While Chelsea train in Prague on Thursday afternoon, the rest of Europe’s eyes will be fixed firmly on the Champions League draw taking place in Monaco.
Scheduled to start at 4.45pm UK time, the draw will see us and 31 other sides from across the continent discover our group stage opponents as we join the competition for an 11th successive campaign.
We take our place in the Pot 1 containing the eight top-seeded teams, to be joined by one side from Pots 2, 3 and 4. Other sides in Pot 1 we avoid meeting are tomorrow night’s opponents and present champions Bayern Munich, the Spanish pairing of Barcelona and Real Madrid and the Portuguese sides Porto and Benfica, while clubs from the same country cannot meet each other until the quarter-final stages, meaning Manchester United and Arsenal, also in Pot 1, would be avoided anyway.
Pot 2 is guaranteed to bring opposition we have previously faced.
AC Milan were our first ever Champions League opponents, drawing 0-0 at Stamford Bridge in 1999 before Dennis Wise netted a famous equaliser to earn us a 1-1 draw in the San Siro. They beat PSV in last night’s play-off second leg in Italy.
Atletico Madrid, with our on-loan goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in their ranks, were opponents in 2009 at this stage, while CSKA Moscow and Paris St-German were both opponents during Jose Mourinho’s first season at the club in 2004.
Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, former employers of Willian, were beaten 3-2 at Stamford Bridge last season after beating us 2-1 in Ukraine, while Italian champions Juventus earned a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge and beat us 3-0 in Turin.
Marseille won and lost against us at this stage in 2010, and we also met Schalke en route to Moscow in 2007, winning 2-0 at home and drawing 0-0 in Germany.
Pot 3 brings a mixture of old and new, with English rivals Manchester City also included.
We played FC Basel in the Europa League last season. We beat the Swiss side home and away on our way to Amsterdam.
Olympiacos and Galatasaray are also fairly recent opponents, the Greeks having been knocked out at the first knockout round in 2008, while Galatasaray were group opponents in 1999, when we recorded a 5-0 win in Turkey which remains our largest Champions League away win. Didier Drogba is of course now among their number.
Bayer Leverkusen were group stage opponents in 2011, when Andre Schurrle was representing the Germans, as we won at home but lost to two late goals away in Germany.
We have never met Zenit St Petersburg, Ajax or last season’s finalists Borussia Dortmund competitively, and there are also three new sides we could face in Pot 4.
Scottish champions Celtic and Czech champions Viktoria Plzen would be new territory for the Blues with goalkeeper Petr Cech no doubt keen to find out if we are drawn against his first club, from his hometown, while we have never met Real Sociedad, fourth in Spain last season, competitively.
There is familiar opposition also, in the form of FC Copenhagen, who we beat in 2011 in the knockout stages, and Napoli. Rafael Benitez, our interim manager last season, who led us to Europa League success, is now in charge of the Italians, who we eliminated after extra-time in 2012 on our way to our Champions League win in Munich.
On last season’s Europa League run we beat Steaua Bucharest on aggregate despite losing in Romania, and could face them again in Europe’s premier competition this time around. Romelu Lukaku will be looking to see if we are drawn against his former club Anderlecht, who we beat home and away in 2005, while Austria Vienna, then known as Austria Memphis, were the opponents in 1994 when John Spencer’s famous goal set us up for an away goals victory.
The full list of teams in the group stage draw is:
Bayern Munich (Ger)
Real Madrid (Esp)
Manchester United (Eng)
Atletico Madrid (Esp)
Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukr)
AC Milan (Ita)
CSKA Moscow (Rus)
Paris St-Germain (Fra)
Zenit St Petersburg (Rus)
Manchester City (Eng)
Borussia Dortmund (Ger)
Bayer Leverkusen (Ger)
FC Copenhagen (Den)
Steaua Bucharest (Rom)
Viktoria Plzen (Cze)
Real Sociedad (Esp)
Austria Vienna (Aut)