There was lots of fanfare this weekend as Juventus played their last game of the season in front of the adoring faithful at Juventus Stadium. The emphatic 3-0 scoreline over Cagliari provided the background as the fans chanted all game long, taking the time to show manager Antonio Conte their adulation. The next month before the World Cup starts will be pretty dry in terms of real football news, but there will be plenty of speculation as managers and players are expected to be on the move.
For Bianconeri fans in particular, while we celebrate a historic 32nd Scudetto, we cannot forget there was disappointment on the European stage again this season as first we narrowly failed to move into the knockout rounds of the Champions League, and then were dumped out of the Europa League semi-finals, missing out on a once-in-a-blue-moon chance to play the final at the home stadium in Turin.
Now that league seasons have been completed across Europe, UEFA should be releasing their seedings for the Champions League in a few days. We already know that Napoli, Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen, Porto and Zenit St. Petersburg are the seeds for the third playoff round — thereby ensuring that these teams will not face off against each other earlier than that. This draw will only happen in the first week of August, with the two-legged playoff being completed by the end of August. Here is the latest UEFA Coefficient table, updated for 2013/14.
As reported by ESPN, here are the projected seeds for each 'Pot,' with one team being picked from each to form the Champions League groups. The teams marked with an asterisk are teams in the playoffs to enter the CL proper, and if they fail to qualify for the group stage, it will have a knock-on effect in subsequent pots. Please note that these are not final UEFA seedings and with Michel Platini running the show, there could still be 'changes' with no explanation whatsoever.
|Real Madrid||Schalke||Bayer Leverkusen *||Athletic Bilbao *|
|Bayern Munich||Juventus||CSKA Moscow||Salzburg *|
|Chelsea||Paris Saint-Germain||Ajax Amsterdam||Lille *|
|Benfica||Shakhtar Donetsk||Napoli *||FC Copenhagen *|
|Atletico Madrid||FC Basel||Liverpool||AS Roma|
|Arsenal *||Zenit St Petersburg *||Sporting Lisbon||AS Monaco|
|FC Porto *||Manchester City||Galatasaray|
There is little benefit for Juventus if any of the starred teams above them get knocked out, as only Arsenal and Porto ahead of them could move down and Schalke and Borussia Dortmund will occupy those slots. However, teams failing to make the playoffs would affect how Pots 2-4 change, and it is likely that there will be more than one 'Groups of Death.'
The UEFA coefficient score is done on a moving five-year basis — so the score for the upcoming season will not take into consideration any results before the 2009-10 season. For Juve, this means that the 2008-09 season under Claudio Ranieri when they were knocked out in the Champions League Round of 16 by Chelsea does not count towards their seeding. To jog your memory, that was the season when Juve went toe-to-toe with Real Madrid, beating them in both group legs, but drew twice against cannon-fodder BATE Borisov and were held scoreless at Zenit, too.
No matter how we look at it, Juve will have to run into at least one of Europe's top teams coming from Pot 1. Arsenal and Porto might be the weakest of that lot, and possibly Schalke should one of the former two fail to qualify. We've said it a few times before, but to be the best we have to consistently beat the best. Which means should we come up against Real, Barca or Bayern in the group stages, it'll only help the team prepare better for the knockout rounds.
Since teams from the same country are kept separate, if things stay the same as they are currently ranked, Liverpool and Ajax will be the big teams to avoid for the Bianconeri. Leverkusen could be tricky any given season and Galatasaray is an old nemesis for us as well. With domestic disaster for Manchester United, AC Milan and Inter Milan, City benefit by sneaking into the last spot in Pot 2, which works perfectly for Juve as well.
Finally, from the last pot we have some teams that could be game-changers on their day. As much as we'd like to spank Roma again (and again), we'll be kept separate from them. Copenhagen/København have been a thorn in our flesh and I really don't want to see them again. Whoever the minnows are in Juventus' group, we really do need to put them away early and not leave qualification to the latter stages for the last game. That kind of déjà vu we can all do without, thank you.
Whatever the draw brings, there's some European challenges ahead of us next season as Juve attempts to shed the 'big fish in a small pond' label and establish themselves as a continental superpower.