By James Miller – @JimmyMiller2608
The long awaited draw for the Champions League 2019/20 group stages has now been made, with reigning champions Liverpool beginning their defence against Genk.
It turned out to be a draw to please all parties on Merseyside. There will be delight for Divock Origi as he returns to see members of his family, while a nice tie once more in Naples looks the most pleasing on paper.
In addition, two Reds will return to their former club. Both Naby Keita and Sadio Mané will be welcomed back to Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg.
It will be the first time the two clubs have met in a competitive fixture and, while it is fair to say the pair have made great strides in improving themselves since leaving the club, no doubt it will be a happy return.
Not only will it be the first time that Salzburg have faced the Reds in the Champions League, but it will also be a fresh encounter for Genk in the competition too.
The same can’t be said for Italian side Napoli, led by former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti. They will very much aware of the threat posed by Jürgen Klopp’s side, having been knocked out of last year’s tournament by the Reds at this stage.
An outstanding save from Alisson Becker to deny Arkadiusz Milik in the dying embers of the final group game meant it was Liverpool that progressed, at the expense of the Italians.
The return of Champions League football comes on Tuesday, September 17th, away from home against Napoli. The famous European nights return to Anfield two weeks on when the Reds entertain Salzburg.
Afterwards follows a double header with Genk, with the away leg being quickly followed by the return fixture on home soil. On October 23rd, Liverpool will travel to Belgium and then a couple of weeks later the two sides will meet again at Anfield.
In late November it will be another visit of Napoli, rounded off by a the return of both Naby and Sadio to Austria in December.
– It is the first time since 2009/10 that Liverpool have not had to make a trip to an Eastern European country in a Champions League Group Stage campaign.
– Liverpool are bidding to become the first English team in history to qualify for three UCL finals in a row.
– The Reds have faced Napoli only four times in official competition, while they have played against neither Red Bull Salzburg nor K.R.C. Genk.
– Liverpool have taken part in two groups with Napoli in European competition (2010/11 and 2018/19). The Reds qualified for the Knockout Stages on both occasions.
– The last time Liverpool played against an Austrian team was Grazer AK in the 2004/05 Champions League Third Qualifying Round. The Reds went on to win the tournament that year.
– Liverpool have only ever lost once to a Belgian club in 13 matches. RSC Anderlecht beat Bob Paisley’s Reds in the first leg of the 1978 European Super Cup.
– The Reds have never failed to progress in the first round of a European Cup competition in the season after they lifted the trophy.