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ANALYSIS 📍 The lowdown on Liverpool’s Champions League opponents

Liverpool will meet AFC Ajax, Napoli and Glasgow Rangers in Group A of this season’s Champions League.

Here is our lowdown on the Reds’ three upcoming European opponents…

Ajax

Fixtures: September 13 (H), October 26 (A)

The two clubs with 10 European Cups between them meet in the group stage once again.

There’ll be a new man in the Dutch champions’ dugout since their most recent encounters with Liverpool in 2020-21.

“The stories and images from Anfield are always great,” head coach Alfred Schreuder said. “Now we can experience it ourselves, with fans.”

Schreuder is the replacement for Erik ten Hag, having been recruited from Club Brugge in the summer. The former Barcelona assistant has had to contend with a number of significant departures to the squad that topped the Eredivisie and reached the Champions League last 16 in the previous campaign.

Top scorer Sebastian Haller, who bagged 34 goals, has left, along with Lisandro Martinez, Ryan Gravenberch, Perr Schuurs and Nicolas Tagliafico.

Steven Bergwijn has made a goalscoring arrival, however, following his move from Tottenham Hotspur, as well as RB Leipzig recruit Brian Brobbey.

Last season, Ajax topped their Champions League group containing Sporting CP, Borussia Dortmund and Besiktas by a nine-point margin having won all six of their matches.

But their European journey ended at the hands of Benfica when Darwin Nunez netted the decisive goal in the second leg of a round-of-16 tie.

 

Napoli

Fixtures: September 7 (A), November 1 (H)

Liverpool will face Italian outfit Napoli for a third time in five seasons in this edition of the Champions League.

 

The Reds have played six official games against the Naples club, with two meetings coming in the Europa League group stage in 2010-11 and four other fixtures occurring in Europe’s elite competition at the same round.

Liverpool have visited the San Paolo Stadium – now renamed Stadio Diego Armando Maradona – on three separate occasions and are yet to record a victory.

 

Following a 0-0 draw in Italy in 2010, Steven Gerrard scored a hat-trick at Anfield to earn a come-from-behind 3-1 win in the return fixture.

It took eight years for the two teams to meet again, before they were pitted together in successive Champions League seasons.

 

First, the Reds were defeated 1-0 by a late Lorenzo Insigne effort in 2018 but claimed a crucial 1-0 victory at Anfield, with Mohamed Salah’s goal and a stunning late save by Alisson Becker sealing their spot in the last 16.

A year later, Dries Mertens and Fernando Llorente were on target in Italy, before Mertens and Dejan Lovren were on the scoresheet in a 1-1 draw at Anfield.

 

Napoli qualified for this season’s competition after finishing third in the 2021-22 Serie A standings, with Luciano Spalletti guiding them back to the Champions League in his first term in charge.

They reached the first knockout round of last season’s Europa League, though fell to a 5-3 aggregate defeat by Barcelona.

New signing Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has made an immediate impact this season, while Napoli have also brought in Tanguy Ndombele on loan from Tottenha

Rangers

Fixtures: October 4 (H), October 12 (A)

Liverpool’s clash with Rangers at Anfield on October 4 will represent the first time the clubs have ever met in a competitive match.

The Scottish giants are back in the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since 2010-11, when they finished third in a pool also containing Manchester United, Valencia and Bursaspor.

 

After ending last season’s Scottish Premiership as runners-up to Celtic, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side – who lost on penalties to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League final back in May – entered the Champions League in the third qualifying round.

 

There, they produced a stirring comeback at a raucous Ibrox to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit to beat Belgian outfit Union Saint-Gilloise 3-2 on aggregate, thanks to a penalty from captain James Tavernier and goals by Antonio Colak and Malik Tillman.

 

Their reward was a play-off against PSV Eindhoven. The Dutch team claimed a 2-2 draw in Glasgow in the first leg, before Colak struck to earn Rangers a decisive 1-0 second-leg win in the Netherlands.

Following the group-stage draw, Jürgen Klopp told Liverpoolfc.com: “Rangers are a new opponent for us but we know them, too.

 

Their story over the last few years has been really interesting and they did really, really well to qualify for the group stage, given the teams they were up against in the qualifying matches.

“We also know a couple of their players well. Ryan Kent has had a great development since moving to Scotland and Ben Davies is just starting out on his journey with Rangers, so it will be good to come up against them.”

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