Things have changed in the Champions League ahead of the 2015/16 season (via UEFA.com), and these changes could potentially make things very difficult for us. UEFA have changed the pot system that has seen us as a top seed all these years, meaning we could now be drawn against some giants of European football.
Although we are some way off the group stages at this point, we can still work out most of the teams that will be involved – and make an educated guess regarding who the likely qualifiers will be.
As it stands there are currently 22 teams who have guaranteed their place in the group stages, with 21 teams qualifying through their final league standings, and Sevilla booking their place by winning the Europa League.
The teams we know so far are listed below:
Spain – Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla
England – Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City
Germany – Bayern Munich, VfL Wolfsburg, Borussia Monchengladbach
Italy – Juventus, Roma
Portugal – Benfica, FC Porto
France – PSG, Lyon
Russia – Zenit
Netherlands – PSV Eindhoven
Ukraine – Dynamo Kiev
Belgium – Gent
Turkey – Galatasaray
Greece – Olympiacos
That leaves ten group stage spots remaining, with those places set to be decided by the qualifying rounds.
There are five teams who are already in the play offs, and although nothing is guaranteed, you would expect most – if not all – of them to sail through into the group stages.
The playoff teams are below:
Play off teams – Valencia, Manchester United, Bayer Leverkusen, Lazio, Sporting Lisbon
There are a huge number of teams involved in the qualifying rounds ahead of the playoffs, but here are a few of the stronger teams who are already in the third qualifying round:
Third qualifying round – AS Monaco, CSKA Moscow, Ajax, Shakhtar Dontesk, Club Brugge, Fenerbahce, Panathanaikos, Young Boys, Rapid Vienna, Sparta Prague, Basel, FC Salzburg
It’s pure speculation, but based on the quality of the opposition and previous Champions Leagues, we could guess at which of these teams would be most likely to make it through to the group stages.
Ten most likely qualifiers – Valencia, Manchester United, Bayer Levekusen, Lazio, Sporting Lisbon, AS Monaco, CSKA Moscow, Ajax, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Basel.
This is where the big changes come in, with the pot system potentially throwing up some interesting looking groups.
Pot one will now be made up of the Champions from each of Europe’s top seven leagues – based on UEFA’s coefficient system – as well as the current holders. If the current holders (Barcelona) also won their league, then their spot would go to the champions of the league with the eighth best coefficient – in this case Eredivisie and PSV Eindhoven.
That means that this year’s pot one will be as follows:
Pot 1 – Barcelona, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Benfica, PSG, Zenit, and PSV Eindhoven.
The remaining pots are still decided based on UEFA’s original coefficient system, meaning that we will be in pot two this year as opposed to pot one.
Below is every team in order of their coefficient, and therefore which group they would be in:
This could totally change based on which teams get through the qualifiers, but we won’t have any more information for quite some time.
This new format could see us get a really tricky group, although we could get lucky with the draw.
Here are a few combinations that we could see:
Option 1 – Barcelona, Arsenal, Lyon, Roma
Option 2 – Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Sevilla, AS Monaco
Option 3 – PSV Eindhoven, Arsenal, Olympiacos, Lazio
Making it through the group stages looks like it is going to be harder than ever, but we need to beat the best in order to be the best. We are regulars in the Champions League last 16, but we should be aiming far higher than that.
Hopefully the draw is kind to us this year, and we can kick on and get further – and potentially even win – the Champions League.