And so the group stage of the Champions League comes into view. It seems like time has run out since Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta held up the elusive prize.
But the non-stop football carousel continues to spin and the holders, Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United will all find out this week who they will be up against in the group stage of the elite European competition.
Sports post provides everything you need to know before the draw, including how to follow it, which teams can still reserve a place in the money spin competition and all the key dates en route to the 2022 final in Russia on May 28.
Chelsea beat Manchester City in the Champions League final last season and are in Pot 1
When is the Champions League draw?
The draw for the 2021-22 Champions League group stage will take place on Thursday, August 26, with the ceremony starting at 5pm (BST).
The Europa League draw will take place on Friday, August 27 at 12 noon (BST).
The Europa Conference League draw will also take place on Friday, August 27, but at 12:30 PM (BST).
How to view the group stage draw?
You can follow Sportsmails live blog on Thursday while the ceremony is livestreamed on the UEFA website.
UK viewers can also watch the draw live on BT Sport 1, with broadcasts starting at 4:45pm and ending at 6:45pm.
After winning the Premier League last season, City will also be placed in Pot 1 for the draw
Where will the draw take place?
The draw will take place in Istanbul, Turkey.
How does the draw work?
Thirty-two clubs will participate in the Champions League group stage with 26 qualifying automatically and the remaining six via the play-offs.
The teams are divided into eight groups of four teams each, but for the purposes of the draw, they are divided into four pots of eight (see below).
No team may play against a club from the same country in the group stage.
What is the dream/nightmare draw for the English clubs?
How are the pots determined?
Pot 1 – will consist of the winners of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League 2020-21 plus the title winners from last season’s top six leagues.
Pots 2, 3 and 4 – the remaining 24 teams will be classified according to their UEFA coefficient ranking.
For Chelsea and Manchester City, the usual advantage you get from being in Pot 1 is not really there this season, after Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and Lille were all surprise winners in their respective competitions last season.
As a result, the holders of Thomas Tuchel and the reigning Premier League champions will face LaLiga giants Real Madrid or Barcelona, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus or Paris Saint-Germain with the deadly triumvirate of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe .
Oh… and both Chelsea and City could also run into an attacker they were keen to sign Erling Haaland this summer with Borussia Dortmund also in Pot 2.
Therefore it can be a blessing not to be seeded for both United and Liverpool as they cannot be drawn against one of those Pot 2 European heavyweights and while they could still have Atletico and Bayern the prospect is for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Jurgen Klopp considerably less discouraging.
Inter are not the strength they were last year after Antonio Conte left and with Romelu Lukaku now at Chelsea, while Villarreal, Lille and Sporting Lisbon shouldn’t cause too much trouble for United or Liverpool.
Unai Emery’s Villarreal team would have had to settle for the Europa Conference League had they not beat United in the Europa League final after finishing just seventh in the top Spanish league last season. The Red Devils will want revenge if the two clubs face each other on Thursday.
The group stage, which kicks off next month, promises to be captivating from the start this time around.
Manchester United are in Pot 2 but that could be a boon this year considering other Pot 2 teams
What are the Champions League pots?
Jar 1: Chelsea, Villarreal, Manchester City, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Lille, Sporting Lisbon.
Jar 2: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, PSG, Liverpool, Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund.
Jar 3: Porto, Ajax, RB Leipzig, Atalanta, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Benfica plus Shakhtar Donetsk or Monaco, RB Salzburg or Brondby, Besiktas or Dinamo Kiev.
jar 4: Club Brugge, Young Boys, AC Milan, Malmö, Wolfsburg, plus Dinamo Zagreb or Sheriff Tiraspol, Shakhtar Donetsk or Monaco, RB Salzburg or Brondby, Besiktas or Dinamo Kiev.
When will the group stage matches be played?
match day 1: September 14/15
match day 2: September 28/29
match day 3: October 19/20
match day 4: Nov 2/3
match day 5: November 23/24
Matchday 6: December 7/8
Liverpool are also unseeded and therefore unable to include Real Madrid, Barca or PSG in the group stage
What are the other important dates?
Last 16: February 15/16 and February 22/23 (first stages), March 8/9 and March 15/16 (second stages)
Quarter-finals: April 5/6 (first stages) and April 12/13 (second stages)
Semi-finals: April 26/27 (first stages) and May 3/4 (second stages)
Last: the 28th of May
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ODDS
- PSG: 11/4
- City: 7/2
- Bayern Munich: 7/1
- Chelsea: 17/2
- Liverpool: 17/2
- Manchester United: 14/1
- Real Madrid: 16/1
- Juventus: 20/1
- Atletico Madrid: 20/1
- Barcelona: 22/1
- Dortmund: 33/1
- Atalanta: 33/1
- Inter Milan: 40/1
- AC Milan: 50/1
- Seville: 50/1
- RB Leipzig: 66/1
- Villarreal: 80/1
- Ajax: 90/1
- Small: 100/1
- Sporting Lisbon: 150/1
- VfL Wolfsburg: 150/1
- Zenit Saint Petersburg: 150/1
- Postage: 150/1
- Besikta: 250/1
- Dynamo Kyiv: 250/1
- Club Brugge: 250/1
- Benfica: 500/1
* Opportunities courtesy of Betfair