Writer: Lloyd Reddin
Date:Thursday December 8 2011
After an eventful couple of nights in the Champions League, a number of the so called 'bigger teams' have failed to qualify for the knockout stages and will drop into the last 32 of the Europa League, making Stoke`s possible route to Bucharest a harder prospect.
Former Champions League winners Manchester United, Ajax and Porto and two times runners up Valencia all failed to qualify for the knockout stages, and will now drop into the Europa League.
Other European heavyweights such as English Premier League leaders Manchester City, Olympiakos, Trabzonspor and Viktoria Plzen will also be in the pot in Nyon on December 16th.
Four of the eight sides will be seeded in the draw: Manchester City, Manchester United, Olympiakos and Valencia, who will join each of the Europa League group winners in the first pot having had the best records in the Champions League.
Standard Liege, PSV, Sporting, Athletico Bilbao Metalist, Schalke and Twente, who have all won their respective groups before the final gameweek are already assured of their place in the first pot.
The other four sides, reigning Europa League Champions Porto, Ajax, Trabzonspor and Viktoria Plzen, will be unseeded and join all the group runners up in the other pot.
Hannover and Legia Warsaw are the only teams to have secured themselves a place in this pot.
The additions to the Europa League have now emphasised the importance for Stoke to top their group.
Avoiding defeat in Turkey next week and topping the group will help Stoke to avoid some of these Champions League drop outs and the other group winners.
Stoke cannot play the Manchester clubs no matter what, as teams cannot play a team from their own association in the last 32 of the Europa League.
Date:Thursday December 8 2011
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