Champions League knockouts: Liverpool braced for major rule change


Liverpool will discover their Champions League Round of 16 opponents on Monday

Jurgen Klopp's side became the first-ever English team to win all six of their group games, winning home and away against AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Porto.

After making a mockery of the so-called 'group of death', the Reds can now face either Benfica, Inter Milan, PSG, RB Salzburg, Sporting Lisbon and Villarreal/Atalanta (tie to be played later this evening).

Liverpool will fancy their chances of progressing far in Europe's elite competition this season, but will have to contend with a major rule change that is set to shake-up how knockout ties are played.

It was announced in June that away-goal rule would be scrapped, having been part of UEFA competitions since its introduction in 1965.

Speaking in June, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin explained that the imminent change was prompted by the fact that a team's home advantage was 'no longer as significant as it once was'.

"The impact of the rule now runs counter to its original purpose as, in fact, it now dissuades home teams - especially in first legs - from attacking, because they fear conceding a goal that would give their opponents a crucial advantage," said Ceferin.

"There is also criticism of the unfairness, especially in extra time, of obliging the home team to score twice when the away team has scored.

"It is fair to say that home advantage is nowadays no longer as significant as it once was.

"Taking into consideration the consistency across Europe in terms of styles of play, and many different factors which have led to a decline in home advantage, the UEFA Executive Committee has taken the correct decision in adopting the view that it is no longer appropriate for an away goal to carry more weight than one scored at home."

The away-goal rule has worked for and against over the years, but undoubtedly added an extra sense of excitement to matches.

The most recent example of when the Reds benefited from the away goals rule in the Champions League came during the 2006/07 campaign, having drawn 2-2 with Barcelona over two legs in the Round of 16 and advanced to the quarter-finals due to scoring twice at Camp Nou in the first leg.

But Liverpool have been on the wrong end of this rule in Europa League contests in recent years.

Having lost 2-0 away to Zenit St Petersburg during a Europa League Round of 32 first leg during the 2012/13 season, a Luis Suarez-inspired 3-1 home win levelled the aggregate score to 3-3 but it was the Russians who prevailed.

There can be no debating the value this rule brought to matches, highlighted by Liverpool's 5-4 aggregate Europa League win versus Borussia Dortmund in Klopp's first season at the club.

The Reds drew 1-1 with Thomas Tuchel's side during the first leg in Germany, but quickly found themselves 3-1 down on aggregate after two goals scored by the Germans within the opening 10 minutes at Anfield.

Liverpool then needed three goals to book their place in the semi-finals.

Anfield witnessed one of its greatest comebacks that evening as the Reds completed a dramatic turnaround, but away goal worries are about to become a thing of the past when this season's knockout phase takes off on February 15.

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