English clubs have had very little sunshine in the Champions League. A period of dominance came about a decade ago when the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea picked up the title. Klopp reckons that it may be a while before English clubs can truly dominate this competition.
The draw for the group stages of the 2019-20 Champions League is upon us. Liverpool will be in the draw as the defending champions. However, Klopp does not expect the Reds to be considered as a favourite nor be feared by the opposition. Speaking to Liverpool Echo, he said:
“We haven’t really thought about the Champions League, but at one point someone told me a little bit about the groups and what could happen and I don’t think there was ever a stronger Pot 2.
“I don’t think there was ever a stronger Pot 3. If people really think about this kind of Super League, then you don’t need it. That’s it. Then Pot 4 you can get RB Leipzig – wow! The groups will be incredible.
“I have no clue who will win the Champions League. We have the same chance like everyone else, but that is all, and no I don’t see us, the English teams, dominating.”
Since Chelsea’s title success in 2012, a vacuum came about and it was only ended when Liverpool picked up the honour last summer. The sixth European Cup title for the Reds was special indeed, as it was Klopp’s first since he came to Liverpool in 2015. It was also the first European title for the Reds since the famous 2004 success in Istanbul under Rafa Benitez.
The competition has been one of the most financially rewarding football events. It is no wonder that clubs who have regularly featured in the group stages have improved a lot in recent years. The ever-increasing TV and prize money from UEFA have trickled down in various levels of the game, but the clubs that regularly reached the group stages and beyond are the biggest beneficiaries.
A few years ago, English clubs – and clubs from the other top leagues – frequently found themselves taking the group stages with less intensity and seriousness. It was often believed that the ‘real Champions League’ began only in the knockout stages. This, however, is no longer true.
As expected, Liverpool are in Pot 1 of the draw. Chelsea, Barcelona, Manchester City, Juventus, Bayern Munich, PSG, and Zenit St Petersburg are the other teams in the pot. This is as strong as Pot 1 can get, but the story gets interesting as we trickle down to the rest of the pots.
The pot 2 is with teams like Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Tottenham, and Ajax. Such a strong pot effectively eliminates the race between teams to try and end up in the pot 1 so as to get an easier draw.
Pot 3 is not far behind in terms of club prestige and squad strength. The likes of Bayer Leverkusen, Valencia, Lyon, and Inter Milan dominate the names in this section. Most of these clubs have been able to spend big in the summer with Inter having Antonio Conte as the coach and Romelu Lukaku as their new star signing.
The biggest surprise is the way the competition even extends to pot 4. Previously, the teams in this pot would provide walkovers for teams from pot 1. This may not be the case anymore with the likes of RB Leipzig, Atalanta, and Lille being quite formidable names.
Now, there is a strong possibility that the Reds may be paired in the group containing Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and RB Leipzig despite winning the competition last summer. After having not strengthened the squad in the summer, Klopp has his work cut out.