Well, that only took an hour. Chelsea have somehow survived the arduous task of sitting around doing nothing while grown men fished around for little plastic balls in a bowl to show off, and they've emerged with what should be a reasonably straightforward group, landing Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen and RC Genk. It's not an easy group, by any means, but as Bayern Munich have shown us (Villarreal, Manchester City and Napoli) it's nowhere near the most difficult in the tournament.
Full draw after the jump...
|A||Bayern Munich||Villarreal||Manchester City||Napoli|
|B||Inter Milan||CSKA Moscow||Lille||Trabzonspor|
|C||Manchester United||Benfica||FC Basel||Otelul Galati|
|D||Real Madrid||Lyon||Ajax||Dinamo Zagreb|
|E||Chelsea||Valencia||Bayer Leverkusen||RC Genk|
|G||FC Porto||Shaktar Donetsk||Zenit St. Petersburg||APOEL Nicosia|
|H||Barcelona||AC Milan||BATE Borisov||Viktoria Plzen|
So that's interesting. Groups A and G look amazing, as long as you're not in them, and poor Arsenal have wound up as the second best side in their group to a Pot Four team. It's a shame that the Barcelona/Milan/Manchester City/Dortmund Group of Death didn't happen, but them's the breaks. Quick previews on our opponents, then:
Last year Valencia finished third in La Liga, which meant that they were a hilarious 21 points behind second place Real Madrid. How did they get there after selling both David Silva and David Vilal the previous summer? They rode their best player to nine goals and fifteen assists in 39 games. And then they sold him to Chelsea. It'll be reunion time for Mata, who'll have only been a Blues player for about twelve seconds before heading back to Spain to face his old club in the Champions League. Valencia have brought in Sergio Canales from Real Madrid on loan to replace him - the kid is a joy to watch and could cause problems from Chelsea's defence, but he hasn't played nearly enough lately.
Michael Ballack's back! Unfortunately for Leverkusen, he will not be bringing Arturo Vidal with him, the Chilaean midfielder having moved on to Juventus in the summer. What's with everyone in this group selling really good players? Lars Bender and Simon Rolfes make a strong pairing in the centre, and unless Chelsea upgrade their midfield they might find themselves evenly matched with the Germans, but there's not too much to worry about aside from those two and Leverkusen's Swiss due of Erin Derdiyok and Tranquillo Barnetta, whom I understand to be some sort of bounty hunter. Anyway, on paper Leverkusen are slightly worse than Valencia, and apart from the Ballack connection aren't really very interesting. I'd have them pegged to finish third in the group, but they should give the Spanish side a run for their money.
Well this is looking oddly familiar. Chelsea have recently acquired the Belgian champions' first-choice goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, and immediately sent him packing to Aletico Madrid. Then the Blues tied to buy their top outfield player, Kevin de Bruyne, only for the winger to suffer a major injury with the season barely begun. Genk aren't a bad side, but with Courtois gone and de Bruyne probably on the way out they don't have much hope of qualifying here.