Manchester City may have secured their return to the Champions League as the 2011-12 Premier League title holders, but the newly crowned winners will still enter Europe's top tier competition next season with a potentially daunting group stage task.
Roberto Mancini's side will miss out on a place among the top seeds, after UEFA finalised its co-efficient table, following Chelsea's triumph over Bayern Munich in the showpiece final at the Allianz Arena on Saturday 12 May.
After exiting this year's tournament in the opening round at the expense of the eventual runners-up, as well as Chelsea's last-16 opponents Napoli, City will be looking to improve on their debut showing in the Champions League in its current format next year.
Villarreal completed the group as the bottom placed team, while the Citizens finished third and dropped into the Europa League, despite ending the six-game stage with 10 points. Once there, they negotiated their way past Porto in the knockout round of 32, but were eliminated by fellow Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon in the last-16.
Arch rivals Manchester United followed a similar path, when they were eliminated at the Champions League group stages by Benfica and Swiss outfit FC Basel, to finish in third place. In the Europa League they defeated Ajax over two legs but were comfortably beaten by Athletic Bilbao, who made it all the way to the final in Bucharest, where they were defeated 3-0 by La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side retain their place in Pot One though, having reached the final against Barcelona at Wembley in 2010-11, and last winning the competition against Chelsea in Moscow in 2007-08.
UEFA's ranking system is based on a club's European performance in each of the last five seasons, from 2007-08 to 2011-12 inclusively, leaving national champions such as City (28th), Juventus and Borussia Dortmund - whose ranking in 66th place in the co-efficient table sees them facing a position in Pot Four - suffering from their absence from European competition during that period.
Chelsea (3rd) and Arsenal (6th) join United (2nd) on the list of top seeds, alongside Spanish giants Barcelona (1st), twice crowned European champions during the past five years, Real Madrid (5th) and Bayern Munich (4th). AC Milan and Porto complete Pot One.
Pot Two consists of City, Valencia, Benfica, Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit St. Petersburg and Schalke 04, with the final two slots to be filled by Braga and Dynamo Kiev if they both qualify, while Olympiakos will move up if either fails and Ajax are also promoted if two of the three aforementioned teams do not make the cut.
Juventus and Paris Saint Germain are the only sides that will definitely be in Pot Three at this stage, as the qualifiers could determine the eventual outcome. Meanwhile, Dortmund are the biggest side set to enter in Pot Four, despite the German giants winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles, and doing the domestic double this season.
In Europe they have been unimpressive in recent years though, exiting the UEFA Cup in the first round in 2008-09. They won only two of their six matches in the 2010-11 Europa League group stage, and on their return to the Champions League last season, had only a victory over Olympiakos and a draw with Arsenal to show for their efforts.
As a result, Dortmund - with just three European group stage victories over the past five seasons - are only four places ahead of recently relegated Bolton Wanderers (70th) in the coefficient table, who reached the last-16 of the UEFA Cup in 2007-08.
Braga, Dynamo Kiev, FC Basel, Panathinaikos, Anderlecht, Spartak Moscow, Fenerbahce, Udinese, Lille, Brugge and Celtic are all ranked higher than Dortmund, but must make it through their respective qualifiers to secure passage through to the Champions League group stages.
Danish champions Nordsjaelland and Ligue 1 winners Montpellier will both be debutants in next season's competition via Pot Four, that will also include FC Salzburg of Austria and BATE Borisov of Belarus.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms