It's all over, 1981 style: the FA fish around for balls in an empty velvet sack.
It’s all over, 1981 style: the FA fish around for balls in an empty velvet sack.

With the usual no-easy-game provisos ... That’s a decent draw for Chelsea. It could have been a lot worse for Liverpool. But Arsenal and Manchester City have been handed the trickiest tests. More on the draw in your super soaraway Guardian anon, but for now the last word goes to the supporters of 1979 and 1980 champions Nottingham Forest. “We Forest fans are feeling great!” reports Simon Frank. “We are top of division two, you know.”

And so here’s the full draw for the 2014/15 Champions League group stage:

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiacos, Malmo
Group B: Real Madrid, Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets
Group C: Benfica, Zenit, Bayer Leverkusen, Monaco
Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht
Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, Roma
Group F: Barcelona, PSG, Ajax, Apoel
Group G: Chelsea, Schalke, Sporting Lisbon, Maribor
Group H: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao, Bate Borisov

Will poor old Manchester City ever catch a break in the European Cup, do you think?

Roma, the 1984 runners-up. Where’s Ashley Cole going? Manchester, that’s where! And what a group this is ...

Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, Roma

Bate Borisov. They miss out on a glamour group.

Group H: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao, Bate Borisov

Celtic fans, look at what you could have won. Maribor are in with ...

Group G: Chelsea, Schalke, Sporting Lisbon, Maribor

Again, nothing’s a given at this level, but Jose will be happy enough with that. Poor old Ronny Deila.

Anderlecht next. And they’re in with Arsenal, a very tough proposition for Arsene Wenger’s side.

Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht

Again, I wonder how Nottingham Forest fans are feeling right now?

Malmo, the 1979 finalists, are in a glamour group with ...

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiacos, Malmo

I wonder how Nottingham Forest fans are feeling right now?

Apoel go in here...

Group F: Barcelona, PSG, Ajax, Apoel

Monaco next. And this happens ...

Group C: Benfica, Zenit, Bayer Leverkusen, Monaco

A true legend on the stage now: Francisco Gento, who lifted this prize six times. Six times! He’ll be pulling out the Pot 4 chappies. And the first out are the Bulgarian champions Ludogorets. They’re in with Liverpool. Nothing’s easy, but Brendan Rodgers would have taken this ...

Group B: Real Madrid, Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets

After pot C, then. Or was it pot 3? I can’t recall. Let’s not worry too much.

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiacos
Group B: Real Madrid, Basel, Liverpool
Group C: Benfica, Zenit, Bayer Leverkusen
Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray
Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow
Group F: Barcelona, PSG, Ajax
Group G: Chelsea, Schalke, Sporting Lisbon
Group H: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao

Sporting of Lisbon. They’re in with the 2012 winners Chelsea. Which means Bayer Leverkusen are in with Benfica and Zenit, and Galatasaray join Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund in what looks like a tough group.

Group G: Chelsea, Schalke, Sporting Lisbon
Group C: Benfica, Zenit, Bayer Leverkusen
Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray

Olympiacos are up next. They go in with ...

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiacos

Ajax of Amsterdam, the four-time winners. They go into a fairly exciting group alongside ...

Group F: Barcelona, PSG, Ajax

CSKA Moscow next. They’re plopped into a group with the champions of England!

Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow

It’s Liverpool! And they’re in with the champions! A rerun of the 1981 final, then.

Group B: Real Madrid, Basel, Liverpool

Manuel Sanchis, formerly of Real Madrid, is the very man for Pot 3 action. His first act is to pluck Athletic of Bilbao out of the pot. They’ll be in with ...

Group H: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao

After pot 2, this is how the groups are looking ...

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus
Group B: Real Madrid, Basel
Group C: Benfica, Zenit
Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund
Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City
Group F: Barcelona, PSG
Group G: Chelsea, Schalke
Group H: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk

Juventus. They go in with last season’s runners up. Which means Schalke are in with Chelsea.

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus
Group G: Chelsea, Schalke

Basel. And they’re in with the holders.

Group B: Real Madrid, Basel

Borussia Dortmund are the next club out. Their 1997 hero pairs them with ...

Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund

The first proper English action of the evening! Manchester City are out, and they’ve got to go in with Bayern Munich for some reason.

Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City

Shakhtar Donetsk now. Riedle puts them in with ...

Group H: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk

PSG are out next. And they’re in with ...

Group F: Barcelona, PSG

Updated

Bolton Wanderers legend Fernando Hierro, who also captained Real Madrid to victory in the 2002 Champions League, is the next chap out with a remit to pluck balls from pots. Pot 2, then. Here we go ... Zenit are out first, and they go in with ... hold on, Riedle has knocked the pot of balls onto the floor. Oop! Perhaps they were too hot. Anyway, eventually there’s a new set, and he does this:

Group C: Benfica, Zenit

Updated

After Pot 1 ...

Group A: Atletico Madrid
Group B: Real Madrid
Group C: Benfica
Group D: Arsenal
Group E: Bayern Munich
Group F: Barcelona
Group G: Chelsea
Group H: Porto

“The gent with the red (or more likely purple) nose looks a lot like my granddad did in 1967,” writes David Godman. “He had acne rosacea, a skin complaint that makes the nose go bright purple. People thought he was an alcoholic and would take my grandmother aside to discreetly enquire about his drinking. He was actually a teetotal Methodist lay preacher who had to live with the fact that he looked permanently sozzled.”

Right, here we go! Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino, Iker Casillas and Karl -Heinz Riedle are about to pull out the first pot of balls. “I’m sure wasn’t the only Manchester United fan to get a little surge of excitement at the draw being today before realising it had nothing to do with me,” sighs David Flynn. “Ah well, at least there’s Burnley to look forward to. Or dread, depending on how you see the performance going.”

The trophy has been plonked on stage. We’ll be underway in a minute. For the record, when Uefa practiced heating up the balls earlier this afternoon, Liverpool were drawn with Real Madrid, Juventus and Monaco. No word on who Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City were landed with, but let’s not lose too much sleep over it, the real thing will be happening very soon. “I cannot agree enough with your comment at 16:30 regarding dream draws,” writes Richard Baker, who sounds like a very nice man to me. “There is nothing more annoying than pundits go on about teams hoping for the easiest draw possible. I’ve spent half my life watching City lose to crap teams, losing to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich makes a nice change.”

There’s some introductory jazz going on in Monaco right now. No music as such, just some Uefa suit droning on and on and on in the free style, while the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jerzy Dudek and Luis Figo try their hardest not to yawn and look bored. This Uefa dude is in the middle of the mother of all soliloquies! He must have a set of lungs like Miles Davis and the capacious cheeks of Dizzy Gillespie. Nothing to report yet, is the short end. Nature of live blogs for you. “Could we perhaps swap Juve for PSG in that dream draw please?” asks Chris Baynes. “Completely agree about wanting to play the big boys but Turin ’05 wasn’t much fun for us travelling supporters. And while I’m here Munich over Barca, been there – done that. And Monaco is a nightmare for away allocations, so any chance of Anderlecht That said, I realise you don’t fix the draw, and won’t pass comment on whether Uefa ever do.”

A 5.45pm CET start, my eye. “Like everyone else, I should be working,” writes Charles Antaki, roughly 15 minutes before being asked to clear his desk, “but the FA photo draws me strangely. Two questions come to mind - was it really taken in 1967? You know, the Beatles, the Apollo space missions, the Six-Day War? Take four decades off and 1927 looks about right. The other question is less easy to resolve - namely, why is the gent on the right wearing an obviously false nose? Or was the ‘cold refreshment’ particularly potent that year? I suspect we’ll never know.” Oh I think we know.

The hall at the Grimaldi Forum is filling up. The finger food must have run out. And the big stars are arriving, one by one. Cristiano Ronaldo has turned up with his hair slicked back and Ray-Bans on, a sharp suit straight outta Goodfellas. He’d have lasted about ten frames. Too thin. More Spider than Jimmy the Gent. Arjen Robben is also dolled up like a movie star, specifically Dick van Dyke out of Mary Poppins. It’s an informal look. I wonder what his cockney accent is like? He won’t have picked one up on the Fulham Broadway. I’ll level with you, we should have started this at 4.45pm.

Dream draws for the English sides. How about these? Any of these would be pretty good:

Chelsea: PSG, Ajax, Roma (featuring Ashley Cole).
Arsenal: Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray, Roma (featuring Ashley Cole).
Manchester City: Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Anderlecht.
Liverpool: Barcelona (featuring Luis Suarez), Juventus, Monaco.

The point of football is to test yourself against the best and have a bit of fun while doing it, right?

For the record, the Grimaldi Forum has staged: The ballet ...

Les Ballets De Monte Carlo
Les Ballets de Monte Carlo

... the old music ...

The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra (not pictured) at the Grimaldi Forum (not  pictured). This is the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at the Frauenkirche in Dresden. I tried my best.
The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra (not pictured) at the Grimaldi Forum (not pictured). This is the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at the Frauenkirche in Dresden. I tried my best.

... an annual renewable energy seminar ...

Renewable energy, as practised in Colorado. Again, not Monaco, but what can you do.
Renewable energy, as practised in Colorado. Again, not Monaco, but what can you do.

... the Festival de Télévision de Monte-Carlo ...

Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson promoting 'The Girls Next Door' TV series 47th Monte Carlo TV Festival at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo, Monaco - 12 Jun 2007 47TH MONTE CARLO TV FESTIVAL AT THE GRIMALDI FORUM IN MONACO 12 JUN 2007 HOLLY MADISON HUGH HEFNER BRIDGET MARQUARDT AND KENDRA WILKINSON PROMOTING 'THE GIRLS NEXT DOOR' SERIES GIRLFRIEND PUBLISHER CAPTAINS HAT BUSINESSPERSON MODEL FEMALE MALE STAR WITH OTHERS PERSONALITY 1512932
Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson promoting ‘The Girls Next Door’ TV series, you remember that one.

... and this, every year.

Platini
Platini: no Hefner.

Bring it on, Uefa! What a show awaits us!

That’s the qualifiers out of the way, then. Arsenal made it through by the skin of their teeth. Celtic, meanwhile, were knocked out of Europe twice before the end of August. Trailing Caley Thistle and the Accies in the Scottish Premiership, the only way is up, Ronny Deila. And so we’ve reached the Champions League proper: 32 clubs, one cup. It sounds like a particularly violent reimagining of a popular romantic viral hit, doesn’t it. But it’s not.

The tournament starts to take shape today at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, where the most powerful folk in European football meet up to learn about tax avoidance schemes find out who’ll be playing who in the group stages of the 2014-15 Champions League. For the first time since the days of the old European Cup, this year’s competition will be a free draw, reducing the chances of the same old names reaching the latter stages yet again, while giving a boost to some of the lesser names, lending the tournament a more exotic air … no, of course it won’t be. But we can dream, it’s free and they can’t take that away from us. The seeded pots, then:

composite: Champions League composite
Some of your runners and riders

Pot 1: Real Madrid (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), Bayern Munich (Germany), Chelsea (England), Benfica (Portugal), Atlético Madrid (Spain), Arsenal (England), Porto (Portugal).

Pot 2: Schalke (Germany), Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Juventus (Italy), Paris Saint-Germain (France), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Basel (Switzerland), Zenit St Petersburg (Russia), Manchester City (England).

Pot 3: Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Olympiakos (Greece), CSKA Moscow (Russia), Ajax (Netherlands), Liverpool (England), Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), Galatasaray (Turkey), Athletic Bilbao (Spain).

Pot 4: Anderlecht (Belgium), Roma (Italy), Ludogorets Razgrad (Bulgaria), Apoel Nicosia (Cyprus), Bate Borisov (Belarus), Maribor (Slovenia), Monaco (France), Malmo (Sweden).

The usual rules apply. Each of the eight groups, A through to H, will contain one team from each seeding pot. No club can play a side from their own association. And there are some other restrictions, but quite frankly life is too short. The whole interminable shebang - which will include the vote for, and presentation of, the 2013/14 Uefa Best Player in Europe Award, for which Manuel Neuer, Arjen Robben and Cristiano Ronaldo are nominated - begins at 5.45pm CET, which is 4.45pm in £sd.

Jules Rimet holds the urn for his grandson Yves at the 1938 World Cup draw in Paris. In the middle: Frantois de Tessan, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Another old-school draw: Jules Rimet holds the urn for his grandson Yves at the 1938 World Cup draw in Paris. In the middle, uninterested, or perhaps of a mind that he has more important things to be getting on with, is Francois de Tessan, France’s under-secretary of state for foreign affairs.

Updated