While Arjen Robben and Manuel Neuer wait and see if they are rewarded for their pasts, Bayern Munich will be looking to who is in their future.
The Champions League draw ends the final preparations for the 2014/15 season. Here is what the four pots look like going into the draw:
|Pot 1||Pot 2||Pot 3||Pot 4|
|Real Madrid CF||FC Schalke 04||Bayer 04 Leverkusen||RSC Anderlecht|
|FC Barcelona||BV Borussia Dortmund||Olympiakos CFP||AS Roma|
|FC Bayern München||Juventus FC||PFC CSKA Moskva||APOEL FC|
|Chelsea FC||Paris Saint-Germain FC||AFC Ajax||FC BATE Borisov|
|SL Benfica||FC Shakhtar Donetsk||Liverpool FC||PFK Ludogorets Razgrad|
|Club Atlético de Madrid||FC Basel 1893||Sporting Clube de Portugal||NK Maribor|
|Arsenal FC||FK Zenit St. Petersburg||Galatasaray SK||AS Monaco FC|
|FC Porto||Manchester City FC||Athletic Club Bilbao||Malmö FF|
Best Draw: FC Basel 1893, Olympiakos CFP, Malmö FF
Even though they are discounted every year in the Champions League, this year it will be harder to do. A club can only last so long when top- to mid-tier team continue to poach their young talent. Center back Fabian Schär is by far their best player, and they are the only team in their pot to keep their transfer expenses at seven figures. They have made it out of the group stage once in the current format, and Bayern pounded them to make sure they did not get any further.
Olympiakos surprised a lot of people with their Champions League performances, especially a 2-0 win at home against a faltering Manchester United. While that tale was fun to tell, the Greeks have been stripped of many of their core players. Konstantinos Manolas, Konstantinos Mitroglu, Joel Campbell, and Andreas Samaris are all gone, but Olympiakos found the pieces to replace them. The uncertainty of sustained European success looms over them, and they will not be a strong enough side to halt a team like Bayern.
The bottom of the fourth pot is reserved for league champions of very low-domestic leagues with little European experience. In this case, Swedish side Malmö FF has no Champions League experience, qualifying for it for the first time in their history. They join BATE Borisov and NK Maribor in the most arduous journey to the group stage, and they have already given their fans a thrill of a lifetime. Now they will just be happy get a seat at the table, and will be lucky to get a point before they are knocked out.
Worst Draw: Paris Saint Germain, Liverpool, AS Roma
Sanctions have started to seep in, but Paris Saint-Germain have scoffed at financial fair play. The comical part is that the Qatari group have spent the least amount of money they have in four transfer windows, but all of that money went to acquire David Luiz. What is intriguing to watch is how much of a rapport the players have with each other, and a team that qualified for the Quarterfinals the past two years might not be far away from getting their hands on the Champions League trophy.
Liverpool are out to prove that they can lose their best player and still compete at the highest levels. While most of their Champions League success has come in the past, the current players are on the upswing of a resurgent side. The American owners have invested diligently in strengthening a top-heavy squad, and have added another high-upside nutcase in Mario Balotelli. Bayern faced three of the four English teams last season, and they are highly likely to do so again.
Even after reluctantly parting with their prized Moroccan defender, AS Roma is itching to regain their European relevancy. That includes investing heavily in two youngsters, Juan Iturbe and Manolas. Morgan de Sanctis and Francesco Totti have stumbled on the fountain of youth, and Gervinho and Miralem Pjanjic have risen their game to aid the rise of Roma. They will be a tough team for any of the first pot teams to handle.