Automatic Group Stage Qualification From Next Season
Staggered Kick-Off Times
Premier League clubs have received a boost with Uefa’s latest announcement regarding changes to the Champions League.
Starting from next season all four Premier League sides that qualify for the Champions League will get a direct passage into the group stages. At present only three clubs go directly into the groups with the fourth-placed side having to go to the play-off round.
Liverpool, who finished in fourth spot last season, had to get past the fourth-placed side in Germany, 1899 Hoffenheim to get into the group stages.
The prospect of such a fixture happening at that stage in subsequent seasons has now disappeared. Not only will the four Premier League sides go straight to the group stages, the four teams from Germany’s Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga will also have a direct passage. In addition, the reigning Champions League winners – if they fail to qualify via their domestic league – and the winners of the Europa League will also go straight into the group stages.
The changes mean that 26 clubs will avoid play-off and qualification rounds to get into the group stages against 22 at present.
At the other end of the competition, the champions of the four nations with the lowest Uefa ranking – currently Gibraltar, San Marino, Kosovo and Andorra, will play a mini-tournament of two rounds each with one leg with the tournament winners going in to the first qualifying round.
There are also changes to kick-off times. At present, all matches kick off at 7.45pm UK time (8.45pm CET). Under the new proposals, kick-off times will be staggered with matches starting at 5.55 or 8pm. That means fans will get to watch two games on each match day. A similar arrangement currently exists in the Europa League.
Premier League clubs will also not be expected to play in the qualifying round of the Europa League.