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The Champions League draw in Monaco on Thursday evening saw Liverpool drawn in Group B with holders Real Madrid, Swiss outfit F.C. Basel and Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets. The favourable draw is just what Liverpool deserve after their European exodus, writes Conor Sherry.

Who Liverpool would be drawn against in the group stages of upon their return to the Champions League has been in the forefront of the thinking of Reds fans since the season ended in May. After four long years without top level European football, the club is back where it feels it belongs.

The club’s fans had plenty of reason to be nervous ahead of Thursdays draw. Liverpool were seeded in Pot 3, meaning they could face European heavyweights such as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona from Pot 1 and the likes of PSG, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus from Pot 2.

The outcome however was something much more positive.

Liverpool were drawn in a group that contain Real Madrid, F.C. Basel and Ludogorets. Apart from Madrid the other two teams were without doubt two of the weaker teams in their respective pots.

With regards to Real, this is a tie that Reds fans will relish rather than fear. Teams like Los Blancos returning to Anfield will be a signal to fans that Liverpool are back. It has been a long spell of adversity for the five-time winners, but now the fans can once again look forward to more famous European nights.

The teams last met in the Champions League in the 2008/09 season, with Liverpool prevailing 5-0 on aggregate in the last sixteen hammering. In that two-legged round, Liverpool won 1-0 away and 4-0 at home. Steven Gerrard scored two in the 4-0 home win in March 2009.

In fact Liverpool have won all three of the club’s ties in Europe against the Spaniards, and maybe even more surprisingly have never conceded a goal. The only other competitive match between the teams was the 1981 European Cup final which Liverpool won 1-0. Their current record stands at won 3, scored 6 and conceded none. Surely this record is as good as any other club to have faced Madrid?

Reds CEO Ian Ayre is spoke to the Liverpool Echo about how pleased the club were with the group, and of his excitement at the prospect of facing the ten times winners.

“I just spoke to Brendan and he watched the draw from his office at the training ground. They are all tough groups but we’re pleased.”>It’s particularly special to have Real Madrid in the group. We’ve got great memories of previous games against them. 
“It’s fantastic.  When you look at Liverpool as a football club, it’s our competition. 

“We’re the five-times winners and we’re playing against a club who has just won it for the 10th time which makes it a very special group.”

While the focus was generally on Real Madrid, Ayre did admit that their opening fixture of the competition was against an unknown quantity, but the game wouldn’t be treated any differently and the research into Ludgorets would begin immediately.

When I spoke to Brendan he said the process starts now in terms of scouting them and analysing.

“We treat every team the same. There is a great team behind the team at Liverpool and I’m confident we’ll get the best information on the opposition.  Our expectation is the same as it was before the draw – to qualify from the group.”

Liverpool fans can now breathe a sigh of relief. The group could have been daunting. It’s now something to get excited about. The club has a very realistic chance of progressing. While the likes of Basel and Ludogorets shouldn’t be disregarded, the draw could have been much less kind on the Merseyside outfit.
>Just look at Man City’s draw. City were seeded in pot 2, and now find themselves in Group E – ‘The Group of Death’.
Conor Sherry, Pundit Arena.

What are your thoughts on the draw?

Has it been kind to Liverpool?
Have your say, comments welcome.

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