This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Liverpool may be reigning European champions and on paper their opponents look favourable, but they will still need to be wary in the Champions League group stage as they seek to retain the title.
The Reds lost just once away from home in the Premier League last season, but it was a different story in Europe as they lost all of their away group matches, as well as succumbing to a 3-0 loss at the Nou Camp.
Whilst wins against Porto and Bayern Munich were positives, there are still signs that Liverpool have not fully overcome those difficulties away from Anfield – they would have drawn with Southampton had Danny Ings not missed from yards out in their first Premier League away clash of the season.
Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg and K.R.C Genk make up what some believe is a comfortable group for Liverpool, but there are reasons why they could struggle.
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Firstly, Liverpool found Napoli tough opponents in last year’s Champions League. They lost at San Paolo and but for magical moments from Mo Salah and Alisson, they would have failed to get the three points they needed in the final group game to qualify.
Furthermore, Salzburg and Genk both possessed superb home records last season. Salzburg lost none of their 23 home matches, whilst Genk lost just three out of 28. It could be pointed out that their domestic leagues are of a lower standard, but that was also the case for FK Crvena zvezda, who defeated Liverpool 2-0 last year.
European nights at Anfield have got Liverpool out of difficult situations on multiple occasions, so if there is any chance of an early exit it will be because of under-performance in away matches.
It is only Salzburg’s second appearance in the competition but they pose a significant threat, and proved last season that they are capable of beating high-quality teams with a 3-1 second-leg win over Napoli, although the Italians did have a three-goal advantage heading into the match.
Napoli themselves possess a manager with a wealth of European experience and success in Carlo Ancelotti, and after strengthening in the summer with the additions of Kostas Manolas and Hirving Lozano, they could be better prepared for the visit to Anfield this time around.
Liverpool will look to challenge in the Premier League once again and therefore it will be difficult to maintain the same levels of energy, effort and consistency in the Champions League, and that could lead to negative results on the road. Too many of those and Liverpool’s hopes of retaining the European title will quickly fade away.