The Champions League draw will have no new names in the 32-team lineup after the last confirmed entry ended an unlikely run by a Norwegian team.
Bodø/Glimt, which spent much of the past two decades in the Norwegian second division, had been hoping to cap its recent rise by joining Europe’s elite competition but lost in extra time to Dinamo Zagreb in the playoffs Wednesday.
Dinamo joined Rangers and Copenhagen, which also advanced through their playoffs to complete a group-stage lineup stacked with 14 former former champions who have won 56 of the 67 European Cup or Champions League titles. Seven more teams are previous beaten finalists.
The elite group includes defending champions Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus, still fighting Champions League organiser UEFA in the European Court of Justice for the right to form their own breakaway competition.
The Champions League typically showcases at least one new face — Sheriff of Moldova last year, Italy’s Atalanta in 2019 — and had four debutants two years ago.
Rangers back in Champions League after 12 years but no new names
There is no such upstart this season, though some in Scotland would argue Rangers should count as a first-timer. A humiliating financial crisis 10 years ago saw the storied club liquidated and restart anew in the fourth tier of Scottish soccer.
The Rangers name is now back in the Champions League after a 12-year absence, joining Glasgow rival Celtic in the group stage.
Shakhtar Donetsk will be in the draw two days after playing its first competitive game — the opening day of an improbable new domestic season in Ukraine – since Russia invaded its home country in February.
Shakhtar’s entry was ultimately gifted from Zenit St. Petersburg by UEFA’s ban on all Russian teams, but the Ukrainian club no longer has its core of Brazilian players and will be playing its home games in Warsaw in neighboring Poland for security reasons.
“It will be difficult to be equal to (Manchester) City, or Bayern or Liverpool. Maybe we will be lucky,” Shakhtar captain Taras Stepanenko said this week.
Shakhtar hosted eventual winner Madrid in Kyiv last October, and the record 14-time European champion is playing a record-extending 26th straight season in the group stage. Madrid has advanced every time.
Here’s a look at the Champions League ahead of the group-stage draw starting 1600 GMT in Istanbul, Turkey.
UCL draw format
The 32 teams from 15 different countries go into groups of four playing home-and-away round-robin games. Teams from the same country cannot be in the same group. The top two in each group advance to the knockout stage next year.
Top seeds are the winners of last season’s Champions League and Europa League, Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt, plus six winners of the highest-ranked domestic leagues.
The other 24 teams are seeded according to UEFA ranking based on European results in the past five seasons. Liverpool is ranked highest of the 24 and Maccabi Haifa is lowest.
Champions League group stage matches start early due to FIFA World cup 2022
Because the World Cup in Qatar starts November 20, these Champions League groups start early on September 6 and end five weeks sooner than usual on Nov. 2.
Six rounds will be played in just nine weeks before a three-month pause until the round of 16 starts February 14. That draw is on November 7
Fixture congestion caused by the first World Cup played outside the European summer means the Champions League final in Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium is on June 10.
That’s the latest scheduled final — not including the August title game in the pandemic-hit 2019-20 season -- since the inaugural European Cup final on June 13, 1956.
Champions League recedes further west
The Champions League is even more concentrated in western Europe – and not just because of the Russia ban. Teams from Greece and Turkey in south-eastern Europe all lost in the qualifying rounds.
Only Shakhtar, Viktoria Plzen and Dinamo Zagreb qualified from the old eastern Europe with Maccabi Haifa in Israel facing a 2,000-kilometer (1,250-mile) flight to its nearest potential opponent Napoli.
Recent Champions League teams Dynamo Kyiv, Red Star Belgrade, Sheriff, Ferencváros and Qarabag all lost in the qualifying rounds.
It means hundreds of millions in prize money flows to clubs in the already wealthier leagues of western Europe.
UCL Prize money
The 32 teams share about 2 billion euros ($1.99 billion) in UEFA prize money.
Each team gets a basic fee of 15.6 million euros ($15.5 million), plus 2.8 million euros ($2.78 million) per win and 930,000 euros ($924,000) for each draw in the group stage. The extra 930,000 euros ($924,000) left over from each drawn game is pooled and shared among teams who won games. Payments increase through each knockout round.
A fund of 600 million euros ($596 million) gets divided between clubs according to their place in a league table based on historical European titles and results in the past 10 years.
The top-ranked “coefficient” team, Real Madrid, gets 36.4 million euros ($36.1 million) and lowest-ranked Maccabi Haifa gets just 1.14 million euros ($1.13 million). Teams also get a share of their domestic broadcast rights deal.
UEFA deducts some cash to help repay broadcasters for games lost in the 2019-20 edition.
It all adds up to the eventual champion getting around 125 million euros ($124 million) in UEFA prize money.
UCL draw: when, how and where to watch in India
The UEFA Champions League group stage draw will take place in Istanbul, Turkey, on Thursday 25 August.
That means Indian football fans can watch the draw live from 9:30 p.m. IST.
UEFA Champions League group stage draw will be aired on Sony TEN 2 and Sony TEN 2HD channels. It can also be streamed on Sony LIV app and the website.
Pot 1: Real Madrid (Spain), Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany), Manchester City (England), AC Milan (Italy), Bayern Munich (Germany), Paris Saint-Germain (France), Porto (Portugal), Ajax (Netherlands).
Pot 2: Liverpool (England), Chelsea (England), Barcelona (Spain), Juventus (Italy), Atlético Madrid (Spain), Sevilla (Spain), Leipzig (Germany), Tottenham (England).
Pot 3: Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Salzburg (Austria), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Inter Milan (Italy), Napoli (Italy), Benfica (Portugal), Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) Pot 4: Rangers (Scotland), Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia), Marseille (France), Copenhagen (Denmark), Club Brugge (Belgium), Celtic (Scotland), Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic), Maccabi Haifa (Israel).
With input from AP.