By Thursday evening, Arsenal will know who they face in the group stage of the 2014/15 Champions League, and it is expected to be trickier than usual.
For years now Arsenal have been seeded in the first pot, giving the club the best possible chance of an ‘easy’ draw. Obviously this isn’t always the case – in 2013/14 the Gunners came up against Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Olympique Marseille – but the odds were Arsenal would be favourites.
The seedings have changed and the first pot is now reserved for teams who won their domestic title the previous season, leaving Arsenal in pot two.
As per usual, Arsenal cannot face another English club. Chelsea are in pot one, Manchester City join us in pot two, and Manchester United will also do so should they qualify on Wednesday evening (they lead 3-1 ahead of their second leg against Club Brugge).
Pot One: Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Benfica, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Zenit St. Petersburg, PSV Eindhoven.
Pot Two: Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, FC Porto, Arsenal, Valencia, Manchester City.
Pot Two or Three (depending on results of the remaining qualifiers): Shakhtar Dontesk, Sevilla.
Pot Three: Olympique Lyonnais, Dynamo Kyiv, Olympiacos, Galatasaray, Roma.
Pot Four: Borussia Mönchengladbach, Wolfsburg, Dinamo Zagreb, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Gent, Malmö.
With Manchester United expected to qualify, last season’s Europa League winners Sevilla will be in the third pot. The same applies to Shakhtar Donetsk should Bayer Leverkusen also qualify.
Arsenal’s worst case scenario: Barcelona, Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, VfL Wolfsburg.
Being in pot two for the first time comes with some horrible possibilities, while pots three and four contain a mixture of the unknown, long journeys, and underrated German sides Borussia Mönchengladbach and VfL Wolfsburg. Then again, maybe Arsenal will get lucky?
Arsenal’s best case scenario: PSV, Arsenal, Olympique Lyonnais, Gent.
Come on Gianni Infantino, with your bald head and stupidly long-winded draw, be kind on Thursday.