Reds backed to pass a tough set of European tests

Liverpool FC

LIVERPOOL may have been drawn in the proverbial ‘group of death’ in the Champions League, but bookies have no doubts they’ll be progressing through to the knockout stages when they commence in February next year.

They kick off with a home game against AC Milan, the Italian giants a team that have become synonymous with the Reds and the Champions League. The two clubs are more used to meeting each other at the business end of the competition, most famously clashing in Turkey for the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ in 2005, before a repeat of the final two years later when Milan gained a measure of revenge.

But the club managed by Stefano Pioli seem to be on a permanent rebuilding programme, and this summer they have been raiding Chelsea’s squad taking Olivier Giroud and English central defender Fikayo Tomori to the San Siro on permanent deals – Tomori enjoyed a successful loan spell at Milan last season.

Despite their undoubted Champions League pedigree – they have won the trophy on seven occasions – they are a shadow of the side from over a decade ago, with gambling firms offering odds of 9/2 on Milan winning Group B, reports Liverpool FC News.

The game at Anfield on September 15 is sure to be a night to remember, but the clashes home and away against Atletico Madrid are the more important. Jurgen Klopp’s side head to the Spanish capital in October before the return in November which will be a repeat of that infamous night in March 2020.

Eighteen months ago, Liverpool played Atletico at Anfield, and were beaten in extra-time in the round of 16 clash, which took on far greater significance because of the Covid 19 pandemic which was then sweeping through the country. The debate over whether the game should have taken place at all, never mind in front of a packed crowd, became the backdrop, but in football terms it was a bad night for Klopp and for Liverpool. The defeat ended their defence of the trophy which they had won in the all-English final in Madrid, a 2-0 success over Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur.

Atletico are now on a par with Barcelona and their more famous city neighbours, and they are just behind Liverpool in the Group B betting at 9/4. However, unlike Barca and Real, Atletico are yet to win the Champions League, with two runners-up finishes in the past decade their best returns. They have had more success in the Europa League with three wins in recent years. BBC Sport

According to the British betting portal, Porto (11/1) remain the whipping boys in the group, which is not befitting a club that has won the Champions League twice. The two clubs last met in the quarter-finals of the competition in April 2019, with Sergio Conceicao’s side comprehensively beaten 6-1 over the two legs. They were runners-up in their league last season and the Reds head to Portugal in September on matchday two.

The ‘group of death’ moniker is a little overused but the 6/5 odds for Liverpool to win Group B appears a little harsh on three opponents who are all domestic and European trophy winners.

But the most important question for Liverpool fans is not whether the Reds are favourites, but whether they will be allowed to travel to the away games with no away support allowed in the qualifying stages. A final decision on travelling fans for the group stage is yet to be confirmed, but at present it doesn’t look too promising.