Barely nine weeks on from Real Madrid being crowned as European champions for a 12th time in Cardiff after beating Juventus to become the first side to retain the trophy in its rejuvenated format, the line-up for the 2017-18 edition of the Champions League is close to being completed. For 20 sides, including Premier League Liverpool, there remains just one two-legged play-off tie between them and riches of the group stage, not to mention the prestige of being regarded as one of Europe's elite clubs.

Even at the play-off stage some of the continent's biggest sides are left scrapping around for a place in one of the eight groups. The Reds are joined by Sevilla, Napoli, Sporting Lisbon and 1899 Hoffenheim as the direct qualifiers for the play-off round, while the likes of Celtic and Europa League runners-up Ajax have been forced to cut-short their holidays to start their pursuit of European glory.

When is the draw?

The draw for the Champions League play-off round starts at 11am BST on Friday 4 August from Uefa's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.


The 20 qualified teams are divided into two halves of the draw depending on how they entered the competition. The 'Champions route' includes sides who won their respective divisions in some of the smaller nations on Uefa's coefficient table. The 'League route' involves sides who qualified merely by their league position last season, including Liverpool who finished fourth in the Premier League - a position they will be ruing as Jurgen Klopp contemplates a game in the dark corner of Europe.

Both sections are split into seeded and unseeded pots, based on their ranking in Uefa's co-efficient standings. The draw is otherwise open, with seeded teams able to be drawn at home in the first leg. The 10 team who prevail over the two legs will join the other 22 direct entrants for the group stage.

Champions route

Seeded: Olympiakos, Celtic, Copenhagen, APOEL, Maribor

Unseeded: Qarabag, Astana, Rijeka, Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Slavia Prague

League route

Seeded teams: Sevilla, Napoli, Liverpool, CSKA Moscow, Sporting Lisbon

Unseeded teams: Steaua Burcharest, Young Boys, Nice, 1899 Hoffenheim, Istanbul Basaksehir

When are the ties played?

The first leg is scheduled to take place on 14-15 August, with the return games a week later between 22-23 August. The group stage draw takes place on Thursday 24 August at 5pm BST.

Who could Liverpool draw?

Liverpool have the benefit of being one of the seeded teams in the League route and will avoid a number of the bigger clubs also present in the draw including Serie A giants Napoli and Sevilla of La Liga. However, a series of tricky opponents await if the Merseysiders are to take their place in the competition for just the second time in eight seasons.

Possible opponents: Steaua Burcharest, Young Boys, Nice, 1899 Hoffenheim, Istanbul Basaksehir

Best case - Istanbul Basaksehir: Last season's Super Lig runners-up are embarking on their maiden season in Europe's premier club competition and are bidding to reach the group stage for the first time. Only known under their current name since 2014 - having been founded in 1990 - they achieved their best ever top flight finish last season in finishing behind champions Besiktas.

There are a handful of familiar faces in the Basaksehir, including ex-Arsenal and Manchester City duo Emmanuel Adebayor and Gael Clichy, Gorkan Inler who played for Leicester City during their title-winning campaign, former Southampton loanee Eljero Elia and captain Emre who played for Newcastle United between 2005 and 2008.

Furthermore, a game in Istanbul would pluck at the emotional heartstrings of Liverpool fans 12 years on from winning the Champions League after beating AC Milan on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw after extra time.

Worst case - OGCNice: Any side who only finished behind Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 last season is worth taking note of. The Chinese-owned French outfit are attempting to reach the Champions League proper for the first time in 57 years when they reached the quarter-finals and lost to Real Madrid.

Their squad may not be star-studded - though it does have rumoured Arsenal target Jean Michaël Seri - but it does include a certain Mario Balotelli. The Italian scored four goals in two years with the Reds during a disastrous spell as the anointed replacement for Luis Suarez but in his first full season since permanently leaving Anfield the 26-year-old netted 17 times to fire Nice into the top three.

Lucien Favre's side showed they do not rely too heavily on Balotelli as, in the absence of the injured ex-City forward, Vincent Marcel struck 11 minutes from time to oust Europa League runners-up Ajax from the competition on away goals. Don't write them off causing another shock over two legs.

Jurgen Klopp
Klopp may not be smiling when he learns who Liverpool must face to reach the Champions League group phase. Getty Images