The Champions League draw always brings with it a buzz of excitement. There’s something quite rewarding about knowing that you will have opportunity to watch Dynamo Kiev take on Maccabi Tel-Aviv at five o’clock on a Tuesday, after all it’s what Europe’s Premier competition is all about, isn’t it?
Away from the red button, the English teams in the competition will be eagerly awaiting the outcome of the evening’s events in Monaco, especially Manchester United, who return after a supposedly David Moyes inflicted year away.
The draw has changed this year. No, don’t worry, it will still take about four hours, there will still be legends bumbling over the opening of a plastic ball and there will still be club dignitaries wearing headphones in the audience. However, UEFA have opted to use seedings, instead of using their co-efficient list, to rank the top eight teams. They have decided to take the champions from the top seven nations, plus the holders as their first Pot. With Barcelona the current champions, Dutch club PSV have been elevated to the top pot, a major boost for the Eindhoven side.
That means that Chelsea have been handed a place in Pot One, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal all find themselves in Pot Two.
Being Champions Could Harm Chelsea
One would think that being in the premier Pot makes things all rosy for Jose Mourinho’s men, however, they could well be hurt by their own success. The Blues cannot be drawn alongside any of their English rivals, which seriously narrows down their options from the second Pot, meaning they will be paired with one of five teams, as oppose to one of eight.
The west Londoners have a very high chance of being handed a trip to Madrid to face either Real or Atletico in the group stages, not exactly an ideal situation. A hellish group could see the Pensioners drawn against Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk and Wolfsburg.
Shakhtar are the highest-ranked team in Pot Three and are infamously tough opponents in Europe, just ask Barcelona, Arsenal and Roma, who have all been beaten by the Ukrainians in recent years. Wolfsburg may be De Bruyne-less by the time the competition gets underway but they still have the likes of Ivan Persisic and Andre Schurrle to call upon and, ahem, Nicklas Bendtner has started the season in fine form. ‘Bendtner At The Bridge’ is a ready-made red top headline after he slays Chelsea.
On the other hand, the Premier League champions could be handed a group made up of Bayer Leverkusen, Olympiakos and FC Astana. Only the Germans would pose any sort of threat there and a group of that nature would be fair reward for heading into this tournament as English title holders.
Chelsea to win the Champions League 10.10
What About The Other English Sides?
Thanks to UEFA’s much-discussed co-efficient system the remaining English trio find themselves cosily snuggled into a star-studded Pot Two. That means they are guaranteed one of the winners of the European leagues, and the worst possible outcome would be Barcelona or Bayern Munich. With five teams from one country (Spain) in the competition for the first time, a Spanish jaunt is highly likely for one of these clubs.
City may be happy with that. They have suffered the thankless task of facing the Germans in three of the previous four seasons and will be sick of the sight of the Bavarians. Knowing how these things seem to go, expect them to be reunited.
Throw Shakhtar and Wolfsburg into the mix alongside Munich or Barca and it will be a serious ask of any of the three sides to qualify, let alone top their group.
However, with PSV in Pot One and arguably weaker than all the teams in Pot Two, they could all, rather twistedly, end up with a much easier group than Chelsea. Add in Olympiacos and Kazakh outfit FC Astana and it would be a stroll for any of the aforementioned clubs.
Manchester City to win the Champions League 15.00
An English Winner?
Let the draw happen first! But, no, seriously, it looks very unlikely. Arsenal just don’t look like a team capable of winning the Champions League. They are a liability in Europe and their failure to get past the last-16 for the previous five years says it all.
Manchester City have still not quite got to grips with Europe but this could be the year they go a bit further. If they can avoid another nightmare group they’re the best equipped they have ever been.
Weirdly, Manchester United look quite well suited to playing in Europe. They look defensively resolute and have shown real discipline, they may not be firing totally going forward but not losing away from home could be their trump card.
Chelsea have had a scrappy start domestically and lost to PSG last year in the round of 16. Expect Mourinho to take them further, but another title looks a bit beyond the men from the Bridge.
Manchester United to win the Champions League 21.00