It's finally time for the Champions League group stage draw, one of the most anticipated days on the football calendar. The pomp, the circumstance, the glamour -- all of it is on display in a way that we don't always get to see, and it's enjoyable to be a part of.
It's been a few years since Napoli have been here. Their struggles under Rafa Benitez kept them out, but last year's successes got them back into the promised land, and it's great to be back. There's some tricky potential draws ahead, but just having to worry about dealing with that is a treat in and of itself.
Let's not waste any more time: which draw pot will Napoli be in and who all could they wind up facing?
|Pot 1||Pot 2|
|Real Madrid||Spain||Atlético Madrid||Spain|
|Bayern Munich||Germany||Manchester City||England|
|CSKA Moscow||Russia||Bayer Leverkusen||Germany|
|Pot 3||Pot 4|
|FC Basel||Switzerland||Celtic FC||Scotland|
|Tottenham Hotspur||England||AS Monaco||France|
|Olympique Lyon||France||Legia Warsaw||Poland|
|PSV Eindhoven||Holland||Dinamo Zagreb||Croatia|
|Sporting Clube de Portugal||Portugal||Lodogorets Razgrad||Bulgaria|
|Club Brugge||Belgium||FC København||Denmark|
|Borussia Mönchengladbach||Germany||FK Rostov||Russia|
The rules are simple: the groups are filled by distributing the teams from each pot. We've all seen the process before, drawing the balls out of a bowl, and declaring which group each team goes into. No two teams from the same country can face off with one another, meaning Napoli won't face Juventus in the Champions League just yet, but there's a lot of potential for both fun and heartache for them to deal with before the group stage is done -- fun and heartache we'll get an idea of after today.
Possible draw scenarios
Ideal draw: Leicester City, PSV Eindhoven, FK Rostov
This is a very winnable group for Napoli. Eindhoven look as though they've taken a big step back from a season ago, Rostov aren't very good -- despite beating Ajax in the playoff, because they're utterly awful -- and while Leicester are the defending Premier League winners, their accomplishment smacked of over-achievement, and they're due for a return to earth, especially without keystone midfielder N'Golo Kante in the side.
Horrow show: Bayern Munich, Tottenham Hotspur, Besiktas
As my Tottenham fan friend I was talking about this with said, "I would drink bleach on that draw." Remember how unpleasant the Dortmund-Barcelona-Marseille draw was? This would be worse. Way worse. And way less likely for Napoli to get something out of it. So. Yeah. Bleach. Lots of bleach.
Want to mess with different draw scenarios? Check out this draw simulator on GitHub that's built to the specs of Champions League draw rules.
When: Thursday, 12 p.m. ET, 6 p.m. local
TV: Fox Sports 1 (U.S. - English), Fox Deportes (U.S. - Spanish), BT Sport 2 (U.K.), Sky Sport 1 HD Italia (Italy)
Online: Fox Sports Go (U.S.), BT Sport Live Streaming (U.K.), UEFA.com