For Chelsea, their last-16 defeat by PSG last season was a shock and an affront to manager Jose Mourinho and unacceptable to owner Roman Abramovich, while Arsenal – relegated from pot one along with both Madrid clubs and Porto – need to overcome the same barriers that appear to prevent them reaching higher than third in the Premier League.
Real Madrid hope Cristiano Ronaldo can help the club to a record-extending 11th title.
English giants Manchester United will have their fate decided by then, as they take on Belgian side Club Brugge in the second leg of their play-off tie – up 3-1 form the first leg.
The biggest test could be a clash with Eredivisie’s regining champions PSV Eindhoven, but having lost Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum this summer, City could count their lucky stars against the Dutch outfit.
Valencia will now join defending champions Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid in Thursday’s group stage draw.
UEFA’s general secretary Gianni Infantino has defended the new system, saying it is right to give national domestic champions top seeding.
Chelsea are in pot one alongside fellow seeds Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Juventus, Paris St Germain, Zenit St Petersburg and PSV Eindhoven.
Pot 3 is yet to be finalised, with four fixtures still to take place this evening, however Arsenal would fancy their chances against Sporting Lisbon, if they qualify ahead of CSKA Moscow tonight.
United will face one team apiece from Pots 1, 3 and 4, and cannot be drawn against a team from the same country in the group stage so Chelsea are not among the options. Maccabi progressed to the group stage for the second time after an Eran Zahavi goal cancelled out Luca Zuffi’s opener.
UEFA rules bar teams proven to have been involved in fixing a match since 2007.
UEFA have changed the format slightly this season. Astana came through qualifying rounds to debut as the first team from Kazakhstan in the group stage, and easily the lowest-ranked of the 32 by UEFA. The top two in each group advance to the two-legged knockout rounds which start February 16.
Anyway, this season’s CL qualifiers finish today.