Champions League preview: Liverpool’s fate rests on Benfica-PAOK

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Four Premier League clubs will know who they could face in the group stage of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League following the playoff round, which begins Tuesday with a trio of matches.

The most interesting tie of the bunch is Benfica against PAOK Salonika, starting Tuesday in Portugal.

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PAOK is the biggest underdog in the playoff round, but Liverpool fans will be rooting hard for Razvan Lucescu’s Greek side. That’s because the Reds will joining Pot 2 of the UEFA Champions League draw if Benfica exits the tournament.

Frankly, many of the European hot shots would prefer Liverpool exit Pot 3. As it stands, the much-improved Reds would be a part of a horror group.

As it stands, these are the pots:

Pot 1: Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Juventus, PSG, Man City, Lokomotiv Moscow

Pot 2: Borussia Dortmund, Porto, Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Napoli, Spurs, Roma

Pot 2 or 3: Liverpool

Pot 3: Schalke, Lyon, Monaco, CSKA Moscow

Pot 3 or 4: Valencia, Viktoria Plzen

Pot 4: Club Brugge, Inter Milan, Hoffenheim, Galatasaray

Of course, Liverpool could be a Pot 3 team and be the best club in its group should Lokomotiv Moscow, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Club Brugge join them.

But it’s also possible that you could get the Reds in a group with Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, and Inter Milan. Yikes.

So look for most non-English Pot 1 and 2 teams to want Benfica to fall victim to Pontus Wernbloom, Chuba Akpom, and Vieirinha’s PAOK.

Playoff round schedule
All times ET

BATE Borisov vs. PSV Eindhoven
3 p.m. Tuesday in Belarus
3 p.m. Aug. 29 in the Netherlands

Benfica vs. PAOK Salonika
3 p.m. Tuesday in Portugal
3 p.m. Aug. 29 in Greece

Red Star Belgrade vs. Red Bull Salzburg
3 p.m. Tuesday in Serbia
3 p.m. Aug. 29 in Austria

Young Boys vs. Dinamo Zagreb
3 p.m. Wednesday in Switzerland
3 p.m. Aug. 28 in Croatia

MOL Vidi (Videoton) vs. AEK Athens
3 p.m. Wednesday in Hungary
3 p.m. Aug. 28 in Greece

Ajax vs. Dynamo Kyiv
3 p.m. Wednesday in the Netherlands
3 p.m. Aug. 28 in Ukraine