While Pep Guardiola and Manchester City have gotten the best of Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool in the Premier League (for the most part) in recent years, the Reds have dominated the Champions League. This year’s Liverpool Champions League draw allows Klopp yet another opportunity to get the best of his EPL rivals and the rest of the world.
Since taking over the Merseyside football club in 2015, Klopp has guided Liverpool to an incredible three Champions League Finals and won a UCL trophy with his team. The Reds were in last year’s Final in France, losing a heartbreaking 1-0 match to Real Madrid.
This season, the Liverpool Champions League draw put the club in Group A along with Ajax from the Netherlands, Napoli from Italy, and Rangers from Scotland. Here is everything you need to know about Liverpool’s path to the knockout stage.
UEFA Champions League Group A draw
As the runner-up in the 2021-22 English Premier League season, the Liverpool Champions League draw came from pot 2. The Merseyside club lucked out in its draw and avoided pot 1 powerhouses like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Paris Saint-Germain. Drawing Ajax, Napoli, and Rangers is about as good as the Reds could have hoped for.
The exact UCL schedule isn’t finalized yet, but we do know which weeks the teams will play the fixtures:
- Matchday 1: September 6/7
- Matchday 2: September 13/14
- Matchday 3: October 4/5
- Matchday 4: October 11/12
- Matchday 5: October 25/26
- Matchday 6: November 1/2
One note about this year’s scheduling: The UCL has implemented TV pairings by country, so that top teams from the same league don’t play on the same day. For example, Liverpool and Manchester City are a pair, meaning they will play on opposite matchdays.
In UCL Group A, Rangers and Celtic are a pair, and so are Napoli and AC Milan.
Liverpool vs. Ajax
When Ajax qualified for the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League by winning the Eredivisie by two points over PSV, its manager was Dutchman Erik ten Hag. The 52-year-old skipper will still face Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool at least twice this season, but it will be with Manchester United.
The new man in charge at Ajax is Alfred Schreuder. The Dutch manager was Ten Hag’s assistant in 2018-19, head coach at 1899 Hoffenheim in Germany, and assistant at Barcelona. Last season won the Belgian Pro League with another 22-23 UCL squad, Club Brugge.
This year’s Ajax squad includes many familiar names that Liverpool fans will recognize from Premier Leagues past. These players include Maarten Stekelenburg (Fulham/Everton), Davy Klaassen (Everton), Daley Blind (Manchester United), Dušan Tadić (Southampton), and Steven Bergwijn (Tottenham).
Ajax is a perennially dominant team in the top division of the Netherlands. Still, they are one of the weakest squads in pot 1, which made for an excellent Liverpool Champions League draw.
Liverpool vs. Napoli
Napoli, the Campania, Italy-based club, finished third in Serie A last season, five points behind Inter Milan and seven back of the champions, AC Milan.
Manager Luciano Spalletti’s team is off to a hot start in its 2022-23 campaign as well. Napoli has won its first two matches vs. Verona and Monza by a combined score of 9-2. A lot of this is due to the club’s new Wonder Boy, 21-year-old Georgian Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. The youngster came over this offseason after playing in Russia and Georgia and has notched three goals already.
Other familiar faces Liverpool fans may recognize are Mexican winger Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Italian national team stalwart Giovanni Di Lorenzo, and Tottenham loanee Tanguy Ndombele.
Napoli did lose some big names this offseason, with Lorenzo Insigne (Toronto FC), Kalidou Koulibaly (Chelsea), and Arkadiusz Milik (Marseille on loan to Juventus) all moving on. Despite these losses, Napoli still has a packed roster, and the brass might not be finished on the transfer market.
The latest Cristiano Ronaldo rumors out of Manchester are that Napoli might step up and make an offer for the unhappy superstar. A move like that would definitely change the tenor of the Liverpool Champions League draw into Group A.
It’s been over a decade since Scotland’s most decorated club (sorry Celtic fans) has been in the Champions League group stage. But Rangers got in with a dramatic second-half goal against Ajax rival PSV in qualifying.
Rangers has an international flair, featuring players from 16 different countries. However, there aren’t many names that even relatively hardcore football fans will recognize.
For fans in the U.S. watching Liverpool take on Rangers, there are two Americans on the squad. Defensive midfielder James Sands is on loan from NYCFC in MLS, and attacking midfielder Malik Tillman (a German with USMNT eligibility) is on loan from Bayern Munich.
Predictions for UCL Group A
The Liverpool Champions League worked out just about as well as it could for Jürgen Klopp and company. The Reds should walk to the round of 16 without much problem. Both the Ajax and Napoli matches will be tough and exciting, but if Liverpool is at full strength and plays its best, the outcome should not be in doubt.
As for who else comes out of the group, the prediction here is that it will be Napoli. Yes, Ajax is technically the top club in the group, but losing Erik ten Hag and a boatload of talent this offseason will be too much to bear. The kings of the Netherlands will be back to the UCL knockout stage someday soon. It just won’t be 2023.