The draw for the Champions League group stages took place in Monaco on Thursday and Liverpool found out the three opponents who will attempt to derail their European Cup defence.
It was a case of deja-vu for Jurgen Klopp’s men as they were pitted to face Serie A side Napoli for the second year in a row. Genk of Belgium and Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg were the other two teams drawn in Group E with Liverpool.
Liverpool and Napoli shared the honours in last season’s group with both sides winning 1-0 at home. In the Sao Paolo in Naples, it was a late Lorenzo Insigne goal which gave the Italian club the win.
The return fixture at Anfield was one of those special European nights on Merseyside. Liverpool needed to win either 1-0 or by two clear goals to progress. An excellently taken Mohamed Salah goal was enough to take the points and put Klopp’s side through to the knockout stages. Huge credit also went to Alisson who denied Arkadiusz Milik an injury-time equaliser with some miraculous goalkeeping.
As for Genk and RB Salzburg, Liverpool have had no prior meetings with either side.
Genk are the reigning champions of the Belgian Jupiler League. However, they are currently sixth in the division with three wins and two defeats from their opening five games this season. Interestingly, for older football fans, Ianis Hagi plays for Genk – the son of the great Romanian playmaker Gheorghe Hagi.
Red Bull Salzburg are the Austrian Bundesliga title-holders at the moment. They have made an electrifying start to the 2019/20 campaign, winning their first five games and sitting top of the table again.
Liverpool’s Sadio Mané spent two years with RB Salzburg before signing for Southampton in 2014. Nowadays, the Austrian club has a young Norwegian striker named Erlin Braut Haland banging in the goals. The 19-year-old has seven goals and two assists in just five league games so far this season.
There are sure to be many twists in the tale of Group E as the tournament progresses. Yet, there is no doubt that Liverpool should be making it to the last sixteen come February. Anything less would be a complete failure from a team with the potential to regularly feature among Europe’s elite for the next few years.