2012/13 Champions League – Format and Seeding

With the 2011/12 season finished almost everywhere in Europe, we now know all of the teams who will participate in next season’s Champions League, and  it is possible to work out the seeding for each round.

Format

The format of the Champions League has changed a few times over the years, particularly in the qualifying stages.  Since 2009/10, the qualifying rounds have been split into two distinct sections – one for Champions and one for non-Champions.   This idea was proposed by Michel Platini, who wanted more champions of smaller countries in the group stage.  To some extent it has worked, with APOEL Nicosia making it to the quarter-finals of last season’s tournament.

22 teams are granted direct entry into the group stage.  These places are given to the champions of the 12 highest ranked countries , the runners-up of the 6 highest ranked countries and the 3rd placed team in the 3 highest ranked countries.  The holders get a place in the groups if they haven’t already qualified, which is the case with Chelsea this year.  Had Bayern Munich won the Champions League, the holder spot would have been vacated and the champions of the 13th ranked nation (Anderlecht) would have entered at the group stage.

The “Champions Pathway” features the national champions from the UEFA members outside the top 12, with the exception of Liechtenstein, who don’t have a league.   There are 4 qualifying rounds, with the lower ranked countries entering earliest.

The “Non-Champions Pathway” features the lowest placed qualifiers from each of the 15 highest ranked UEFA leagues.  This season, it will feature just 14 teams as a result of Chelsea’s success.   UEFA rules state that no country is allowed to have more than 4 entrants in the Champions League, so 4th placed Spurs dropped into the Europa League.  This section has just 2 qualifying rounds, with the lowest ranked countries entering earliest.

Scotland are ranked 15th in the UEFA league coefficients, so we only just scraped a second Champions League spot.  With the poor performances in recent seasons, it is unlikely that we will have a second CL spot again for at least a few years.

Seeding

First of all, a note about seeding.  The seeding in both the Champions League and Europa League is based on the UEFA club coefficients, which are based on results in European competition over the past 5 years.  Clubs which have not participated in Europe over that period are given a score based on their nation’s coefficient.

All the seeding information is taken from Bert Kassies’ website, which is a treasure trove of statistics and ranking information.


Champions Pathway

Celtic will take part in this section of qualifying, and will enter at the 3rd Qualifying Round.  Here, I’ll look at the seeding in each of the rounds in turn to give an idea of who Celtic might face.

1st Qualifying Round

Draw: 25th June
Matches – 3rd/4th July and 10th/11th July

Only 6 sides enter the Champions League at this stage.

The first matches will take place 2 days after the final of Euro 2012, but it is highly unlikely that any players will take part in both matches given that this round features clubs from Andorra, Faroe Islands, Luxembourg, Malta, Northern Ireland and San Marino.

The teams taking part, and their seedings are shown below.

2nd Qualifying Round

Draw: 25th June
Matches – 17th/18th July and 24th/25th July

31 teams enter at this stage, and are joined by the 3 winners from the previous round.

The draws for the 1st and 2nd Qualifying Rounds are carried out at the same time (25th June), which means that 3 entrants will be unknown at the time of the draw.   UEFA work around this by assuming that the seeded team will win each tie in the previous round.  In this case it doesn’t matter too much, because even the highest ranked team from the 1st Qualifying Round would be unseeded in the 2nd Qualifying Round anyway.

Linfield, F91 Dudelange and Valletta FC in white text and italics because they may not actually make it to this round.

3rd Qualifying Round

Draw: 20th July
Matches – 31st July/1st August and 7th/8th August

3 teams, including Celtic, enter at this stage, and are joined by the 17 winners from the previous round.

The draw for this stage takes place between the 1st and 2nd legs of the 2nd Qualifying Round, so none of the other 17 entrants will be confirmed at the time of the draw.  Again, for the purposes of the draw UEFA assume that the seeded teams from the 2nd Qualifying Round will win.

While Celtic will come out of the hat on the 20th of July, their opponents won’t be confirmed until nearly a week later, giving them just 6-8 days to prepare.

The list below gives an indication of the sides which should reach the 3rd Qualifying Round according to seeding, but only Celtic, Anderlecht and CFR Cluj will definitely be in this round. It is therefore not a complete list of opponents and Celtic could also play any of the unseeded teams from the previous round.

The teams who lose at this stage will enter the Europa League Play-off Round.

Play-off Round

Draw: 10th August
Matches – 21st/22nd August and 28th/29th August

The 10 winners from the previous round will take part in this round.  There are no new entrants.

This round is drawn after the previous round is completed, so the seedings will only be known at that stage.  The table below is merely speculative, and assumes that every single seeded side wins in the previous round.  Celtic are guaranteed to be seeded at this stage if they make it through the previous round.

The teams who reach this round are guaranteed a place in a group stage of some sort.  The 5 winners progress to the Champions League Group Stage, while the 5 losers will drop down to the Europa League Group Stage.

Non-Champions Pathway

Motherwell will take part in this section of qualifying, and will enter at the 3rd Qualifying Round.  Their potential opponents for their first tie are already known, but I’ll also look at who they could play if they make it through to the next round.

3rd Qualifying Round

Draw: 20th July
Matches – 31st July/1st August and 7th/8th August

8 teams, including Motherwell, enter at this stage.

Despite being the first round in the non-Champions section, this round is referred to as the 3rd Qualifying Round because it runs parallel to the 3rd Qualifying Round in the Champions section.

The 8 teams participating in this round are all known, and Motherwell are unseeded.  They only have 4 potential opponents – Dynamo Kyiv, Panathinaikos, FC Copenhagen or Fenerbahce.

The teams who lose at this stage will enter the Europa League Play-off Round.

Play-off Round

Draw: 10th August
Matches – 21st/22nd August and 28th/29th August

6 teams enter at this stage and are joined by the 4 winners from the previous round.

This round is drawn after the previous round is completed, so the seedings will only be known at that stage.  The table below is merely speculative, and assumes that every single seeded side wins in the previous round.

That previous table is slightly lacking in Scottish interest, and I’m sure Motherwell fans will be interested to know who they might play if they manage to pull a shock off in the previous round.  In that case, their potential opponents would depend on the outcome of the other matches in the 3rd Qualifying Round.

If we assume that the other 3 matches go to seeding, then Motherwell’s potential opponents would be Braga and Spartak Moscow plus the other 3 seeded teams from the previous round.  I’ve illustrated this below by assuming that Motherwell face and beat Fenerbahce in the 3rd Qualifying Round, but the same applies if they beat Dynamo Kyiv, Panathinaikos or Copenhagen (simply replace the beaten side with Fenerbahce).

If any the other ties in the previous round go in favour of the unseeded teams then Motherwell could potentially face Udinese or Lille.  It is not possible that they could face Malaga or Borussia Monchengladbach though – both of these sides are guaranteed to be unseeded in the Play-off Round.

The teams who reach this round are guaranteed a place in a group stage of some sort.  The 5 winners progress to the Champions League Group Stage, while the 5 losers will drop down to the Europa League Group Stage

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About SPLstats
Providing statistics and trivia about Scottish football. Main focus is the SPL, but all Scottish football will be covered. Not affiliated to the SPL.

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