Jack Lusby

Feature Writer

IN PROFILE: Liverpool’s Champions League Group Stage Opponents

With the Champions League draw held on Thursday, Liverpool were drawn with Real Madrid, FC Basel and Ludogorets Razgrad in Group B. Jack Lusby gives an overview of these opponents.

A five-year wait ends this season, with Liverpool returning to the Champions League following an extended exile.

The incredible success of Brendan Rodgers’ side last season secured a return to Europe’s upper echelon; the Ulsterman has previously stewarded the side in the Europa League but this season brings new territory.

Liverpool have been handed a prime draw, joining Real Madrid, FC Basel and Ludogorets Razgrad in Group B.

But who are the Reds’ Champions League adversaries? Here is the definite overview of the three sides.

 

 

Real Madrid

MADRID, SPAIN - Wednesday, February 25, 2009: Liverpool players walk out before the UEFA Champions League First Knock-Out Round against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Nickname: Los Merengues

Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu, 85,454 capacity.

Manager: Carlo Ancelotti

55-year-old Italian Ancelotti is one of the most decorated managers to feature in the Champions League this season.

Having featured as a midfielder for Parma, Roma and Milan in his playing career, Ancelotti’s first management job came with Serie A side Reggiana in 1995.

Ancelotti has since taken charge of Parma, Juventus, Milan, Chelsea, PSG and now Real Madrid; the bullish Italian has won three Champions League trophies in his managerial career.

Last Season:

The 2013/14 season was a stand-out endeavour for Los Merengues, with Ancelotti’s side winning La Decima, the club’s 10th victory on Europe’s highest stage.

Defeating Atletico Madrid 4-1 in the Lisbon-held final, late goals from Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo cancelled out Diego Godin’s opener.

On the domestic stage, however, Atletico were the victors, with Real finishing third behind their Madrid rivals as well as arch-enemies Barcelona.

Star Players:

MADRID, SPAIN - Wednesday, April 25, 2012: Real Madrid's players look on during the penalty shoot-out against Bayern Munchen during the UEFA Champions League Semi-Final 2nd Leg match at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Cristiano Ronaldo, Esteban Granero, Alvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso, Kaka, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Cristiano Ronaldo

Arguably the best player in world football at this current juncture, Ronaldo joined Real from Manchester United in 2009, in a deal worth £80 million.

Despite Real’s reputation as a squad of Galacticos, Ronaldo is by far and away the club’s star attraction, and the forward demands both the ball and the opponent’s attention at all times.

Last season, the 29-year-old scored 39 goals and made a further 11 assists in 36 appearances between La Liga and the Champions League.

Gareth Bale

Welsh forward Bale is no stranger to the Liverpool squad, having joined Real from Spurs and the Premier League in 2013.

The rise of the 25-year-old in the past few years has been phenomenal, and Bale can be considered perhaps the most complete player in world football that isn’t Ronaldo.

The Real No. 11 scored 15 goals and made 12 assists in 27 La Liga appearances last season.

James Rodriguez

Real new boy Rodriguez joins Los Merengues following a glittering World Cup with Colombia, wherein which the forward won the tournament’s Golden Boot, with six goals.

These displays earned Rodriguez a £71 million move to La Liga, and the 23-year-old will hope to pin down the No. 10 role behind Karim Benzema and alongside Ronaldo and Bale.

Last season, for Monaco, Rodriguez scored seven goals and made 11 assists in 33 Ligue 1 appearances.

Last Meeting vs LFC:

Champions League 1st Knockout Round Second Leg, 2008/09, Anfield. Liverpool 4-0 Real Madrid (Torres 16’, Gerrard 28’(pen), 47’, Dossena 89’)

 

FC Basel

International Football - UEFA Euro 2012 - Qualifying Group G - Switzerland v Wales

Nickname: The RotBlau

Stadium: St. Jakob-Park, 38,512 capacity.

Manager: Paulo Sousa

Former Portugal defensive midfielder Sousa joined Basel for the 2014/15 season following management spells in England, Hungary and Israel.

Sousa played for Benfica, Sporting CP, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Parma, Panathinaikos and Espanyol throughout a long and successful career.

In management, Sousa was famously involved in the turmoil at QPR under Flavio Briatore, and will hope for more success at Basel.

Last Season:

Under Murat Yakin in 2013/14, Basel once more won the Swiss Super League title, for the fifth consecutive season. The club also reached the final of the Swiss Cup, losing out to FC Zurich.

In terms of the Champions League, last season Basel reached the Group Stage, where they faced Chelsea, Schalke 04, and Steau Bucharest.

The RotBlau were unfortunately edged out of their group and relegated to the Europa League, where they reached the Quarter Finals, losing out to Valencia, 5-3 on aggregate.

Star Players:

Marco Streller

33-year-old striker Streller is a Basel veteran, having played with the club for over a decade throughout two spells.

The most recent has seen Streller become a central figure in the Basel first-team, and serves as the club’s primary goalscorer.

In four games so far this season, Streller has scored three goals.

Walter Samuel

Another seasoned professional within the Basel squad is former Inter man Samuel, who joined the Swiss club on a free transfer this summer.

Having also appeared for Roma and Real Madrid throughout his career, Samuel brings a wealth of European experience to Basel.

At 36 years old, the club will be hoping the centre-back can add a mature outlook to the side’s defence during this season’s Champions League.

Last Meeting vs LFC:

Champions League Group Stage, 2002/03, St. Jakob-Park. Basel 3-3 Liverpool (Rossi 2’, Gimenez 22’, Atouba 29’; Murphy 60’, Smicer 63’, Owen 85)

 

Ludogorets Razgrad

Nickname: The Eagles

Stadium: Away fixtures for the Champions League to be held in Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia, 43,230 capacity.

Manager: Georgi Dermendzhiev

Former Bulgarian defender Dermendzhiev enjoyed spells with Slavia Sofia and Yantra Gabrovo as a player, whilst the 59-year-old has managed Sliven and now Ludogorets.

Last Season:

In 2013/14 Ludogorets successfully defended their A PFG title, edging rivals Litex Lovech by one point.

When it came to Europe, the Bulgarian side reached the Europa League Round of 16 knockout phase, losing out to Valencia following a valiant run.

Star Players:

Cosmin Moti

The current star player for Ludogorets is Moti, who dragged the Bulgarian side throughout the play-offs with two saves and a goal in their 6-5 penalty shoot-out win over Steau Bucharest.

No surprise there?

Moti is a centre-back.

 

Whoever the opposition was to be, this is the stage that Liverpool and their fans have dreamt of re-joining ever since their fall from grace prior to Rodgers’ arrival.

Luckily, the group handed to the Reds is a fairly negotiable one, whilst the trip to Real Madrid will be a tantalising encounter made even more interesting given their previous encounter in the Champions League.

Perhaps most importantly, no long away trips await Liverpool, who now will face two fixtures a week throughout the season.

The Champions League is back, enjoy the ride.

How do you feel about Liverpool’s chances in the Champions League following the draw? Let us know in the comments below.

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Aspiring sports journalist and ardent Liverpool supporter. This Is Anfield's feature writer.
All posts are reactively-moderated and must obey the comment policy.
  • goldsphinix

    should be interesting, and definitely a manageable group. but the most important thing is shoring up our presence in the champions league so the premier league should be our first priority imo.

    • Dragan from Serbia

      I don’t think we’ll have a priority and I think we shouldn’t, we have enough options to give our best everywhere..

      • Redblooded Male

        Without PL, there is no CL.

        • Dragan from Serbia

          No reason for worry yet..

  • Josh

    Fortunately, the CL games fall favorably for us in the schedule. Only tight affairs – Real then Chelsea and Everton then Basel. Also Basil then United, but…

    • Shawn Spence

      That’s not very favorably at all.

  • Redblooded Male

    Surprise surprise, that bald guy never brought up the last time we met Madrid it was 4-0!

  • serbianred

    I just hope that the away leg against Ludogorts is after middle of october when I am back from holiday as this could be my best chance to go watch Reds for the first time live. Town is only 10hour drive from Belgrade and I already got permision from wife to go watch it if I am able. I was praying for Real or Barsa from pot 1 and for Maribor or Ludogoretz from pot 4.The first because it is such a glamour tie the second because its 2 locations I can get to.Just thinking that finally I could get the chance to watch them live is bringing tears to my eyes

  • ?oe ßloggs

    In other news, Falcao has agreed to join our CL opponents RM for €20m on a year long loan.

    That is one scary and loaded team.

    • Shawn Spence

      Only play 11 at a time though, and their midfield seems a little weak to me right now.

      • ?oe ßloggs

        Ronaldo, Bale, Khedira, Modric, Kroos, Rodriguez, Isco is a weak midfield?

        • Derrick phiri

          We are liverpool,remember. We don’t fear any opponets.YNWA

          • ?oe ßloggs

            Who’s fearing? It was merely a statement of their talent.

          • Derrick phiri

            The more i think of real madrid instabul comes into mind. The way the team fought for the win should inspire us fans. I think they will do the same against real.

          • ?oe ßloggs

            Let’s hope so. I can’t wait! :)

          • atdotslash

            We’ll be fine Mr Bloggs……just as long as there isn’t a Johnson/Ronaldo match up!

        • Shawn Spence

          Only three of them are central midfielders as opposed to attacking mids or wingers. They tried to offload Khedira and couldn’t find any takers if that tells you anything about him. Modric is good but not beyond control. Kroos is good but probably won’t do much going forward. If they do transfer out Alonso seems like they’re leaving themselves a bit short there. They obviously weren’t happy with Dimaria’s defensive work last year, but that could be a transfer that doesn’t really work out for either side.

          I think its good that we don’t get them until Matchday 3, and that the first game is at home.

          Sure would be nice if Real and Barca had to play within the same parameters as everyone else.

          • ?oe ßloggs

            You said midfielders…I gave you midfielder names, central or otherwise.

            Are you saying that just because RM couldn’t sell Khedira, that he isn’t good? This is Sami Khedira we’re talking about – two footballers in one.

            I do think the fixtures work to our advantage. The glam of playing RM is also most welcome. There is nothing to be scared at all. But to denigrate their team at the expense of bravado talk is not wisdom, only masked fear.

            Yes, Alonso and esp. Di Maria will be big misses for them.

            Did you see Ronaldo’s interview after the draw? I just want to wipe that egotistical smirk of his chiselled face.

          • imoff

            Rm tried to offload Khedira according to various reports why are we not going for him ? I guess his wages may be a hindrance oops i may have answered that question myself.i’m really looking forward to these European matches .

          • Dragan from Serbia

            Khedira is a great player.. Coming back from a long term injury and play like that on WC..

          • Shawn Spence

            I would think a Liverpool fan would understand that players like Bale and Ronaldo are, like Sterling, basically forwards today.

            Khedira obviously wasn’t good enough for a top 4 club, it’s not like the cost was prohibitive.

            I’ve seen comments from RM fans that confirm what I’m saying. Neither Kroos nor Modric is that good at breaking up play, nor a real creative force like DiMaria. I don’t understand why they’re selling Alonso, but glad they are for several reasons.

            I could not possibly care less what Ronaldo has to say about anything.

          • Dragan from Serbia

            The point that they ‘don’t need’ a player like Khedira says it all.. They did a great job, buying Kroos for cheep, selling ‘old’ Alonso, selling Di Maria for big money.. And still Isco, Khedira, Modric left with Kroos and Rodriguez..

          • Dragan from Serbia

            In this moment their game doesn’t look compact like last year, but in a short time they’ll be there.. However, they cannot improve, Di Maria is hard to upgrade on, he was their best player last year.. Falcao could be improvement but if he plays good like he’s used to, which is a big question mark.. In case Ronaldo or Bale are injured, there’s no real solution on those positions.. Alonso was great but Kroos can get there in a while, needs some time, just like Rodriguez.. We have enough time to improve until our match, I’m optimist..

  • Shawn Spence

    40,000+ seat stadium, so should have 30,000 Reds there right? :)

    • lfcbg

      It’s absolutely possibe.

  • gora-gora-xabi-alonso

    Perfect group for our return. One glamour team and two teams we should compete with to ease our way back into European football. Great test for BR as well. He will have to learn to park the bus if he wants to lift the CL one day and that should add to his tactical reputoire.

  • Durban Red

    Love it. Still a doable group and Madrid guarantees two great fixtures on our return… Basel will provide a stiffer test than most might think, but overall we can definitely get out of this group with 12 out of 18 points. Irrepective, Main priority this season should be top 4… We have to cement ourselves back in the top tiers of European football. Excited now! YNWA***

    • RedFerd

      Ek se hows the weather in Durbs? Kak cold in Jozi today

      • Durban Red

        Awehhhh… Haha Ay it’s less bit cold this side too.. Though reckon you Jozi cats will still march in shorts in our weather. ;)

  • RedFerd

    Draw couldn’t have gone any better imo. Basel won’t be easy but we gotta be favourites. if we pick up anything from Real we should go through for sure. 2 draws against Real, 2 wins against Ludogrets and a win and a draw against Basel will do I think

  • ryanj

    Every time i read Ronaldo’s stats, I have to read them twice… 39 goals and 11 assists in 36 games. How is that even humanly possible?

  • ryanj

    Our dodgy defence against Ronaldo, Bale, Falcao and Rodriguez??? No chance… Our only hope is to go all-out attack and try to outscore them. Parking the bus won’t work for long against these guys.

  • i_ball

    I think Ludogorets won’t be able to handle the pressing and quickness. Yes they beat Lazio but after that got totally outclassed by Valencia.

    I think Ludogorets can take a point or two against Basel and do us a huge favor. Last year they played in the CL playoff and frankly Salah was the difference between the two teams. No that he’s gone the games would be close