At 5:45 p.m. CET (11:45 a.m. EDT) on Thursday, the UEFA Champions League group stage draw will take place in Monaco.
Bayern Munich, who won the competition last season, will once again be the team to beat. They will be led into battle by their new manager, Pep Guardiola. The likable Spaniard won the famous trophy with big ears twice with his former club Barcelona in 2009 and 2011.
While managers like Guardiola, Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and David Moyes, who will be making his group stage debut with Manchester United, will be calling all the shots, the real people we want to see in action are the players.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are easily the two best players in the world. Last season, however, they were both eclipsed by German teamwork in the form of the Bastian Schweinsteiger-led Munich and the Marco Reus-inspired Dortmund.
Barca and Real will be hoping to return to winning ways in 2014, but they will have to battle past the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Benfica, whose famous Stadium of Light will host the final next May—not to mention Munich and Dortmund.
Last season, the group stage produced one of the best groups of death in modern memory. Borussia Dortmund, the eventual runners-up, Real Madrid, Ajax and Manchester City produced an epic mini-competition all by themselves. On that occasion, Dortmund and Madrid advanced and City crashed out without a single win.
This season, with the quality on hand, there is the distinct possibility that we might have another such group—if not more.
Here, Bleacher Report offers our discerning readers everything they need to know before Thursday's draw.