For Leicester City, the start of the new season has meant having to come back down to Earth and return to the nitty gritty of picking up Premier League points. But Claudio Ranieri’s side will get a another dose of fairytale fantasy on Thursday when the draw for the Champions League group stage is made. As reward for its extraordinary Premier League title triumph last season, Leicester will not only join Europe’s great and good for the first time in its history, but it will go into the top pot of seeds
While there may be a tinge of disappointment among some Leicester fans that it will mean, for the time being, avoiding European giants like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, it means, on paper, more of a chance to progressing to the knockout phase.
The draw from Monaco sees the the 32 teams split into four seeding pots, before being placed into eight group of four. Teams from the same national association cannot meet each other, while those from Russia and Ukraine will also be kept apart due to the ongoing conflict. Since last season, pot 1 is reserved for the Champions League holders, in this case Real Madrid, as well as the champions from the top-seven ranked nations in UEFA’s coefficient.
Still, it promises to be far from straightforward for Leicester to continue its European adventure into 2017 and potentially set up a visit from one of the continent’s most pedigreed teams. For example, Leicester could face a group with Atletico Madrid, runners-up in two of the last three seasons, Borussia Monchengladbach and Monaco.
Yet only 14 percent of pot 1 teams have ever failed to make it to the knockout phase as one of the top two teams in their group, while all eight successfully advanced under the first year of the new seeding system last year.
The record 11-time European Cup winner, Real Madrid, has never failed to make it beyond the group stage and this season has its sights on becoming the first club to win back-to-back Champions League titles.
A place in pot two, though, could test Arsenal’s record of making it to the last 16 for the last 16 seasons. Tottenham, meanwhile, in just its second appearance in the Champions League, will have to settle for a place in the third pot.
In addition to Leicester, there is just one debutant in this season’s competition, after Russian Premier League runners-up Rostov eliminated four-time European Cup winners Ajax in the playoff round.
The draw will take place at 12 p.m. EDT on Thursday, with the ceremony also including the announcement of the 2015-16 UEFA Best Player in Europe awards for both men and women. A live stream of the draw can be viewed on UEFA.com, or on Fox Sports Go in the United States.
Pot 1: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Leicester City, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Benfica, Paris Saint-Germain, CSKA Moscow
Pot 2: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Sevilla, Porto, Napoli, Bayer Leverkusen, Manchester City
Pot 3: Tottenham, Dynamo Kiev, Lyon, PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Lisbon, Club Brugge, Basel, Borussia Monchengladbach
Pot 4: Monaco, Besiktas, Legia Warsaw, Ludogorets, Celtic, FC Copenhagen, Dinamo Zagreb, Rostov