Holders Manchester City and the cream of European football will learn their Champions League fate for this season when the draw for the group stage takes place in Monaco on Thursday from 1600 GMT.
After several near misses in recent years, Pep Guardiola’s side won the trophy for the first time when they defeated Inter Milan 1-0 in last season’s final in Istanbul in June thanks to a solitary Rodri goal.
They are therefore in the first pot of seeds for this season’s group phase, along with Europa League winners Sevilla as well as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Napoli, Paris Saint-Germain, Feyenoord and Benfica.
Those six clubs are, like City, the champions of the top ranked European nations, and the format of the draw means many of the teams to avoid will therefore be in the second pot.
That is where record 14-time European champions Real Madrid — winners in 2022 — lurk along with the likes of Inter and Premier League giants Arsenal and Manchester United.
The Gunners are back in Europe’s elite club competition for the first time since 2016/17 after Mikel Arteta’s side finished second behind City in England last season.
The fourth Premier League representatives are Newcastle United, who have not appeared in the Champions League in two decades and will be in pot four for the draw.
That means the Magpies can expect to find themselves in an extremely tough group, with Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid also in pot two and AC Milan and Lazio among the third seeds.
– Fresh faces –
As well as Newcastle, fresh faces in this season’s competition include Lens of France, who are also back in the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.
Union Berlin will be appearing for the first time in their history after finishing fourth in the Bundesliga last season.
The first matches in the group stage will take place on September 19 and 20, with this season’s final being held at Wembley in London on June 1, 2024.
This will be the final season of the Champions League in its existing format, which has been in place for two decades.
Next season will see UEFA introduce a new, expanded group stage featuring 36 teams, up from the current 32, with everyone playing eight matches instead of the current six in a format known as the “Swiss system”.
The Champions League is the pinnacle of club football on the continent and that is reflected in the prize money, with UEFA distributing two billion euros ($2.19 billion) in total to participating clubs.
Just being in the group stage is worth 15.64 million euros, with each win adding a further 2.8 million euros.
The team that goes on to win the trophy will pocket more than 50 million euros on top of that, just in prize money.
Teams also receive money based on their own position in UEFA’s club ranking — this means that Real Madrid get over 36 million euros as the top-ranked side, with the amount dropping progressively so the lowest-ranked team receive only just over one million euros.
The gala event in Monaco will also see European football’s governing body dish out their awards for last season, with City stars Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland up for the men’s player of the year prize.
They are joined on the three-man shortlist by Lionel Messi, who is now at Inter Miami after leaving PSG in June.
Spain’s World Cup-winning stars Aitana Bonmati and Olga Carmona are nominated to succeed their teammate Alexia Putellas as winner of the women’s prize, along with Sam Kerr of Australia and Chelsea.