UEFA’s new seeding system means Jose Mourinho faces the possibility of his Chelsea side being in the same group as his old team Real Madrid when the draw for the Champions League takes place in Monaco on Thursday.
The new system will see the pot of top seeds made up of the champions Barcelona and seven other domestic champions from the leading European leagues – including Chelsea and Bayern Munich.
Real Madrid will be in pot two along with Arsenal, Manchester City and – pending their likely qualification – Manchester United. As English clubs cannot be drawn in the same group, it means there is more of a chance of Chelsea being drawn against Real.
UEFA’s shake-up of its seeding system should refresh the competition as it sees five teams who would have been top seeds under previous rules now among the pot of second seeds.
It means too that the English clubs in pot two will themselves have a greater chance of facing one of the European powerhouses in the group stages than in previous years – Arsenal or the Manchester sides could find themselves up against Barca or Bayern. It is the first time more for than a decade that Arsenal and Manchester United have not been top seeds.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger criticised the changes when they were announced by UEFA as “unnecessary and illogical”.
He said at the time: “I believe it will just make the seedings useless. Logic is not being respected. Logic for me when you play in Europe is results in Europe.
“It will just make the seeding less interesting. Pot one will now have less significance.”
UEFA’s general secretary Gianni Infantino has defended the new system, saying it is right to give national domestic champions top seeding.
He said: “People had difficulties in understanding how the champion of a country is in a lower pot than the third-ranked in that country.
“This will give another dynamic with the draw and in the way the groups are composed.
“Football is about winning. It’s about competition. It’s about sporting merit.
“I think it’s kind of a natural thing to give to those who have won a competition a special treatment like this.”
The new system also means domestic champions with a lower co-efficient benefit – Dutch side PSV Eindhoven along with Juventus, Benfica, Paris St Germain and Zenit St Petersburg are all in pot one.