Brighton & Hove Albion's Steve Sidwell, background and Liverpool's Mohamed Salah battle for the ball, during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Brighton, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018.
Dubai: Just when it looks like Liverpool, after years in the silverware wilderness, are finally in a position to rake in the trophies, Uefa go and throw them a curveball.
In one of Uefa’s many strange quirks — they have learnt well from weird big brother Fifa — last year’s Champions League finalists were among the third seeds as the group stage draw for the latest edition of the tournament took place in Monaco on Thursday night.
And the smiles around Anfield that have been growing due to their perfect start to the English Premier League season may have slipped a little as events unfolded in the principality.
Paris St-Germain ... Napoli ... Red Star Belgrade.
Ace! So that means a trip to Paris to face Brazilian superstar Neymar and World Cup wonderkid Kylian Mbappe. A jaunt to the historic city of Naples to take on Carlo Ancelotti’s Serie A Runners-up and a strike force of Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne. Oh, and a sojourn to the balmy climes of Belgrade in November.
If Jurgen Klopp’s men have realistic hopes of replicating or even bettering last season’s European exploits, they will have to go all out from the first match against PSG at Anfield on September 18 as their Group C is pretty much as tough as they come.
Liverpool though have improved their squad since last season, with Alisson now in goal and much more depth on the bench for Klopp to call on if required, especially in midfield.
The other tantalising tit-bit thrown up at Thursday’s glitzy ceremony was the pairing of Juventus with Manchester United. In years gone by this would hardly raise an eyebrow, but now a certain Mr Cristian Ronaldo has made the move from Madrid to Turin, it has suddenly taken on much more meaning.
Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford on October 23, a ground where he spent four years and won the Champions League title before moving to Real Madrid.
There have been some major changes at United since he last played for them, and recently not many have been good. With talk of major rifts between the players and the coach, Jose Mourinho, and major rifts between the coach and the board — not to mention two losses in three games so far this season — Juve’s arrival as seven-time defending Serie A champions at the Theatre of Dreams could turn into the latest nightmare for United. With Valencia also in their Group H, United, and Mourinho if he still has the job, could be back in the Europa Cup before they know what’s hit them.