The elite 32 clubs in Europe this season have been decided and now each eagerly awaits the draw for the group stage of the Champions League on Thursday. With 10 teams having secured their place through in playoffs this week, the competition can now begin in earnest.
The draw in Monaco features 11 former winners of Europe’s premier prize, including record nine time winners Real Madrid. Milan, which has lifted the trophy on seven occasions, were one of the sides to survive the playoff route. Each club’s record in UEFA competitions in the past five years is comprises a coefficient ranking, which is used to allocate them into four seeding groups. One side from each of these pots then make up the eight groups to decide who’ll go onto the knockout stage next year. Clubs from the same country cannot be drawn in the same group.
Champions Bayern Munich lead the top level of seeds as they seek to become the first club to defend the trophy since the Champions League era began in 1992. Also in there are Manchester United, which are making a record 19th appearance in its 22nd year.
There are plenty of quality sides in the lower seeding pots that the big boys will want to avoid, however. In pot two there are two quarterfinalists from last year in Italian champions Juventus and French champions Paris Saint-Germain. Incredibly, pot three includes last year’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund. Manchester City are also in pot three, and will be looking to avoid being drawn in a “group of death” for a third successive season.
An unenviable group looks likely to materialize, though. Pot four features Serie A runners-up Napoli, which has spent significant money this summer and are now coached by Rafael Benitez -- a former winner of the competition with Liverpool. Likewise, Real Sociedad, back in the Champions League for the first time in 10 years, will not be a name that any club wants to see in the same group as theirs.
Zenit St Petersburg