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Clubs Prepare For Champions League Draw

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The lineup for the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League group stage is complete and will feature no fewer than 14 previous winners of Europe’s premier club competition while FK Austria Wien will make their debut.

Eleven of the past champions were among the 22 automatic entrants, a number subsequently swelled by the progress of AC Milan, FC Steaua Bucureşti and Celtic FC through this week’s ten play-off ties. For the draw, which takes place from 4.45pm today at Monaco’s Grimaldi Forum, the 32 contenders have been split into four seeding pots (based on club coefficients), with each of the eight groups to contain one team from each tier.

No club can meet a side from their own association and the draw procedure will be explained during the ceremony, which also includes the presentation of the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award.

Holders FC Bayern München lead the top tier of seeds, all of whom have lifted the trophy apart from 2005/06 runners-up Arsenal FC, and are bidding to become the first team to defend the European Cup since AC Milan, victors in 1989 and 1990. The Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica will stage the final on 24 May 2014 and SL Benfica will hope to reach the showpiece in their own stadium while fellow Portuguese club FC Porto will also be looking to reach the final in their home country.

English champions Manchester United FC are making a record 19th UEFA Champions League appearance in the competition’s 22nd edition, one more than FC Barcelona, Real Madrid CF and FC Porto. In contrast, Austria Wien are involved for the first time, taking the number of clubs to have featured in the group stage to 128.

Twenty-one of the teams who were involved in last season’s group stage are back, with Celtic, Milan and FC Zenit booking their returns on Wednesday night after Arsenal FC and FC Schalke 04 did likewise the previous evening.

Austria aside, Real Sociedad de Fútbol have endured the longest wait for a UEFA Champions League return; not only have they not featured in the competition since reaching the round of 16 in 2003/04 – when they lost to the team they beat in this season’s play-offs, Olympique Lyonnais – this is also their first European campaign since then.

In total, clubs from 18 different national associations will play in the group stage, with England, Spain and Germany the best represented with a quartet of teams.

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