ZURICH (Reuters) - The draw for a new-look Champions League group stage, featuring more teams from Europe’s top five leagues and fewer representatives from the smaller ones, takes place in Monaco on Thursday (1600 GMT).
The following is a look at the controversial changes that have been made and how the draw itself works:
UEFA uses two ranking systems for its club competitions, to determine seedings and slot allocation.
The “association coefficients” rank the national associations according to the results of their respective clubs.
The “club coefficients” rank clubs according to their own results over a five-year period.
Twenty-six teams qualify directly for the 32-team group stage. They are:
-The defending champions (Real Madrid)
-The Europa League champions (Atletico Madrid).
-The top four teams from the each of the top four-ranked nations according to the association coefficients — currently Spain, England, Germany and Italy. .
-The top-two league teams from the fifth and sixth-ranked national associations — currently France and Russia.
-The league champions of the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10-ranked national associations — Portugal, Ukraine, Belgium and Turkey.
Four slots are reserved for the champions of national associations ranked 11th and downwards who take part in a qualifying competition.
Two more places are open to teams from the so-called “league path” which features the runners-up from mid-ranked associations.
Real Madrid qualified both as holders and via La Liga, leaving an extra place which went to the champions of the 11th-ranked association - the Czech Republic’s Viktoria Plzen.
Europa League winners Atletico Madrid also qualified through the league and that extra place was taken by the third-ranked team in the French league, Olympique Lyonnais.
What has changed?:
UEFA says the competition has undergone “evolution not revolution.” Although the format is the same, the allocation of slots is different.
Previously, Spain, England and Germany, the top three-ranked associations, received three guaranteed places in the group stage while Italy, ranked fourth, received two. Under the new system, those four countries receive four slots each.
This has also led to a re-jigging of other slots.
The number of places open champions of the lower-ranked nations taking part in the qualifying competition has been reduced from five to four.
Furthermore, the champions of the 11th and 12th-ranked national associations — currently the Czech Republic and Switzerland — have lost their direct places in the group stage and must now enter those qualifiers.
Czech champions Viktoria Plzen, however, were ultimately spared the qualifiers thanks to Real Madrid qualifying by two criteria. And Swiss champions Young Boys beat Dinamo Zagreb in the playoff round to reach the group stage for the first time.
When were the changes made?
The changes were made during the summer of 2016 amid speculation that Europe’s biggest clubs were considering setting up a breakaway league.
UEFA had been without a president since the previous December when Frenchman Michel Platini was banned for eight years by global soccer body FIFA for ethics violations, later reduced to four on appeal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Platini has denied wrongdoing.
How does the draw work?
The teams are divided into four seeding pots, and one team from each pot is drawn into each group.
Pot one consists of: Champions League winners Real Madrid, Europe League winners Atletico Madrid, and the champions of Europe’s six top-ranked associations: Barcelona, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris St Germain (France) and Lokomotiv Moscow.
The other pots are determined by the club coefficients. Before Wednesday’s final playoff results, the pots were as follows:
Pot two: Borussia Dortmund, Porto, Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Napoli, Tottenham Hotspur, AS Roma
Pot three: Schalke 04, Olympique Lyonnais, AS Monaco, Ajax Amsterdam, CSKA Moscow
Pot four: Club Bruges, Galatasaray, Young Boys Bern, Inter Milan, Hoffenheim, AEK Athens.
To be decided depending on Wednesday’s results: Liverpool, Valencia, Viktoria Plzen and the winners of the three remaining playoffs.
Writing by Brian Homewood, editing by Pritha Sarkar