Thursday's group stage draw, which takes place at 17.45CET at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, will feature an impressive 11 former European champions and five newcomers.
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The lineup for the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League group stage will feature an impressive 11 previous winners of Europe's premier club competition as well as five teams making their debut in this phase.
Nine of the former champions were automatic entrants, a number which was subsequently swelled by the progress of FC Bayern München and SL Benfica through their respective play-off ties. That over a third of the 32 sides in Thursday's draw in Monaco, which takes place from 17.45CET, have lifted the European Cup contrasts with nine last season and ten in 2009/10.
FC Viktoria Plzeň − who accounted for FC København in the play-offs and are experiencing UEFA competition for only the third season − Manchester City FC, SSC Napoli, Trabzonspor AŞ and FC Oţelul Galaţi are preparing for their first group stage campaign. For Oţelul, UEFA Champions League football is a reward for the Romanian club winning their maiden Liga I title last term.
The draw will also feature eight clubs who are returning to Europe's top table after an absence of two seasons or more: FC Zenit St Petersburg, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, LOSC Lille Métropole, Borussia Dortmund, Villarreal CF, FC BATE Borisov, GNK Dinamo Zagreb and KRC Genk. Of those, Dinamo have endured the longest wait − 12 years. Only 15 of the 32 sides from 2010/11 have qualified again.
In total there are clubs from 18 different national associations taking part in the group stage, with England and Spain the best represented with a quartet of teams. The table below, which splits the 32 sides into the four seeding pots (based on club coefficients), illustrates the level of experience of each of the participants.
|FC Barcelona||Holders / Champions, Spain||2010/11||15||Winners||Winners |
|Manchester United FC||Champions, England||2010/11||16||Runners-up||Winners |
|Chelsea FC||Runners-up, England||2010/11||9||Quarter-finals||Runners-up|
|FC Bayern München||Third place, Germany||2010/11||14||Round of 16||Winners |
|Arsenal FC||Fourth place, England||2010/11||13||Round of 16||Runners-up|
|Real Madrid CF||Runners-up, Spain||2010/11||15||Semi-finals||Winners |
|FC Porto||Champions, Portugal||2009/10||15||UEL, winners||Winners |
|FC Internazionale Milano||Runners-up, Italy||2010/11||10||Quarter-finals||Winners |
|AC Milan||Champions, Italy||2010/11||14||Round of 16||Winners |
|Olympique Lyonnais||Third place, France||2010/11||11||Round of 16||Semi-finals|
|FC Shakhtar Donetsk||Champions, Ukraine||2010/11||6||Quarter-finals||Quarter-finals|
|Valencia CF||Third place, Spain||2010/11||7||Round of 16||Runners-up|
|SL Benfica||Runners-up, Portugal||2010/11||6||UEL, semi-finals||Winners |
|Villarreal CF||Fourth place, Spain||2008/09||2||UEL, semi-finals||Semi-finals|
|PFC CSKA Moskva||Runners-up, Russia||2009/10||5||UEL, round of 16||Quarter-finals|
|Olympique de Marseille||Runners-up, France||2010/11||7||Round of 16||Winners |
|FC Zenit St Petersburg||Champions, Russia||2008/09||1||UEL, round of 16||Group stage|
|AFC Ajax||Champions, Netherlands||2010/11||9||UEL, round of 16||Winners |
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||Runners-up, Germany||2004/05||6||UEL, round of 16||Runners-up|
|Olympiacos FC||Champions, Greece||2009/10||12||UEL, 3qr||Quarter-finals|
|Manchester City FC||Third place, England||Debut||0 ||UEL, round of 16||First round|
|LOSC Lille Métropole||Champions, France||2006/07||3||UEL, round of 32||Round of 16|
|FC Basel 1893||Champions, Switzerland||2010/11||3||UEL, round of 32||2nd group stage|
|FC BATE Borisov||Champions, Belarus||2008/09||1||UEL, round of 32||Group stage|
|Borussia Dortmund||Champions, Germany||2002/03||6||UEL, group stage||Winners |
|SSC Napoli||Third place, Italy||Debut||0||UEL, round of 32||Second round|
|GNK Dinamo Zagreb||Champions, Croatia||1999/2000||2||UEL, group stage||Group stage|
|APOEL FC||Champions, Cyprus||2009/10||1||UEL, play-offs||Group stage|
|Trabzonspor AŞ||Runners-up, Turkey****||Debut||0||UEL, play-offs||Second round|
|KRC Genk||Champions, Belgium||2002/03||1||UEL, play-offs||Group stage|
|FC Viktoria Plzeň||Champions, Czech Rep.||Debut||0||UEL, 3qr||N/A|
|FC Oţelul Galaţi||Champions, Romania||Debut||0||N/A||N/A|
*Past group stage appearances not including 2011/12
**UEFA Champions League unless stated
***Includes pre-1992 European Champion Clubs' Cup
**** Trabzonspor replaced Fenerbahçe SK, who were withdrawn from the competition by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF)
UEL = UEFA Europa League
3qr = Third qualifying round