LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Roberto Di Matteo caretaker manager of Chelsea celebrates victory with Didier Drogba after the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Chelsea FC and SSC Napoli at Stamford Bridge on March 14, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
I don't think many of us expected to have a vested interest in this particular draw, but here it is and Chelsea FC will be stamped on a ping pong ball (or some such spherical object) this morning. Graham is off wandering around Europe for the weekend, but he was kind enough to briefly look at the teams remaining in the draw for us yesterday. We all likely have our own preferred clubs for the draw, and we'll find out where we are slotting in at in just a few minutes now.
Just so you all know, this is the last draw that will be held in this season's Champions League. This is the first stage of the competition where clubs from the same association can be drawn against each other, although this season that only includes Real Madrid and Barcelona. The bracket will become set at this point as well. If Chelsea advance past the quarterfinal stage, they will know in advance which pairing's winner they will be facing in the semifinal. The quarters and semis are both contested as a two legged tie, the quarters to be played March 27/28 and April 3/4 and the semis to be contested April 17/18 and April 24/25. The away goal rule is still in effect, and the home teams for each leg will be determined by the order they are drawn. Should Chelsea manage to reach the final, that will be held May 19th in Munich.
Depending on lady luck, this thing could potentially give us a potentially straightforward path to the final by placing us on the side of the bracket with Marseille, Apoel, and Benfica. It also has the potential for a nightmare, placing us on the same side as Real, Barca, and Bayern. In all likelihood we'll end up somewhere in the middle of those two scenarios, but the draws have not been overly kind to Chelsea so far this year so we can always hold out hope for some good karma. Whatever happens today, it's going to be a fun ride from this point on. Cross your fingers and discuss away...