PAOK’s path to the UEFA Champions League group stages
AGONAsport’s Sarantos Kaperonis explains PAOK’s path to the UEFA Champions League group stages breaking down the possible opponents, the qualifying format, and key dates during the qualifying process.
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Greece’s representatives for the 2018/19 UEFA season
At the end of the 2016/17 UEFA season, Greece finished 14th in UEFA's Associations’ Club Coefficient Ranking. With this placement, the 2017/18 Greek SuperLeague and Greek Cup yielded a total of 5 representatives for next year's 2018/19 UEFA Champions League & Europa League. The top two teams from the SuperLeague will enter the Champions League (AEK, PAOK) while the 3rd-5th placed team of the SuperLeague (Olympiacos, Atromitos, Asteras Tripolis) will enter the UEFA Europa League (Asteras were granted a place in Europe due to PAOK winning the Greek Cup).
PAOK’s path to the Champions League group stages
As in previous seasons, Champions League qualifying will be separated into two groups: The Champions Route, consisting of teams that won their domestic leagues, and the League Route, consisting of teams that did not win their domestic leagues. As a domestic league runner-up, PAOK will participate in the League Route. Since the domestic league non-champion teams of associations ranked 1st-4th in UEFA Associations' Club Coefficient Rankings (Spain, England, Germany, Italy) will automatically qualify for the group stages, PAOK can only be drawn with non champion teams from associations ranked 5th-15th in the qualifying rounds.
As Greece’s SuperLeague runner-ups, PAOK will enter the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round (League Route), meaning the Dikefalos tou Vora will need to progress through THREE qualifying rounds (2nd round, 3rd round, and playoffs) to qualify for the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League group stages.
If PAOK are victorious in the second qualifying round, they will advance to the Champions League third qualifying round, however defeat will send them to the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round (League Route).
If PAOK are victorious in the third qualifying round, they will advance to the Champions League playoffs, however defeat will send them directly to the UEFA Europa League group stages (no additional qualifiers needed).
If PAOK are then victorious in the playoffs, they will advance to the UEFA Champions League group stages, however defeat will send them to the UEFA Europa League group stages (no additional qualifiers needed).
All qualifying rounds consist of a two-legged playoff and the team with the most goals over two legs (on aggregate) will progress to the next round. In the case of a tie on aggregate after two legs, the team with the most away goals will advance. For more clarification on the qualifying process, follow the links to the full Champions League Format and Europa League Format.
PAOK’s possible opponents
Due to PAOK’s average placement in UEFA's Club Coefficient Ranking (49th), the Dikefalos tou Vorra will be "unseeded" for the 2nd qualifying round draw, leading to theoretically more difficult opponents. However, if they advance to the 3rd qualifying round, they will be “seeded” in the draw and have theoretically easier opponents.
In the four team second qualifying round, PAOK will either be drawn with Ajax (NED) or Basel (SUI), who are both seeded for the draw.
If PAOK advance to the third qualifying round their possible opponents will consist of the unseeded teams: Fenerbahce (TUR), Spartak Moscow (RUS), Standard Liege (BEL), and Slavia Prague (CZE).
If PAOK advance to the Champions League playoffs, the results of the other matches will depend if PAOK are seeded or unseeded for the draw. Nonetheless, possible opponents include the teams above plus Benfica (POR) and Dynamo Kyiv (UKR).
Important Champions League qualifying dates for PAOK
19 June: Second qualifying round draw
23 July: Third qualifying round draw
24/25 July: Second qualifying round, first leg
31 July/1 August: Second qualifying round, second leg
6 August: Playoff round draw
7/8 August: Third qualifying round, first leg
14 August: Third qualifying round, second leg
21/22 August: Play-off round, first leg
28/29 August: Play-off round, second leg