AEK’s path to the UEFA Champions League group stages
AGONAsport’s Sarantos Kaperonis explains AEK’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).
AEK’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 league champion, AEK will participate in the Champion’s Route. Since the domestic league champions of associations ranked 1st-11th in the UEFA Associations' Club Coefficient Rankings will automatically qualify for the group stages, AEK can only be drawn with champions from associations ranked 12th-55th in the qualifying rounds.
As Greece’s SuperLeague champion, AEK will enter the UEFA Champions League 3rd qualifying round (Champions Route), meaning the Kitrinomavri will need to progress through TWO qualifying rounds (3rd round and playoffs) to qualify for the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League group stages.
If AEK are victorious in the third qualifying round, they will advance to the Champions League playoffs, however defeat will send them to the UEFA Europa League playoffs (Champions Route).
If AEK 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.
AEK’s possible opponents
Due to AEK’s low placement in UEFA's Club Coefficient Ranking (122nd), the Kitrinomavri will be "unseeded" for the 3rd qualifying round draw, leading to theoretically more difficult opponents.
As of now, FC Salzburg (AUT) is the only confirmed possible opponent for AEK in the 3rd qualifying round. The other five possible opponents will be determined after the conclusion of the 2nd qualifying round. Notable possible opponents include: Ludogorets (BUL), Celtic (SCO), APOEL (CYP), Legia Warsaw (POL), Astana (KAZ), BATE (BLR), Malmo (SWE), and Dinamo Zagreb (CRO).
If AEK advance to the Champions League playoffs, AEK’s possible opponents include the teams mentioned above plus PSV (NED).
It is worth noting that the draw for the playoffs will take place before the end of the 3rd qualifying round. This scheduling benefits AEK as they could be seeded in the playoff draw if AEK are drawn with a strong coefficient club in the 3rd qualifying round (a theoretically tougher opponent). In this case, the coefficient of the higher coefficient team (in this scenario AEK's opponents) will be used to seed the team in the playoff draw. If AEK eliminate their opponents in the 3rd qualifying round, they will benefit from this triumph and will be matched with an unseeded team in the playoffs (an opponent they will already know since the playoff draw will occur before the end of the 3rd qualifying round).
Important Champions League qualifying dates for AEK
23 July: Third qualifying round draw
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
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