• Champions League


Champions League group-stage draw: a look at the four pots

These are the clubs in Thursday's draw in Monaco (18:00 CEST). For Real Madrid and Barcelona, Manchester City are the Pot Two side to avoid.

Así están los bombos para el sorteo de la Champions League
Harold Cunningham Getty Images

With the UEFA Champions League play-off stage complete, we now know the names of the 32 teams who will take their place in Thursday evening's draw for the group stage of Europe's premier club competition (18:00 CEST).

Sides from the same national association cannot be paired together in the same section, while Russian and Ukrainian teams will also be kept apart.

Real Madrid and Barcelona head the names in Pot One.

Pot One

The first pot contains the European champions, Real Madrid, and the winners of the continent's highest-ranked domestic leagues, which include Spanish title holders Barcelona. Of the rest, the toughest potential opposition awaiting Atlético Madrid and Sevilla are Carlo Ancelotti's Bayern Munich, Gonzalo Higuaín's Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, now managed by Spaniard Unai Emery - who left the Andalusian outfit for the Parc des Princes this summer. The more beatable top seeds are CSKA Moscow, Benfica and Leicester City, despite the Foxes' status as defending Premier League champions. For Atleti and Sevilla, landing one of these three over one of the former trio is likely to make a big difference. It's something that will all but define the difficulty of their group.

Pep Guardiola's Man City are the team Real Madrid and Barcelona will be out to avoid from Pot Two.

Pot Two

Featuring Atlético and Sevilla, this second pot will on paper provide Real and Barça's most demanding group-stage rival. There's one team they'll hope to avoid above all others: Manchester City, where Pep Guardiola has set about overhauling last term's side. A City pairing with either would be significant in seeing former Blaugrana player and boss Guardiola return to the Camp Nou or visit his old club's arch enemies at the Bernabéu. Meanwhile, the prospect of Madrid legend Iker Casillas facing his ex-employers with Porto is also a major sub-plot. Another tricky opponent is Borussia Dortmund, who have strengthened effectively and boast an outstanding coach in Thomas Tüchel. Arsenal are more of the same, Napoli have lost much with the sale of Higuaín, and there could be a Real reunion for Javier 'Chicharito' Hernández if Bayer Leverkusen meet Los Blancos.

Pot Three

Under Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur had a fantastic Premier League campaign last season and, with stand-out individuals such as Dele Alli and Harry Kane, would be a difficult team to be drawn against - particularly given their position down in Pot Three. PSV Eindhoven took Atlético right to the wire in the 2015/16 last-16 and are continuing to progress under Phillip Cocu, while resurgent sides such as Borussia Mönchengladbach, Olympique Lyonnais and and Sporting CP currently enjoy less of a reputation than their performances in their respective leagues merit. Otherwise, Belgian champions Club Brugge appear at first glance to be the easiest outfit in the pot alongside the always inconsistent Dynamo Kiev.

Monaco eliminated Villarreal in the play-off round.

Pot Four

The pot with the simplest opponents, it still throws up the possibility of being pitted against the far-from-straightforward Monaco and Besiktas. The Principality side come into the group stage having knocked out none other than Villarreal in the play-off round, and are a tough proposition under Leonardo Jardim. Should Barça or Sevilla be placed in the same group as the Turks, they'll come up against a familiar face in Adriano Correia, a recent recruit by the Süper Lig club. The remaining sides are the least testing of the lot and ought not to cause any of LaLiga's representatives any problems. However, it's always desirable to avoid long-distance away trips, such as Russia's Rostov, Croatia's Dinamo Zagreb and Bulgaria's Ludogorets.

The four pots

Pot 1 Pot 2 Pot 3 Pot 4
Real Madrid Atlético Basel Celtic
Barcelona Dortmund Tottenham Monaco
Leicester Arsenal Dinamo Kiev Besiktas
Bayern Manchester City Lyon Legia
Juventus Sevilla PSV Eindhoven Dinamo Zagreb
Benfica Porto Sporting Ludogorets
PSG Napoli Brugge Copenhagen
CSKA Leverkusen Mönchengladbach Rostov