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Opening two games key to qualification

Once again, Liverpool have been handed a tough trio of opponents in the Champions League group stage.

Last year, they were given the runners up from the previous campaign, as well as once of the beaten semi finalists.

Despite two poor performances, away to Olympiakos and Monaco, the Reds made it through. They made hard work of it in the final game at home to Olympiakos, but their performances in all three home games, and also away to Deportivo, were excellent and a place in the top two was, over the course of the six games, fully deserved.

This time around though, Liverpool may not be able to afford a couple of bad performances, such is the strength of their opponents.

As in 2002, when Liverpool faced a tough trip to Valencia on Matchday 1, they again play their first match in Spain, against an unpredictable but talented Real Betis team.

A similar outcome to that of three years ago would put a lot of pressure on Liverpool to beat Chelsea, who will be desperate to take points off Liverpool in their first meeting since last year's memorable semi final.

With the final game of the group at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool can't afford any early slip ups which may result in them needing to get a result at the home of the Premiership champions.

Liverpool are the first holders to ever have to qualify for the competition again, but they are likely to need more points than last season if they're to avoid being the first holder ever to exit the competition at the group stage.

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