All eyes will fall upon the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on Thursday as the city plays host to the annual UEFA Champions League draw. Proceedings begin at 9:15 pm IST with the elite continental clubs eagerly anticipating a favourable draw.
Here is your guide to how the Champions League draw works.
How do the clubs qualify
The draw comprises of 22 teams that have automatically qualified due to their league positions from the previous season. A further 10 teams have to go through a two-legged qualification process in order to be part of the league.
The group stage consists of a total of 32 teams that are divided into 8 groups of four teams each. All teams are divided into four different pots based upon their UEFA coefficient rankings.
The clubs in the current draw are divided into the following pots-
Pot 1: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, FC Porto, Benfica
Pot 2: Borussia Dortmund, PSG, Manchester City, Juventus, Schalke 04, Shakhtar Donetsk, FC Basel, FC Zenit
Pot 3: Bayer Leverkusen, Olympiakos, CSKA Moscow, Ajax, Liverpool, Sporting CP, Galatasaray
Pot 4: Atletic Bilbao, Anderlecht, AS Monaco, AS Roma, APOEL Nicosia, Malmo, Bate, NK Maribor, Ludogorets Razgrad
Seeding and the draw format
Every club has a UEFA coefficient ranking. The coefficients are first determined by the coefficient of their nation plus the performance of each team in the Champions League and Europa League over the past five seasons.
In Europe, a club receives two coefficient points for a win and one for a draw. Clubs from the same nation cannot face each other in the group stages. So for example, Chelsea (Pot 1) cannot be drawn against either of Manchester City (Pot 2) or Liverpool (Pot 3). Each team must play a round robin format with home and away fixtures.
The top two teams from each group qualify to the knockout stages that begin towards the end of February.
Possible outcomes for English teams
Liverpool find themselves returning to the elite continental stage after a 4 year hiatus but could be in for a tough draw as they will be seeded in Pot 3.
There is a possibility of a return to Anfield for Luis Suarez, who moved from the Merseyside club to Nou Camp this summer. A mouth-watering group of death can pit the likes of Barcelona, PSG, Liverpool and AS Monaco all in one group.
The cash-rich owners at Manchester City are desperate for the club to have a strong run in Europe this year, and after an honorable showing in Europe last year, Manchester City has managed to push themselves into Pot 2 and will be expecting a more favourable draw this time around. That being said, they could possibly have to deal with one of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the group stage.
Regular semi-finalists and the last English side to win the coveted crown, Chelsea are firmly rooted in Pot 1 and will be hoping to avoid the likes of PSG, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund.
Arsenal managed to secure qualification for a seventeenth year running after defeating Besiktas in the last qualification match last night.
All four English sides will be wishing to avoid the likes of AS Monaco and AS Roma who are seeded in Pot 4 and can have the squads to cause an upset in the group stages. They will also be hoping to avoid long distance travelling to the likes of Russia, Greece and Ukraine.
All this calls for an extremely interesting draw. Be sure to tune in at 9:15 pm IST tonight.
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