No surprise – Reds grouped with Chelsea

After avoiding Manchester United and Everton in the qualifiers, the only draw left for the conspiracy theorists was for Liverpool to play Chelsea in the group stages. Liverpool were seeded in the top tier for the draw and so couldn’t be drawn against any other team at that level, including Manchester United or Arsenal. Normally they wouldn’t be able to be drawn against another English team, but the country protection was thrown out for Liverpool this season, meaning a draw against Chelsea was a possibility. A one-in-eight chance. No surprise therefore when it happened.

As well as Chelsea, Liverpool will be joined in Group G by Belgian side Anderlecht and Spanish side Real Betis. Rafa and his staff will know as much as anyone can about Betis, and considering they faced Chelsea five times during Rafa’s first season at Anfield they couldn’t know much more about Chelsea. Anderlecht last played Liverpool in the competition in the sixties, in the tie that saw Liverpool were their famous all-red strip for the first time. That was in the first leg at Anfield, where Shankly’s ploy to put fear into the opposition had the desired effect, ending in a 3-0 win. The second leg was also a 1-0 win back then.

Five-times winners of the competition, and current holders, Liverpool are the only team in their group to have won Europe’s premier competition.

The draw pitting them against Chelsea was no surprise to Gerrard, he said he predicted it would happen: "I knew we were going to be playing Chelsea. I wasn’t surprised at all. I just had a feeling." Was the Reds captain being ironic when he spoke of all the "special" things about the tie? He said: "The game at Anfield against Chelsea last season was a very special occasion and I’m sure it will be special again this time. They have a special manager and I think it will be two very close games."
Jerzy Dudek was the hero of that night in Istanbul when the Reds took the title, and he also said it was no shock: "There was a lot of speculation about who we might get and I had a funny feeling we would be playing Chelsea again. It should be another special atmosphere at Anfield and we will give it our best."

Liverpool will play three games each on a Tuesday and a Wednesday, meaning that ITV get the UK TV rights to half the games. The matchdates are:

13/14 September
27/28 September
18/19 October
1/2 November
22/23 November
6/7 December.

The knockout stage takes place in the new year with the top-two from each group going through. The third-placed team in each group drop down into the UEFA cup. The final is a little earlier this time round, taking place in Paris on May 17th.

Full Draw 2005/06 UEFA Champions League:

Group A
FC Bayern München (GER)
Juventus FC (ITA)
Club Brugge KV (BEL)
SK Rapid Wien (AUT)

Group B
Arsenal FC (ENG)
AFC Ajax (NED)
AC Sparta Praha (CZE)
FC Thun (SUI)

Group C
FC Barcelona (ESP)
Panathinaikos FC (GRE)
Werder Bremen (GER)
Udinese Calcio (ITA)

Group D
Manchester United FC (ENG)
Villarreal CF (ESP)
LOSC Lille Métropole (FRA)
SL Benfica (POR)

Group E
AC Milan (ITA)
PSV Eindhoven (NED)
FC Schalke 04 (GER)
Fenerbahçe SK (TUR)

Group F
Real Madrid CF (ESP)
Olympique Lyonnais (FRA)
Olympiacos CFP (GRE)
Rosenborg BK (NOR)

Group G
Liverpool FC (ENG, holders)
Chelsea FC (ENG)
RSC Anderlecht (BEL)
Real Betis Balompié (ESP)

Group H
FC Internazionale Milano (ITA)
FC Porto (POR)
Rangers FC (SCO)
FC Artmedia Bratislava (SVK)