Bill Shankly taught us that the league is our bread and butter, but the European Cup is special to all Liverpool fans and those European nights under the lights at Anfield have a special place in our hearts, everybody loves the challenge of playing some of the magical teams from the continent Madrid, Barcelona, Munich, Benfica, Juventus, Roma, Paris the list goes on. We are the most successful British club in the competition with our five wins and are respected throughout the continent, but we have been missing from the Champions League for five years now, our ranking has dropped and we have missed hearing that music at Anfield. The reward for our brilliant season last year is our return to the top table. So now the draw has been made we look at what we can expect and hope for from our first season back in the Champions League.
Things have changed since we were last in the competition new teams are major forces in Europe with Manchester City and Paris St Germain's new found money allowing them to become challengers and Russian money also allowing their teams to compete alongside traditional powerhouses of Madrid, Barcelona and Munich. Athletico and Dortmund are also relatively new at the very top but are feared throughout the continent. Liverpool are delighted to be in the competition and will enjoy the challenge of meeting the teams mentioned head on.
Before the draw was made it was felt that Liverpool, because they were ranked in pot three, would possibly have to face a group of death, many were looking forward to the challenge but we seem to have got the best of both worlds with the major challenge of playing arguably the biggest club in Europe and current champions Real Madrid, whilst still having a realistic chance of qualifying for the knockout stages with further matches against FC Basel from Switzerland and Bulgarian Champions Ludogorets.
Can we qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament? I believe we can, all the teams have to be respected. Real Madrid are the Champions of Europe and have an expensively assembled team of superstars who can and regularly do perform at the highest level beating any team with apparent ease, they will be difficult to take on but we also have a strong team who in our day can cause anybody problems and we all know what Anfield and The Kop can do to visiting teams, I predict that we can get something out of our home fixture. Ludogorets are a little more unknown to us but deserve respect for qualifying this far and it will not be easy to travel to Bulgaria but I predict six points from the two games. Basel are in my opinion the key for us to qualify from the group they certainly can't be under estimated as they have shown in recent seasons defeating both Manchester United and Chelsea. Having said that we have the ability to take points from them and I expect at least four points from our two games, if the above can be achieved then we will qualify from the group with ten points probably enough to see us through to the knock out stages.
Once in the knock out stages anything can happen Anfield and our supporters often give us a big advantage and we can always hope for the best but anything at this stage would be an advantage for us. It's our first year back so enjoy the ride give our players a chance to grow and develop and dream of number six. It's vital for Liverpool to be part of this competition the money and prestige allow us to grow as a club and a team, yes the league remains our bread and butter but Europe and the Champions League is special and always will be and Liverpool need to be in this competition regularly.