Champions League group stage draw: Barcelona, Chelsea get easy starts
While every country’s league title is a big prize, the Champions League is the Holy Grail. And the draw for the 2015-16 edition of the tournament did not disappoint, as it has thrown up a slew of intriguing contests.
Group D appears the toughest on paper with Juventus, Manchester City, Sevilla, and Borussia Monchengladbach being pitted against each other. The Citizens simply do not seem to be able to shake off their ‘Group of Death’ hoodoo.
This year's Champions League group stage selection was a special event as it is the first time in the history of the tournament that five teams from one league have qualified. The Spaniards, who are known for setting and breaking Champions League records regularly, created a new record this year; Barcelona, Valencia, Real Madrid, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid are all in the competition.
While Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid qualified due to their position in the league table, Sevilla qualified by winning the Europa League, and Valencia beat Monaco to qualify.
From England, Manchester United make their return to the Champions League after taking a year’s break. They qualified after beating Club Brugge 7-1 on aggregate in the playoffs. United though have luck on their side; an English team has won the Champions League the last two times directly before a European Championship. They will be joined by English champions Chelsea, runners-up Manchester City and Arsenal.
Barcelona will be looking to be the first team in Europe to win the Champions League two years in succession. It will be a difficult task for the treble-winners this time around though, as the likes of Bayern Munich and last year’s finalists Juventus will target no less than a Champions League final this time around.
32 teams were allocated into four pots, and Pot 1 includes Champions League winners and the champions of the top 7 ranked leagues. Since the Catalan club won the treble last season, the Dutch League winners by virtue of the league being ranked 8th make it to Pot 1. The rest of the pots are decided by UEFA coefficients, the highest being in Pot 2 and the rest in Pot 3 and Pot 4.
In the draw, none of the teams from the same league can be pitted against each other in the same group.
Here’s how the Champions League draw for 2015/16 panned out:
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|Paris Saint-Germain||PSV Eindhoven||Benfica||Juventus|
|Real Madrid||Manchester United||Atletico Madrid||Manchester City|
|Shakhtar Donetsk||CSKA Moscow||Galatasaray||Sevilla|
|Malmo FF||VfL Wolfsburg||FC Astana||Borussia Monchengladbach|
|Group E||Group F||Group G||Group H|
|FC Barcelona||FC Bayern Munich||Chelsea FC||Zenit St Petersburg|
|Bayer Leverkusen||Arsenal||FC Porto||Valencia|
|Bate Borisov||Dinamo Zagreb||Maccabi Tel Aviv||Gent|
While most teams have at least one major threat in the group, others like Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester United, and Valencia are expected to qualify without too much hassle. But this being the league of champions, no team can be ruled out for an upset.