Chelsea are back at the big boys’ table and ready to take on Europe’s elite in the Champions League. At this time last year, we were stuck at the kids table, that rickety small plastic foldable number belatedly dragged out from the garage, but now we’re dining in style. Whether our dinners will be winners winners remains to be seen, but at least we’ve got a plate and we certainly should be hungry enough.
Can you tell I haven’t had dinner yet?
In any case, today, Thursday (Thursday?!) is the day for the 2019-20 Champions League group stage draw. Here’s what you need to know for the Road to Istanbul.
What: Champions League group stage draw
Where: Grimaldi Forum, Monte Carlo
When: 17:00 BST; 12pm EDT; 9:30pm IST
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); none (USA); Sony TEN 2 (India); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); B/R Live (USA — for free); UEFA.tv (int’l — also free)
Despite a year’s absence, we should be quite familiar with the format. Eight groups of 4 — drawn from four pots — play each other home and away for a total of six games. The top two from each group advance to the knockout rounds. The eight third placed teams drop into the Europa League knockout rounds. The other eight teams go home.
Once upon a time, winning the Europa League got you nothing. Now it not only gets you into the Champions League for next season, it gets you top seeding, even! So Chelsea are in Pot 1, alongside the champions of England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Russia ... and Europe. The rest of the qualified teams fill out the rest of the pots based on their UEFA coefficients. No team can be drawn against another team from the same league, and teams from Russia and Ukraine will be kept apart as well.
Them’s the rules; here are the pots:
POT 1: Liverpool, CHELSEA, Barcelona, Manchester City, Juventus, Bayern Munich, PSG, Zenit Saint-Petersburg
POT 2: Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Shakhtar Donetsk, Tottenham Hotspur, Ajax Amsterdam, Benfica
POT 3: Olympique Lyonnais, Bayer Leverkusen, RB Salzburg, Olympiacos, Club Brugge, Valencia, Inter Milan, Dinamo Zagreb
POT 4: Lokomotiv Moscow, Genk, Galatasaray, RB Leipzig, Slavia Prague, Red Star Belgrade, Atalanta, Lille
That’s a loaded field, to be sure, and even Pot 4 has some sneaky good quality teams like Atalanta.
But as usual, the Narrative Gods will dabble and come up with a group like Chelsea, Real, Inter, and, say, RB Leipzig. Ouch.
You can simulate your own draw at draw.inker.one. Here’s one I just did.