There are times when Uefa's seeding system seems significantly flawed and, while a Champions League group that pits Real Madrid against Manchester City, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund promises fun for everybody not directly involved, it does suggest major problems with the whole process. The champions of the three highest ranked sides in the Uefa coefficients surely shouldn't be meeting at this stage.
Nothing highlighted the vagaries of the coefficient system quite so much as Dortmund's position in Pot Four. If ever evidence were needed that the Champions League is a tournament that protects the status quo and resists usurpers, this is it. Dortmund have won the past two Bundesliga titles and are on a record unbeaten run. The suggestion that they are anything other than an extremely good side is laughable. And yet, because their titles were preceded by several years in which they made no impression on European competition, they are ranked alongside Nordsjaellend, BATE and CFR.
Montpellier, the French champions, suffer of course from a similar logic, even if their wobbly start to the season makes their position in Pot Four seem less absurd. They were rather more fortunate and ended up in a group that is intriguing rather than terrifying, with Arsenal, Schalke 04 and Olympiakos.
Just as baffling as Dortmund's position in Pot Four was Braga's in Pot Two, benefitting from their run to the Europa League final in 2011 and from the general good form of Portuguese sides in European competition (rankings are determined by a combination of club and country coefficients). They could hardly have got away more easily, being drawn with Galatasaray, CFR and Manchester United who yet again have been placed in a group in which the main danger appears to be complacency.
For Real Madrid, the hunt for a tenth European Cup has taken on the aspect of a quest. It seems hard to believe that 10 years have now passed since they last won the competition, Zinedine Zidane's famous volley giving them victory over Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park.
Remarkably, for all the money invested, they haven't even reached the final since that success and have only been in the semi-final three times since. The influence of Jose Mourinho, seeking to become only the second coach to win three European Cups and the first to do it with three different sides, has seen them get to the last four in each of the last two seasons, but in 2011 they were beaten by Barcelona and last season, with the way seemingly clear for them after Barcelona had gone out to Chelsea the previous night, they lost on penalties to Bayern Munich.
Although they have started the season poorly, with just one point from their two league games, this is essentially the same side as last season, the only major difference being the arrival of Luka Modric to add his surprisingly robust guile to midfield, and it feels again as though Real and Barcelona will be the sides to beat. Manchester City, of course, also have great expectations. For them and their owner, Sheikh Mansour, the past two seasons have been about incremental development. First they won the FA Cup and finished in the top four to qualify for the Champions League, then they won the Premier League.
The next step is to make an impression on the Champions League.
Although they went out in the group stage last season, they were hamstrung by their low coefficient, being drawn with Bayern and Napoli, eventually going out because they could only draw at home against the Italians. Their fear must be that they suffer again this season, but from another good side's low ranking.
Barcelona stand alongside Real Madrid as the clear favourites for the competition. Although Barca won their first two league games, the form of Lionel Messi has covered for a couple of shaky performances, while their defending in the first half of the second leg of the Super Cup against Real Madrid was farcically bad. Again, the side is familiar, with the additions of Alex Song and David Villa, the latter back after injury, but what is unknown is Tito Vilanova's ability as a coach.
He was clearly respected as Pep Guardiola's assistant, but Guardiola was a master at making tactical changes during games. Vilanova may always have been involved in that process but how effective he will be when he is the one called upon to make the changes remains to be seen. A group with Benfica, Spartak Moscow and Celtic should be manageable enough.
There has not been such an unexpected champion as Chelsea since Liverpool won in 2005 and, like Liverpool then, Chelsea begun this campaign with a radically different squad. The style has changed and although the knowledge that they can sit deep and absorb pressure gives them the option in extremis, this is now a side based around the slick passing and intermovement of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres. Three wins out of three in the league, particularly the emphatic dismissal of Newcastle, showed how quickly the new players have bedded in. Chelsea may become the first side since AC Milan in 1990 to win the tournament for a second successive season, but so different is the side it would be a stretch to say they had defended their title. They have the misfortune of drawing Juventus, by far the best team in Pot Three, and while Nordsjaelland of Denmark shouldn't pose too much of a threat, it's far from impossible that Shakhtar Donetsk could upset either the European or Italian champions.
PSG, desperate for European recognition after their big spending, face an intriguing group with Porto, Dynamo Kyiv and Dinamo Zagreb, and its equally tough to pick a winner from Group C, which comprises a fading Milan, Zenit St Petersburg, Anderlecht and Malaga. And that perhaps suggests the new strength of European football. Two of three years ago many of the Champions League groups had become a dull procession; now, in part because the coefficient system has not caught up, the rise of new powers has added a layer of intrigue.
The Champions League may be a competition that essentially looks after its own, but this season at least there are nouveau riche threatening to burst in and old grandees in danger of falling away.