Multiple changes to take effect in next season’s UEFA Champions & Europa League

Multiple changes to take effect in next season’s UEFA Champions & Europa League
 

AGONAsport’s Sarantos Kaperonis breaks down the changes that will take effect in this year’s UEFA Champions & Europa League.

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UEFA Champions League group stage automatic bids

Thirty-two teams will continue to participate in the UEFA Champions League group stages, however 26 teams will now be granted an automatic place in the group stages as opposed to 22 teams. This means that only SIX teams will earn a place in the group stages via the qualifying process rather than 10 teams, making it a much harder task for teams to qualify for the group stages via the qualification process (directly affects Greece since Greece are not granted an automatic bid to the group stages). The 26 automatic placements will be distributed as such:

  • Top four teams from the nations ranked 1-4 in the UEFA Association Ranking (Spain, England, Germany, Italy) - total of 16 teams
  • Top two teams from the nations ranked 5-6 in the UEFA Association Ranking (France, Russia) - total 4 teams
  • Top team (league champion) from the nations ranked 7-10 in the UEFA Association Ranking (Portugal, Belgium, Ukraine, Turkey) - total 4 teams
  • The UEFA Champions League champion (since both Liverpool and Real Madrid have secured a place in the Champions League group stages via their domestic performance, the champions from UEFA’s 11th ranked Association, Czech Republic, will be granted a place in the Champions League group stages) - total 1 team
  • The UEFA Europa League champion (since Atletico Madrid have secured a place in the Champions League group stages via their domestic performance, the third-placed team from UEFA’s 5th ranked Association, France, will be granted a place in the Champions League group stages) - total 1 team

UEFA Champions League qualifying process changes

The Champions League qualifying process will continue to be split into a Champions Route and a League Route. The Champions Route will consist of teams that won their domestic league titles while the League Route will consist of teams that did not win their domestic league titles. The Champions route will see FOUR teams qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stages while the League Route will only yield TWO teams to the UEFA Champions League group stages, totaling the SIX teams that will qualify for the group stages via the qualification process. 

As for the Greek teams, the league champions AEK will begin in the Champions Route 3rd qualifying round while PAOK, the SuperLeague runner-up club, will begin in the 2nd qualifying round of the League Route. The teams that will partake in qualifying will be separated as such:

  • League Route 2nd Qualifying Round: Second placed teams (league runner-ups) from the nations ranked 12-15 in the UEFA Association Ranking (Switzerland, Netherlands, Greece - PAOK, Austria) - total 4 teams
  • Champions Route 3rd Qualifying Round: Top teams (league champions) from the nations ranked 14-15 in the UEFA Association Ranking (Greece - AEK, Austria) and the 10 winners from the Champions Route second qualifying round - total 12 teams
  • League Route 3rd Qualifying Round: Second placed teams (league runner-ups) from the nations ranked 7-11 in the UEFA Association Ranking (Portugal, Belgium, Ukraine, Turkey, Czech Republic), third placed team from nation ranked 5th in the UEFA Association Ranking (Russia), and the two winners from the 2nd qualifying round  - total 8 teams
  • Champions Route Playoffs: Top teams (league champions) from the nations ranked 12-13 in the UEFA Association Ranking (Switzerland, Netherlands) and the 6 winners from the Champions Route third qualifying round - total 8 teams. The four winners from this stage will advance to the Champions League group stages.
  • League Route Playoffs: The four winners from the 3nd qualifying round  - total 4 teams. The two winners from this stage will advance to the Champions League group stages.

It is worth noting that NO team from UEFA’s 1-4 ranked Associations (Spain, England, Germany, Italy) will participate in the Champions League qualifying process since these nations are granted FOUR automatic bids in the group stages of the competition (see above).  

Teams that are eliminated in the Champions League qualifying rounds will continue to UEFA Europa League qualifying. More on that below. 

Champions League group stage format remains the same

Although the format of the qualification process has changed, the format of the Champions League group stages will remain the same. The 32 clubs will continue to be split up into eight groups of four teams and each team will play their opponents in home and away matches. The top two teams from each group will march on to the knockout stages of the competition while the third-placed teams will move down to the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

UEFA Europa League group stage automatic bids

Forty-eight teams will continue to participate in the UEFA Europa League group stages, however 17 teams will now be granted an automatic place in the group stages. This means that 31 teams will earn a place in the group stages via the qualifying process. The 17 automatic placements will be distributed as such:

  • Cup winners from the nations ranked 1-5 in the UEFA Association Ranking (Spain, England, Germany, Italy, France) - total of 5 teams
  • Fifth-placed teams from the nations ranked 1-4 in the UEFA Association Ranking (Spain, England, Germany, Italy) and the fourth-placed team from the nation ranked 5th in the UEFA Association Ranking (France) - total of 5 teams
  • Cup winners from the nations ranked 6-12 in the UEFA Association Ranking (Russia, Portugal, Belgium, Ukraine, Turkey, Czech Republic, Switzerland) - total of 7 teams

Ten additional teams will gain an automatic place in the UEFA Europa League group stages from UEFA Champions League qualifying (listed below), meaning only 21 teams will qualify for the Europa League group stages via the direct Europa League qualifying process.

  • 4 eliminated teams from the Champions League, League Route 3rd qualifying round
  • 2 eliminated teams from the Champions League, League Route playoffs
  • 4 eliminated teams from the Champions League Champions Route playoffs

It is important to note that teams that are eliminated in the UEFA Champions League 3rd and playoff qualifying rounds of the LEAGUE route will automatically enter the group stages of the Europa League. In other words, if Greece’s PAOK advances past the Champions League, League Route second qualifying round, they are guaranteed a spot in the Europa League group stages. If PAOK are eliminated in the Champions League, League Route second qualifying round, they will join the UEFA Europa League, League Route third qualifying round.

UEFA Europa League qualifying process changes

The Europa League qualifying process will now be split into a Champions Route and a League Route, similar to the Champions League. The Champions Route will consist of teams that won their domestic league titles, meaning they were eliminated from the Champions League qualifying process, while the League Route will consist of teams that did not win their domestic league titles (the majority of the teams). The Champions route will see EIGHT teams qualify for the UEFA Europa League group stages while the League Route will yield THIRTEEN teams to the UEFA Europa League group stages, totaling the 21 teams that will qualify for the group stages via the qualification process. 

As for the Greek teams, the SuperLeague’s third placed team, Olympiacos, will begin in the League Route 3rd qualifying round while both Atromitos and Asteras Tripolis, the SuperLeague’s 4th and 5th placed clubs, will begin in the 2nd qualifying round of the League Route. The teams that will partake in qualifying will be separated as such:

  • Europa League, League Route Preliminary round: 16 teams enter
  • Europa League, League Route 1st qualifying round: 86 teams enter plus eight preliminary round winners - total 94 teams
  • Europa League, League Route 2nd qualifying round: 27 teams enter plus 47 first qualifying round winners - total 74 teams
  • Europa League, League Route 3rd qualifying round: 15 teams enter (including the two teams eliminated from the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round League Route) plus 37 second qualifying round winners - total 52 teams. 
  • Europa League, League Route Playoffs: 26 third qualifying round winners - total 26 teams. The 13 winners from this stage will advance to the Europa League group stages.

If AEK are eliminated in the Champions League Champions Route 3rd qualifying round, they will enter the UEFA Europa League Champions Route playoffs. If AEK are eliminated in the UEFA Champions League Champions Route playoffs, they will automatically join the UEFA Europa League group stages. 

  • Europa League Champions Route Play-offs: Consists of the six teams eliminated in UEFA Champions League Champions Route 3rd qualifying round plus the ten winners from UEFA Europa League Champions Route 3rd qualifying round - total 16 teams. The 8 winners from this stage will advance to the Europa League group stages.

Europa League group stage format remains the same

Although the format of the qualification process has changed, the format of the EuropeLeague group stages will remain the same. The 48 clubs will continue to be split up into twelve groups of four teams and each team will play their opponents in home and away matches. The top two teams from each group will march on to the knockout stages of the competition.

Champions League & Europa League group stage matches to begin at different times

There will be one major change for Champions League fans as the kick-off times in the group stages will be different this season. Gone are the days of the classic 21:45 (local Greek time), 14:45 EST, 4:45 AM (Sydney/Melbourne) kick off time for the Champions League group matches. The matches will now be separated into two different kick-off times, similar to the Europa League format. 

The first half of matches will begin at 19:55 (local Greek time), 12:55 EST, 2:55 AM (Sydney/Australia) and the second half of matches will kick off at 22:00 (local Greek time), 15:00 EST, 5:00 AM (Sydney/Australia). This will allow for more televised matches and will give the opportunity to fans to watch multiple matches during the day.

The Europa League group stages, who have followed the split kick-off philosophy since the competition was renamed from the UEFA Cup, will continue with split kick-off times. However, as opposed to the first kick off times of 20:00 (local Greek time), 13:00 EST, 3:00 AM  (Sydney/Australia) and the second kick off times of 22:05 (local Greek time), 15:05 EST, 5:05 AM (Sydney/Australia), the Europa League group stage matches will kick off in two doses like the Champions League times mentioned above (19:55 and 22:00 local Greek time).

All the Champions League knockout stage matches will begin at 22:00 (local Greek time). The UEFA Europa League Round of 32 matches will continue with the same split kick-off times as in the group stages, however starting in the Round of 16, all matches will begin at 22:00 (local Greek time). 

Fourth substitution allowed in knockout stages extra time

Effective the 2018/19 season, teams will be granted an additional substitution (fourth) in knockout stage matches that go into extra time. This change will be implemented in both competitions. As of now, teams are only allowed three substitutions in 90-minute matches, but with this new change, matches that go into extra time will allow managers to make one more substitution on the pitch.

 
by Sarantos Kaperonis
Image Source: sportfm.gr
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