New season, same old UEFA Champions League? Not quite. The presence of half a dozen newcomers to the group stage should help bring a freshness to the 2010/11 competition, enhanced by the fact that only 12 of last term's 32 participating clubs secured their involvement this time round, compared with 16 a year ago.
Portugal's SC Braga – who claimed the scalps of Celtic FC and Sevilla FC in qualifying – are competing for the first time at this level as are Turkey's Bursaspor, Israel's Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC, FC Twente of the Netherlands and Slovakia's MŠK Žilina. For both Bursaspor and Twente, UEFA Champions League football is reward for maiden national championship triumphs last season.
English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur FC are the sixth of the new faces in the group stage, having overcome BSC Young Boys in their play-off last week. Unlike the other five clubs, they have history of participating among the elite, having reached the European Champion Clubs' Cup semi-finals in 1961/62. Eight new teams had figured in last year's competition.
The group stage will also feature a quartet of clubs with just one previous participation to their name in CFR 1907 Cluj of Romania, Denmark's FC København, Serbia's FK Partizan and FC Rubin Kazan from Russia. Of the four, Partizan had to wait the longest to return to the top table – they were last involved in 2003/04 – though, historically speaking, they are hardly novices on this stage given they got to the final in 1966, losing to Real Madrid CF.
Next on the rung are FC Basel 1893 of Switzerland and Germany's FC Schalke 04, who both complete a hat-trick of group stage appearances while, at the other end of the scale, no one can match Manchester United FC for experience. This is the 16th campaign in the modern UEFA Champions League for the Premier League side, one more than Spanish powerhouses FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF.
In total there are clubs from 18 different national associations taking part in the group stage, and England are the best represented with a quartet of teams in Manchester United, Chelsea FC, Arsenal FC and Tottenham. The table below, dividing the 32 sides into the four pots in which they appeared in last week's draw, offers a clear illustration of the level of experience of each of the participants.
|FC Internazionale Milano||Holders/ Champions, Italy||2009/10||9||Winners||Winners|
|FC Barcelona ||Champions, Spain||2009/10||14||Semi-finals||Winners|
|Manchester United FC||Runners-up, England||2009/10||15||Quarter-finals||Winners|
|Chelsea FC||Champions, England||2009/10||8||Round of 16||Runners-up|
|Arsenal FC||Third place, England||2009/10||12||Quarter-finals||Runners-up|
|FC Bayern München||Champions, Germany||2009/10||13||Runners-up||Winners|
|AC Milan||Third place,|
|2009/10||13||Round of 16||Winners|
|Olympique Lyonnais||Runners-up, France||2009/10||10||Semi-finals||Semi-finals|
|SV Werder Bremen||Third place, Germany||2008/09||6||UEL, round of 16||Quarter-finals|
|Real Madrid CF ||Runners-up, Spain||2009/10||14||Round of 16||Winners|
|AS Roma||Runners-up, Italy||2008/09||6||UEL, round of 32||Runners-up|
|FC Shakhtar Donetsk||Champions, Ukraine||2008/09||5||UEL, round of 32||Group stage|
|SL Benfica||Champions, Portugal||2007/08||5||UEL, qf||Winners|
|Valencia CF||Third place, Spain||2007/08||6||UEL, qf||Runners-up|
|Olympique de Marseille||Champions, France||2009/10||6||UEL, round of 16||Winners|
|Panathinaikos FC||Champions, Greece||2008/09||8||UEL, round of 16||Runners-up|
|Tottenham Hotspur FC||Fourth place, England||Debut||0||Did not compete||Semi-finals|
|Rangers FC||Champions, Scotland||2009/10||9||Group stage||Semi-finals|
|2005/06||8||UEL, round of 32||Winners|
|FC Schalke 04||Runners-up, Germany||2007/08||2||Did not compete||Quarter-finals|
|FC Basel 1893||Champions, Switzerland||2008/09||2||UEL, group stage||Second group stage|
|SC Braga||Runners-up, Portugal||Debut||0||UEL, 3qr||N/A|
|FC København ||Champions, Denmark||2006/07||1||UEL, round of 32||Group stage|
|FC Spartak Moskva||Runners-up, Russia||2006/07||9||Did not compete||Semi-finals|
|Champions, Israel||Debut||0||UEL, round of 32||N/A|
|FC Twente||Champions, Netherlands||Debut||0||UEL, round of 32||N/A|
|FC Rubin Kazan||Champions, Russia||2009/10||1||UEL, round of 16||Group stage|
|AJ Auxerre||Third place, France||2002/03||3||Did not compete||Quarter-finals|
|CFR 1907 Cluj||Champions, Romania||2008/09||1||UEL, group stage||Group stage|
|FK Partizan||Champions, Serbia||2003/04||1||UEL, group stage||Runners-up|
|MŠK Žilina ||Champions, Slovakia||Debut||0||UEL, play-off round||N/A|
|Bursaspor||Champions, Turkey||Debut||0||Did not compete||N/A |
*Past group-stage appearances not including 2010/11
**UEFA Champions League unless stated
***Includes pre-1992 European Champion Clubs' Cup
UEL=UEFA Europa League
3qr=third qualifying round
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