Why Liverpool will want Ajax to beat Manchester United in the Europa League final

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The two English clubs are great rivals anyway but victory for the Dutch outfit would be a boost for the Merseysiders' Champions League hopes

After watching their side secure a return to the Champions League on Sunday, the majority of Liverpool fans will obviously now be hoping that Manchester United fail to qualify for Europe's premier club cup competition purely because of their great rivalry with the Old Trafford outfit.

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However, beyond the long-standing animosity that exists between the two most successful teams in English football history, there is a legitimate reason why the Anfield faithful should want Ajax to beat Jose Mourinho's men in the Europa League final in Stockholm on Wednesday.

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While Liverpool supporters are understandably delighted at having finished fourth in the Premier League, the fact of the matter is that by doing so they have only earned a place in the Champions League play-off - not the group stage.

As a result, Jurgen Klopp's troops must win a two-legged tie in August to really put themselves back among the continent's finest.


HOW DOES THE PLAY-OFF ROUND WORK?


The Champions League play-off round is divided into two categories: the Champions Route and the League Route. Both sections will feature 20 teams and 10 ties, the winners of which progress to the group stage.

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Given they did not win their domestic title, Liverpool will follow the League Route, which will be made up of nine other sides entering at the play-off round, as well as the 10 sides to have progressed from the Champions League third round of qualifiers.


WILL LIVERPOOL BE SEEDED?


Jurgen Klopp Liverpool Premier League

Yes! Thanks in no small part to their run to the final of last season's Europa League, Liverpool be seeded for the play-off draw because we already know that they are certain to feature among the top five qualifiers in terms of club coefficients.

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The five-time European champions are ranked 34th (56.135) and that means that, even though some leagues have yet to finish and several sides must enter the third round of the Champions League qualifiers, we know that Liverpool would definitely avoid:

- Sevilla (8th, 112.942)

- Napoli (17th, 88.666) or Roma (37th, 53.666)

- Dynamo Kiev (25th, 67.526)

- Ajax (26th, 67.212)


WHO COULD LIVERPOOL PLAY?


Liverpool could be drawn against any one of the unseeded sides in the League Route.

As it stands, Sporting Lisbon and Hoffenheim are both possible opponents, while Viktoria Plzen, CSKA Moscow, Club Brugge, Steaua Bucharest, Young Boys and Nice will all also be in the hat if they safely negotiate their third-round ties.

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The same goes for the third-place finishers in Turkey (Istanbul Basaksehir or Besiktas) and Greece (PAOK or Panathinaikos).


WHAT HAPPENS IF AJAX WIN THE EUROPA LEAGUE?


Kasper Dolberg Ajax Europa League

This is where it gets interesting - and potentially easier - for Liverpool. Should Ajax qualify automatically for the Champions League group stage by beating United to win the Europa League, Sporting CP would become one of the five seeded sides.

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That would undeniably represent a boost for Liverpool, who would then avoid a side spearheaded by Dutch striker Bas Dost, who has scored a whopping 31 goals this season - second only to likely Golden Shoe winner Lionel Messi.

Furthermore, as last year's play-off round underlined, facing the third-placed team from Portugal is a thankless task. Roma drew Porto 12 months ago and were eliminated 4-1 on aggregate.


WHEN IS THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PLAY-OFF ROUND?


The first legs of the Champions League Play-off round will take place on August 15 and 16, with the return fixtures to be staged six and seven days later. The Europa League final, meanwhile, kicks off in Stockholm at 20:45CET on Wednesday...

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