CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: 32 TEAMS AWAIT THEIR FATE

Just over three months after Chelsea were crowned European champions, we will discover how we begin our defence of the title when the group stage draw takes place in Monaco this afternoon (Thursday).

The scheduled start of the draw is at 4.45pm UK time, with the Chelsea squad in the principality ahead of the Super Cup match the following evening.

When it comes to the Champions League draw, we will take our place in the Pot 1 containing the eight top-seeded teams which means no rematch with Bayern Munich nor Barcelona at this stage of the competition. We will also be kept away from Spanish and Portuguese champions Real Madrid and Porto, and Italian runners-up AC Milan who are also in Pot 1.

Instead the Serie A champions Juventus are potential group stage opponents as they are in Pot 2 containing the next eight highest seeds. Manchester City, as a fellow English club, cannot be drawn in the same group as Chelsea, which leaves six other possibilities.

A draw against Benfica would pit us against our quarter-final opponents from last season and there is another Portuguese club in the pot. Braga were third in their domestic league last season and are in the Champions League for a second time having beaten Udinese on penalties in a qualifier.

We faced Valencia in last season’s group stage and Schalke back in 2007. The Gelsenkirchen side finished third in the Bundesliga last campaign. The rest of Pot 2 comes from eastern Europe and would all be new opposition for Chelsea.

Dynamo Kiev, who beat Borussia Monchengladbach in a qualifier this week, play in the stadium that saw Fernando Torres and Juan Mata score in the Euro 2012 final. Shakhtar Donetsk hosted a Euro 2012 semi-final in their stadium, plus England’s matches against France and hosts Ukraine. Zenit St. Petersburg are the reigning Russian champions.

Pot 3 contains our recent pre-season opponents, Carlo Ancelotti’s Paris St-Germain, who have reached this stage for the first time since they were in Chelsea’s group in 2004. Italian champions Juventus are a tough prospect for anyone drawing them as the third seeded team in their group and there are plenty of other former opponents of ours in the shape of Spartak Moscow, Anderlecht, Galatasaray and Olympicos – the last three all champions in their countries.

There are just two potentially new Champions League opponents in Pot 3. Ajax were top in the Netherlands last season and Eden Hazard would be able to brief his team-mates well should we draw Lille, who now have Salomon Kalou in their squad. As the third-placed team in France, the club from just the other side of the channel tunnel came through the qualifiers where they beat FC Copenhagen.

Borussia Dortmund, winners of the league and cup double in Germany last season, will be the team everyone wants to avoid from Pot 4 which contains the lowest seeds.

Only Cluj from Romania among the eight teams have played Chelsea in European competition previously. Malaga are the fourth Spanish side in the draw and are making their debut in the Champions League having seen off Panathinaikos in a qualifier.

Celtic raises the prospect of our first Champions League match against Scottish opposition and we have not travelled to Croatia either who are represented by their champions Dinamo Zagreb.

BATE Borisov of Belarus have been a regular feature of the group stage of late but the champions of France and Denmark, Montpellier and Nordsjælland, are debutants.

The full list of teams in the group stage draw is:


Pot 1

Chelsea (Eng)
Barcelona (Esp)
Manchester United (Eng)
Bayern Munich (Ger)
Real Madrid (Esp)
Arsenal (Eng)
Porto (Por)
AC Milan (Ita)

Pot 2
Valencia (Esp)
Benfica (Por)
Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukr)
Zenit St. Petersburg (Rus)
Schalke (Ger)
Manchester City (Eng)
Sporting Braga (Por)
Dynamo Kiev (Ukr)


Pot 3

Olympiacos (Gre)
Ajax (Ned)
Anderlecht (Bel)
Juventus (Ita)
Spartak Moscow (Rus)
Paris St-Germain (Fra)
Lille (Fra)
Galatasaray (Tur)


Pot 4

Celtic (Sco)
Borussia Dortmund (Ger)
BATE Borisov (Bls)
Dinamo Zagreb (Cro)
CFR Cluj (Rom)
Malaga (Esp)
Montpellier (Fra)
FC Nordsjælland (Den)

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