Real Madrid joined by fresh faces in Champions League draw

Real Madrid's Casemiro, right, vies for the ball with Valencia's Goncalo Guedes during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valencia and Real Madrid. (Alberto Saiz/AP)

GENEVA — Title holder Real Madrid and other European powers could be paired against some fresh faces in the Champions League draw on Thursday.

The 32-team lineup in Monaco includes group-stage debutants Red Star Belgrade and Young Boys, plus clubs ending long absences from the lucrative competition that has a record 1.95 billion euros ($2.28 billion) in prize money this season.

Inter Milan is back in the group stage for the first time in seven years; four-time champion Ajax returns after a four-year gap; and AEK Athens is the lowest-ranked club in the draw after 12 years away.

Red Star won the 1991 European Cup but hasn’t made the group stage since the tournament was rebranded the Champions League a year later. It was among the last three teams to qualify when the playoff round was completed on Wednesday, along with PSV Eindhoven and Benfica.

Lokomotiv Moscow ends a 15-year absence, but as Russian champion it goes into the pot of top-seeded teams and avoids the likes of three-time defending champion Madrid, and five-time champions Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Juventus is also top-seeded, with new signing Cristiano Ronaldo seeking a fourth straight Champions League trophy to end the Italian giant’s 23-year wait for a third European title.

Seeding is based on a team’s Champions League and Europa League results over the past five years. Last season’s runner-up Liverpool is in the third pot while 2010 champion Inter is in pot 4 as they are making up for lost seasons when they failed to qualify.

This season kicks off a new three-year round of broadcasting and sponsor deals that have increased prize money, which will also be more generously weighted toward teams that have a storied history with European titles since 1956.

Real Madrid is guaranteed to earn at least 50 million euros ($59 million) before kicking a ball, and all 32 teams get a basic 15.25 million euros ($17.8 million) entry fee.

UEFA pays 2.7 million euros ($3.2 million) per group-stage win and 900,000 euros ($1.05 million) for a draw. More fees are earned for reaching each subsequent round, plus some "market pool" TV money.

Teams from the same country cannot be drawn together, while Shakhtar Donetsk in Pot 2 will be separated from Lokomotiv and CSKA Moscow, in Pot 3, due to ongoing political tensions between Ukraine and Russia.


Draw seedings:

Pot 1: Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain. Manchester City, Lokomotiv Moscow.

Pot 2: Borussia Dortmund, Porto, Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica, Napoli, Tottenham, Roma.

Pot 3: Liverpool, Schalke, Lyon, Monaco, Ajax, CSKA Moscow, PSV Eindhoven, Valencia.

Pot 4: Viktoria Plzen, Club Brugge, Galatasaray, Young Boys, Inter Milan, Hoffenheim, Red Star Belgrade, AEK Athens.<

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