Champions League Draw: Best/Worst Case Scenarios for English Clubs

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Premier League clubs await their fate

With the draw for the group stages of the Champions League set to place this evening, there will be significant English interest as Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool all find out who they face. City come into the draw in the strongest position, situated in pot one as champions of England. Elsewhere, both United and Spurs will be in pot two while Liverpool, despite finishing as runners-up in the competition last term, are in pot three.
As such, the Reds have by far the greatest chance of being drawn into a potential group of death, though their compatriots could also be dealt some tough draws in their respective groups. Here, we take a look at the best and worst case scenarios for each team heading into this evening’s draw.

Manchester City

Should the footballing gods decide to work in Manchester City’s favour in tonight’s draw, Pep Guardiola’s side could well be handed a particularly pleasant passage through to the knockout stages of the Champions League. In pot two, they will hope for Porto, who despite being a difficult away tie to navigate in last season’s competition were soundly eliminated by Liverpool. Next, PSV Eindhoven look the weakest of the sites in pot three, with the Eredivisie champions losing important squad members Santiago Arias and Marco van Ginkel over the summer. In pot four, Viktoria Plzen will be the name City hope to draw. The Czech side faced City in the 2013/14 group stages and were well beaten in both games, losing 4-2 and 3-0 and have never progressed to the knockout rounds.

Man City CL

However, it could be far worse for City if the draw proves to be unkind to them, with Serie A giants Napoli currently situated in pot two. The two clubs met in the competition last season and although Guardiola saw his team twice come out on top, they were made to work hard for their victories. Guardiola was full of praise for what was then Maurizio Sarri’s team - now managed by Carlo Ancelotti - and would prefer not to deal with the headache of attacking players such as Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne. Monaco are in pot three and they have history with City, having eliminated them from the Champions League quarter-finals in Guardiola’s first season. The club snatched away Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva in the summer that followed and Monaco have had their fair share of upsets against English sites over the years, including Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham. Finally, Galatasaray sit in pot four and an away trip to Turkey has proved to be notoriously different through the years, regardless of the quality of opponent.

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Manchester United

Every team that enters the draw outside of pot one will be praying to play Lokomotiv Moscow in pot one. With the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus all in pot one, teams will be well aware of the significant drop-off the Russian side represent in the elite eight at the top. From there, United will also hope to face PSV Eindhoven from pot three, having faced them in the group stages three years ago. They weren’t successful on those occasions, failing to win their two group games but look far more competent to go and get results than what that United team ultimately was under Louis van Gaal. Finally, Plzen will be the dream draw in pot four, as is the case for the majority of teams in the competition in the top three pots.

Man United CL

However, the prospect remains that United could have a truly horrific draw featuring three teams all with significant pedigree in European competition in recent years. Barcelona are in pot one and a side United haven’t dealt with well over recent times in the Champions League, losing to them in the 2009 and 2011 finals in Rome and London respectively. In pot three, Monaco cause a real threat, having enjoyed successful games against English sites in recent times. They have former United striker Falcao leading the line and the Colombian would be determined to put on a show against the club with whom he endured a torrid loan spell in 2014/15. Lastly, Inter Milan make their return to the competition this season and are the standout names in pot four everybody will hope to avoid. With quality across the team, they have the squad and players not usually associated with a side in pot four.

Tottenham Hotspur

Joining Manchester United in pot two are Tottenham Hotspur, who are competing in the group stages of the Champions League for the third successive season. They overcame a group of death last season in Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and APOEL Nicosia to go through in pole position before being eliminated by Juventus in the last 16. Mauricio Pochettino will hope for a kinder draw this time around, but won’t be fearful of any side after last season’s showing. From pot one, the ideal draw is again Lokomotiv Moscow, who look by far the weakest of the eight sides in the top pot. Beneath that, PSV will be the ideal opponents for them also to come from pot three, while the drawing of Viktoria Plzen from pot four would round off a perfect draw. That said, Spurs were eliminated from the competition at the group stages two seasons ago following what many originally perceived as a favourable draw with Monaco, CSKA Moscow and Bayer Leverkusen.

Tottenham CL

As such, they may well relish the opportunity of facing another difficult draw, although their worst case scenario in this season’s competition would be an even greater challenge than the one faced 12 months ago. Barcelona’s glittering attacking talent would cause real problems for Tottenham’s defence and be quite possibly the toughest assignment they have faced in the Champions League to date. Elsewhere, Monaco are in pot three and were responsible for Tottenham crashing out of the competition two years ago, with two 2-1 defeats in their head-to-head contests. In pot four, Inter Milan are potential opponents and a draw of those two sides would evoke memories of Gareth Bale’s breakout performances in this competition, where he gave Maicon a torrid time over two games.

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Liverpool

Despite reaching the final of the competition last year, Liverpool have controversially been thrown into pot three this season, though that didn’t work too badly for them last time out. Jurgen Klopp’s team drew Spartak Moscow, Sevilla and Maribor from being in pot three a year ago and came out as group winners, going unbeaten in doing so and twice won 7-0. They will be hoping to be the team fortunate enough to meet the Russian champions this time around in Lokomotiv Moscow. They faced Porto in the round of 16 last season and comprehensively beat the Portuguese side 5-0 away from home in the first leg to kill the tie and would likely be their ideal opponents once again. Like the rest of their Premier League rivals, Liverpool will hope to draw Viktoria Plzen from pot four, with their best case scenario being particularly familiar to the shape of their group in 2017/18.

Liverpool CL

However, being in group three could throw up two giants of European football in pots one and two, the worst being Barcelona in the former. A draw with the Spanish giants would see a reunion between the Reds and former stars Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, who are now joined by Lionel Messi in attack. In pot two, Napoli pose the biggest threat after running Juventus close in Serie A last season. Although Liverpool thrashed Napoli 5-0 in pre-season, they will be a completely different proposition altogether in a competitive fixture. With Napoli the worst case scenario in pot two, it eliminates the possibility of drawing Inter Milan in pot four, leaving Galatasaray as their next most difficult tie. There are few more intimidating and hostile grounds to visit on a European night than the Turk Telekom Stadium and will not be the most comfortable of evenings for Liverpool if they are to draw each other.

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