The first pot in the UEFA Champions League draw used to be pretty straightforward – it had the best teams in Europe. That’s because UEFA used something called the club coefficient (an evaluation of teams’ previous five years’ performance in European competition) to determine the top pot, with the goal of having the best eight teams there.
But that changes next year, with UEFA putting the winners of its top-eight ranked leagues into the first pot. And now that the champions of those leagues have been determined, we know who will be in Pot 1: Barcelona (Spain), Chelsea (England), Juventus (Italy), Bayern Munich (Germany), Paris Saint-Germain (France), Benfica (Portugal), PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), and Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia).
That’s a pretty solid group. There are a lot of good teams in there, but it differs quite a bit from what Pot 1 would have been if UEFA hadn’t changed systems.
If UEFA went with its top eight ranked teams, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, Porto and Arsenal would be in Pot 1, taking Juventus, PSG, PSV and Zenit’s spots. But it’s not really about who is in the top pot. The real intrigue is what’s going on in pots 2 and 3. The strong teams from those pots will make up the most difficult groups.
With the new system, both Madrid clubs, Porto and Arsenal can all be drawn into groups with Pot 1 teams. So can Manchester United and Manchester City, while Bundesliga comers Wolfsburg will be in Pot 3.
Imagine this armageddon draw next year:
Group A – Barcelona, Manchester United, Wolfsburg
Group B – Bayern Munich, Real Madrid
Group C – Chelsea, Atlético Madrid
Group D – Juventus, Manchester City
Group E – PSG, Arsenal
Things could get ugly for a lot of Europe’s best teams. Of course, having the likes of PSV and Zenit in Pot 1 also opens up the possibility for teams like Real Madrid or Manchester United to get a kind draw.
The new system doesn’t necessarily mean we’re getting tougher groups. It could go either way, but it does make the draw way more interesting.