Premier League quartet Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United are braced for a tough Champions League group stage draw ahead of the first season of Uefa's revised seedings format. For the first time, the competition holders and the league champions from the continent's top-ranked nations will automatically be placed in pot one.
Years gone by have seen Uefa's coefficient standings, which are based on a team's European record over the last five campaigns, solely dictate which pot teams will be drawn from. That process will start from pot two for the 2015-16 season, meaning there are several heavyweight teams lying in wait for the seeded teams.
Chelsea have been included in pot one as league champions, with Arsenal, City and United – who bypassed Club Brugge in the play-off round to reach the group stage – in pot two. Ten-time winners Real Madrid, 2014 runners-up Atletico Madrid and 2004 winners FC Porto join the trio.
While the system protects the league winners from each of the biggest leagues in Europe, which sees the likes of Benfica, Zenit St Petersburg and PSV Eindhoven benefit from the change, it means the group stage could throw up some fascinating ties and lead to early big-name causalities. Teams from the same country are kept apart in the group stage draw but Spain will have five clubs in the hat after a Champions League place was awarded to Europa League winners Sevilla for the first time.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger does not believe the change in format will make any difference to his team's fate, such is the depth in quality of teams around Europe. "I don't think it will change anything," he told Arsenal Player. "It will just put some weaker teams in pot one.
"When you look at the structure of the groups, you don't necessarily have a disadvantage by being in pot two because it looks as strong because of the recent history of the teams that are there. Ideally you want a group where you have a chance to come out in the top position, no matter how far you go. It helps sometimes mentally not to go too far.
"Before, sometimes, 10 or 12 years ago, your focus was more on every Champions League game and you knew that in the Premier League you could get away with resting one or two players. We are now in a situation where you don't make a difference between Champions League and Premier League, you just try to win the next game."
The overhaul of the seeding process means that some of the biggest clubs in Europe lie in wait in pots three and four, including Serie A runners-up Roma in pot three and the Bundesliga's second placed club from last term, Wolfsburg. The process ensures that Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal could be paired with a former club in Barcelona or Bayern Munich, but the Dutch coach has no plan to follow the draw.
"I think I shall watch the second team because eight players of mine play against Ajax and I think that is more important because I cannot do anything to have any influence on the draw, so I will only hear it," he said, according to the United website, after his side completed a 7-1 aggregate victory in Bruges.
Champions League 2015-16 group stage pots
Pot 1: Barcelona, Chelsea, Bayern München, Juventus, Benfica, Paris, Zenit, PSV Eindhoven
Pot 2: Real Madrid, Atlético, Porto, Arsenal, Man United, Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen, Man City
Pot 3: Shakhtar Donetsk, Sevilla, Lyon, Dynamo Kyiv, Olympiacos, CSKA Moskva, Galatasaray, Roma
Pot 4: BATE Borisov, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Wolfsburg, Dinamo Zagreb, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Gent, Malmö, Astana