The world’s richest club competition, the UEFA Champions League, is back, with the group stage draws set to happen in a couple of days’ time. German club Bayern Munich won the trophy last season, and will be one of the favourites again to reclaim the crown, but will be challenged by other big clubs all around Europe.
However, a question that sometimes goes unanswered is how the 32 teams participating in the UEFA Champions League chosen. Which are the teams that participate in the playoffs before the group stages?
With the UEFA Champions League draw to take place on Thursday, click the next few pages to get a lowdown on how the competition works:
UEFA Country coefficient
Why does the English Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga have four teams playing in the UEFA Champions League, when the Serie A has only three?
That is all decided by UEFA’s country coefficient, which is calculated by the performances of the country’s club sides in European competitions. Each country is given points each season based on how clubs from the country perform in the Champions League and Europa League, and their points tally over a phase of 5 years are added to give their total score.
Since the English and Spanish teams have done well in the last half a decade, they rank high in this coefficient table, and are allowed four teams in the UEFA Champions League, and three in the UEFA Europa League.
With the decline of AC Milan and Inter Milan, the Serie A have not been very consistent in Europe in recent years. That is why they fall behind. On the other hand, due to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund’s success last term, the Germans have a high number for the 2012-13 season.
To see how the points are calculated, you can check the UEFA website.
Again, a country’s coefficient decides how many direct qualifiers they get from its league.
The teams who occupy the top three league places in the countries ranked 1 to 3 in UEFA competition gain automatic entry into the group stages for the following season’s Champions League competition.
The first and second placed teams in the countries ranked 4 to 6 also gain automatic entry, while the champions in the countries ranked 7 to 12 enter the group stages directly.
The Champions League holders automatically qualify as well.
Here are the 22 teams that have qualified directly this season:
The other 10 teams are chosen via three stages of qualifiers, divided into the Champions Route and the League Route.
The Champions Route is played by the champions of the countries ranked 14 to 53 in the UEFA country coefficient. 5 teams get selected to the Champions League group stages.
The League Route is played by the teams who are not automatic qualifiers from each of the countries. 5 teams get selected from here to the Champions League group stages.
UEFA Club coefficient
Just like the country coefficient, clubs also have a coefficient that help them in the seedings. This coefficient is calculated based on their performances in the last 5 years. Therefore, despite Bayern Munich’s Champions League victory last season, Barcelona are ahead of the Bundesliga club.
It is because of this that Manchester City will be behind Arsenal in the seedings, even though they qualified directly and Arsenal have had to go through qualifiers. Arsenal, because of their good performances in the Champions League in recent seasons, will go straight into Pot 1.
Inter Milan’s ranking is expected to drop this year as they will not be participating in the Champions League. Therefore, they might fall out of the first pot by next season.
Champions League matchdays
The Champions League will have 6 matchdays for the group stages, and two-legged knockout rounds for the round of 16, quarterfinals and semifinals. The final will be a one-off match in a neutral venue, with the location of this season’s final the Estadio da Luz.
Group stage draw: August 29, 2013.
Group stage matchday 1: September 17-18, 2013.
Group stage matchday 2: October 1-2, 2013.
Group stage matchday 3: October 22-23, 2013.
Group stage matchday 4: November 5-6, 2013.
Group stage matchday 5: November 26-27, 2013.
Group stage matchday 6: December 10-11, 2013.
Round of 16 draw: December 13, 2013.
Quarterfinal draw: March 21, 2014.
Semifinal and final draw: April 11, 2014.