Liverpool’s turgid Champions League campaign came to its excruciating conclusion at home to Basel as the Reds fell through the trapdoor into the Europa League.
However, while it feels as if the Reds world has fallen out, there is reason to believe they could yet be a force in the B list European competition.
Almost as soon as Liverpool’s ignominious exit was confirmed, Brendan Rodgers’ men went straight into the business end of the betting to win the Europa League, priced alongside Napoli and Tottenham as co-14/1 favourites.
Although demotion to this competition will feel like a kick in the stomach to Rodgers right now, there is reason to believe it will be taken seriously when the knockout stages come around in 2015.
First and foremost there is the never-before attraction of the winners gaining entry back into the Champions League for next season.
And given the way Liverpool’s ‘assault’ on the top four Premier League spots is going thus far – they lie ninth, five points shy of fourth-place West Ham – this route back to the big time may take on real significance.
Chelsea laid the blueprint for taking the competition seriously just two seasons ago when faced with the same fate, and Liverpool are no strangers to lifting the Europa League/UEFA Cup either, picking up three titles.
The expected return to fitness of strikers Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli could also be pivotal.
Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger bit back at his army of critics as his Arsenal side yet again qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League after pummelling Galatasaray 4-1 in Turkey.
Finishing second in Group D doesn’t come without peril though, as the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona or PSG could lie in wait for the 25/1 shots.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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