It's that time again! Sunny Monaco is the setting for this afternoon's Champions League
group stage draw. All the big guns come into play, with Manchester United
, Real Madrid
and holders Bayern Munich
poised to enter the draw.
First comes first, who are the clubs and what pots do they currently reside in? Well, let's take a look...
POT 1: Bayern Munich
, Barcelona, Chelsea
, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal
, Porto, Benfica
POT 2: Atletico Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, AC Milan, Schalke, Marseille, CSKA Moscow, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus
POT 3: Zenit St Petersburg, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, Basel, Olympiacos, Galatasaray, Bayer Leverkusen
POT 4: FC Copenhagen, Napoli, Anderlecht, Celtic, Steaua Bucharest, Viktoria Plzen, Real Sociedad, Austria Vienna
As you can see, the English contingent of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal are all top seeds, while Manchester City have been placed in pot 3. Manuel Pellegrini's side could potentially face another tough draw following last season's campaign under former boss Roberto Mancini that ended without a win in the group phase.
United, Chelsea and Arsenal's worst case scenario is a group including Paris St-Germain or Juventus, Borussia Dortmund
With City being placed in pot 3, the North-West outfit have a 50% chance of getting Champions League holders Bayern Munich in their group (ouch). They could also face Barcelona, as well as PSG or Juventus and Napoli.
Celtic, who dramatically earned their place in today's draw in extra time against Shakhter Karagandy last night, are all huddled around a TV screen as we speak awaiting their fate. Their worst case scenario is a group containing Bayern or Barcelona, PSG or Juventus and Manchester City or Borussia Dortmund.
Don't worry, there are some possible favourable draws as well! United, Chelsea and Arsenal could face CSKA Moscow, Olympiakos and Viktoria Plzen in their respective groups. Facing CSKA isn't great in terms of travel, but I'm sure all clubs would take them over the likes of Dortmuns and PSG!
City's best draw would be a group containing Benfica, CSKA and Plzen, while Celtic's best group would be CSKA, Benfica and Olympiakos.
Right, they're almost underway here in Monaco. The glamorous presenters (who are there every year) are currently having a brief chat with Portugal star Luis Figo before the proceedings begin.
UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino is on the stage and before explaining the draw procedure, Infantino makes a point of stating that football must be rid of racism. He says: "A zero-tolerance policy will stamp it out once and for all."
Just a reminder that clubs from the same country cannot meet each other at this stage, so don't expect a Manchester derby or El Clasico just yet!
And we're off...
Group F: Arsenal
Group E: Chelsea
Group B: Real Madrid
Group D: Bayern Munich
Group H: Barcelona
Group C: Benfica
Group G: Porto
Group A: Manchester United
I think we're all relieved that Billy McNeill got through that! He was having trouble opening the balls, and needed the help of Infantino to do so. He also pronounced Benfica in a questionable way, but he got there eventually! So, the top seeds have been placed in their groups. The exciting bit begins in a moment or two!
Hopefully Johan Cruyff will do a better job at opening the balls, and he has! Phew.
Group F: Arsenal, Marseille
Group H: Barcelona, AC Milan
Group E: Chelsea, Schalke
Even Luis Figo is having an issue with those balls! Cue the chuckles from the audience...
Group C: Benfica, Paris Saint-Germain
Group D: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow
Group G: Porto, Atletico Madrid
Group B: Real Madrid, Juventus
Group A: Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk
No blockbuster draws so far, although Real Madrid could face a tough task against Juventus, while Barcelona have to take on AC Milan. So far, the English clubs have avoided any horror ties.
Michael Owen has arrived on stage now. Hopefully he can handle those balls!
Group E: Chelsea, Schalke, FC Basel
Group C: Benfica, Paris Saint-Germain, Olympiakos
Group B: Real Madrid, Juventus, Galatasaray
Group A: Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen
Group G: Porto, Atletico Madrid, Zenit St Petersburg
Group H: Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax
Group D: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Manchester City
Group F: Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund
Ouch, Manchester City won't be too happy with that. They will have to take on current champions Bayern Munich in the group stage. Not as easy clash there, while Arsenal will face last season's runner-ups Borussia Dortmund.
Group F: Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli
Group A: Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad
Group C: Benfica, Paris Saint-Germain, Olympiakos, Anderlecht
Group H: Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax, Celtic
Group E: Chelsea, Schalke, Basel, Steaua Bucharest
Group B: Real Madrid, Juventus, Galatasaray, FC Copenhagen
Group D: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Manchester City, Viktoria Plzen
Group G: Porto, Atletico Madrid, Zenit St Petersburg, Austria Vienna
There we have it, the groups have been decided! Celtic manager Neil Lennon had his head in his hands when he discovered his side's fate, and it's understandable as they face Spanish giants Barcelona once again in this competition. They also have to go up against AC Milan and Ajax.
Manchester City also have a toughie, with a clash against reigning champions Bayern Munich. It's not quite as bad as last season's group when they had to face Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund. This time, they will have to take on CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen.
I'm sure Manchester United and Chelsea will be relatively pleased with their groups, with the English champions due to face Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad. It could have been a tougher start in Europe for new manager David Moyes. Remember the Scotsman has never competed in the elite competition, so I suppose that draw won't be too overwhelming for him!
Jose Mourinho's Chelsea will have to get past Schalke, Basel and Steaua Bucharest in order to reach the knockout rounds. I'm sure the Blues will feel that they're more than capable of getting through the group phase.
It's not as comfortable for Arsenal though. Arsene Wenger's men qualified for the group stage following a 5-0 aggregate win over Fenerbahce. They have got to go up against last season's finalists Borussia Dortmund, while clashes against Marseille and Rafael Benitez's Napoli await.
Despite some tough matches, I would expect all the English contingent to progress through to the knockout rounds. However, I think it's touch and go for Celtic, but they have beaten all of their opponents in the past, so who knows!
Thank you for joining us on Sports Mole for the draw. I hope it was all you hoped it would be! Until next time, goodbye.