By Andrew Atkinson
Liverpool’s potential draw in the Champions League group stage could see them face Atletico Madrid. The group stage draw takes place on October 1.
A shock 2-1 defeat for Benfica at PAOK Salonika on September 15 in the third qualifying round has had ramifications for Jurgen Klopp’s team.
It’s the first time the Portuguese giants have failed to reach the competition proper since 2010, after 10 successive appearances.
With Benfica eliminated, Ajax are promoted from Pot 3 to Pot 2, with Dinamo Zagreb, yet to qualify, provisionally moving into Pot 3.
Premier League champions, Liverpool have automatically been placed in Pot 1, along with the title winners of other top-ranking European leagues and the winners of the Champions League and Europa League.
Country protection means Liverpool cannot face Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea.
Liverpool will face either Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Borussia Dortmund or Ajax.
Six places in the group stages are to be confirmed, with the third qualifying round, before a two-legged final play-off later this month.
Of those clubs already qualified, a preferred draw for Liverpool would see them face Ajax, Lazio and Rennes.
Far more difficult would be a task against Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and Marseille.
Champions League Group stage pots: Pot 1. Liverpool, Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Zenit St Petersburg, Porto, Sevilla.
Pot 2: Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Ajax.
Pot 3: Dinamo Kiev*, Red Bull Salzburg*, RB Leipzig, Inter Milan, Olympiakos*, Lazio, Atalanta, Dinamo Zagreb*.
Pot 4: Lokomotiv Moscow, Marseille, Bruges, Slavia Prague*, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Basaksehir, PAOK Salonika*, Rennes. *Teams yet to qualify.