ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Liverpool got a huge advantage over Man City, handed by UEFA

Liverpool

There’s always a slightly nervous wait heading into a cup draw as you wait to see who your side will get. Knowing they could be handed a truly difficult test. Fortunately for Liverpool fans, they didn’t have to wait too long for their Europa League last-16 opponents.

The Reds were the first of the seeded teams out of the hat in Switzerland. And they were handed a tie against Czech side Sparta Prague. Given some of the alternatives on offer, Jürgen Klopp will definitely be happy with that.

On the face of it, Qarabag would have perhaps been the easiest tie of the round. The Azerbaijan side is a surprise inclusion in the last-16. Having overcome Braga in the play-off round in dramatic fashion, winning 6-5 after extra time.

The journey to Azerbaijan though would certainly not have been welcome for Liverpool, especially with the away leg coming just days before a potential Premier League title decider against Manchester City. For those not quite up to speed on their geography, you won’t even find Azerbaijan on your usual map of Europe, with the country crossing into Asia. It’s a flight time around two and a half times what Liverpool will instead face by heading to Prague.

Liverpool got an advantage avoiding Europa league:

With plenty of other big names in the draw, avoiding the likes of AC Milan, Benfica, Sporting CP and Roma was also important. We can also perhaps throw Marseille in there. All in all then, Liverpool has perhaps landed its ideal draw against Sparta, with only German side Freiburg possibly offering a more desirable tie.

If the injury situation has eased by then — and amid the current crisis, that does seem like a big if — then Klopp should have the opportunity to rotate his squad somewhat, and hold some of his bigger players back for that all-important clash against City on March 10. That will be a major advantage in its quest to secure its outgoing manager a second league title.

Not only that, but some of the favorites for this season’s Europa League draw will be going out in the net round. Three from Sporting and Atalanta, Roma and Brighton, and Marseille and Villarreal will exit the competition in the next round. Although Bayer Leverkusen and AC Milan should ease their way through against Qarabag and Slavia Prague respectively. This meaning a meeting with Xabi Alonso is still on the cards.

Liverpool will expectedly to join them. The Reds got a handout for not only an ideal draw for their Europa League hopes. But they also got a near-perfect tie to aid them in their Premier League exploits amid a hectic schedule.

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