Do Liverpool and Real Madrid have an easy route to the second round?

James Rodriguez

James Rodriguez

Last season’s Premier League runners-up and UEFA Champions League winners have been drawn in the same group of this season’s elite European club competition.

Liverpool do not face Real Madrid until Wednesday 22 October when the European football giants meet head-to-head at Anfield.

Both sides will be expected to have picked up six points from their opening two games before back-to-back matches against each other that many expect to determine the group winner.

Brendan Rodgers’ side kick off their campaign on Tuesday against Champions League debutants Ludogorets Razgrad.

Ludogorets won the Bulgarian A Group for the first time in their history last season – in their third season after gaining promotion. They have good funding from a wealthy businessman.

The Bulgarian side have a number of different nationalities in their team – including a Serbian goalkeeper, and a number of Brazilians and central Europeans. No household names however.

In 2006-07, Levski Sofia were the first and only other Bulgarian side to reach the Champions League group stage. They didn’t pick up a single point.

Ludogorets impressed in the Europa League last season – beating PSV Eindhoven twice in the group stage and eliminating Lazio in the round of 32 before losing 4-0 on aggregate to Valencia.

This competition will surely be one step too far for the team from a small nation in terms of European football. Liverpool are fully expected to see off their opponents at Anfield on Tuesday.

In the other game in Group B, Real Madrid host Basel. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have had a disastrous start to their La Liga season – blowing a 2-0 lead to lose 4-2 at Real Sociedad before the international break and then losing 2-1 at home Atlético Madrid on Saturday.

Much is expected from the world football giants following their investments over the summer and that they are the champions of Europe after beating Atlético 4-1 in last season’s final.

FC Basel should not be overlooked though. They are experienced in Europe over the past couple of years. Last season they did the double over José Mourinho’s Chelsea. The season prior they were eliminated by the Blues in the semi-finals of the Europa League.

The Swiss champions have seen a number of despatures over the summer though. Goalkeeper Yann Sommer who played against England last Monday joined Borussia Mönchengladbach as Marc-André ter Stegen’s replacement this season. Left winger Valentin Stocker also went to Germany, joining Hertha Berlin. Full-back Kay Voser joined Fulham, and back in January Mohamed Salah moved to Chelsea.

Liverpool should be aiming for at least four points off the Swiss side which they would expect to be enough to reach the second round. Real Madrid would arguably be looking to aim for at least 15 points in this group as they start the defence of their title.

Both European giants, with their combined 15 Champions League titles are fully expected to get off to a winning start in their 2014-15 campaign at home before looking for improved performances domestically at the weekend as they both enter midweek’s games off the back of a surprise home league defeat.

Expect both Real Madrid and Liverpool to reach the second round of this season’s competitions after a favourable draw.

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