Champions League draw: Liverpool face the unknown with Group D opponents

The Reds have never played a competitive match against either Atalanta or FC Midtjylland, while they have only faced Ajax in one 1966 European Cup tie.

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The Reds were paired with Dutch giants Ajax, Italian outfit Atalanta and FC Midtjylland of Denmark in Thursday evening’s draw in Geneva.

It’s an intriguing draw that throws up some enticing fixtures.

All four sides are known for their expansive, somewhat innovative approaches, meaning some high-scoring, tactically intriguing contests could be in the offing.


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Add into the mix the fact that the only time any of the sides have previously met was a 1966 European Cup meeting between the Reds and Ajax – which the Dutch outfit won 7-3 on aggregate – and you get another level of mystique.

Here’s a brief lowdown on each of Liverpool’s opponents.

Ajax

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De Godenzonen

Founded: 1900
Home ground: Johan Cruijff Arena, Amsterdam
Manager: Erik ten Hag
Champions League/European Cup best: Winners x4 (1970/71, 1971/72, 1972/73, 1994/95)

How they qualified

Ajax earned automatic qualification as the side who were top of the Dutch Eredivisie when the season was prematurely brought to a close due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Likely lineup

(4-2-3-1): 24. André Onana; 12. Noussair Mazraoui, 3. Perr Schuurs, 17. Daley Blind, 31. Nicolás Tagliafico; 4. Edson Álvarez, 20. Mohammed Kudus; 39. Anthony Santos, 11. Quincy Promes, 10. Dušan Tadić (C); 19. Zakaria Labyad

Atalanta

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La Dea

Founded: 1907
Home ground: Gewiss Stadium, Bergamo
Manager: Gian Piero Gasperini
Champions League/European Cup best: Quarter-finals (2019/20)

How they qualified

A third-placed Serie A finish last season granted them automatic entry after making an enthralling debut in the competition last season.

Likely lineup

(3-4-1-2): 57. Marco Sportiello; 2. Rafael Tolói, 13. Mattia Caldara, 19. Berat Djimsiti; 33. Hans Hateboer, 15. Marten de Roon, 11. Remo Freuler, 8. Robin Gosens; 88. Mario Pašalić, 10. Alejandro Gómez (C); 91. Duván Zapata

FC Midtjylland

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Ulvene

Founded: 1999
Home ground: MCH Arena, Herning
Manager: Brian Priske
Champions League/European Cup best: (Competition debutant)

How they qualified

After winning the 2019/20 Danish Superligaen, the Herning-based club overcame first Ludogorets Razgrad away and then Young Boys at home in single-leg qualification rounds to reach the two-legged play-off stage. There, they dramatically saw off Slavia Prague by a 4-1 aggregate scoreline on Wednesday night to seal their first ever Group Stage place.

Intriguingly, the Danes are another of the sides that the Reds’ throw-in coach, Thomas Grønnemark, has worked with. There may not be many games whose throw-ins get as much attention as this one.

Likely lineup

(4-3-3): 1. Jesper Hansen; 6. Joel Andersson, 28. Erik Sviatchenko (C), 14. Alexander Scholz, 29. Paulinho; 40. Jens Cajuste, 38. Frank Onyeka, 10. Evander; 11. Awer Mabil, 9. Sory Kaba, 7. Pione Sisto

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The match calendar is expected to be released on Friday evening, confirming when and where Liverpool will play their six group matches.

The other groups

Elsewhere, the most attractive matchup produced arguably came in Group G, where Juventus and Barcelona – and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – will meet.

What about the other English sides?

Manchester City are set to face FC Porto, Olympiacos and Olympique Marseille in Group C.

Chelsea will come up against Sevilla, FC Krasnodar and Stade Rennais in Group E.

Manchester United look to have the toughest assignment, with Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig and Istanbul Basaksehir between them and a place in the knockout stages.

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A full list of the groups is below:

Group A:

Bayern Munich (Germany)

Atlético Madrid (Spain)

FC Salzburg (Austria)

Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia)

Group B:

Real Madrid (Spain)

Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)

Internazionale (Italy)

Borussia Mönchengladbach (Germany)

Group C:

FC Porto (Portugal)

Manchester City (England)

Olympiacos (Greece)

Olympique Marseille (France)

Group D:

Liverpool (England)

Ajax (Netherlands)

Atalanta (Italy)

FC Midtjylland (Denmark)

Group E:

Sevilla (Spain)

Chelsea (England)

FC Krasnodar (Russia)

Stade Rennais (France)

Group F:

Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia)

Borussia Dortmund (Germany)

Lazio (Italy)

Club Brugge (Belgium)

Group G:

Juventus (Italy)

Barcelona (Spain)

Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)

Ferencváros (Hungary)

Group H:

Paris Saint-Germain (France)

Manchester United (England)

RB Leipzig (Germany)

Istanbul Basaksehir (Turkey)


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