Liverpool and Chelsea were once in same Champions League group after UEFA ruling

Liverpool and Chelsea were once bizarrely placed in the same Champions League group after UEFA denied the Reds "country protection".

Sensationally coming from behind to claim the 'Big Ears' trophy in 2005, and defeating Chelsea in the semi-finals, Rafa Benitez's side failed to qualify for the 2005/06 Champions League campaign via the conventional route of finishing in the top four of the Premier League and instead had to rely upon special dispensation from UEFA to defend their title.

Made to join the tournament from the first qualifying round, Liverpool defeated Welsh champions Total Network Solutions 6-0 on aggregate before triumphing against FBK Kaunas and CSKA Sofia to claim a spot in the group stage.

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UEFA rules dictate that sides from the same country are not permitted to meet until the quarter-final stage of the competition, even the round of 16 is doctored to prevent this from happening.

However, on this occasion, the governing body were unwilling to put a fifth English side into a separate group away from their Premier League rivals (finishing fourth the previous season, Everton qualified for the third qualifying round but the Toffees were beaten 4-2 by Villarreal).

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As a result, Liverpool were denied "country protection" by UEFA and subsequently drawn into Group G, alongside Chelsea, Real Betis and Anderlecht.

Advancing to the last 16 with an undefeated record, three wins and three draws, Liverpool were knocked out by Benfica at the last 16 stage with a 1-0 defeat in Lisbon and a 2-0 loss at Anfield.

UEFA are known to be scrupulous with the authenticity of the competition – the 2021 knockout draw was redrawn because Manchester United were scheduled to face an ineligible opponent, having already faced Villarreal twice in the group stage.

UEFA stated: "Following a technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other, a material error occurred in the draw for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.

"As a result of this, the draw has been declared void and will be entirely redone."

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