Liverpool May Land Tough Champions League Draw After Benfica Beat Fenerbahce

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IAugust 14, 2018

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12:  Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool looks on prior to the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United at Anfield on August 12, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Liverpool still face the prospect of being handed a tough draw for the UEFA Champions League after Benfica knocked out Fenerbahce in qualifying on Tuesday.

The Portuguese side secured a 2-1 aggregate win but still have one more round to negotiate before they are assured of a place in the competition proper. 

They will take on Greek side PAOK Salonika, who have already knocked out FC Basel and Spartak Moscow to progress to the play-off round.

The result means Liverpool could find themselves in Pot 3, rather than the more favourable Pot 2, for the group stage draw which takes place on Thursday, August 30.

ESPN FC's Dale Johnson offered a neat summary of the situation:

Benfica won the first leg in Portugal 1-0 thanks to a solitary goal Franco Cervi. They secured their progression with a 1-1 draw at Fenerbahce. Gedson Fernandes opened the scoring for the visitors before Alper Potuk equalised.

They now face PAOK Salonika who beat Spartak Moscow 3-2. All the goals came in the first leg. The Greek side recovered from going 2-0 down to win 3-2.

Football writer Artur Petrosyan offered his view of PAOK Salonika:

The first leg is scheduled to take place at Benfica on Tuesday, 21 August. The return leg will take place the following Wednesday in Greece.

Even though Liverpool reached the Champions League final last season, they have a lower UEFA ranking than Benfica. If Benfica beat PAOK they will confirm their place in Pot 2, but if they lose it is Liverpool who will take their place.

The Champions League draw sees the 32 qualified teams seeded into four different pots. Here's a look at how the pots stand ahead of the final play-off round, per Johnson:

If Liverpool do end up in Pot 3, they face being drawn against teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Juventus as well as clubs like Borussia Dortmund, Roma or Napoli. They cannot face other Premier League teams at this stage of the competition.

They would expect an easier draw if they are put into Pot 2, but their fate now rests on the outcome of Benfica's final match.

Liverpool may feel they have little to fear after some stirring performances in the tournament last season. They knocked out Porto, Manchester City and Roma on their way to the final last year before being beaten by Real Madrid.

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