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The Draw is Coming

With today’s Champions League qualifiers now finished and in the books, seeding is completely settled as we look forward to tomorrow’s Champions League group draw.  There is a lot at stake here.

Last year, because we were in Pot 3, we landed in the group of death with Borussia Monchengladbach, Juventus, and Manchester City.  Here at Monchi’s Men we blindly and over-optimistically charged forward into the group…  I think we all know how that ended.  Although the narrative of the season turned out OK for us in the end, I’m assuming that most people around these parts would like to see this year’s CL adventure last a little longer.

The way it works is that league winners and the defending champion get the #1 seeds in Pot 1.  After that, it’s based on UEFA coefficient.  Since we are awesome, that means we’re in Pot 2.  This is HUGE since we will likely avoid being in a group of death this season.  You also can’t be drawn with another team from your country.  Of course, in Pot 1 there still remain teams that would be nice to avoid (like PSG, Juventus, and Bayern Munich) and teams that might be relatively soft (like Leicester, Benfica, or CSKA Moscow).

Here are the groups, what do you think?  What would be the toughest group?  What would be easiest?  What would carry the most intriguing narrative/back story?

Seeded Pot 1: Real Madrid (holders), Barcelona, Leicester City, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Benfica, PSG, CSKA Moscow

Pot 2: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Manchester City, Sevilla, Porto, Napoli, Bayer Leverkusen

Pot 3: FC Basel, Tottenham Hotspur, Dynamo Kiev, Lyon, PSV Eindhoven, Sporting CP, Club Brugge, Borussia Monchengladbach

Pot 4: Celtic, AS Monaco, Besiktas, Legia Warsaw, Dinamo Zagreb, Ludogorets Razgrad, FC Copenhagen, Rostov

Comments 48

  1. dream draw for me:

    CSKA Moscow
    Sevilla
    Club Brugge
    Celtic

    worst draw:

    Bayern München
    Sevilla
    Tottenham Hotspur
    Monaco

    I’d also like to avoid Juve and BMG since we got them last season (and BMG the season before that also)

  2. I just want Leicester from pot 1… for the rest I couldn’t care less and any team is welcomed. I just want us to annihilate the champions of EPL!

    1. But Sevilla didn’t win a road game all of last year, they have no chance against the mighty Liverpool in the Europa league final. oh wait.

      That would be a really good tie if it happens.

      Can’t wait for the game Sunday, last week was epic.

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      they want to pay 25m for n’zonzi? i mean… i think he’s good and i want him to stay, but that’s a lot, no?

      agree, playing leicester would be fun. and avoiding monacco in pot 4 would be key. will be very annoying if we get them.

      if we get leicester or CSKA in our group, i expect us to win our group. benfica would be a toss up.

    2. 25m would be quite a good deal… however, there is no one at the market that can currently replace N’Zonzi in our squad. We don’t have any DM’s anyway, and he is currently the only one beside Kranevitter (if we don’t consider Iborra as DM as he’s been playing AM and CF with Emery) that can play DM in our team.

      Then we’d have to sign another 2 DM’s in 8 days. N’Zonzi is the closest we have to M’bias type of player and we really need a tall,strong in air DM like him. N’Zonzi has also been our engine in the midfield lately and though he’s taking his time at the ball, still, he’s proving to be a very valuable player in this system, unlike Iborra.

  3. Any other year I’d be stoked to see Leicester in our group, but to be honest that team is pretty much built to destroy the way Sampaoli has our defense set up. I don’t even think Vardy is that good, but I mean…”yeah but he hasn’t faced quality teams that much” doesn’t apply to a scenario in which he has half the field literally to himself.

    Not to say I’ll be scared if we get them, but a team that sits deep, absorbs pressure, and then plays on the counter I think might be our kryptonite this year.

    Excited to see who we get.

    1. That’s true Jeremy, although I’m assuming we sort out the defense in a month or so. Also what makes me more optimistic for a win both home and away to Leicester is that their current midfield sucks without Kante. He was their engine… and without him they seem lost in the midfield. Sure they still have the qualities and counters, but I expect an annihilation with a slightly balanced system.

      Spent a couple of hours today to analyze Sampaoli’s formations and style of play with Chile NT and Universidad at club level. What he’s done in the match vs. Espanyol last week, has never occurred in his previous formations. It definitely was only an improvisation of the system, not the exact one that he uses.

      We basically played with only 2 CB’s, Mercado and Pareja. Vitolo and Mariano were full backs and wingers at the same time, while contributing in the midfield also. At Chile and Universidad, Sampaoli always played with 3 at the back, while 2 others served as full backs and wingers.

      When fully fit, our back line could look something like this:

      Mercado/Carrico – Rami/Carrico – Escudero/Tremo/Kolo

      Mariano/Mercado Vitolo/Escudero/Tremo

      This way, the defense will not be as thin as vs. Espanyol and although we won’t be attacking with 8 players at the opponent’s box (that’s what Quiqe Flores was whining about after the match), we will have at least 6 going forward, just like in Chile, with a 7th player being there somewhere just in case we need help.

      I expect our toughest formation to look like this, using the current players and not considering any departure or arrival (also not including long term injured players):

      Rico

      Carrico – Rami – Escudero

      Mariano Vitolo

      Kiyotake – N’Zonzi

      Mudo

      Ben Yedder – Vietto

      Exciting?

      1. Very exciting indeed, in uncompromising, ultra-attacking fashion. I wonder how often Sampaoli will feature both strikers. I loved that he played both of them from the off — it gave them a fair shot to prove themselves, and to see how each would work in a two-striker system. Vietto seems to have taken the initiative.

        But I still worry about central midfield, where we seem a bit thin, and lacking in quality. As it stands now, our best CMs are N’Zonzi & Kiyotake (early season revelation.) That leaves us counting on Iborra to be a solid fixture when we decide to play a double-pivot or a midfield 3, while still waiting for a young Kranevitter to get up to speed. Ganso will eventually slot into one of these positions, but he’ll take time to adjust as he’s never been relied on for defensive work. Sampaoli has used Sarabia centrally in our last 2 games, so it’ll be interesting to see what role he plays for us this year. He looks to be a jack-of-many-trades type player like someone here alluded to.

        I’m sure another signing is in store to reinforce this area. I believe it’s why we’re still holding on to Cristoforo, until the likes of either Caio or Medel comes in. And as you said Shendm, any one of those 2 will provide sufficient cover in DM or CB, which then frees Carriço as a DM cover.

  4. This Sevilla should be good enough to qualify from whichever group this CL season. Last season the team chemistry developed late. I think Sampaoli will get the chemistry a bit sooner this time around. I expect Sevilla to be flying by Oct/Nov. That should be OK for knockout qualification…with all the other LaLiga reps ofcourse!

    1. True. As good as Spurs, BMG, or Monaco may be, I’m not really worried about Pot 3 or 4. Don’t get it twisted, those teams are definitely capable to get a result against us. But if Sampaoli has us playing our best football (which we haven’t seen yet), teams should be wary of us.

      Why do y’all want an easy draw? We’re in Champions League, man! (Ranieri Voice)
      I’m honestly hoping to get Bayern or PSG. We haven’t played either team in Europe, so it’ll be a great test, especially the latter.

  5. dammit. that’s probably who i least wanted. PSG would’ve been interesting with all the stories. bayern munich would’ve been fun to play… juve we just played last time.

    shitty so far.

  6. We went under the radar regarding PSG and Emery. Not sure that Juventus is better though…

    UEFA went for City and Guardiola against Barcelona..

  7. Juve are not stronger than last season… but not significantly weaker also, they’re still a very tough team to play against. I expect a win at home and a loss away just as in the last season. Higuain is a choker in big games and they’ve lost their most important players, Pogba and Morata for the attacking part. They have a strong defense though that will be a very hard nut to crack.

    Hopefully we don’t get Tottenham from pot 3… that would make it a similar group to last year’s… any other team is manageable.

    1. They replaced Morata, Pogba & Cuadrado w/ Higuain, Pjanic & Dani Alves. They still have Dybala and that BBC backline. Like against any team, I still think we can give them a go. I’m sure they’ll be looking for revenge after we dealt them the loss that cost them a draw w/ Bayern.

  8. Lyon…. nice. I’ve seen 2 full matches of them in Ligue 1, nothing special… I expect we’ll beat them easily! So far Juve and Sevilla through. Let’s hope for anyone but Rostov in pot 4… wouldn’t want to travel far and deal with the harsh winter cold.

    1. glad to hear that. i think i still remember the old teams with juninho and image that lyon are dangerous… but that was a long time ago.

  9. Dinamo Zagreb.. perfect!

    Juve, Sevilla, Lyon, D.Zagreb

    Very passable group…. besides Juve there is no ‘top club’, one average and one very very modest.

    VAMOS MI SEVILLA!!! VAMOS CAMPEON!!!

  10. Only thing that worries me with Lyon is how our defence will handle Lacazette, that’s if he’s still there by then. I have no clue how they did so bad last year, but let’s hope for the same.

    And how many times has Barça drawn Celtic? That’s like Chelsea always getting paired with Schalke.

  11. hey shendm, wanna write a preview post of our group? you seem to know these teams really well. id love to get your full take on it. let me know if you’re interested and i’ll toss you an email.

    1. Thanks for the generosity Rene, but I’ll pass on this one. I’ll stick to comments, and besides, it’s not that I know much about the teams in the group, probably not more than anyone else here.

      Juve lost their attacking core with Morata and Pogba leaving… while their defense remains strong. Lyon won both of their first domestic matches, but it was more of a one man show (Lacazette scored all 5 of their goals in both matches) rather than a great team performance. Their opponents were quite weak and Lyon will still struggle for a top 3 finish just like last season. PSG is at least 5 levels higher than any club in france for the moment. Lacazette is also rumored to leave Lyon and if that will become a fact soon, Lyon will have no one to depend in. As they say, one flower doesn’t make spring (or something like that).

      Dinamo Zagreb have a bunch of internal issues starting from the board, federation, fans etc. and it is an ongoing battle. On top of that, they have also had a couple of quality departures like their starter GK Eduardo (went to Chelsea), their key player in the midfield (Pjaca – went to Juve) etc.

      So we have a pretty good chance of even topping the group, not only passing it. It will all come down to the perfected system from Sampaoli and players for these matches, along with having a good night in crucial parts of this campaign.

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    Group E actually ended up being really interesting/open with CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham, and Monaco.

    No clue how that one will finish.

  13. Great group for Us, we should finish atleast second , tough group for Atleti , city and Barca . Easy draw for Leicster, RM as usual. Juve might be better offensively this year , but defensively they lost Pogba who was a backbone ,also remember their best player Marchisio will not be available for ucl matches. Bring it on

    1. Pogba contributed a lot both in the attack and defense, but without him and his long balls plus frequent breakthroughs, Juve’s attack would look quite weak. They had quality DM’s like Khedira for strict defensive duties.

      You’re right about Marchisio… it will be a huge miss for them. Morata’s not there also… I think we’ll beat them in RSP but not sure if we can get at least a draw in Torino.

      And yes… I hate the easy draws of RM… it happens always, it’s not even funny anymore, there is draw fixing going on from UEFA… and it has been going for a long long time!

  14. In other news, Spartak Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg from Russia are interested in Konoplyanka. May Sampaoli choose to not count on him for this season, it would be a good riddance I’d say, given that we’ll also make a pure profit after signing him for free from Dnipro.

    Leicester are about to offer 25 million pounds or 29 million euros for N’Zonzi. That would be a heck of a deal, but we need to find a replacement for him. Just imagine… selling Iborra and N’Zonzi, while getting Caio and Medel… ufff!

    And last but not least, we are reportedly after Ozyakup of Besiktas who played as left midfielder for Turkish NT in Euros, and plays as DM (double pivot) in Besiktas. He’s also know to get involved in the attack and score goals. Hmmm… does that mean we’re giving up on Caio/Medel… would be disappointing. Let’s see what happens in these final days of the transfer window.

  15. Pogba is overrated, he was not even Juve’s best player for last two season, As much as i like Khedira, he will not be good enough to replace Marchisio, he’s their engine from defense to attack. As far as fixing draw is concerned anyone denying that is a fool, look at RM’s draw over the last few years. I feel bad for Atleti, they’ll have tough time making out of group stage. I wanted Leicster so we could show epl fanboys how weak is their league’s champion. Imo, best and unbiassed format could be dividing top 16 teams in 2 groups and making only 4 group from each group qualify for qf .people say cl is football of highest quality? What’s quality you’ve when RM face Basel,legia Warsaw ,Malmo? Football at club level has become so imbalanced qualitywise that a team as big as Juve has to park bus against top 3 elite teams to have any chance. What’s so fun about cr7 sitting in box scoring plenty of one touch goals , and fanboys call his best. Atleast at country level you don’t have such discrepency in quality of opponents , and even team like usa can draw against Portugal. Yes quality of football is highest in ucl ,but only in 2-3 matches.

    1. Agreed about Pogba being overrated.. the value for what he signed for Man Utd is beyond ridiculous.

      Also true about the CL format. Even though we as Sevilla fans are the last to talk about this (especially with the latest UEFA decision to have EL winners participate in group stage directly), sometimes there are far better matches in EL group stages and early knockout stages than in CL… it’s a shame really.

  16. In an interview right after the CL draw, Monchi also mentioned that the deal for Sirigu (reportedly a loan without a buying option) will be finished tonight later or tomorrow soonest.

  17. I’ll not sell Nzonzi even for 50m ,reason being we don’t have replacement available and Nzonzi providing necessary steel required in midfield. Those 30m mean nothing if it cost us qualifying for qf , that alone brings 45 m . Also joy and fun that us Sevilla fan will have seeing us reaching qf or further?

    1. I agree. I feel like we need a line in all our contracts that says the release clause increases by so many percent every day for the last few weeks of the transfer window. A player like N’Zoni becomes more difficult to replace and thus more valuable to us the closer we get to August 31. Selling him on the last day of the transfer window would do more to hurt our chances for the season than any number of away losses on the actual field during the year.

      1. Very very difficult to replace N’Zonzi in today’s market. It’s not that he doesn’t fit the system either… he was quite decent vs. Espanyol. However, if Sampaoli will have Caio and Medel in mind as replacements for Iborra and N’Zonzi… I might buy into that, otherwise, it’ll be detrimental for our midfield.

        But even if we sign 2 other DM’s (Caio, Medel, Mesa, Ozyakup – any 2 of them), still, we will miss N’Zonzis height when teams play long balls in the midfield with us… also it will shorten the team’s stature by a lot, and leaving only Rami and Mudo (to some extent) as the tallest ones… probably not that good.

  18. Not a bad draw one we should get through comfortably enough.

    As far as ozyakup goes, great player hope we get him but fact is he has so far turned down Arsenal, Dortmund, AC Milan and Monaco this transfer season. So monchi would have some impressive convincing to do but if anyone can pull it off, monchi can.

    1. Turkey was disastrous in their first two matches in Euros… Ozyakup was a starter. They won the third and only match which was not sufficient to go through, and Ozyakup didn’t start that one. I’ve seen Turkey NT play in qualifiers, and none of the players made me go: WOW!… or at least “he’s a decent player”… maybe that was just NT football. I didn’t watch any of Besiktas’s latest matches though, to give a definite review on the player.

      Did you watch him play? I hope we get him if he’s that good… and can’t really understand why he turned down the offers from those teams? Maybe he wants to stay at Besiktas for another season? What do you think on that?

  19. He is pivotal to Besiktas, he pretty much builds up their team play. The type of player that can be one step ahead of everyone in thought so positions himself well. He is a central midfielder but gets forward regularly and holds the ball at his feet well. The quality is there.

    He said himself that he wanted to stay at besiktas to play with them this season in the CL.

    Didn’t pay much attention to turkey myself in Euro but he is a regular starter for them.

  20. I don’t agree with RM always getting easy draws. RM is one of the few elite clubs, so any team in pots 3 or 4 will be significantly weaker than RM. It’s no fault of RM that they are that good in the CL. Such is the state of European futbol. RM and Barca are on a pedestal.

    1. Well, it’s the least about the group stages. Just look at the knockout draws of RM in the recent seasons when they won it and you’ll understand. RM is continously having the easiest CL knockout draws.

  21. If you want to scrutinize easy draws, then check out in general the English draws over the years. Ars Che ManU….always straightforward. Even this year, look at Tott and Leic. If anything fishy is going on…it’s with those darn English!

  22. ^ Agreed Meme. And I guess I’m a fool for believing that the draw isn’t rigged (but it won’t ever get proven, so what’s the point?) Y’all don’t think Dortmund can be a problem for them?

    1. yeah definitely. seems like sirigu is a great move for us though. but agree… what a disappointment for soria. and some serious pressure on rico.

      1. If it is a loan without a buying option, that indicates that we still trust in the canteras (Rico – Soria)… so no need to worry about that I guess. It’s just that the management couldn’t afford to wait on Soria for a full recovery, given that we have 3 fronts to battle in this season. Soria will most probably be 100% ready to play around January-February… and he can serve as the third GK for a while. Then, if Sirigu will be spectacular and our lives will depend on him, maybe the management will offer him a contract… though I doubt he’d agree. Soria was quite unlucky with the injury, and how things were going at that rate… I think he would’ve beat Rico for the starting spot, at least in this phase where Rico is not in top form.