New boys help freshen things up

With 20 teams in this season's UEFA Champions League who were not involved at the same stage last year, including six new faces, there is a fresher look to the competition.

Spurs have made it back to Europe's top competition for the first time since 1961/62
Spurs have made it back to Europe's top competition for the first time since 1961/62 ©Getty Images

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.

Route Last in Years* 2009/10** Best***
Pot 1
FC Internazionale Milano
Holders/ Champions, Italy
2009/10 9 Winners Winners
FC Barcelona
Champions, Spain
2009/10 14
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
Pot 2
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
Pot 3
Tottenham Hotspur FC
Fourth place, England
Debut 0 Did not compete
Rangers FC
Champions, Scotland
2009/10 9 Group stage Semi-finals
AFC Ajax
2005/06 8 UEL, round of 32
FC Schalke 04 Runners-up, Germany 2007/08 2 Did not compete
FC Basel 1893 Champions, Switzerland 2008/09 2 UEL, group stage Second group stage
SC Braga Runners-up, Portugal Debut 0 UEL, 3qr
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
Pot 4
Tel-Aviv FC
Champions, Israel
Debut 0 UEL, round of 32
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
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
UEL, play-off round
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