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Champions League draw

FCB set to learn group stage opponents

Some three months after the last Champions League final at Berlin Olympiastadion, the 2015/16 edition is set to get underway in earnest on Thursday evening when the top 32 teams in Europe go into the draw for this season’s group stage. The ceremony takes place as always at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. FC Bayern are contesting the continent’s elite club competition for the 19th time and are again among the eight seeded teams to be drawn from Pot 1.

However, in a change to previous years, this is mainly due to the fact that FCB qualify as domestic champions. European football’s governing body UEFA has reformed the seeding procedure so that the top eight are no longer determined according to their UEFA club coefficients but instead comprise the holders plus the champions from the seven strongest leagues. This means the likes of PSV Eindhoven and Zenit St. Petersburg are among the seeds this time.

The change could also see FCB drawn against very big-name opponents from Pot 2, including Madrid duo Real and Atlético, FC Valencia, FC Porto and London giants Arsenal. A reunion with former Munich men Bastian Schweinsteiger or Martin Demichelis is also possible as the Manchesters United and City are also in Pot 2.

Five Spanish clubs

Pot 3 also contains its share of powerful sides including the fifth Spanish team in this year’s draw, Europa League winners FC Sevilla. Olympique Lyon, Dynamo Kyiv, Galatasaray with Hamit Altintop and Lukas Podolski, AS Roma and Olympiacos Piraeus are potential stumbling blocks for Pep Guardiola’s troops. Bayern could again cross swords with CSKA Moscow, the Reds’ group stage opponents for the last two seasons, or Shakhtar Donetsk, Munich’s Round of 16 rivals last term.

The teams in Pot 4 are largely intriguing outsiders and include Bundesliga pair VfL Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach, although the rules prohibit a meeting with FCB at this stage. Munich have faced BATE Borisov and Maccabi Tel Aviv in the recent past, but Dinamo Zagreb, Malmö FF, KAA Gent or Kazakh cracks FC Astana would also be potentially dangerous opponents.

The UEFA coefficients based on performance over the last five years are applied in assigning the non-seeded teams to their pots. The groups comprise one team from each pot; teams from the same country cannot be drawn against each other, eliminating Wolfsburg, Gladbach and Bayer Leverkusen (Pot 2) as potential opponents. The first group stage matchday is on 15/16 September, with the final at the San Siro in Milan on 28 May 2016.