Manchester City face the prospect of being landed with another group of death when the Champions League draw is made in Monaco. City's previous failures mean they are seeded in the third pot of four and are again likely to face a difficult passage to the knockout stages.
Last season City came bottom of a group that included eventual finalists Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Ajax, failing to win a single match. The previous season Bayern Munich and Napoli squeezed City out even though Roberto Mancini's team took maximum points from Villarreal.
Mancini had a poor Champions League record, reaching the quarter-finals only twice in seven attempts with Lazio, Internazionale and City. This season City have Manuel Pellegrini in charge. The Chilean reached the semi-finals with Villarreal in 2006, when they lost to Arsenal, and the last eight last season with Malaga but was knocked out in the round of 16 in his one season at Real Madrid.
City's worst-case scenario is any one of Bayern, Barcelona and Real from Pot One, plus Paris Saint-Germain and Rafa Benitez's Napoli. It would be a glamorous and wealthy quartet, but also a devilishly difficult group. Alternatively, even from Pot Three, City could get Porto or Benfica, plus Schalke 04, who have made a poor start to the Bundesliga, and Austria Vienna; a logistically undemanding group from which they would expect to qualify.
Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal are all top seeds so will avoid the defending champions Bayern and the Spanish giants. But they could be drawn against PSG, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli. United and Chelsea have both been knocked out in the group stage in recent seasons but Arsenal have remained in the competition past Christmas for the last 13 seasons.
Celtic will be in the fourth pot, condemning them to a tough draw, but they qualified last season from a section that featured Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow so should not be fearful even if two of the heroes of that run, Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper, have moved south.
As well as the desire to win the competition, progress would help City's chances of securing a higher seeding next season. Seeding is based on a club's performances over five seasons, plus a share of the performances of teams from the same country.
The 32 qualifying teams have been seeded into four pots. One team is drawn from each pot to make a group. Teams from the same country cannot be drawn in the same group.
Champions League: How the draw works
Pot One Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal, Porto, Benfica.
Pot Two Atletico Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Schalke 04, Marseilles, CSKA Moscow, Paris SG, Milan, Juventus.
Pot Three Zenit St Petersburg, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, Basel, Olympiakos, Galatasaray, Bayer Leverkusen.
Pot Four Real Sociedad, Copenhagen, Napoli, Anderlecht, Celtic, Steaua Bucharest, Viktoria Plzen, Austria Vienna.
When Today at 4:45pm.
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