November 26, 2020, 23:40


Who could Premier League clubs and Celtic play in the Champions League?

Who could Premier League clubs and Celtic play in the Champions League?

For the first time, there could be six British sides involved when the draw for this season’s Champions League group phase is made on Thursday.

Premier League champions Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City have already qualified, while Manchester United’s Europa League final win over Ajax in May sealed their place.

Celtic are all but through after a 5-0 first-leg win over Kazakh side Astana in the play-off round, with Liverpool poised to progress too if they can see off German side Hoffenheim.

But who could each team play? And how might the clubs’ routes to the final in Kiev differ? Skysports.com’s Andrew Dickson takes a look…

Draw structure

As always, there are 32 teams taking part at this stage of the competition, with the draw splitting them into eight groups of four from four seeded pots.

The first pot always contains the reigning champions – in this case Real Madrid – plus the title winners from each of the seven highest-ranked leagues in Europe.

Given Spain are among the top seven and Real are already included, that means the eighth country is also represented this season, with Ukrainian team Shakhtar Donetsk placed among the leaders.

Pots two, three and four are based purely on coefficients calculated using points gathered in European fixtures over the last five seasons, with more recent results carrying more weight.

That means while Feyenoord are a well-known name, this is their first appearance in the Champions League groups for 15 years and they’re in the final pot as a result.

A total of 22 teams qualify automatically, with 10 more sides coming through up to four preliminary rounds.

The others guaranteed a place are the winners of Europe’s top 12 leagues, runners-up from the first six and third-placed teams from the Premier League, La Liga and the Bundesliga.

Who starts where?

As Premier League champions, Chelsea are the only English side among the top seeds, with the days of more than one side from the same country being listed in the top eight now gone.

Manchester City and Manchester United both have better coefficients than pot one sides Monaco, Spartak Moscow and Shakhtar but have to settle for places in pot two.

2017/18 Champions League pots Pot 1 (confirmed): Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Juventus, Benfica, Monaco, Spartak Moscow, Shakhtar Donetsk Pot 2 (provisional): Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, PSG, Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla, Manchester City, Porto, Manchester United Pot 3 (provisional): Napoli, Tottenham, Basel, Olympiakos, Anderlecht, Liverpool, Roma, Besiktas Pot 4 (provisional): Celtic, CSKA Moscow, Copenhagen, Sporting Lisbon, APOEL Nicosia, Feyenoord, Maribor, RB Leipzig

Tottenham look set to be in pot three – where they were last year – and will only move up if both Sevilla and Napoli fail to defend their first-leg victories of the play-off round.

Liverpool will join Spurs among the third seeds if they can finish the job against Hoffenheim after a 2-1 first-leg victory.

Celtic may yet make it there too – but they need one of four other results to go their way in the play-off round to edge them up from their present pot four position.

Possible best and worst draw scenarios Team(s) ‘Best draw’ ‘Worst draw’ Chelsea Porto, Anderlecht, Maribor Barcelona, Napoli, Celtic Man City, Man Utd Spartak Moscow, Anderlecht, Maribor Real Madrid, Napoli, Celtic Tottenham, Liverpool Spartak Moscow, Anderlecht, Maribor Real Madrid, PSG, Celtic Celtic Spartak Moscow, Porto, Anderlecht Real Madrid, PSG, Napoli

Brendan Rodgers’ side are currently ranked highest of the final eight teams but four sides above them in the provisional groups make-up are playing teams with a lower coefficient than the Scots.

Therefore, if Hoffenheim knock out Liverpool, Olympiakos are eliminated by Rijeka, Napoli lose over two legs to Nice or Sevilla crash out to Istanbul Basaksehir, Celtic will move up into pot three.

The trouble for now is all of the higher-ranked sides won their first-leg ties, although the 2-1 lead Olympiakos will defend in Croatia looks somewhat precarious.

How likely is an all-British tie?

That will partly be dictated by whether Tottenham, Liverpool and Celtic all end up in pot three as teams from the same country aren’t allowed to play each other at this stage of the competition.

If Rodgers’ men move up, they can probably only meet Chelsea, City or United due to English sides being prohibited from meeting in the groups.

Should Celtic stay in pot four, however, they could face any of the five Premier League teams and would therefore be more likely to draw one than not.

Of course, there are a multitude of possible combinations for each side and they range from being exceptionally difficult to something many see as comfortable.

Chelsea, for example, could end up in a group with the likes of Porto, Basel and NK Maribor, which most would expect them to advance from.

At the other end of the scale, Celtic could find themselves pitched against Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Napoli if they stay in pot four.

When do the teams play one another?

This season’s group phase runs, as it usually does, from mid-September to early December, with the knockout stages of the competition coming in 2018.

The opening games will take place on September 12 and 13 – and in Atletico Madrid’s case that may well see them play at their new Wanda Metropolitano home for the first time.

Champions League groups format Matchday 1 Pot 2 v Pot 3 Pot 4 v Pot 1 Matchday 2 Pot 1 v Pot 2 Pot 3 v Pot 4 Matchday 3 Pot 3 v Pot 1 Pot 2 v Pot 4 Matchday 4 Pot 1 v Pot 3 Pot 4 v Pot 2 Matchday 5 Pot 3 v Pot 2 Pot 1 v Pot 4 Matchday 6 Pot 2 v Pot 1 Pot 4 v Pot 3

After that, matches are played on September 26/27, October 17/18, October 31/November 1, November 21/22 and December 5/6.

The top two from each group will move on to the round of 16, with the draw for that taking place in December and games starting at that stage in February.

Sourse: skysports.com

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