Even England's top-four elite has its upper and lower classes," writes Kevin McCarra, noting that in the Champions League group phase draw both Arsenal and Liverpool "were assigned uncomfortable quarters." One or possibly both of the teams could be eliminated before the knockout stage.
Liverpool struggled to squeeze past Standard Liege in the qualifying round, and it's only 10 months since it lost at home to Marseille, again one of its group opponents. "On all known form under Rafael Benítez, the Reds will show more competence as time passes," writes McCarra, but "the margin for error may have shrunk this year." Another opponent, Atlético Madrid, was drubbing Schalke of Germany 4-0 while Liverpool barely edged past the Belgian champions. Its third group opponent, steady PSV Eindhoven, is "not to be disparaged either."
In Group G, meanwhile, "the depth of Arsenal's squad may be tested where the away matches could be grueling." The north London side must travel to "the torrid atmosphere" of Fenerbahce in Istanbul, managed by Luis Aragones, who has just taken Spain to the European Championship. Porto, while no longer as formidable as they were when they won the European Cup under Jose Mourinho in 2004, has nonetheless been Portuguese champion three seasons running. And "the journey to Ukraine will also be forbidding. Dynamo Kiev's 8-2 aggregate rout of Spartak Moscow in the final qualifying round is more imposing than even Arsenal's 6-0 aggregate canter against Twente."