The draw for the Champions League Group Stage kicks off in about 20 minutes. The 32 surviving teams will be randomly drawn into 8 groups of 4 clubs each. In each of these groups, one team will come from each of 4 "pots" - groupings of clubs according to their strength coefficient. FC Bayern sits in Pot 1, meaning we will be the best-ranked (and, theoretically, best) club in the group, regardless of who else is drawn.
At this point, Bayern would have to be a strong favorite to advance from the group regardless of who we’re playing. But it’s always best to maximize your percentages, so I’m, certainly hoping we get into a weak group. Yeah, it would be fun to say “we took on the group of death and beat anybody,” but we can take on the best in the world at the knockout stage if we get through the group stage.
UEFA’s page breaks down the pots. We can’t be matched against anyone in Pot 1, and we also can’t be matched against any other Bundesliga teams, so that eliminates some possibilities. The toughest team in Pot 2 is probably AC Milan, and the toughest team in Pot 3 is definitely Manchester City. I would bet on Bayern to beat either of these clubs, but still - you’d rather have an easier path than a tougher one. So if we could avoid both of those clubs, I’d consider it a great draw.
Here’s a full list of the clubs involved:
POT 1 (we can’t get matched up against any):
Zenit St. Petersburg
Tanzonspor (replacing the suspended Fenerbahce)
I’ll update in the comments as the balls are drawn.
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Well, no one said it would be easy. Bayern shares a group with Villareal, Manchester City and SSC Napoli. We play 6 group stage games. 4 wins would put us through. 3 wins and 2 draws would probably put us through. 3 wins and 1 draw? Maybe ... depends on what the others do.
Villareal is a solid team. They’re definitely a cut below Barcelona and Real Madrid, but they’re right there on that next level in Spain. Right now, they’re led by Guiseppe Rossi, Nilmar and Borja Valero. They also have Cristian Zapata on defense, although the rest of their back line is not world class.
Manchester City is the club no one wanted to draw from Pot 3. Nonetheless, I’m not convinced they’re as great as they’ve looked over the past two weeks in the EPL, and this is their first Champions League ever. Up front, they have Edin Dzeko and Kun Aguero, with Tevez probably not sticking around for their Champions League campaign. They also have both Toure brothers and Adam Johnson, along with Hart in goal. Hopefully Boateng can give us a good scouting report.
Napoli is not on the level as our other two opponents, but they still can give anyone a tough match. Also, Fabio Cannavaro’s little brother Paolo is their captain. I’m actually happy we didn’t draw a lower-class team like Genk from Pot 4 - maybe Napoli can take some points off of Villareal or Manchester City.
At the end of the day, we’re the highest ranked and most talented team in our group. Even though it will be full of tough games, we’d be expected to be a good bet to finish top two (out of four teams). The matches start pretty soon (13th and 14th of September), and we’re going to need a good start. Let’s hope we get a home match for the first week.