The final qualification round for the 2011-12 Champions League ended today and now we know a little more about what to expect from tomorrow’s draw. The draw will occur at 11:30 EST and be shown on Fox Soccer for those of us in America. So let us break this down a little.
As you may know, all the teams left in the final 32 are placed into 4 pots based on their UEFA coefficients, drawn into 8 groups of 4 teams, and then scheduled to play home and away games against the other 3 teams in their groups. Barcelona currently sits 2nd in the UEFA coeffecient (not that it matters), mostly due to being the only La Liga team past the final 16 until last year. However, being the title holders, Barcelona are the number 1 team in pot 1. Other sides placed into pot 1 include Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich (qualified yesterday), Arsenal (qualified today), Real Madrid, Porto, and Inter. Barcelona cannot be drawn into a group with any of these sides.
The second group includes Milan, Lyon, Shakhtar, Valencia, Benfica, Villareal, CSKA Moscow, and Marseille. Barcelona cannot be drawn with Valencia or Villareal because teams cannot be drawn against domestic league foes in the rounds of 32 or 16. Group 3 is the shocker here because of its strength: Zenit St. Petersburg, Ajax, Bayer Leverkusen, Olympiacos, Manchester City, Lille, Basel, BATE and Borisov. Barcelona can be drawn against any of these teams. Finally, group 4 contains Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Dinamo Zagreb, APOEL, Trabzonspor (taking over for Fenerbache who are involved in a match-fixing investigation), Genk, Viktoria Plzen, and Otelul Galati. Barcelona can draw any of these sides.
In my opinion, the best case scenario for Barça involves drawing Marseille or Benfica (because I want nothing to do with Eastern European nations or Milan) from Group 2. Drawing Lille, BATE, or Basel (no to City, Ajax, any Greek team, or Zenit). And then drawing any of the Group D teams that is not Dortmund (they are better than a lot of people know).
A worst case scenario involves drawing Milan or Shaktar, Manchester City, and Dortmund. Though I still believe Barcelona would finish up top there, it would be much more difficult and risk the players a lot more.
So sit back, relax, and we will find out very soon where Barcelona lines up for the Round of 32.