The champions of England, Spain, Italy and Germany could all be in the same group when the draw for the Champions League takes place in Monaco today (5pm).
UEFA’s seeding system, based on the club’s coefficients, has thrown up the possibility of the champions of the four strongest nations all having to play each other in the group phase.
City will be the only English club not among the top seeds for today’s — despite being domestic champions, Roberto Mancini’s side still have a relatively low UEFA coefficient, meaning they will be among the pot of eight second seeds while European champions Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are in the pot of eight top seeds.
That means City could be drawn in the same group as European powerhouses such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, which would make the task of qualifying for the knockout stages that much harder.
There are potentially dangerous opponents lurking among the third and fourth seeds too.
The worst-case scenario would see the Premier League champions having to face Spanish champions Real, Italian champions Juventus and German Bundesliga winners Borussia Dortmund.
City suffered from being ranked as third seeds last season when they ended up third in a group containing Bayern, Napoli and Villarreal.
Porto are the lowest-ranked club among the top seeds, and City would hope to be in their group and avoid the bigger guns among the third and fourth seeds.
But whatever the outcome of the draw, Manchester United’s experiences of last season stand as a warning about anyone expecting an easy ride. United’s group last season appeared the easiest on paper, yet Alex Ferguson’s men failed to qualify for the knockout stages.
The financial rewards from progressing into the latter stages are significant — Chelsea’s share of TV and prize money was €60 million from going on to win the competition, while City’s was €26m.
Today’s draw will see the 32 clubs drawn into four groups — each group will have one top seed, one second seed, one third seed and one fourth seed.
The four clubs in each group will play each other home and away with the top two progressing to the knockout stage of the tournament, while the third-placed side goes into the knockout stage of the Europa League.
None of the Premier League sides can be drawn in a group with another English club, but there could be British opposition after Celtic progressed to the group stages last night.
Likely seed pots:
Pot One: Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Porto, AC Milan.
Pot Two: Valencia, Benfica, Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit St Petersburg, Schalke, Manchester City, Braga, Dynamo Kiev.
Pot Three: Olympiakos, Ajax, Anderlecht, Juventus, Lille, Spartak Moscow, Paris St Germain, Galatasaray.
Pot Four: Celtic, Borussia Dortmund, BATE Borisov, Dinamo Zagreb, CFR Cluj, Malaga, Montpellier, FC Nordsjaelland.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved