Liverpool could face a tough test against seeds Borussia Dortmund, Fiorentina, Napoli or Schalke in next season's Europa League group stage.
Liverpool are almost certain to be in pot 2 for the draw, which takes place on August 28. That means they will be grouped with one of the seeded teams, with Braga, Dnipro, Marseille, Villarreal among the other teams in pot 1.
Eight teams are already guaranteed to be seeded, with the final four spots determined on the fortunes of Athletic Bilbao and Borussia Dortmund -- who will be seeded should they come through the rounds -- and Champions League qualifiers Sporting Lisbon, CSKA Moscow and Lazio.
Guaranteed Europa League group stage draw seeds: Schalke, Napoli, Tottenham Hotspur, Villarreal, Marseille, Dnipro, Braga, Fiorentina. #thfc
- Dale Johnson (@dalejohnsonESPN) June 2, 2015
Should Sporting and CSKA drop into the Europa League group stage, they would be seeded. And even if they do qualify for the Champions League the likelihood is that they will have beaten a higher-ranked team in those playoffs, who would also drop into the Europa League as seeds above Liverpool.
Liverpool are ranked third among pot 2 teams, which means they would need three of five possible outcomes to go their way to move up to pot 1.
-- The first two require Dortmund and/or Athletic Bilbao to lose in the Europa League qualifiers.
They would then also need help from at least one of CSKA, Sporting or Lazio:
-- Sporting join the Champions League in the final qualifying round so would drop directly into the Europa League group stage as a seed if they are beaten. They can only help Liverpool should they move up to a seeded position in the UCL playoff draw and win, thus sending a lower-ranked team into the Europa League.
-- CSKA would have to lose in both the Champions League third qualifying round and the Europa League playoff round, thus not making it through to the Europa group stage. Also, like Sporting, there is a scenario whereby CSKA could be seeded in the UCL draw and send a lower-ranked team into the Europa League.
-- The situation with Lazio, who are ranked above Liverpool in pot 2, is similar and the only way they can help Liverpool is by winning as a Champions League playoff seed, but the chance of them being seeded is very remote.
It means Liverpool are set to draw one of Schalke, Napoli, Villarreal, Marseille, Dnipro, Braga, Fiorentina, most likely along with Athletic Bilbao and Borussia Dortmund plus two teams from Champions League qualifying.
Manager Brendan Rodgers would avoid a meeting with Monaco, as they would also be pot 2 should they drop into the Europa League. Augsburg, Bordeaux, Sampdoria and St Etienne are possible opponents from Europe's major leagues who will be seeded in pots 3 and 4.
West Ham, who join the Europa League in the first qualifying round on June 30 after topping the Premier League's fair play table, are guaranteed to be seeded through the first three rounds of qualifying. Southampton join in the third qualifying round and would also be seeded at this stage.
Both the Hammers and Southampton will likely be seeded in the final qualifying round, and thus avoid a possible nightmare draw, though this depends on which teams come through the earlier qualifying rounds. They would both slot into pot 3 or 4 in the group stage draw, dependent on which teams reach that stage.