Champions League draw: All 32 teams ranked from least to most terrifying

Alan Tyers
The Telegraph
Champions League draw: All 32 teams ranked from least to most terrifying
Champions League draw: All 32 teams ranked from least to most terrifying


The Chaaaaaaaaaaampions League is back and after some famous football faces are done fiddling with a series of balls, the 32 teams involved will know what task lies ahead.

Who do the big names want to avoid? Who (probably) won't put up too much of a fight? Who's going to win the entire thing?

To help you with these answers, we've ranked all 32 in order to decipher just who might be most likely to lift the trophy at the end of the season.

32. Young Boys

Once upon a time gave Harry Redknapp a scare when they raced into a 3-0 lead within half an hour of their Champions League play-off against Spurs in 2010, only for Seb Bassong, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Peter Crouch to put the Swiss side in their place. Comfortable winners of the domestic league but this is their first appearance in the Group Stage and they won't cause many opponents much trouble.

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31. AEK Athens

A recently awoken giant of Greek football who won the Super League last season and then saw off Celtic and the almighty Vidi FC to make it through to the group stages for the first time since 2006-2007. Will go into pot four. Will not be feared.

30. Lokomotiv Moscow

By no means a bad team, but stick out a mile in pot one alongside the Champions League royalty. Still, rules is rules (although not really in Russia but still) and, as the top-ranking side from one of Uefa’s top-six nations based on country coefficients, in they go. Lots of teams will be hoping to get in their group. Sorry, Eder, Igor Denisov and Benedikt Höwedes, but there you have it.

29. Red Star Belgrade

<span>Red Star Belgrade players celebrate after their surprise away draw confirmed a place in the Champions League group stages</span>
Red Star Belgrade players celebrate after their surprise away draw confirmed a place in the Champions League group stages

Pulled off a shock by dumping Red Bull Salzburg with the kind of lop-sided statistics that would force avid video game fans to declare it 'scripted'. Vladan Milojević's side won on away goals after a 2-2 draw in Austria in which their hosts had 30 shots compared to eight, 67 per cent possession compared to 33 and a pass accuracy of 81 per cent to 56. Red Star probably won't win the tournament but they've already proven this is not a team to be taken lightly.

28. Viktoria Plzeň

Czech champs field an almost entirely homegrown side with the exception of Nigerian Ubong Moses Ekpai, a midfielder, and a couple of Slovaks in Patrik Hrošovský and keeper Matúš Kozáčik. Have been in the group stages once before, coming third with three points in a 2013-2014 group that featured Man City, Bayern Munich and CSKA Moscow. They are not a daunting prospect.

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27. CSKA Moscow

Runners up in the Russian Premier League, the Muscovites are managed by Viktar Hancharenka, who has been around Champions League dugouts for years despite only being 41. Like their Belarusian boss, CSKA have plenty of experience: this is their sixth consecutive group stage. Summer signings Abel Hernández (from Hull) and Hörður Björgvin Magnússon (from Bristol City) are a fair indication of where they sit in the continental pecking order though.

26. Club Brugge

The Champions of all Belgium, no less, and what a fine lot they are. Among the best teams, on the Uefa numbers, in pot four, but will surely hold few alarms. Still, they have a guy called Marvelous Nakamba who plays in the centre of the park and blink-and-you’ll miss-his-stint-at-Burnley forward Jelle Vossen. Good result for opposing fans: Bruges is very nice.

<span>Former Burnley striker&nbsp;Jelle Vossen now plays for Club Brugge</span>
Former Burnley striker Jelle Vossen now plays for Club Brugge

25. PSV Eindhoven

Mark Van Bommel is in charge of PSV these days, replacing Phillip Cocu (remember him?!) after he left for Fenerbahce, having won the Eredivisie last season.

It's Van Bommel's first job as a manager so nobody's sure exactly how good PSV will be but there are some decent players in the team, including Hirving Lozano, aka that guy who was excellent for Mexico at the World Cup. Depending on their group you'd expect PSV to either finish third or fourth.

24. Ajax

Back in the Group Stage after three years in the Europa League - which they nearly won in 2017 - having seen off Dynamo Kiev in their play-off. In Hakim Ziyech they have a typically exciting midfielder, while Matthijs de Ligt, Donny van de Beek and Frenkie de Jong are three of Europe's hottest prospects. You might also recognise names like Dusan Tadic and 35-year-old Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. This is a promising Ajax team, but progress into the knockout round might be beyond them.

23. Galatasaray

The Turkish Champions and their veteran coach (You’re The One For Me) Fatih Terim are ranked in pot four, which seems about right for a side who have not been at Europe’s top table for a couple of seasons. Bags of experience throughout the team, though, from Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera, Brazil defender Maicon, skipper Selçuk İnan, and the former Manchester City midfielder Fernando.

22. Shakhtar Donetsk

Last season, when they failed to qualify, brought an end to a run of six consecutive group stage appearances for the Ukrainian powerhouse. They advanced from the groups in three of those seasons. It’s the usual mixture of locals and Brazilians and many people find it quite difficult to get all that excited by them. There are definitely worse opponents to be had in pot two.

21. 1899 Hoffenheim

Were pretty much a pub team until ten years ago when software magnate Dietmar Hopp poured in a fortune and made them into a Bundesliga force. As such, this maiden appearance in the group stages marks a culmination and not just an opportunity. You may remember them losing in the play-off round to Liverpool in 2017-2018. No European pedigree to speak of, hence pot four, but coming third in the Bundesliga last season is nothing to sneeze at. Like Schalke, they have, in Julian Nagelsmann, a very young, highly-rated manager.

20. Benfica

<span>Ruben Dias of Benfica during the match against PAOK</span>
Ruben Dias of Benfica during the match against PAOK

His name is Jonas and he's carrying the wheel... of football fortune for Benfica. Fans have thanked him for what he's shown them and feel that although their star striker might be 34 years old now, he'll be sure to add to the 34 league goals he scored last season as Rui Vitoria looks to close the gap on Porto at the top of the Primeira Liga. In Europa, Benfica are traditionally pretty good, using their trademark 'buy young, sell high' policy and churning out superstar after superstar. Young centre-back Ruben Dias is certain to be a European household name very soon, Andrija Zivkovic might break through this season too and Joao Felix is another to look out for.

19. Lyon

Memphis Depay and Nabil Fekir are 20-a-season men up front, former United wing-back Rafael has plenty of top-level experience, not all of it calamitous, Bertrand Traoré probably deserved more of a crack at Chelsea than he got… it all suggests a very Lyon-ish sort of “yeah, not bad. There or thereabouts” sort of Champions League presence. Never a pushover in the group stages, never really troubling the sharp end of the competition. Solid pot three fare.

<span>Nabil Fekir (left) was linked with a move to England this summer</span>
Nabil Fekir (left) was linked with a move to England this summer

18. Porto

Talents Ricardo Pereira and Diogo Dalot have arrived in the Premier League for £20m fees (Leicester and Manchester United respectively) but Porto have not made many waves in player acquisition this summer. Club coefficient puts Porto right up there in pot two but the names on paper suggest that you could do worse than a trip to Portugal. Made it out of the groups last year but were put in their box by Liverpool in no uncertain terms.

17. Borussia Dortmund

The glory days at the Westfalenstadion are fading a little: they did not get out of the groups last season. However, Dortmund have more than enough appearances at the business end of the competition in recent years to secure a seeding in pot two this time and Axel Witsel is an eye-catching summer signing.

16. Schalke 04

<span>Schalke's highly rated coach Domenico Tedesco</span>
Schalke's highly rated coach Domenico Tedesco

Among the higher-ranked teams in pot three, the boys from Gelsenkirchen are back in the big time after two years in the Europa League, thanks to finishing an impressive second in the Bundesliga. They were eight points clear of third (and an agonising 21 behind runaway Bayern). Keep an eye out for former Spurs player Nabil Bentaleb, top scorer Guido Burgstaller, Chelsea loanee Baba Rahman, new signing Sebastian Rudy and manager Domenico Tedesco, who is just 32 and widely tipped as the next big thing in German coaching.

15. Valencia

Have missed out on European football in two of the last three seasons, and were the club who let Gary Neville learn the hard way that talking about managing football teams is a lot easier than actually doing it. Finished fourth in La Liga last year, fully 12 points clear of the fifth placed side. Have some talent up front: Rodrigo scored 16 in the league last year, Kevin Gameiro has joined, Gonçalo Guedes has arrived from PSG for big money. A better team than their seeding suggests; avoid.

14. Monaco

Status as the Rolls Royce of selling clubs remains intact, the team from the principality keep developing great players and then keep selling them to rivals who play in a stadium bigger than Loftus Road. Very disappointing last season in the competition, when they finished flat last, with two points, in a winnable group containing Besiktas, Porto and RB Leipzig. Signed World Cup eyecatcher Aleksandr Golovin this summer to supply Radamel Falcao and Stevan Jovetić. Classy keeper in Danijel Subašić and new signings Benjamin Henrichs is a star defender of the future.

13. Roma

On coefficient numbers alone, one of the lowlier teams in pot two, but will be feared by most if not all opponents. Qualified top of a group with Chelsea and Atletico Madrid last season, and then were involved in two of the most sensational ties the competition has seen. Beat Barcelona 4-4 on away goals after hammering them 3-0 in Italy and then gave Liverpool a fright despite losing 5-2 in Merseyside, with the tie ending 7-6 to the Scousers. Have signed Patrick’s son Justin Kluivert, Javier Pastore, Steven Nzonzi and approximately 900 others this summer.

<span>Roma signed&nbsp;Justin Kluivert, among others, this summer</span>
Roma signed Justin Kluivert, among others, this summer

12. Internazionale

On reputation and history, Inter would not be in pot four, and could go a long way to making up a horrible group for somebody. 18 league titles, three European Cups, three Uefa Cups… but not a lot recently, with not so much as an appearance at Europe’s top table since 2011-2012. Mauro Icardi, Radja Nainggolan and co represent a very storied banana skin for some group rivals.

11. Napoli

Starting to establish themselves as Group Stage regulars, this being their third consecutive appearance. Came third in City’s group last season, and nearly pulled off a heroic Serie A title win, eventually falling four points short of Juventus. Midfielder Jorginho departed in the summer for Chelsea, and the jury is out on the men brought in, such as Fabián from Real Betis. Seems fair to say that there could be worse pot two teams to draw than the Neapolitans.

10. Tottenham Hotspur

Shown up as a little naive against Juventus in the last-16 in 2017-2018, Spurs have a settled team, are a year older and wiser, and have a manager who is coveted by several bigger teams around the continent. Is this the year? If not now, then when?

9. Manchester United

Beleaguered United manager Jose Mourinho must be hoping that Europe can somehow lift the mood at the club, because it looks extremely unlikely that they are going anywhere in the Premier League. In the pot of second seeds, whatever the failings of the current XI, they would nevertheless represent a challenge for most opponents.

Things have not started well for Manchester United this season
Things have not started well for Manchester United this season

8. Bayern Munich

Everyone’s 702nd team, the unlikeable German monolith’s recent record is semis, quarters, semis, semis, semis since their 2013 European Cup triumph, and it would be a brave idiot who bet against them reaching the knockout stages again. Quiet in the summer transfer market, but the vast experience of Neuer, Hummels, Muller, Lewandowski, Ribery, Robben et al will surely be enough for a solid show. Leon Goretzka, who has joined on a free from Schalke, is a complete midfielder with a massive future at 23.

7. Atlético Madrid

In the tournament by dint of having won the Europa League: experienced, well-organised, dirty. In Diego Costa, they have one of the all-time great ratbags and they are always hard to beat. Should be noted that they failed to get out of the group stages last time. Other than Lokomotiv Moscow, probably the side you’d most like to get as your pot one team: unlikely to give anyone a pasting.

6. Paris Saint-Germain

Domestic quadruple last season; Champions League last-16. Like fellow Middle Eastern-backed arriviste superclub Manchester City, their Champions League record leaves plenty to be desired. Attempting to solve that by purchasing Kylian Mbappe, the most exciting player in world football, is a nice option to have. Is this the year? Very well versed in dishing out pastings to financially overmatched opponents, PSG are one to avoid in the groups.

<span>Is this the year PSG finally crack Europe</span>
Is this the year PSG finally crack Europe

5. Liverpool

Managed by a loveable German loon: Liverpool are once again set to be one of the most enjoyable teams in the Champions League, and are well fancied to get out of the group stages and probably beyond. Still the sense persists that they give other teams a chance, but there’s not a club in European football who can go to Anfield confident of a result.

4. Real Madrid

<span>The focus is on Gareth Bale to produce magic now Ronaldo has left for Italy</span>
The focus is on Gareth Bale to produce magic now Ronaldo has left for Italy

How do you replace the irreplaceable? The holders are about to find out. Some are hoping that the departure of Ronaldo will free up Gareth Bale to fulfil his destiny. Acquisition of Vinícius Júnior (a lightning, quicksilver left-sided forward who can also play as a second striker) is exciting: might he be CR7’s long-term successor? Even if this year is too soon, Madrid will be too good for some in the groups.

3. Manchester City

Red-hot (if that’s not offensive to diehard Blues) favourites to the win their domestic league, and now possessing a big enough squad to fight on multiple fronts, there appears to be no reason that City cannot go deep into the Champions League. Given the money spent, owners might feel there is no excuse, either, if they produce another disappointing exit early in the knockout stages. But there is no doubt that City fans are lukewarm on Europe compared to some of their elite rivals.

<span>City's owners may be expecting more in Europe this year</span>
City's owners may be expecting more in Europe this year

2. Juventus

Seems unthinkable that they will be lining up without Gianluigi Buffon, who has moved to PSG, but the defence should still be top quality, and is bolstered by the return of Leonardo Bonucci. The purchase of promising youngster Cristiano Ronaldo strengthens Juventus and weakens another of the big boys. Hard to imagine them being anything other than formidable.

1. Barcelona

<span>Lionel Messi is on top form for Barcelona already this season</span>
Lionel Messi is on top form for Barcelona already this season

A domestic double last season was tarnished by a third successive Champions League quarter-final exit, and of course the bitter pill of Real Madrid’s third European Cup on the trot. The manner of that last-eight departure - losing 0-3 in Rome having won the first leg 4-1 - was brutal. It will be interesting to see how they get on without Andres Iniesta. Thrilling attacking options increased further with purchase of Malcom. At least one team will get a Camp Nou pumping in the group stages.

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