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Will it be Cristiano? Or Griezmann? Or Bale?

Update:

This evening's Champions League group-stage draw in Monaco (on Friday it'll be the turn of the Europa League) also brings the announcement of the winner of the 2015/16 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award: a kind of advance Ballon d'Or, but with different parameters. It takes into account the season rather than the calendar year and is limited to the world of UEFA, whereas January's FIFA prize extends to football across the globe. Though in practice that makes scant difference: you're highly unlikely to ever see anyone playing outside of Europe up for the latter. Either way, tonight's is a major award, for which Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Antoine Griezmann are the trio of finalists.

(From left to right) Antoine Griezmann, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are the candidates for the 2015/16 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award.
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(From left to right) Antoine Griezmann, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are the candidates for the 2015/16 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award.UEFA

Debate in Madrid, disdain in Barcelona

With two of them at Real Madrid and one at Atlético, it's provoking much debate in the capital. In Barcelona, it's being viewed with disdain, as there's no Leo Messi. Or Luis Suárez, Barça's beast in front of goal. Or Neymar, who's just led Brazil to the trophy they were missing, albeit one that doesn't fall within the scope of UEFA. But the three we have is the three we have. CR7 and Griezmann reached both of the campaign's chief European finals, one winning them and the other losing them. Bale was in the first of those and shone at the Euros. I don't know who'll win. But Griezmann, who has said he's out to eat at the same table as Cristiano and Messi, now at least eats at that of Cristiano and Bale.

Cristiano (left) fights for the ball with Griezmann during the Champions League final in May.
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Cristiano (left) fights for the ball with Griezmann during the Champions League final in May.OLIVIER MORINAFP

LaLiga clubs should be confident

The award captures the flashbulbs, but it's not the main event. The principal item on the agenda is the draw, which sets out each side's Champions League path from here to the end of the year. As top seeds, it can pretty much be said that Madrid and Barça have little to worry about. Two go through, and they'll have to be handed a really bad group not to be one of them. Atlético and Sevilla are in pot two, but the faith that we have in them (and that they have in themselves) means they aren't a source of much greater concern, either. However, there's no shortage of intrigue. Pep Guardiola's Manchester City and Iker Casillas' Porto are in the second pot. Can you imagine if they drew Barça and Real?