Thursday, August 30, 2012
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE IS BACK! CLUBS AWAIT GROUPINGS
The lineup for the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League group stage is complete and will feature an impressive 12 previous winners of Europe's premier club competition as well as three teams making their debut in this phase.
Eleven of the past champions were among the 22 automatic entrants, a number which was subsequently swelled by the progress of Celtic FC through one of this week's ten play-offs. For the draw, which takes place from 17.45CET on Thursday at Monaco's Grimaldi Forum, the 32 entrants have been split into four seeding pots (based on club coefficients), with each of the groups to contain one team from each tier.
No club can meet a team from their own association and the draw procedure will be explained during the ceremony, which also includes the presentation of the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award.
Holders Chelsea FC lead the top tier of seeds, all of whom have lifted the trophy other than 2005/06 runners-up Arsenal FC, and both London clubs will be hoping to emulate FC Bayern München's 2011/12 feat of playing the final in their home city, with the competition concluding at Wembley on Saturday 25 May. The third English team in Pot 1, Manchester United FC, are making a record 18th appearance in this, the 21st UEFA Champions League campaign proper.
By contrast, this is the first entry by French champions Montpellier Hérault SC, Denmark's FC Nordsjælland and play-off winners Málaga CF, a side making only their second European appearance – which takes the number of clubs to have taken part in the group stage to 127. Meanwhile, for the team that Montpellier pipped to last season's Ligue 1 title, Paris Saint-Germain FC, it is a first UEFA Champions League campaign in eight years, with other clubs ending absences including Juventus, Galatasaray AŞ and RSC Anderlecht.
Of the 32 sides that competed last season, 20 have qualified again, LOSC Lille completing the lineup after their extra-time defeat of FC København in the last play-off to finish on Wednesday. In total there are clubs from 17 different national associations playing in the group stage, with England and Spain the best represented with a quartet of teams.
Courtesy of UEFA.COM