At the end of the day, the oddsmakers were probably right. They’re almost always right.
While matchday 1 results suggested Liverpool could be in trouble and Red Bull Salzburg may surprise, it hasn’t exactly worked out like that over the past two month. It’s not a lock yet–but Liverpool and Napoli–just as the original odds suggested–are comfortably positioned to advance to the knockout round.
As we saw today though, crazy things can and usually do happen in the Champions League.
Here’s a look at what Liverpool and Napoli need to do to secure the top seed in Group E and how Red Bull Salzburg can still crash the party.
Champions League Group E Standings
|Red Bull Salzburg||1||1||2||2||4|
Red Bull Salzburg certainly have had their chances. They made an impressive comeback at Anfield to nearly pull a draw off Liverpool. And they had an early lead at Napoli that ended in a disappointing draw. With a little luck in either of those matches, they’d be on solid footing to advance.
Napoli’s draw at Genk did nothing to dampen their chances at advancement. They’re the only club in the group without a loss yet. However, the Genk draw gave Liverpool the edge of advancing as the #1 seed.
Champions League Group E Winner Odds
Over at FanDuel Sportsbook NJ, Liverpool have pulled away as the favorite to claim the group.
- Liverpool: -390
- Napoli: +250
- Red Bull Salzburg: +10000
Champions League Group E Probabilities
Over at FiveThirtyEight, their probability models suggests Liverpool and Napoli are locks. RBS has only a 10% chance to advance.
However, despite being atop the group, 538 gives Liverpool a slightly lower chance of advancing to the round of 16 (94%) than Napoli (96%). That’s due to Napoli still having a home match vs Genk. A win there, which would bring Napoli to 11 points, and they’re 100% in.
Scenarios That Could Change the Group
First, it’s important to know the Champions League group stage tiebreakers, as they may come into play:
- Points in head-to-head matches among tied teams
- Goal difference in head-to-head matches among tied teams
- Goals scored in head-to-head matches among tied teams
- Away goals scored in head-to-head matches among tied teams
With that in mind…
Much of the drama could be sucked out of the group on matchday 5 (November 27th) as Napoli visit Liverpool. A Liverpool win means they’ll advance as top seed. Napoli couldn’t catch them on points. If Liverpool were to lose or draw vs Napoli, things could still be very interesting.
For Napoli, a win at home vs Genk on matchday 6 (bringing them to 11 points) assures their advancement regardless of the Liverpool match.
But about that November 27th game at Anfield. If Napoli secure any points against Liverpool, they just need to beat Genk at home to come out of Group E as top seed. They’ll have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Liverpool.
Red Bull Salzburg
Realistically, RBS have virtually no shot to win Group E.
- That would require Napoli drawing Liverpool and losing to Genk.
- AND Liverpool drawing Napoli and losing to RBS in Austria.
- While RBS winning out (obviously).
If the above scenario happened, RBS would have 10 points. Liverpool would have 10 points. And Napoli would have 9.
Then it goes right back to the tiebreakers for top seed between RBS and Liverpool.
- RBS and Liverpool would be tied in head-to-head points
- If it’s a one-goal game, they’d be tied again. If RBS beat Liverpool by two, they’d have the edge
- Goals scored in head-to-head matches likely goes to RBS as well
- And their 3 away goals at Anfield would almost assuredly win the day if all of the above were tied
So with potential edges in goal difference, goals scored, and away goals, Red Bull Salzburg still have a fleeting hope of not just advancing, but as a number 1 seed. It’s not likely at all, but it’s possible.