LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 20: Didier Drogba of Chelsea lifts the Champions League trophy during the Chelsea victory parade following their UEFA Champions League and FA Cup victories on May 20, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
The qualifying matches for the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League are complete, and we can now take a look at the potential teams that the defending champions -- that'd be Chelsea, on account of beating Bayern Munich in the final -- can end up with in the group stages.
The draw is on Thursday at 5:45 PM CET, and the Blues are in Pot One. That means that we don't have to worry about the bulk of Europe's elite, but there are still some pretty strong opponents for us lurking in the shadows. Let's take a look.
(Pro tip: Mouseover the team names)
We're in this one, so nothing to worry about here.
Manchester City are the best team in this pot, and we can't draw them, because they're English. So that leaves the likes of Valencia and Benfica as the 'strong' teams -- we're completely familiar with both from last year's run -- and everyone else should be pretty straightforward. Nobody here is bad, but this is a pool surprisingly lacking in elite talent. Oh well.
There's a very good chance we end up with a big name here. Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain both ended up in this grouping, and although PSG have had a hilariously poor start to the Ligue 1 season I really would not like ot end up playing them with a spot in the knockout rounds on the line. Juventus might be the only good team left in Serie A. I'm not even really joking.
I wouldn't worry much about Montpellier or Malaga, but Borussia Dortmund are terrifying. I know Arsenal ended up having an easy time with them last year, but that was their first Champions League campaign and with that experience under their belt (not to mention an Bundesliga-DFB Pokal double) they should be a far better side this year. They've also managed to upgrade on Shinji Kagawa by buying Marco Reus. Kagawa is a clear starter at Manchester United. Uh-oh.
This is a possible group, by the way: Real Madrid, Manchester City, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund. That's the champions of the four biggest leagues in Europe, which would be pretty cool. And make City fans sad, so I'm all for that.
Anyway, what're y'all's ideal group stage opponents for Chelsea?