players are younger and therefore inexperienced in the Champions League, including Brendan Rodgers. He has never come up against top European opposition before, having only had experience so far in the Europa League.
However, Liverpool’s group is going to be the perfect test of their Champions League credentials. It will give them great experience if they move forward into the knockout stages.
Going to Real Madrid and playing at the Santiago Bernabéu will be invaluable experience. They will come up against a team of new galacticos, and I for one cannot wait to see what happens.
If they played a team of Madrid’s caliber in the knockout stages, there is a chance the moment of it all would be too much for some of the younger players and they would crash out. Playing them in the group stages is ideal, because they will get the experience without the pressure of “win or go home.”
Also in the group, FC Basel will not be an easy win. They are a team that is used to winning. They have won 7 of the last 10 Swiss League titles and will not be a pushover. Playing a good European team, but a team that is beatable will be a great test for Liverpool, but it will be a great chance for these young players to step up to the plate and show Europe that they are the real deal.
Last, and probably least, is Bulgarian team Ludogorets Razgrad. Thats just about where my knowledge of them ends. Does Viktor Krum still play striker for them?
They are a relatively new team, only having formed back in 2001 but have been making waves in the Bulgarian league and also Europe. To get to the group stages, they had to go to a penalty shootout where a defender was the hero; not because he scored a penalty kick but because he saved 2 spot kicks. Fairy tale stuff.
Liverpool will hope that the magic ends there and they prove a platform where Rodgers can experiment with his team and see what works and what doesn’t.
All in all, its great to be back. I for one have been listening to the Champions League on repeat for the past few days, watching videos of Liverpool’s greatest European nights. Watching Gerrard lead the team out and take those awkward hunched over pictures is something that has really been missing from my life.
Liverpool probably will not win the whole thing, but I do think they will do well. And who knows, nobody backed them in their 2005 Champions League run either.
Its just great that Liverpool are making the fans dream again.