Will they be handed the group of death or the group of dreams?
Sportsmail takes a look at the best and worst-case scenarios for the English teams ahead of Thursday evening’s Champions League draw, and also explains why Real Madrid have been placed in pot 2.
Here, Sportsmail take a look at the best and worst possible draws for the English teams
The Champions League 2019-20 draw for the group stages is on Thursday evening
WORST CASE DRAWS
While neutrals will be salivating at the prospect of some mouth-watering ties, the four big English sides will most certainly have their fingers crossed in pray for easy passage.
Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham will all expect to reach the knockout rounds this season at the bare minimum, but they may forced to revise their expectations in accordance to the outcome of Thursday’s draw.
After all, qualifying from any group is no guarantee, particularly if you don’t get the rub of the green in the draw. In this case, there a number of teams from each pot that could cause the English sides real problems.
The English teams will want to avoid Joao Felix’s Atletico Madrid in pot 2 of the draw
Real Madrid have a special romance with the Champions League and will also be feared
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City are in pot 1, so cannot draw each other but there a number of formidable opponents lurking in pot 2. Tottenham are in the second pot but can’t face another English team in the groups. The teams in pot 2 the big three will all primarily want to avoid is Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, but Napoli and Ajax will be feared too.
Atletico have splashed the cash in the summer and will no doubt be one of the fancied teams to go far in this season’s competitions. Dortmund have also invested well and possess a fearless group of young players, who will be keen to go at least one step further than the last 16 stage this season.
Real Madrid may not be the force they once were, but they have a certain kind of romance with this competition and you can bet all the Premier League side’s will breathe a sigh of relief if they manage to avoid them.
Napoli are a tough nut to crack on their own patch, as Liverpool found out last season
Jadon Sancho is one of several young, hungry players in the Borussia Dortmund side
Ajax ghosted through to the semi-finals last season under the underdog’s veil, knocking out Juventus and Real Madrid on their way. There will be no such underestimations this time around. A mass exodus was predicted this summer but only Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt left. They can still pose a threat to any side on their day.
WORST POSSIBLE GROUP STAGE DRAWS
Here are some examples of groups that Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City will want to avoid.
(Tottenham can get the bottom two teams in the above groups, but not the top team as they are in the same pot. They will want to avoid Bayern Munich, PSG, Juventus and Barcelona)
Napoli may have failed to get out of the group last season, but they ran both Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain close. A trip to the San Paolo Stadium is always a daunting assignment, too – in the 19 home games they have played in the Champions League, only on three occasions has an away side emerged victorious.
Tottenham cannot be pitted against the above mentioned teams as they are in the same pot but will be drawn against either Bayern Munich, PSG, Barcelona, Juventus or Zenit St-Petersburg. No easy rides there.
In pot 3, Inter Milan, Lyon, Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen will be the most feared. Inter have brought in big-name players like Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez this summer and will want to make a splash in this competition.
Valencia, meanwhile, showed they are no pushovers by defeating Barcelona in the Copa del Rey at the end of last season and will be a tough team to face.
Lyon and Bayer Leverkusen both possess potent attacks that are capable of piercing through most defences. In the three games this season, Lyon have scored 10 while Leverkusen have netted six goals in two.
Now we move on to pot 4. Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham can come out from behind the sofa for this part as there isn’t many sides to worry about.
Saying that, Lille, Atalanta and RB Leipzig could all cause them trouble on their day. A visit to either Lokomotiv Moscow, Galatasary or Red Star Belgrade will never be a walk in the park, either.
BEST CASE DRAWS
For Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, the chances of escaping a real European powerhouse are slim.
Pot 2 is jam-packed of some of the best teams around the continent. Benfica and Shakhtar Donetsk are no slouches, but they will offer Liverpool, Chelsea and City a crumb of comfort.
Compared to the other teams in the pot, they would unquestionably be easier tasks to navigate. Tottenham, on the other hand, have even slimmer chances of evading a massive club.
Tottenham will hope to draw Zenit St Petersburg, who’ve made a frustrating start to the season
Saido Berahino (R) helped down Genk recently and English clubs will happily draw them
Mauricio Pochettino and his side sit in pot 2 and so will have to face one of the big dogs in pot 1. Zenit St Petersburg are the only side they will really fancy their chances against.
Zenit haven’t been in this competition since the 2015-16 season after having their grip on Russian football loosened in the past couple of years.
They have also made a poor start to the new campaign and sit in fifth after seven games. If Tottenham get drawn against them, Pochettino will be licking his lips.
There are still some decent sides in pot 3, but the English sides won’t mind being pitted against either Red Bull Salzburg, Olympiacos, Club Brugge or Slavia Prague despite some of those sides impressing in the Europa League last season.
Chelsea won’t mind getting Slavia Prague after beating them in the Europa League last season
Benfica are a decent side but are one of the weakest in pot 2 of the Champions League draw
Slavia Prague progressed the furthest out of those teams, making it to the quarter-finals before being dispatched by Chelsea 5-3 on aggregate.
BEST POSSIBLE GROUP STAGE DRAWS
Here are some examples of groups that Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City will hope for.
(Tottenham can get the bottom two teams in the above groups, but not the top team as they are in the same pot. Below is an example of a group Mauricio Pochettino will hope to get)
Zenit St Petersburg
Red Star Belgrade
It should have been much more comfortable than that for the Blues but they took their eye off the ball in the second leg. Olympiacos were knocked out by Dynamo Kiev in last season’s Europa League, a team Chelsea beat 8-0 on aggregate so none of the English teams will be too concerned by them.
Red Bull Salzburg, who knocked Club Brugge out of the Europa League last year, are possibly the strongest out of the four sides, but again wouldn’t strike fear into the hearts of either Liverpool, Chelsea, City or Tottenham should they be drawn into their groups.
In pot 4 seemingly lies the weakest sides in the competition. Dinamo Zagreb, Genk and Red Star Belgrade look the easiest sides to beat on paper.
Genk have already lost two of their five games in the Belgium league this season while Red Star Belgrade only just managed to sneak through the qualifying round on away goals.
The English sides are bound to receive a hostile reception if they have to travel to Red Star, but they should have enough experience in their sides to cope with that. They aren’t ideal opponents, but it certainly wouldn’t be a disaster if any of the English sides drew them.
Zagreb have a few bright prospects in their ranks but shouldn’t have anywhere near enough talent in their squad to make it a difficult night’s work for any of the English teams.
WHY ARE REAL MADRID IN POT 2?
It may seem strange that the most successful team in the history of the competition will be sat in pot 2 for Thursday’s draw.
But Madrid are there after falling well short in their bid to win La Liga and the Champions League last season.
Zinedine Zidane’s men finished the season third and trophyless and so were not permitted to be in pot 1.
The main pot consists of the Champions League holders (Liverpool), the Europa League winners (Chelsea) and the champions of the six highest-ranked nations (Manchester City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Zenit St Petersburg).
Madrid have been put in the second pot because all the remaining 24 teams are seeded based on their UEFA coefficient – the La Liga giants have more than any other team with 146 points, so comfortably slotted straight into pot 2.
Real Madrid are in pot 2 after finishing third and failing to win anything in Europe last season
PS: Here’s why Russian teams can’t be drawn against Ukrainian teams
UEFA made the decision to keep Russian and Ukrainian teams apart in its European competitions in 2014 amid political tensions between the two countries.
They have continued to prevent Russian and Ukrainian teams from meeting in any round of their competitions ever since in light of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Shakhtar Donetsk are the only Ukrainian team in this year’s Champions League and sit in pot 2. They will not be able to be drawn in a group against Zenit St Petersburg (pot 1) or Lokomotiv Moscow (pot 4).
- Liverpool (ENG) – 91
- Chelsea (ENG) – 87
- Barcelona (ESP) – 138
- Bayern Munich (GER) – 128
- Juventus (ITA) – 124
- Manchester City (ENG) – 106
- Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) – 103
- Zenit St Petersburg (RUS) – 72
- Real Madrid (ESP) – 146
- Atletico Madrid (ESP) – 127
- Borussia Dortmund (GER) – 85
- Napoli (ITA) – 80
- Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) (80)
- Tottenham (ENG) – 78
- Ajax (HOL) – 70.5
- Benfica (POR) – 68.5
- Lyon (FRA) – 61.5
- Bayer Leverkusen (GER) – 61
- Red Bull Salzburg (AUT) – 54.5
- Olympiacos (GRE) – 44
- Club Brugge (BEL) – 39.5
- Valencia (ESP) – 37
- Inter Milan (ITA) – 31
- Slavia Prague (CZE)- 21.5
- Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) – 29.5
- Lokomotiv Moscow (RUS) – 28.5
- Genk (BEL) – 25
- Galatasaray (TUR) – 22.5
- RB Leipzig (GER) – 22
- Red Star Belgrade (SRB) – 16.75
- Atalanta (ITA) – 13.5
- Lille (FRA) – 5
For more information on Thursday’s Champions League draw, please click here.