CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: DEFENDING THE TROPHY
With leagues all over Europe at an end for another season, we look at potential opponents when Chelsea defend the European Cup for the first time next campaign.
As newly-crowned kings of Europe, the Blues will be bidding to become the first side to retain the Champions League when the competition resumes.
The 2012/13 Final, like the 2011 showpiece game, will be played at Wembley Stadium and is scheduled for Saturday 25 May, and although the first of four qualifying rounds gets underway early July, Chelsea will go straight into the group stage which as usual starts in September and is drawn at the end of August.
As one of the eight highest ranked teams according to our UEFA coefficient, Chelsea will be in Pot 1 when the draw is made, along with our domestic rivals Arsenal and Manchester United. We will be joined by the two Spanish heavyweights, Barcelona and Real Madrid, one of whom will have a new manager while the other remains under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho. AC Milan, Porto and Bayern Munich, whom we defeated to make it back into the Champions League, will also be in Pot 1. We therefore will play none of those teams in the group stage.
Potential opponents from Pot 2 include Valencia and Benfica, two sides we overcame en route to Munich. Premier League winners Manchester City are also in Pot 2 but as the rules stipulate we cannot meet a team from the same country until the quarter-final stage, we will be kept away from Roberto Mancini's side.
We could come up against Schalke 04 whom we have played previously in the group stage, or Shakhtar Donetsk or Zenit St Petersburg whom we are yet to meet in European competition, or similarly Sporting Braga or Dynamo Kiev who make up the pot if they successfully come through their respective qualifying rounds.
Ajax, along with Italian champions Juventus, are glamour names from Pot 3, while Spartak Moscow, FC Copenhagen, Panathinaikos and Anderlecht will need to secure qualification from the qualifying rounds to join them. Elsewhere, we could potentially meet Swiss side FC Basel or Olympiakos, a team we beat on our way to the 2008 Final in Moscow.
Borussia Dortmund, who won the Bundesliga and German Cup, will undoubtedly provide a tough test for whoever draws them from Pot 4, while the intimidating atmospheres at both Galatasaray and Paris St-Germain will make the Turkish and French teams difficult opposition.
Celtic, should they qualify, will also be in Pot 4, along with another French side, Montpellier, while supporters could face away trips to new destinations with the likes of FC Salzburg of Austria, BATE Borisov of Belarus and Danish side FC Nordsjalland also included.
This list is only provisional, and should seeded qualifiers fail to qualify for the group stage, other teams may shift to a higher pot than those described here.