Tottenham Hotspur avoided some of the biggest sides in a Champions League draw, which should give Spurs an excellent chance to advance.
Thursday afternoon in Istanbul, the lengthy process of pulling balls and placing teams, known as the Champions League draw, took place. Through a bit of luck and good positioning, Spurs could avoid some of the biggest teams in the game and land a solid but winnable group. So what happened, and how lucky did Tottenham get?
The UEFA Champions League has 20 of the top 25 teams in the UEFA Club Coefficient rankings, making it hard to avoid some big names and a tough draw. However, the positioning of Spurs helped Tottenham land a winnable group avoiding any of the biggest names.
Odds were in Spurs’ favor with Pot 1
First, Tottenham could not be drawn into a group with other English clubs that benefited Spurs. Three of the top five European teams are from England, Manchester City, Liverpool, and Chelsea, with Spurs being the lowest ranked English entry at 14. Automatically, those clubs were not going to be paired.
Pot 1 was perhaps weaker than it usually is, although it was top-heavy. Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Paris Saint-Germain all have top seven rankings, with Bayern currently the number one ranked club. However, after those teams, the other teams in Pot 1 were not so scary, with AC Milan, Porto, Ajax, and Europa League Champion Frankfurt among those in the first Pot.
Given Spurs could not be drawn with Manchester City and the overall lack of big names in Pot 1, Tottenham had an over 60% chance of avoiding a group with a top 10 team, and that came to fruition when Spurs were placed into Group D with Frankfurt.
Being in Pot 2 was a key factor for Tottenham.
After the first Pot, teams are placed into Pots 2, 3, and 4 based on Club Coefficient. Fortunately for Tottenham, they had a high enough coefficient to be part of Pot 2. The rest of the big names were mostly in Pot 2, including Barcelona, Juventus, and Atletico. Liverpool and Chelsea were also in Pot 2 but could not have been drawn against Spurs regardless.
With Barcelona getting paired with Bayern, Juventus getting PSG, and Leipzig matching with Real Madrid, it is safe to say all of the English teams did okay. Coming from Pot 2, each English team had the same 60% chance of avoiding the big boys, and like Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool avoided the most prominent clubs, although Liverpool vs. Ajax should be fun.
The bottom of Group D is no pushover for Tottenham and Frankfurt
Although Tottenham did well at the top of the group to avoid Bayern or Madrid, the bottom half of the group is still strong, making it a well-rounded foursome. Like in Pot 2, there are no easy calls in Pot 3, and Sporting CP will present some unique challenges to Tottenham. Sporting CP ranked in the top 30 by UEFA and the top 20 by Fivethirtyeight.
With Pot 4, there were some easier draws, to be sure, with Copenhagen and Maccabi Haifa among the eight teams in that Pot. There were also some tough match-ups with Rangers, Dinamo Zagreb, and Marseille. Ultimately, Marseille was added as the final team in the group. Les Phoceens is 38th and 53rd in the two respective rankings and is no pushover either.
While things could have been easier at the bottom, Spurs did get some fortune at the top of the group, making Group D a winnable but competitive group for Tottenham Hotspur in a rapidly approaching Champions League Group Stage, added to a packed Spurs schedule.