Chelsea return to the Champions League after a year in which they made the most of their absence from the competition by romping home to the Premier League title.
Whether Antonio Conte and his thin squad can compete on both European and domestic fronts this season remains to be seen – but the Italian manager will be hoping for a relatively easy start to the competition.
Chelsea will discover the three teams they are due to face in the Champions League group stage in the draw which takes place in Monaco at 5pm BST on Thursday afternoon.
Each of the 32 teams will be divided into four pots and then drawn into eight different groups – comprising of one team from each pot.
We already know the composition of Pot 1 – with current holders Real Madrid being grouped alongside the champions of the other top seven leagues in Europe based on Uefa’s coefficient rankings.
In England’s case, that means Premier League champions Chelsea are in Pot 1, while Manchester United and Manchester City are placed in Pot 2. Tottenham are most likely to find themselves in Pot 3 alongside Liverpool, should they qualify, while Celtic will be in Pot 4.
By assuming the top seeds from each play-off tie reach the group stage, we have a good idea of the best and worst possible scenarios for each of the British clubs in the draw.
Here are Chelsea’s worst case scenarios:
Because Chelsea are in Pot 1 they will avoid the likes of current holders Real Madrid and last season’s runners-up Juventus.
However, they will draw a team from the dangerous Pot 2 which includes the likes of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, PSG and Borussia Dortmund.
RB Leipzig are the toughest looking opponents in Pot 4, although Chelsea could also face Dutch champions Feyenoord or Portuguese side Sporting.
Here are Chelsea’s best case scenarios:
The weakest looking team Chelsea could draw from Pot 2 appears to be Porto.
Sevilla, who are expected to qualify on Tuesday night, appear to be the next easiest opponents although are notoriouly difficult to beat in Europe.
Conte’s side will be looking at sides like FC Basel and Anderlecht from Pot 3 and Apoel Nicosia, Maribor and FC Kobenhavn as among the easier draws from Pot 4.
More Breaking News:
The Blues are making progress with a move for the Italy international as the Milan club look to sell one senior star to fund transfers for others Antonio Conte wants Chelsea to complete a deal for Inter Milan’s Antonio Candreva and the Serie A club could sell to fund a move for a new centre-back and Sampdoria’s Patrik Schick, Goal understands. Candreva is just one of many names that Chelsea are looking to bring in but Conte is personally keen on signing the 30-year-old, who shares the same agent as the Blues boss.
However, Chelsea’s policy dictates that players over the age of 30 should only be offered one-year deals and the Candreva deal would have to represent value for the club to make an exception.
The last player that Chelsea broke their over-30 rule for was Yossi Benayoun, who joined on a three-year deal from Liverpool back in 2010.
Inter, meanwhile, are looking into the possibility of selling Candreva as they want to sign the exciting forward Schick, as well as a big-name centre-back, with Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi and Manchester City’s Eliaquim Mangala on their list.
The Italian side are thought to be looking to sell players to avoid any penalties over the Financial Fair Play rules, if they are to make further signings, but they could also look to offload Stevan Jovetić.
Chelsea’s net spend in the summer transfer window is under £20million and the club’s squad has looked depleted in recent weeks after a large number of player sales.
With only eight days left in the transfer window, Chelsea are aiming to make a number of signings to reinforce their ranks.