It's very nearly Champions League draw time. Hurray! As most of you will be aware, the first round of play will consist of eight four-team groups; these groups will be determined semi-randomly on Thursday at 5:45pm CET in an event that will mostly consist of flamboyant, useless ceremony. Which is, of course, modern football in a nutshell.
The groups are seeded with four 'pots' of eight, with teams ranked based on how well they've done in European competition over the past five years. Each group gets a team from each pot, and anything else is fair game apart from having multiple teams from a single association in the same group. Chelsea, naturally, are in pot 1, which should make the draw easier, but there are a number of very good teams we could end up facing anyway. Here's the list of possible opponents:
Zenit St. Petersburg
At this point we would traditionally point out the teams we want to avoid and the teams we hope to draw from each pot, but the truth of the matter is this: Chelsea Football Club will be the top side in any possible group it's drawn in, and failure to progress (should that horror come to pass) can only be our own fault.
That said, I'd like to avoid BVB, Juventus, PSG, Roma and Monaco for talent reasons, and Shakhtar Zenit, CSKA and Galatasaray for travel regions. Chelsea should qualify, and pretty easily at that, from any possible group, but avoiding the big three Pot 2 sides will make everything go far more smoothly. There's a very decent chance we end up with one of those teams, and if so we'll just have to grin and bear it.
My 'ideal' group, incidentally looks something like this:
Chelsea, Basel, Bayer Leverkusen, Anderlecht.
Not too much travel, difficult enough matches to keep us honest but no real threats. What about the rest of you?