Champions League group stage: pots taking shape
Real Madrid, Atlético and Barcelona sit atop Pot 1, as we consider the potential clubs that could face each other with the Uefa draw almost upon us.
Although we still await confirmation of the final six teams to make it through the last qualifying round, the pots for the Champions League group stage are close enough to completion to show who clubs can expect in the draw on August 30 in Monaco.
Champions League draw awaits
22 of the 26 teams are confirmed a place in the group stage, although some clubs await the outcome of the qualifiers to determine which pot they will reside. Two such teams are Liverpool and Valencia. Last season's runner-up is a contender for the single vacancy available in Pot 2, however their presence in that illustrious company depends on what happens with Benfica. If the Portuguese side eliminates PAOK in their qualifier then they instead will take that place (based on them having a better coefficient than the Premier League club), and it will relegate Klopp and co. to Pot 3. LaLiga side Valencia will find themselves in either Pot 3 or 4 depending on the outcomes of the outstanding games.
Pot 1: full of champions
There are three Spanish teams sitting in Pot 1, namely Real Madrid (winners of the last three competitions and four in the last five), Atlético Madrid (last season's Europa Cup champions who, as of this year, are given Pot 1 billing) and FC Barcelona. The Liga champions are joined by the other winners of the domestic leagues of the six European competitions based on their Uefa ranking (Bayern, Manchester City, Juventus, PSG and Lokomotiv Moscow).
Pot 2: big names, high expectations
The main group rivals for the big three in Spain will likely come from the eight teams in Pot 2: Dortmund, Porto, Manchester United, Shakhtar, Napoli, Tottenham, Roma and, as already mentioned, either Benfica or Liverpool. Worth noting that both The Reds and Roma were in Pot 3 last season and faced up in the semi-final!
Pot 3: where the surprises could lie
Some tricky opposition for top seeds could lie in Pot 3. Schalke, Lyon, Monaco, CSKA Moscow and the winner of Ajax/Dynamo Kiev are all assured a place in the third pot. Candidates to fill the spaces are: Liverpool, Salzburg, PSV, Valencia, Plzen and, if they defeat Benfica, PAOK.
Pot 4: Inter death wish
Italian giants Inter Milan are the stand-out team in Pot 4 potentially giving credence this year to the obligatory 'Group of Death'. The absence of I Nerazzurri in Europe in four of the last five seasons has relegated them to the final grouping along with the lesser threats of Bruges, Galatasaray, Hoffenheim and the winners of Young Boys-Dinamo Zagreb and Vidi-AEK Athens. BATE Borisov and Red Star will also go into this pot if they qualify. If not, Valencia, Plzen or PAOK could occupy their places.
Champions League 2018-2019: group stage pots
|Pot 1||Pot 2||Pot 3||Pot 4|
|Real Madrid||Dortmund||Schalke||Club Brugge|
|Barcelona||Man. United||Monaco||Inter Milan|
|Bayern Munich||Shakhtar||CSKA Moscow||Hoffenheim|
|Man. City||Napoli||Ajax/Dynamo Kiev||Y. Boys/D. Zagreb|
|Plzen||Red Star Belgrade|