As the curtain drew on another unsatisfactory night of football for Liverpool Football Club, this time in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, we Kopites found ourselves left with more questions than answers. Our game against Ludogorets was considered as an absolute must win if we were to have any hopes of progressing to the Champions League Round of 16. Unfortunately for us, football matches are turning out to be very hard to win these days and I honestly could not see my team leave Bulgaria with three points. It is of course, needless to say that we did in fact fail to notch up a win against probably the weakest team on paper in the whole UEFA Champions League this season.
The past however, is something that only Robbie Fowler can change and there is absolutely nothing that we mortals can do about it. Hence, as it stands right now, we find ourselves in a tough situation where qualification to the knockout stages is nowhere near certain. Real Madrid are nothing to worry about because they have confirmed their further participation in the tournament after racking up five wins out of five.
That leaves Swiss side Basel, Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets and our very own Liverpool F.C. vying for the second spot in the group that would ensure qualification. Basel are better off than the other two teams quite simply because they have two more points than both Liverpool and Ludogorets.
A draw in their next game would secure qualification for the team from Switzerland because not only would it give them a point, but would also deny their rivals, Liverpool the opportunity to grab all three. Mathematically however, a point for Basel would not really guarantee them anything and it’s also the same with the Reds.
This slight probability that I am referring to is a convincing Ludogorets win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. If that does happen, then they will be left with seven points which would make things very interesting. Now that we have seen our competitor’s chances of progressing it’s time to take a look at ours. The Reds find themselves with four points from five games and it is only a miracle that we still have a chance of qualifying from the group. In fact, all Liverpool have to do to get into the last 16 is beat Basel at Anfield in our last group game, it really is that simple! Once again, a convincing Ludogorets win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu would definitely change the situation, but we’ll consider that option if and when the need arises.
Ironically, the scenario would not have been any different had we actually held on for the win over Ludogorets on Wednesday. A win over the Bulgarians would have given us six points, the same as Basel after their loss to Real. Later, we would have still needed to beat the Swiss side in our last game because a draw would put both teams on seven points, but Basel would have a better goal difference.
Therefore, as it turns out, a draw to Ludogorets is not the end of the world because nothing would have changed had we actually held on for the win. While this bit of information gives us Kopites hope for the future, it also gives an opportunity to wonder exactly how much damage was already done to our Champions League Round of 16 aspirations even before we kicked off on Matchday 5.