Trying to work out who Liverpool could be facing in the CL playoff is not the easiest thing, especially as not all the European leagues have finished playing yet. However, after wading through numerous articles mentioning seedings and coefficients, I found a good description of our possible opponents in the good old Liverpool Echo. We’ve almost taken it as a given that Liverpool will get through to the CL group stages but as this list shows there are still potential pitfalls awaiting. Here it is, for anyone who’s interested:
Here’s who Liverpool could be drawn against in the 4th playoff round
Who are they? From the Czech Republic’s second city, Plzen look set to just miss out on the title to Slavia Prague. Have faced, and been beaten, by the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Roma in recent years.
One to watch? Andreas **********. Rose to prominence with Levante in Spain because of his superb left foot. Now 33, the Austrian joined Plzen after a successful spell with Seattle Sounders in the MLS.
Likelihood of drawing them? First, they must finish second in the Czech League, with Slavia Prague needing just a point from their final game against Zbrojovka Brno to confirm the title. If Plzen do end the season as runners-up, their high coefficient could see them sneak as a seeded side along with Liverpool if Kiev or Ajax fail to progress.
Who are they? Russian giants and Champions League regulars, who Liverpool beat in 2005 to lift the European Super Cup in Monaco.
One to watch? Igor Akinfeev. The goalkeeper hasn’t kept a clean sheet for 10 years in the Champions League, but remains one of CSKA’s stalwarts.
Likelihood of drawing them? They are experienced in this format and represent one of the tougher draws in the third qualifying round, and they could yet be seeded if they progress – depending on how those ranked higher perform.
Who are they? Belgian side managed by legend goalkeeper Michel Preud’homme. Have lost eight consecutive games in the Champions League – including against Manchester United and Leicester.
One to watch? Jelle Vossen struggled to adapt to life in England with Middlesbrough and Burnley, but is a regular goalscorer for the Belgians, bagging 16 league goals in this campaign.
Likelihood of drawing them? They would be one of the favourites to progress and will definitely be seeded in the third round, but would need favours from elsewhere to be amongst the seeds with Liverpool in the play-off round.
Who are they? Famous Romanian side who won the European Cup in 1986. Eliminated in the play-off stage last season by Manchester City, losing 6-0 on aggregate.
One to watch? Fernando Boldrin. The Brazilian, known as ‘Rick’ in Romania, is the creative force for Steaua. A free-kick specialist in attacking midfield, though he can also play both deeper and further forward.
Likelihood of drawing them? Well, Manchester City did last season. Likely to be unseeded for both rounds, and would be doing well to progress past a team like Kiev or Ajax.
Who are they? Greek side with some of the most passionate fans in Europe. Have failed at the play-off stage in their previous five attempts to qualify for the Champions League group stages.
One to watch? Jose Crespo. The full back has had a journeyman career, starting at Sevilla and visiting the likes of Padova, Bologna, Verona and Cordoba. Made one league appearance for Aston Villa in 2015/16.
Likelihood of drawing them? Almost guaranteed to be unseeded if they were to progress, but could find it hard to even reach the play-off stage, in truth. Still have to finish top of Greece’s post-season mini-league to qualify, but are in pole position.
Who are they? The team on the plastic pitch with the funny stadium name. Hailing from the Swiss city of Bern, and playing in the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf, the Reds met Young Boys in the 2012/13 Europa League.
One to watch? Miralem Sulejmani. The Serbian international operates on the left wing and has featured for Ajax and Benfica before heading to Bern.
Likelihood of drawing them? Their plastic pitch could prove a problem for any seeded side in the third round, so could be a sneaky possibility for Liverpool in the play-off stage.
Who are they? Side from the south of France who took Ligue 1 by storm under new boss Lucien Favre. Looked to challenge Monaco and PSG for the title until the final month of the season.
One to watch? Mario Balotelli, of course. The Italian striker scored 15 league goals for the first time in his career, making a success of his surprise move. There is no guarantee he will remain at Nice for the coming campaign, however.
Likelihood of drawing them? Higher than most. Will be the banana skin for the seeded sides in the third round, and nobody will want to draw them. Would move to the play-off round unseeded and in Liverpool’s sights.
Who are they? Founded in the same year as Liverpool’s last league title – and just two years ago in their current incarnation – the Turkish side are a surprise contender to become top-tier champions for the first time ever. They play in the Fatih Terim Stadium, named after the famous international manager.
One to watch? Emmanuel Adebayor has scored six goals in 10 appearances this season in an impressive half-season. The Togolese striker’s storied career is winding down, but still represents a threat.
Likelihood of drawing them? They could spring a shock if they qualified, and would definitely be unseeded if they progressed to the play-off round. They could still win the league, and therefore enter the champions pot and send Besiktas into the picture here – but they are four points adrift with two games remaining.
Who are they? One of Portugal’s big three with plenty of European pedigree. Surprising, then, that their coefficient sees them so low. Jorge Jesus’ side finished bottom of a tough Champions League group this season, propping up Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Legia Warsaw.
One to watch? Adrien Silva was part of Portugal’s winning Euro 2016 squad – he is not alone at this club – and was linked with a big-money move to the Premier League. A classy midfielder.
Likelihood of drawing them? Would rely on a number of unseeded sides from the previous round progressing, and therefore boosting their chances – but it seems Sporting are a viable, and tricky, opponent for Liverpool.
Who are they? One of the Bundesliga’s surprise packages, with 29-year-old Julian Nagelsmann in the dugout. Lost just four league games in 2016/17 and could bring Roberto Firmino a reunion with his former side.
One to watch? Kerem Demirbay has earned rave reviews for his role in Hoffenheim’s ascension this year. The central midfielder joined from Hamburg last summer and chipped in with eight assists.
Likelihood of drawing them? Hoffenheim are almost guaranteed to be unseeded, so it is safe to assume the German side will be one of the sides Liverpool could face.