Securing third place in the Barclays Premier League at the end of the season means Chelsea can look forward to the next Champions League group stage draw, safe in the knowledge our name will be in the pots rather than first negotiating a qualifier.
With last weekend bringing an end to more domestic league campaigns across Europe, the picture of who we could play in next season’s European games is increasingly clear so the official Chelsea website takes a look here at some of the possibilities.
Our high European ranking coefficient (based on the last five years’ results for club and other teams from the same country) means we will again be one of the top eight seeds, so will be in a familiar looking Pot 1.
Manchester United and, as long as they make it through their qualifier, Arsenal will join us there, as will Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Our Europa League final opponents Benfica, and Porto are also Pot 1 candidates. So we will avoid all of them.
Moving on to teams Chelsea could draw in the group stage, Pot 2 containing the next eight seeds has two of our opponents from last season, Shakhtar Donetsk and Atletico Madrid, who beat us in the Super Cup. France is well-represented by last season’s quarter-finalists Paris St-Germain and by Marseille and Lyon. AC Milan, Schalke and CSKA Moscow are all sides we have played in the Champions League group stage previously.
As we cannot play an English side until the quarter-final stage, Manchester City’s presence in Pot 3 reduces the options there, but Italian champions Juventus, who like Shakhtar were problematic opponents last year, can be drawn again, as can the club we defeated in the Europa League semi-final – Basel.
Champions League runners-up Borussia Dortmund are also in Pot 3. They would be new opposition for Chelsea, as would Zenit St. Petersburg, but games against Olympiacos and Galatasaray would bring back memories of European games past. A trip to play Ajax would take us to a stadium that now has an important place our history.
Pot 4 will contain the eight lowest ranked teams in the draw, yet Serie A runners-up Napoli, Rafael Benitez’s new club, will be among them. Germany’s third-place side and our group stage rivals in 2011/12, Bayer Leverkusen, are included and Scotland will be represented by Celtic if they survive the qualifiers.
FC Copenhagen, APOEL from Cyprus and Steaua Bucharest have been recently faced too and Belgian champions Anderlecht are regulars in the draw. A grouping with BATE Borisov would take us to Belarus for the first time.
It should be noted that these lists are only provisional with 10 of the teams needing to win qualifiers before they can take the place in the draw their UEFA ranking suggests. Should any be knocked out and replaced by clubs with lower rankings then this might mean other teams shift to a higher pot than those described here.
The group stage draw takes place on 29 August with the first games on 17 and 18 September.