Friday, August 6, 2010

Champions League Draw Preview: The Big Guns Enter


At 12:00 CET on Friday 6 August 2010 the draw for the play-off round of the Champions League 2010-11 will take place at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. The results will be given as they happen on this article.

As per Michel Platini's overhauls since taking over as FIFA chief, there are two routes to this play-off draw. Ten teams will enter the Champions route, which will see two seeded pots drawn to face each other, with the five winners each taking a place in the group stage.

Then there are ten teams, mainly from larger nations, in the Non-Champions route, who must undergo the same test.

These teams will join twenty-two other clubs in the Champions League group stage, which is to begin on the 14 September, following the draw on August 26.

But what have we to look forward to?

Unsung Heroes

For the Champions, it's a chance for lesser-represented countries to make their mark on the European stage. Debrecen and APOEL found themselves in the group stage last year, and players around modest clubs such as Zilina are hoping for the same.

Meanwhile the lowest-ranked team left, Sheriff Tiraspol, are hoping to bring Champions League football to the Moldovan league for the first time. In their impressively modern Sheriff stadium this wealthy club has aspirations beyond their locality, but first must face the likes of Anderlecht or Hapoel Tel-Aviv.

Meanwhile Sparta Prague just squeeze into the seeding section, but could still face a tough test: on-form RB Salzburg and Norwegian giants Rosenborg are both seasoned European competitors. Basel, meanwhile, are top dogs, while Partizan Belgrade enter in the non-seeded stage.

Tough Test For Big Dogs

Stat Shot

Champions League
Teams Remaining:
Round 1Q: 76
Round 2Q: 74
Round 3Q: 57
Playoff: 42 Then there's the non-champions route, which many would argue is actually stronger. Sevilla are recent European heavyweights; Werder Bremen need no introduction; Tottenham Hotspur come from the glitz and glamour of the Premier League; Zenit are Europa League winners; and Ajax won this contest just over a decade ago.

And that's just the seeded teams! In the other pot are Dynamo Kyiv, an Eastern force, while Sporting Braga shocked all in Portugal to finish second and earn their spot at Europe's top table. Sampdoria ousted the likes of Juventus to end up fourth in Italy, while France's Auxerre and the Young Boys of Bern both have quality midfields.

It's hard to say whom the seeded teams would most like to avoid. Sampdoria, led in attack by the unmistakable Antonio Cassano, are decent contenders for that title, but it's fair to say that they do not have quite the same sheen that they did at certain points last season. Braga, while vanquishing Celtic to arrive at this stage, similarly lack continental pedigree. Dynamo Kiev cannot rightly any longer be called a trip into the unknown - they are very much renowned and their players well-studied - but that's a title that could go to Young Boys. Meanwhile Auxerre have been largely out of European contention for some time but have stormed back from recent poor seasons to become a French force.

For those unlucky teams in the unseeded pot, there's scarcely an appealing tie in the lot. Ajax, far from their glory days, are maybe the easiest side - not just as far as seedings go, but also because their recent continental adventures have ended in disaster. Nonetheless they have quality throughout the side - needless to say, so do the other four.

It's set to be quite a draw, and you can follow it all here...


Champions Route (PRE-DRAW)

Teams will be drawn from the left pot and right pot against each other at 12:00 CET.

Seeded Unseeded
FC Basel Rosenborg
Anderlecht RS Salzburg
FC Copenhagen Partizan Belgrade
Hapoel Tel Aviv
Zilina Sparta Prague
Sheriff Tiraspol

Non-Champions Route (PRE-DRAW)

Teams will be drawn from the left pot and right pot against each other at 12:00 CET.

Seeded Unseeded
Sevilla Dynamo Kyiv
Werder Bremen Sporting Braga
Zenit St. Petersburg Sampdoria
Tottenham Hotspur Auxerre
Ajax Young Boys


One team from each of the two-legged ties will progress, meaning five from each path and ten in total. Ties will be played on 17-18 and 24-25 August 2010.

These ten teams will then be drawn as part of a seeded group stage, comprising eight pools of four, along with the following clubs:

Inter Valencia Lyon CFR Cluj
Chelsea Roma Rubin Kazan Benfica
Man Utd
AC Milan Spartak Moscow Bursaspor
Arsenal Bayern Munich Shakhtar Donetsk Panathinaikos
Barcelona Schalke Twente Rangers
Real Madrid Marseille

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