Supporters of a Champions League entrant can have different definitions of a dream draw.
Some big-name teams with plenty of trophy history will want a dream trip (perhaps in another year) or a rematch of a memorable match.
Others will hope for the easiest route to the knockout rounds, one that can help safe passage without taxing the league schedule too much.
[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]
And some little guys or new boys will just dream of the biggest teams coming to their home. Think of Moldova’s Sheriff Tiraspol knowing these chances are rare and Messi could pay a visit.
But what about the neutrals? What’s the most entertaining draw, one that can deliver the goods to both fans of big teams and those hoping for a terrific knockout round set-up?
Important rules to remember
Teams cannot be drawn against a club from their own league.
And Red Bull Salzburg cannot be drawn against RB Leipzig, due to shared ownership groups.
Building a dream Champions League draw
Let’s start with the Premier League. West Ham and Leicester City failed to keep hold of a top four place and that means it’s a very recognizable quartet of Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Chelsea making it to the group stage.
While we can’t yet predict who will land where at the end of the transfer window and whether it could be PSG’s Messi versus Man City’s Cristiano Ronaldo, or PSG’s Messi and Ronaldo versus the continent, we can make some educated guesses that guarantee drama.
And, honestly, don’t we want one “Group of Death” that promises one traditional giant won’t hit the Round of 16, and one “easier” group that will invite fresh blood to dance into unusual if not altogether unseen territory?
Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Shakhtar, Besiktas
One of those groups that guarantee the exit of two of four notorious, hellish match-ups…. which also guarantees 12 notorious, hellish match-ups.
Group B: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Benfica, Club Brugge
Killer B’s on the swarm. It ain’t safe no more.
Group C: Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig, AC Milan
Tuchel gets to meet the team that fired him after getting to a UCL Final, and Jesse Marsch gets to coach against Christian Pulisic… and Messi! Every tie in this group would arguably be the tie of the day depending on the schedule.
Group D: Inter Milan, Liverpool, Ajax, Wolfsburg
Group E: Lille, Real Madrid, Porto, Malmo
Real would be tested in this group, and there’s no guarantee the expected two go through.
Group F: Man City, Borussia Dortmund, Atalanta, Dynamo Kiev
This stops all the “Man City gets the easiest draws” while also fueling Man City’s thoughts that UEFA is out to get them. Plus all of these teams will, arguably, go for it.
Group G: Sporting CP, Sevilla, Red Bull Salzburg, Sheriff Tiraspol
The odds are still that Sporting and Sevilla would emerge but imagine an Austrian or Moldovan team in the Round of 16.
Group H: Villarreal, Manchester United, Zenit, Young Boys
No soft outs in this group, and plenty of unusual tilts and clashing colors.