Roman Abramovich in the Europa League. Chelsea on ITV4, not even Channel 5. Today the Champions League exit will hit home hardest. At 10.30 this morning the draw for Europe's elite competition will take place in Nyon. Barcelona, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich will find out what awaits them in the knock-out stage of Europe's top competition.
At one o'clock, Chelsea, the reigning champions of Europe, and their owner Abramovich, will find out where they will head in the Europa League, other than the harsh reality of the shadows of the Champions League.
Rafa Benitez, right, has had some round of fixtures to deal with since he took over from Roberto di Matteo last month. The Champions League, the Premier League, the Carling Cup, the FA Cup, the Europa League and of course the World Club championship, all by the second week in February will test his patience as much as the supporters still questioning his appointment.
Chelsea are one of eight teams dumped out of the Champions League into the Europa League at the final 32 stage.
There are two pots at this stage of the competition. In pot one go the 12 group stage winners (Liverpool) and the four best performing Champions League sides. They will face, away leg first, the remaining 12 runners up from the group stage (Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur) and the other four Champions League sides. At the last 32 stage of the competition, no side can play a team that they faced in the Europa League group stage or one from their own association.
For Chelsea they could face Madrid, but it will be Atletico (and a chance for revenge). They could face Milan, but it will be Inter. Bayer Leverkusen, Zenit and Ajax are also potential opponents. Liverpool could end up, amongst others, with either Inter or Napoli, with the tournament's top scorer in Edinson Cavani, and few will fancy facing the Italians at this stage of the competition.
Newcastle, who finished second in their group despite finishing that stage with two draws and a loss, would probably prefer to avoid any of the fallen Champions League teams of Olympiacos, Benfica, Cluj or Hannover. Those four are potential opponents for Tottenham as well, but at least Andre Villas-Boas knows that, unlike Alan Pardew, he will not be running the risk of Champions-League chasing Lazio being draw out against his side today.
The draw for the Rounds of 32 and 16 take place today, featuring four English clubs. Teams from the same group or country can not be drawn with each other until the last 16.
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