Champions League draw: Best and worst-case scenario for English teams

Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City and Man United all await their fate in today’s Champions League draw… but what is the best and worst-case group stage scenario for the four English teams?

  • Draw for the group stages of the 2020-21 Champions League is set to take place
  • There are four English sides involved in Thursday’s draw, split across Pots 1 and 2
  • Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the best and worst-case scenarios for the teams
  • Chelsea, City and United will be desperate to avoid group with Bayern and Inter

Just over a month on from the 2019-20 Champions League final, attention has well and truly turned to 2020-21 and it’s already time for the group stage draw.

The qualification process is complete, meaning all 32 teams have been confirmed for the group stages and the draw will take place on Thursday afternoon.

As seems to be the case with all UEFA draws, it’s not quite as simple as names out of a hat, but Sportsmail is here to guide you through the confusion, before taking a look at the best and worst-case scenarios for all four of the English sides… 

Bayern Munich won the 2019-20 Champions League but focus is now fully on this season

So how does it work?

Well, there are four pots, each with eight teams in. In the simplest terms, a team from each pot goes into a different group, creating eight groups of four teams. Simple, right?

Not quite. No two sides from the same country can face each other in the group stages, while teams from Russia and Ukraine cannot be drawn together.

It is also the case that no more than two teams from any given country can play on the same night, so in the case of English clubs Liverpool and Manchester United have been paired up, with Man City and Chelsea also together.

That essentially just means that if a paired club is drawn in Groups A, B, C or D, the other paired club will automatically be assigned to one of the other groups – E, F, G or H. So if Liverpool are in Group A, for example, then Manchester United will have to be in one of the latter four groups.

In terms of who’s in which pot, it is as follows. Pot 1 is made up of the Champions League holders, the Europa League holders, and the champions of the top six association countries based on their UEFA coefficients.

Pots 2, 3 and 4 contain the remaining teams, ranked by order of their UEFA ranking. 

Pot 1 

Bayern Munich Sevilla                  Real Madrid            Liverpool            Juventus              Paris Saint-Germain Zenit St Petersburg  Porto

Pot 2 

Barcelona              Atletico Madrid      Manchester City      Manchester United  Shakhtar Donetsk  Borussia Dortmund Chelsea                Ajax

Pot 3 

Dynamo Kiev          RB Salzburg            RB Leipzig              Inter Milan              Olympiacos              Lazio                          Krasnodar            Atalanta

Pot 4 

Lokomotiv Moscow Marseille              Club Brugge        Monchengladbach Istanbul Basaksehir Midtjylland        Rennes          Ferencvaros

The draw is set to take place on Thursday evening with English sides awaiting their fate

The likelihood…

To make an already complicated-looking draw even more so, some very technical-minded football statisticians have been crunching the numbers to work out which draws are most and least likely for the top teams in Europe.

Focusing specifically on the English teams here, we can see that Liverpool are ever-so-slightly more likely to be drawn against Atletico Madrid than they are any other Pot 2 team. Least likely is Borussia Dortmund.

For Manchester City, meanwhile, their most likely opponents from the dreaded Pot 1 is Sevilla or Real Madrid. Of course, they would prefer the former, but will be glad if they manage to avoid Bayern Munich –  statistically their least likely opponent.

Manchester United are least likely to Paris Saint-Germain and their impressive front-line of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and former player Angel Di Maria, while Real Madrid are their most probable group-stage rivals.

Chelsea, according to the numbers crunched by Julien Guyon, also have Sevilla and Real Madrid in their sights, while PSG and Juventus are the least likely to be pulled out of the hat alongside them. 

Julien Guyon’s draw probabilities show that Liverpool are most likely to draw Atletico Madrid

The best and worst-case scenarios…

Now, for each English team we’re going to go through the draw and look at the best options and the worst options for their group, in terms of both difficulty of opponent and the amount of travel in an already-packed 2020-21 season.

First up, let’s start with the Premier League champions, and 2019-20 Champions League winners: Liverpool.


Best-case scenario: Ajax, Atalanta, Ferencvaros

Worst-case scenario: Barcelona, Inter Milan, Lokomotiv Moscow

With all the other three English teams in Pot 2, it’s slim pickings for Liverpool when it comes to their opponent. They will definitely have one of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Shakhtar Donetsk, Borussia Dortmund or Ajax in their group.

Jurgen Klopp’s side could face Barcelona and they have fond memories from May 2019

In terms of UEFA coefficient, Ajax is the easiest draw for the Reds from Pot 2, although it could be argued that Shakhtar Donetsk aren’t as strong an opponent. That said, a trip to Holland is far simpler than that long flight to Ukraine, so Jurgen Klopp’s side will be hopeful of going Dutch.

Atalanta have proven themselves a tough team in the last couple of seasons, and have a 100 per cent win record so far this season, but statistically are the easiest opponent in Pot 3. In Pot 4, meanwhile, Ferencvaros and Rennes would be seen as the most favourable draws, although Klopp’s men will certainly back themselves to beat whoever they come up against.

In terms of worst-case scenario for the Reds, Barcelona would be an extremely tough draw. It’s surprising that the Nou Camp giants are even in Pot 2 to begin with. From Pot 3, Inter Milan would be far-from ideal, while a long-old trip to Russia to face Lokomotiv Moscow would top off their Group of Death. 

Andrew Robertson (left) tries to tackle Lionel Messi during the two side’s clash at Anfield

Manchester City

Best-case scenario: Porto, Atalanta, Ferencvaros

Worst-case scenario: Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Lokomotiv Moscow

After being placed in Pot 2, Manchester City will be trying to avoid the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and PSG from Pot 1. Their best option is undoubtedly Porto, a side who would not involve a huge away trip and one that they should be able to beat with relative ease.

In terms of Pot 3 and 4, it is much the same as Liverpool in that Atalanta and Ferencvaros are the bottom seeds and most favourable. It could also be argued that Dynamo Kiev is a favourable draw in Pot 3, regardless of the fact that they are technically the best team there.

Last season, they didn’t even qualify for the group stages, and even in the Europa League they have a dreadful record in recent years.

In terms of the worst-case scenarios, Champions League holders Bayern look formidable in European competition and Guardiola’s men will certainly want to avoid them in the group stages. Inter Milan and RB Leipzig look tough from Pot 3, while Lokomotiv Moscow is a long trip to Russia from Pot 4. 

Dynamo Kiev beat Gent in their Champions League play-off to book a group stage place

Pep Guardiola’s side will be trying to avoid the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid

Manchester United

Best-case scenario: Porto, Atalanta, Ferencvaros

Worst-case scenario: Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Lokomotiv Moscow

Much like their noisy neighbours above, Manchester United will be desperate to avoid home and away clashes with Bayern Munich. That said, Real Madrid, Juventus and PSG don’t look much easier. Porto, once again, is far and away the easiest tie.

With Pot 3, Inter Milan would represent a return to Old Trafford for Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku and is certainly something United will be looking to avoid. If the pair turned up in Manchester and put on a show, it would be a mightily embarrassing evening for United and a sign that perhaps they made some mistakes in getting rid.

Pot 4 should, of course, be an easier prospect. A trip to Moscow seems difficult, but United will also want to avoid Istanbul Basaksehir. That will see them face former right back Rafael, while their squad also includes Demba Ba and Nacer Chadli.

An easier tie would be Ferencvaros, but there is also much to be desired about a short trip to Rennes, Marseille or Midtjylland.

United won’t want to draw Inter Milan and their ex-stars Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be awaiting the group stage draw with bated breath on Thursday


Best-case scenario: Porto, Atalanta, Ferencvaros

Worst-case scenario: Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Lokomotiv Moscow 

Chelsea are technically the lowest-ranked English side, and like United and City will definitely avoid playing against Liverpool in the group stages. Their worst-case from Pot 1 is definitely Bayern Munich, a team they were beaten 4-1 and 3-0 by in the same competition last season.

They have not played Inter Milan recently, but the last time they did was 2009-10 and that also resulted in two defeats, home and away. They have never played Lokomotiv Moscow, but a long midweek trip to Russia is far from ideal.

In terms of the draw they will want, Porto, Atalanta and Ferencvaros would be perfect for Lampard and Co – as it would for Guardiola and Solskjaer too. The Blues will be desperate to avoid long trips to the likes of Krasnodar and Dynamo Kiev too. 

Chelsea were beaten home and away by Bayern last season and won’t want to face them again

Frank Lampard’s best-case scenario sees them play Porto, Atalanta and Ferencvaros

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