Twenty teams from across Europe will be eager to discover which opponent stands between them and a place in the continent's premier club competition for the 2012-13 season.The UEFA Champions League playoff draw will be decided on Friday, and it promises to produce some intriguing ties.
Arguably, some of the strongest teams in the hat are actually unseeded, and did not qualify for the competition as league champions. The likes of Malaga (though struggling financially), Borussia Monchengladbach, Udinese, Lille and Fenerbahce are not seeded and are included in the 'League Route', in which teams qualified for the draw through final positions in their respective divisions.
The seeded teams that make up that half of the draw are Sporting Braga, Dynamo Kiev, Panathinaikos, Copenhagen and Spartak Moscow.
Each of the unseeded teams will be drawn against one of the five seeded sides, and it is fair to say that almost any combination of fixtures would prove difficult and fascinating in equal measure, though a potential meeting between Malaga and former Valencia boss Unai Emery's Spartak would provide somewhat of a La Liga rematch.
It is the same process for the 'Champions Route', although, on paper, this section of the draw actually looks weaker than the League Route.
The seeded teams are Basel, Anderlecht, Celtic, BATE and Dinamo Zagreb. The unseeded teams are Cluj, Helsingborgs, Maribor, Limassol and Hapoel Kiryat Shmona.
Basel, of course, upset Manchester United in last season's competition, but was eventually humbled by Bayern Munich. Anderlecht defeated Ekranas 11-0 on aggregate to make it this far.
The first legs will take place across Aug. 21 and 22, and the ties will be concluded on Aug. 28 and 29. The 10 losers will enter the group stage of the 2012-13 Europa League.
|* Denotes teams who entered at the playoff stage|