Liverpool are back where they belong, and I like the sound of Ayia Napa away

John Gibbons of the Anfield Wrap looks ahead to the group stages...

There we are. After saying all summer that we were back in the Champions League, even though we weren’t quite, we can now say it for real. Liverpool, amongst the European elite once again. Back in the group stages with all the big names and big games. Thank god. After all the work of last season, the alternative didn’t bear thinking about.

No one wants to do an Everton. So near yet so Europa League.

Before the game the Hoffenheim manager was very dismissive of The Anfield Effect, claiming there was no real difference between playing at home and away. I assume he was watching the German version of Coronation Street (I’ve just googled this, it’s called Lindenstraße) instead of Liverpool v Borussia Dortmund in 2016. The night when The Kop turned top-class footballers into a horde of jibbering wrecks. Either way after 21 minutes, three goals and a change of underwear I assume he changed his mind.

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To their credit, Hoffenheim fought back well from being dead and buried and scored a couple of goals themselves. Although surely two goals is about par against this Liverpool defence. It positions them in between Crystal Palace and Watford. Which rather puts it in perspective.

Just the two against Liverpool?

Must try harder. Dejan Lovren will pass to you for at least one.

However, some of Liverpool’s attacking play was scintillating, the third especially as good as any team goal scored at Anfield in the last 10 years. Wave after wave of red attack came at Hoffenheim and for a while they had no answer. My favourite reaction at a football ground is laughter: when you can’t quite believe what you are seeing. Luis Suarez frequently brought disbelieving laughter from me. The boys last night came close on a number of occasions.

My texts and WhatsApps are now a flurry of excitement over who Liverpool might get in the group stages. From pot one many fancied sticking one on Barcelona in the Coutinho derby. There were a few shouts for Bayern Munich as many of us haven’t seen Liverpool play there.

There were also hopes we might get Monaco and they’ve sold all their players. Pot two looks hard as nails, but Seville is lovely in Autumn. Then there’s pot four…

Let’s be honest, Qarabağ FK sounds made up.

I’m sure the Qarabag was the must-have accessory of last summer. There was a rumour at one point they played in Afghanistan, although someone who could actually spell had a look and confirmed they are actually from Azerbaijan. Still, that would be a new one, wouldn’t it? Can you fly there with Easyjet? What’s the ale like in Baku? Any good museums for the lads?

Hang on, APOEL Nicosia is an hour from Ayia Napa! I now feel like my whole life as a Liverpool supporter has been building up to this moment. Ayia Napa away. I’m imagining a ground that serves fish bowls at half time and has a foam party in the concourse. Trying to persuade my wife that it makes much more sense with the price of flights to just book a package holiday for a fortnight. Everyone turning up for the game in flips flops and sunburned faces.

Oh please, football gods, make this happen.

But before all that there is the small matter of Arsenal at home. I can’t quite work Arsenal out. They looked quite good against Chelsea, but then so did Burnley. Then they showed a bit of uncharacteristic fight and backbone against Leicester City only to revert back to type at Stoke. But they’ve got Sanchez back I hear. He’s good.

Unless, of course, he catches that nasty illness that Phil Coutinho has: Wanttogetoffitis. There is a fair bit of it going round, I here. Outbreaks reported as far afield as Merseyside, Southampton and Leipzig.

Don’t ask me for predictions for Sunday, I’m rubbish at them. I wouldn’t stick a tenner on 0-0 though…

Fair enough, John, but there are plenty of other markets available, and you’ll find them all on