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Liverpool Champions League opponents become clearer but one big question remains

Liverpool's name is pulled out of the bowl in the Champions League draw
-Credit: (Image: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)


It was the briefest of partings. But Liverpool and the Champions League are back together in a relationship that has proven profitable for the Reds in recent times.

The six-time European champions - only Real Madrid and AC Milan have claimed the honour on more occasions - are back among the Continent's elite having earned an impressive third-placed finish in the Premier League.

Liverpool reached three finals under Jurgen Klopp, beaten by Real in 2018 and 2022 but triumphant against Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid in 2019.

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New head coach Arne Slot has had experience in the competition while in charge of Feyenoord, and will lead the Reds into a new era with the Champions League having had the biggest overhaul since its inception more than 30 years ago.

Instead of an initial eight groups of four, there is now just one single league table including all the teams, the total of which has been bumped up from 32 to 36. Clubs will play eight games - an increase on the current six - with four at home and four away, all of which will be against different opponents.

The top eight teams in the table automatically qualify for the knockout stages with the next 16 facing a two-legged play-off to proceed, with games dependent on league position - ninth v 24th, 10th v 23rd and so on. The competition then continues as normal from the last 16 onwards as a knockout. The bottom 12 teams in the league are eliminated from European qualification altogether - no more dropping into the Europa League.

While one big group, there will still be four pots of nine teams to help determine the fixtures, ordered solely on club performance in European competition in the last five years. Liverpool are in pot one along with Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Barcelona.

The latter place was only decided on Sunday night when already-qualified Atalanta's win over Torino ensured they finished in the top four in Serie A. This meant that Benfica and not Roma qualified directly to the group stage.

While seven clubs will progress through the qualifying rounds, the majority of other places in the league have been confirmed. Arsenal and Aston Villa are in from England, Girona and Atletico Madrid from Spain, Brest and Monaco have joined PSG from France, Holland are represented by PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord, Sporting Lisbon are also in from Portugal, while Scotland and Austria are represented by Celtic and Sturm Graz respectively. Club Brugge sealed Belgium's spot on Sunday evening.

Italy and Germany earned an extra fifth place, with AC Milan, Juventus and Bologna qualifying from the former and Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt the latter.

Which leaves just one place, which is determined by whoever wins the Champions League final at Wembley next Saturday. Should Real Madrid triumph, the automatic league berth will go to Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine. But if Borussia Dortmund prevail, it will be handed to fellow German side Eintracht Frankfurt.