TThis season’s Champions League group stage draw has a strange feel, with the eight teams in the second pot looking stronger than those in the first – something that could benefit Manchester United and Liverpool. We’ll bring you live updates this afternoon as these two clubs, as well as defending champions Chelsea and Manchester City, discover their fates.
This year’s top ranking includes Inter, Lille, Sporting Lisbon and Villarreal. Inter and Lille achieved two impressive feats by winning the Serie A and Ligue 1 titles last season, but their bones were picked from the starting line-up this summer as clubs on the continent count the financial cost of the pandemic. Inter, for example, lost Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi and manager Antonio Conte. Europa League-winning Villarreal are a brave side, well organized by Unai Emery, but they will not fear those in the second pot. Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Manchester City complete the first bet.
The second pot looks really strong with United, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla. For the first time in recent memory, Real Madrid and Barcelona are considered relative strangers to the Champions League, with Spanish football going through a political and financial civil war. All eyes are on tournament favorites PSG who now have Lionel Messi and Neymar in their attack, but it remains to be seen if Kylian Mbappe stays to complete a fictional attacking treble.
The Premier League teams are four of the top six in the betting markets, which indicates the place of power in European football at the moment. Kai Havertz’s win gave Chelsea a 1-0 win over City in last season’s final in Lisbon, and another English language final not far off given the quality of the coaches and the depth of the squad.
The lottery is on the way soon.