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Conte faces difficult task of steering Chelsea back to apex of European football


As Premier League holders, Chelsea are meriting a second look in the coming Champions League competition.

The Blues get to know who they face after the draw for the group stage on August 24.

Manuel Conte’s men are definitely top seeds but a very tough set of opponents could hinder their march.

After winning the English top-tier last season in Conte’s debut season, the Stamford Bridge club found themselves in thee in the top seeding pot.

However, being in that spot does no assure an easy ride.

Chelsea are in seeding pot 1 as champions and will not face any other league winners from the top seven nations.

In that case, Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid, German titans Bayern Munich and perennial Italian champions Juventus will not face Chelsea until the knockout stages at the earliest.

Also, Portuguese champions Benfica, Ligue 1 winners Monaco and Spartak Moscow (Russia) and Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) are out.

In the group stage, teams won’t clash with opponents from the same domestic leagues so Chelsea will not battle any of Manchester City, Manchester United (both pot 2), Tottenham (pot 2 or 3, depending on results) or Liverpool if they qualify.

So who will the Blues cross paths with?

Chelsea, and all other teams from pot 1, will tackle one side from pots 2, 3 and 4.

The danger now lies in Pot 2.

Here, the Blues could take on La Liga giants Barcelona or Atletico Madrid. They can also collide with the Neymar-led Paris Saint Germain. German club Borussia Dortmund and Portugal side Porto are also in Pot 2.

Chelsea’s lone European title was won in the 2011-12 season when caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo guided them to a pulsating 4-3 win on penalties over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.

Before lifting the prestigious trophy, the Blues eliminated Barcelona in the semifinals.

This season, an arduous task of steering the Blues back to the zenith of European football is facing Conte.

Can he do it? Can his men deliver?