With a new seeding system set to influence this season’s Champions League draw, the risk of Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United being placed in a ‘group of death’ is a prominent one.
Top-seed status was previously determined by performance in the competition across the previous five years, meaning newcomers could expect to be seeded lower and, as a result, be drawn against at least one continental behemoth.
Now, those placed in pot one have been done so on account of them winning their domestic division (if they hail from England, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Portugal or Russia) or the Champions League in the previous campaign.
The Gunners, Citizens and Red Devils will be pulled from pot two when the draw is made, meaning they could get the any of Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain or Barcelona.
With the likes of Sevilla and Lyon potential pot three material and Roma would-be pot four dwellers, any of the three Premier League heavyweights could be dropped into desperately difficult pools, which spells bad news for their prospects of longevity in the competition according to the fortunes of those previously placed in ‘groups of death’.
The Group of Death v Group of Life (that is a straightforward-by-comparison group containing one fat cat and three small frys) study of the previous ten seasons has proved teams are likely to go further in the Champions League if an easy ride is presented early doors.
Two winners across the past decade – Milan (2006/07) and Barcelona (2011/12) – have gone on to claim the top prize in club football after devouring feeble group-stage foes.
Arsenal (2005/06) and Man Utd (2008/09) know all about the importance of sparring with inferior outfits pre-Christmas too, having used the momentum generated in the fledgling stages as platforms to reach the final.
Group of death survivors, by contrast, only have two showpiece appearances to their names.
More recently, it has been those to navigate the more difficult pools who have gone further than those who spent the winter months taking lunch money from weaker opposition, but a longer-term study shows these gas-sapping early exchanges are likely to see clubs fall short at the business end.