Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Champions League draw: how it works

Following the completion of Wednesday’s play-off matches, the 32 clubs who will take part in the Champions League group stages this season will have been completed - made up of the 22 who have qualified automatically and the 10 who have come through the various rounds.

Uefa, the competition’s organisers, stress that the seedings for the four different pots from which the teams will be drawn (eight clubs in each pot) will not be decided until Thursday morning, after the final matches.

However, based on the co-efficients - the success of national associations and teams over recent seasons - it’s possible to, without being exactly sure, estimate which clubs will be allocated to which pots.

However, this is, it must be stressed, subject to change.

What will not alter are the No 1 seeds - the reigning champions Barcelona, who defeated Manchester United last May.

Indeed, there is a rich Spanish flavour to this year’s competition, not least because the final, on May 22 2010, taking place on a Saturday, having shifted from the traditional Wednesday, will be at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid.

Below Barcelona hover the English trio of Chelsea, Liverpool and United, reflecting the power and threat of the Premier League, supplemented by Arsenal, should they qualify.

The 32 clubs will be divided into four different pots with, therefore, eight teams in each pot to make up the eight different groups labelled A-H of four teams.

The top two qualify to the knock-out rounds, the third-placed goes into the Europa League.

All four English teams will be in Pot One, reflecting the six teams with the best ranking based on their previous performances in the Uefa competitions.

Also in that pot are another Spanish club, Seville, plus AC Milan and Bayern Munich. If Arsenal fail, Lyon will move up.

None of these Pot One clubs can face each other but all will be eyeing Pot Two which contains two of the most dangerous opponents they could possibly meet and will want to avoid - namely Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan and, perhaps even more threateningly, Real Madrid. That’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Xabi Alonso, Karim Benzema et al.

Given that clubs from the same association cannot be drawn against each other in the group stages it means there are only six clubs that can face Real Madrid - and four of those are English. The chances of a meeting are dangerously high while another club due to be in Pot Two, Juventus, will also pose a threat.

Rangers are in Pot Three, but could have moved up a seeding if play-off results had gone their way, while danger lurks with Atletico Madrid, who overcame Panathinaikos on Tuesday, Marseilles and Bordeaux while the most formidable opponent in Pot Four, and perhaps the one every club wants to avoid the most, are undoubtedly the German champions Wolfsburg.

They are one of six clubs - AZ Alkmaar, Zurich, Debrecen (the lowest ranked), Rubin Kazan and Unirea Urziceni are the others - who have reached the group stages for the first time.

The latter three are somewhat unknown quantities while the English clubs will want to avoid potentially tricky trips to Russia and Romania.

The draw takes place ahead of Friday night’s Super Cup match between Barcelona and Shakhtar Donetsk in Monaco.

Also decided will be the results of Uefa’s Club Football Awards with several Premier League players on the various short-lists including two Englishmen, Steven Gerrard and John Terry.

These are likely to be the pots to which clubs are allocated (based on Uefa co-efficients but, it must be stressed, unconfirmed until later on Thursday and subject to change).

Pot One:

Manchester United
AC Milan
Arsenal (subject to result against Celtic)
Bayern Munich

Pot Two:

Inter Milan
Real Madrid
CSKA Moscow
Sporting Lisbon (subject to result against Fiorentina)
AZ Alkmaar

Pot Three:

Atletico Madrid
OlympiaKos (subject to result against FC Sheriff).
Dynamo Kiev
Stuttgart (subject to result against Politehnica Timisoara).

Pot Four:

Copenhagen (subject to result against Apoel Nicosia)
Standard Liege
Maccabi Haifa
FC Zurich
Rubin Kazan
Unirea Urziceni


Match Day One (15/ 16 Sept) 2 v 3 and 4 v 1
Match Day Two (29/ 30 Sept) 1 v 2 and 3 v 4
Match Day Three (20/ 21 Oct) 3 v 1 and 2 v 4
Match day Four (3/ 4 Nov) 1 v 3 and 4 v 2
Match Day Five (24/ 25 Nov) 3 v 2 and 1 v 4
Match day Six (8/9 Dec) 2 v 1 and 4 v 3

* This is also subject to change to ensure that clubs from the same country play on separate days.

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