The group stage field is once again set, and Bayern Munich will soon discover their first three opponents in the Champions League. With four German teams qualifying and two English and two Spanish teams in Pot 2, their spectrum of opponents is narrower than most top clubs in Europe.
The German champions have advanced out of the group stage in their last twelve tries. This will be the second time they participate in a draw under the new rules with the Champions League winner and league champions from the top leagues in Pot 1.
Here are the four pots after qualification finalized on Wednesday.
|Pot 1||Pot 2||Pot 3||Pot 4|
|Real Madrid||Atletico Madrid||FC Basel||Celtic FC|
|Barcelona||Borussia Dortmund||Tottenham Hotspur||AS Monaco|
|Bayern Munich||Arsenal||Dynamo Kyiv||Besiktas|
|SL Benfica||Manchester City||Olympique Lyon||Legia Warsaw|
|Paris Saint-Germain||Sevilla||PSV Eindhoven||Dinamo Zagreb|
|Juventus||FC Porto||Sporting CP||Ludogorets Razgrad|
|CSKA Moscow||Napoli||Club Brugge||Kobenhavn|
|Leicester City||Bayer Leverkusen||Borussia Mönchengladbach||Rostov FC|
Best Draw: Napoli, Olympique Lyon, Legia Warsaw
Napoli was the only team last season that could even go toe-to-toe with Juventus once the Old Lady woke up from her fall nap. However, Gonzalo Higuain was a huge part of their success last season, and it is tough to maintain such a high level of play without your best player. A match against them will still not be easy – their defense is very experienced and the additions of Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik could be strong signings – but they are probably the weakest team in the group.
Olympique Lyon lost a few key players as well, but they were still able to hold onto their french star Alexandre Lacazette. However, even he could not step up to the occasion last season as Lyon won just one game in the group stage to finish last in their group. Their defense may be stronger now despite the loss of Samuel Umtiti, but they are certainly the weakest team of this bunch.
That task would also be a challenge for Legia Warsaw too, the first Polish team to qualify for the Champions League in 20 years. It is an impressive feat considering they lost perhaps their best playmaker, Ondrej Duda, to Hertha Berlin. Bayern have not lost to a Pot 4 team since losing to BATE Borisov in 2012, but having one in a country right next door will make a busy fixture list easier to handle.
Worst Draw: Atlético Madrid, PSV Eindhoven, AS Monaco
The last team Bayern probably want to face in the group stage? Probably the team that knocked them out of the Champions League just four months ago. Their defense will be just as strong as it was last season - maybe even stronger with Gabi and Tiago back together in midfield. They might be the only team that would prevent Bayern from winning their group.
PSV Eindhoven will be just as tough to beat as well despite losing one of their best defenders, Jeffrey Bruma, to Wolfsburg. Their midfield may be their greatest strength, and Luuk de Jong has revitalized his career to become a rather dangerous attacking force. Dethroning Ajax as the Eredivisie's best is not a small task, and their tenacity will make it difficult for any team that has to face them in the group stage.
AS Monaco will be another tough team to break down as well. Their defense may not be at the level it was two years ago, but they did their best to address it in the transfer market this summer. Their attack meanwhile is very well rounded, containing a lot of young players with first team experience. Leonardo Jardim got this team playing at a high level two years ago, and perhaps he could do so again now that his team is back in the Champions League.