It is almost the perfect scenario for Liverpool in their fight for a top 4 spot and Champions League place. Arsenal failed to secure a point at Napoli coupled with Dortmund’s dramatic late winner that saw the German side top the group with Arsene Wenger’s team relegated to the runners-up spot. Manchester City were one goal away from somehow topping the group against last season’s treble winners Bayern Munich, only for Manuel Pellegrini to miscalculate goal difference and instead defend his single goal lead by bringing on Jack Rodwell for Edin Dzeko, leaving Sergio Aguero on the bench for the whole game.
After today’s Champions League draw, City drew perennial favourites Barcelona, who will be welcoming Lionel Messi back into the team very soon. A fresh and rested Messi, mind you. Arsenal drew defending champions Bayern Munich yet again, who has former Barca boss Pep Guardiola at the helm now and all-dominating in the German Bundesliga.
Let’s look at Arsenal’s situation first. The Gunners face the German champions on 19 February, with a possible fifth round FA Cup tie and a home game to Sunderland sandwiching the first leg. For the return away tie on 11 March, Arsenal will first negotiate a possible FA Cup quarter final and then after the second-leg, a North London derby at Spurs. If Spurs’ new boss can get this season’s new signings to finally gel and hit a run of form by then, that could be a very tough game for Wenger’s side. Though, if by that period Arsenal are still on top – even if that means they are knocked out of the Champions League – they are surely destined for the title.
For Manchester City and Pellegrini, two home ties against Sunderland and Stoke bookending the 18 February first-leg, while a potentially tricky away game at Hull comes after the tough away fixture at the Nou Camp, so there is a good chance Pellegrini’s men might trip up at the KC Stadium.
What this means for Liverpool is that with City and Arsenal drawing really tough opponents for the last 16 of the Champions League, Brendan Rodgers and his side will hope that the emotional and physical drain of playing such tough opponents will take its toll on Wenger and Pellegrini’s team, such that City and Arsenal will drop points after, and even before, their two-legged last 16 ties. This way Rodgers can hopefully maintain some form, gain some momentum, and overtake the two title-challenging sides heading into the crucial last stage of this key campaign for Rodgers himself and Liverpool as a whole.
However, if Liverpool mess up this crucial December period AND fail to add in the January transfer window, all these circumstances would prove moot by the time February comes around.