New rules for UEFA Champions League
Premier League clubs will be handed a boost from next season with direct entry to the group stages of the Champions League24 April 2018 | FT Editor
New rules introduced by UEFA mean that finishing in fourth place in the Premier League will result in automatic qualification for the group stages of Europe’s premier club competition from next season.
Under the current competition rules, any side which finished fourth in the league would have to qualify for the competition via a tricky two-legged play-off, but now 26 teams will automatically qualify for the group stages. Previous year's winners of the Champions League and the Europa League will now also have guaranteed qualification to the last 32.
The caveat is if two teams that finish outside England’s top four win the Champions League and the Europa League, then the fourth-placed team would drop into the Europa League.
Other changes include player-friendly changes aimed at addressing the concerns of clubs with a congested calendar, or with a reduced player roster.
Clubs will be allowed to register three new eligible players without any restrictions after the group stage. Further, players bought in the January tranfer window will be able to feature in European competitions regardless of who they played for previously. In another measure, a fourth substitute will be allowed in knockout matches, but only during extra time. And 23 players (instead of the current 18) can be named in match day squads.
There will also be staggered kick-off times with two matches played on Tuesday and two on Wednesday in the group stage, kicking-off at 1755 hours GMT. Other matches will kick-off at 2000 hours GMT. All fixtures on the last match day will be played simultaneously.
So who are are the 26 teams that will qualify automatically for the Champions League in 2018-19?
- UEFA Champions League holders (1)
- UEFA Europa League holders (1)
- Top four from Spain, Germany, England and Italy (16)
- Top two from France and Russia (4)
- Champions of Portugal, Ukraine, Belgium and Turkey (4).
On current standings, Champions Leagues contenders for 2018-19 are listed below. (Those who have already qualified are denoted in bold).
- Spain: Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Valencia
- Germany: Bayern Munich, Schalke, Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen
- England: Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham
- Italy: Juventus, Napoli, Roma, Lazio
- France: PSG, Monaco
- Russia: Lokomotiv Moscow, Spartak Moskva
- Portugal: Benfica
- Ukraine: Shakhtar Donetsk
- Belgium: Club Brugge
- Turkey: Galatasaray
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