It’s all change in the Champions League

Morning my fellow Gooners.

Yesterday was a crazy day of transfers that saw over £80m exchanged through various clubs across the continent. The biggest deal of the day was the £55m transfer of Kaka from Milan to Real Madrid, which is not 100% confirmed, but pretty much 90% at the time of writing. In addition, the transfer of Gareth Barry from Aston Villa to Man City for a much lower fee than anticipated, believed to be £12m. The question beckons whether at £7m less than this time last season, whether we should have been interested in this deal – of course, opta stats say we have one of the best midfielders in the country in Denilson, so in reality maybe not what we’re looking for.

As one of our readers pointed to in the comments, this image could become real if stories are to believed.

Lorik Cana in an Arsenal shirt???

(I stress this is an imitation only, not based on a real transfer).

Yes, I’ve got a little off topic – the aim of today’s article is to look at the Champions League changes for 2009 / 2010.

So, the format has completely changed and it’s absolutely crazy in terms of complication – it used to be so simple – with P1 and P2 automatically qualifying for the group stage and Q3 and Q4 going into a seeded draw to qualify for the group stage. Now, it’s not so straightforward.

First, let’s take a look at who we can be drawn against:

Atletico Madrid, Fiorentina, Lyon, Stuttgart

and 5 teams out of the following 10 teams:

Dynamo Moscow, Dinamo Bucharest, Sporting Lisbon, Twente, Celtic, Sivasspor, Shakhtar Donetsk, Anderlecht, Panathanaikos, and Sparta Prague.

So, now let’s try to translate the way this is going to work into something understandable…

So the qualifying rounds come in two formats named “The Champions Path” and “The Best Placed Path”, with winners from each section qualifying seperately into the group stage.

The Champions Path

This half of the qualifying procedure is basically aimed at ensuring that some of the Champions from lower leagues will be represented in the group stage. Get ready for this.

The first qualifying round comprises three two-legged ties involving the champions of the countries ranked 48 to 53 in UEFA competition. The winners of those ties progress to the second qualifying round where they are joined by the champions of the 31 countries ranked 16 to 47 (except Liechtenstein). The victorious sides from those 17 ties join the champions from the associations ranked 13 to 15 in the third qualifying round, with the winners of those ten pairings reaching the play-off round. These five play-off ties will take place on a home-and-away basis with the winners qualifying for the UEFA Champions League group stage.

As described, this phase doesn’t include Arsenal, as we’ll be in the Best Placed Path. The Champions Path will ensure that the Champions of some of the lower league countries will make it to the Champions League “proper”. The Champions of San Marino and Andorra, ranked 53rd and 52nd respectively will play 3 rounds but the hardest teams they will play will be from Greece, the Czech Replublic or Switzerland. Now this really doesn’t concern us too much.

The Best Placed Path

Now this really concerns us – it’s the other side of qualifying and only involves the top 15 ranked countries in UEFA.

The third-placed side from the sixth-ranked member association, plus the runners-up from the associations ranked 7 to 15, start the competition in the third qualifying round. The winners of these five ties progress to the play-off round, where they are joined by the fourth-placed sides from the associations ranked 1 to 3 and the third-placed teams from the associations ranked 4 and 5. The victorious teams from the five play-off ties qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage.

The fourth placed team in England, Spain and Italy (yes, we’re one of them) go into the draw along side the third placed team in France and Germany – making up 5 teams – those being Arsenal, Athletico Madrid, Fiorentina, Lyon and Stuttgart.

Then the third placed team in Russia alongside the runners up from Romania (who are ranked above Portugal), Portugal, Holland, Scotland, Turkey, Ukraine, Belgium, Greece and the Czech Republic – will all have a two legged qualifying tound with five teams progressing to the final round – to be played against the previous 5 teams mentioned.

As mentioned above, we can get one of the 14 teams which includes Athletico, Fiorentia, Lyon, Stuttgart, Celtic, Sporting Lisbon and pretty much a hell of a lot of difficult teams.

It’s going to be an interesting August and we’ll find by the 4th August, the 14 possible teams will become 9 possible teams. If we do make it, we won’t play any of the above teams in the Group stage. So why has all this been done – ultimately, it’s been done to share more of the Champions League revenue with the smaller countries – and in addition, it will also raise the profile of the Europa League, which UEFA are really trying to make into a Champions League II – why didn’t they just name it that!

As August approaches, we’ll revisit how the competition is progressing, but for the meantime, at least you know what’s in store!

  • devday

    Zohaib, I think you’re right – apart from the “big four”, Man City are a team who are looking to challenge and become a top team. If none of the top four wanted him, then from his point of view – from a footballing point, it’s the next best thing – from a money point of view, of course, it’s beneficial too!

  • Cappz

    Dude – this Champions League qualifying is a complete mess – why on earth they changed it is beyond me – okay, I see why – but still, we’ve in for a hard time and I don’t like it.

    If we get Athletico Madrid, we’ll face Aguero (best striker in the world) and Forlan (who’s been brilliant this season) – they’ve also got Simao and Maxi Rodriguez!

    Dude, I’m worried!!!

  • Fo

    Why is there a picture of Lorik Cana in an Arsenal shirt – was this taken somewhere? Did he do this?

    There is so much hype around this now – it soooo won’t happen!

  • Arsefan101

    Thanks for giving us the low-down on the Champions League – it’s really useful to read through this – it’s going to be tough no doubt – but if we want to win the competition, we’ve got to play everyone, so bring it on!

  • AJ

    Argh, I saw the picture on facebook and foolishly fell for it :(

  • Yemi

    This break-down on the CL seems so complex, i am still trying to figure it out. Maybe when it starts off i will get a grip of it. August is alrady here!!

  • zohaib

    My brain is in a tangled mess. That is so confusing. But the one and only thing I was able to figure out after reading that is that the number of teams that rank from 16 to 47 is 32, not 31 Dev. We’re also counting 16, which means it’s 47 – 15 = 32. Lol.

    What isn’t clear is, how many teams from the first qualifying round comprising of three two-legged ties involving the champions of the countries ranked 48 to 53 in UEFA competition, go through ? Is it 2 or 3 or 4 ? Also, what format will it be ? Will it be one single group or two different groups. If it’s one single group, why isn’t everybody playing against everybody else, making it 5, two-legged ties ? If it’s two different groups, it starts to make a bit of sense.

    And the next thing that isn’t clear is for the second qualifying round, where there are 32 teams plus the 2 or 3 or 4 (probably 2 or 4, to make matters even) from the first qualifying round, will it be one single group, like a league table, or will it be 2 or 4 or 6 different groups, and will it only be one-legged ?

    It says in the quotation, that there’ll be 17 ties, which means 34 teams, which should mean 32 plus 2 from the first qualifying round. Very confusing.

  • Arsefan101

    I realised that the UEFA site / quotes are also a little bit wrong, they’ve miscounted the number of teams on several occasions. I think it’s clear that the Best Placed Path is 5 ties comprising of the 5 best placed finishes and the winners of 5 games between the next 10 best placed finishes… I think!

  • Fo

    After Barry, I hear Tevez is next fo Man City!

  • artan

    I hope that arsenal to move Cane My desire is to see the flames lorik Cane club to play for arsenal and you have prayed that it takes wenger Cane mir dot make a fan from Kosovo welcomes you

  • Gujev

    Cana now plays with Sunderland, Wenger is slow off the mark.