Ever since the end of last season, we’ve known that Tottenham Hotspur were going to be in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League for the 2016-2017 campaign. The last time Spurs were in this competition, it required going through the playoff against BSC Young Boys that was a lot closer than it should have been. While we’ve avoided having to deal with the heart attacks and hyperventilation that could accompany matches like that, the draw itself is just as terrifying.
It’s Tottenham’s turn to rub shoulders with the elite of Europe once again, and while there are 31 other clubs that want to raise the silverware at the end of the season, there’s a lot that will happen between now and then. At Noon Eastern on Thursday, Spurs will find out their fate in the group stage and see who are in their way of reaching the knockout rounds. We now take a look at each pot and tell you the best case and worst case scenarios, in our opinion.
Real Madrid C.F. (ESP) - European Champions
Leicester City F.C. (ENG) - Barclay’s Premier League Champions
F.C. Barcelona (ESP) - La Liga Champions
F.C. Bayern Munich (GER) - Bundesliga Champions
Juventus F.C. (ITA) - Serie A Champions
Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) - Ligue 1 Champions
CSKA Moscow (RUS) - Russian Premier League Champions
S.L. Benfica (POR) - Primeira Liga Champions
Note: Tottenham cannot draw Leicester City due to UEFA rules
Best Case Scenario - CSKA Moscow
This really depends on what you value the most: Minimal travel or difficulty of the opponent. If you don’t mind having to make that one long trip, then CSKA Moscow are far and away your best bet here. Ahmed Musa moved to Leicester City and while there are some quality players on the roster, they pale in comparison to the giants that are also in this pot. And, to be fair, London to Moscow is only about a three and a half hour flight, so we’re not talking about Boston to Los Angeles distance.
If you value shorter travel, then Paris Saint-Germain aren’t doing all that great to start this season. Edison Cavani appears to be struggling and PSG has tried out Hatem Ben Arfa up top. While PSG are still the class of France, they aren’t a nightmare compared to others. Still, Moscow are who we want out of this draw.
Worst Case Scenario - Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich
Unfortunately, there are a lot more worst case scenarios in this pot than best case. Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich are all teams we do not want to see. Juventus might be included in this group as well, though they are slightly less of a problem without Paul Pogba. Basically, this is pick your poison. None of these three options would be fun other than to say that Spurs got to play against the absolutely best and managing to steal any points from these matches would be a massive feather in the cap. While you have to beat the best to win it all, it doesn’t say anything about having to do it in the group stages. Let’s avoid these three until we absolutely have to play one.
Atletico Madrid (ESP) - Third Place, La Liga
Borussia Dortmund (GER) - Second Place, Bundesliga
Arsenal F.C. (ENG) - Second Place, Barclay’s Premier League
Manchester City F.C. (ENG) - Fourth Place, Barclay’s Premier League
Sevilla FC (ESP) - UEFA Europa League Champions
FC Porto (POR) - Third Place, Primeira Liga
S.S.C. Napoli (ITA) - Second Place, Serie A
Bayer Leverkusen (GER) - Third Place, Bundesliga
Note: Tottenham cannot draw Arsenal or Manchester City due to UEFA rules.
Best Case Scenario - Porto
Pot Two is not nearly as scary as Pot One, but there are still some land mines not to step on here. While I could make an argument that a team like Napoli without Gonzalo Higuain would be fine or even taking on Europa League Champions until the eventual Heat Death of the Universe Sevilla is okay as well, the choice here to pull for are Porto. They’re not that dangerous of a side and got through their playoff against AS Roma thanks to Roma being dumb and getting consecutive red cards to go down two men. Even then, it took a woefully stupid play by our old friend Wojciech Szczesny to help the Portuguese side through. If we draw Porto, that’s a big plus.
Worst Case Scenario - Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid
On the flip side, there are two major bullets to avoid here. We can look back at the preseason and say that Spurs played Atletico very well in the International Champions Cup, but preseason matches are just that. Atletico are still a great team that fell short of winning it all last year. Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, throttled Tottenham in the Europa League last season, though Mauricio Pochettino definitely punted on the competition and played a rotated side. Dortmund are just as good as last season and are a side to avoid.
FC Basel (SUI) - Super League Champions
Tottenham Hotspur (ENG) - Third Place, Barclay’s Premier League
Dinamo Kiev (UKR) - Ukrainian Premier League Champions
Olympique Lyonnais (FRA) - Second Place, Ligue 1
Borussia Monchengladbach (GER) - Fourth place, Bundesliga
PSV Eindhoven (NED) - Eredivisie Champions
Sporting CP Lisbon (POR) - Second Place, Primeira Liga
Club Brugge KV (BEL) - Belgian Pro League Champions
Obviously, Spurs cannot draw anyone from Pot Three, but in the interest of showing off the entire draw, those are the clubs that join Tottenham in the third pot. Basel had an outside chance of getting into Pot Two, but Porto’s win over Roma and City’s dismantling of Steaua Bucharest ended those hopes. Putting bias aside, I would say that Spurs are the best team in this pot.
Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) - Croatian First Football League Champions
F.C. Rostov (RUS) - Second place, Russian Premier League
Celtic F.C. (SCO) - Scottish Premier League Champions
A.S. Monaco (FRA) - Third Place, Ligue 1
F.C. Copenhagen (DEN) - Danish Superliga Champions
Besiktas J.K. (TUR) - Turkish Super Lig Champions
Legia Warsaw (POL) - Ekstraklasa Champions
Ludogorets Razgrad (BUL) - Bulgarian First League Champions
Best Case Scenario - Celtic
This is a no-brainer to me. Celtic had one of the friendliest draws they could have pulled in the Champions League qualification by getting the champions of Gibraltar in the second round which required them to come back from a 1-0 loss in the first leg! They then drew Astana in the third round and were absolutely garbage for most of those two matches. Somehow, they then drew Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the playoff round and almost blew that after scoring five goals at home. They are average at best, it’s a short hop north to Scotland, and who on this site wouldn’t want to hammer Brendan Rodgers in two matches? If there are football gods that watch over us, please grant my wish and give us Celtic.
Worst Case Scenario - Besiktas
Borussia Mönchengladbach would have been in this spot here, but thanks to Ajax falling flat on their faces against Rostov and Zagreb knocking off Salzburg, they’ve now moved up to Pot Three. While the travel argument is less of an issue in the Champions League with Tuesday/Wednesday matches, a trip to Turkey is never fun in Europoean football. It’s especially awful to head to Besiktas and play in the hellfire of Vodafone Arena. Let’s avoid this.
So there you have it. Tomorrow we find out just what the group stages hold for Tottenham Hotspur. Of course, we invite you to try out the draw simulator (it might be a bit before it updates) and share with everyone the good or bad draws you’ve pulled. For fun, here are the first three simulations I ran post-playoff matches:
Draw #1: Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham Hotspur, Besiktas
Draw #2: Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur, Besiktas
Draw #3: CSKA Moscow, Napoli, Tottenham Hotspur, Celtic
Here’s hoping it’s closer to the third draw and not the first two.