Holders Chelsea and their rivals among Europe’s elite will discover their opponents in this season’s UEFA Champions League when the draw for the group stage is made in Istanbul today at 5:00pm Nigerian time.
The Turkish metropolis has missed out on hosting the final of the competition in each of the last two seasons, with restrictions relating to the pandemic seeing the game moved at the last minute to Portugal in successive years.
Chelsea therefore beat Manchester City in Porto in May and those two powerhouses of English football – who have flexed their financial muscle in the market over the summer – will be among the favourites to go all the way this season.
“Nobody wants to rest. I want the next one, the next title,” Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel said after winning the trophy.
Chelsea and Pep Guardiola’s City are both in the first pot of seeds for the draw, in a ceremony which will also see UEFA award the prize for the best player of last season from a three-man shortlist of Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Kevin De Bruyne, who all appeared in May’s final.
Also in the first pot of seeds are Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Sporting Lisbon, Lille and last season’s Europa League winners, Villarreal.
As ever there are plenty of big names in the second pot, including Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain, who will attract even more attention after adding Lionel Messi to their star-studded squad.
Other famous names featuring in the draw are Ajax, Benfica and AC Milan, who are appearing in Europe’s elite club competition for the first time since 2013⁄14 after coming second in Serie A last season.
The Champions League group stage will kick off on September 14 and 15, with the final being held – all going to plan – in Saint Petersburg on May 28 next year.
The draw for the group stage of the Europa League and the new third-tier Europa Conference League will take place tomorrow, also in Istanbul.