Your Champions League group-stage draw companion

Your Champions League group-stage draw companion

The Champions League draw takes place on Thursday in Turkey, with this season’s group stage to be squeezed into nine weeks to accommodate the 2022 World Cup.

Figures from Europe’s most influential clubs will converge on Istanbul for the draw, which features a total of 32 teams who will be divided into eight groups. 

Real Madrid are the defending champions after they defeated Liverpool in last season’s final. German club Eintracht Frankfurt will join them in pot one thanks to their Europa League final win over Scottish Premiership side Rangers.

This season’s tournament will introduce several rule tweaks before sweeping changes to the competition in 2024.

So who has qualified, how does the draw work and how has Russia’s invasion of Ukraine impacted the competition? This is your essential Champions League draw companion.

Follow live coverage of today’s Champions League draw by clicking here.

The basics

What time does the draw take place?

The draw, which will see 32 teams placed in eight groups of four, starts at 5pm (UK time) on Thursday. That is 12pm (ET) or 9am (PT).

How can I watch it?

The Champions League group-stage draw will be broadcast live on UEFA’s official YouTube channel and website.

Those based in the UK can also watch the draw on the BT Sport website and app. 

Paramount+ and CBS Sports HQ have the rights in the United States, and DAZN is the place to go if you are based in Canada.

You can also follow the draw live on The Athletic.

Where is it?

This year’s draw will be held at the home of this season’s Champions League final — the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey.

It is a case of third time lucky for that particular venue — the Champions League final had to be moved from Istanbul in 2020 and 2021.

The 2020 Champions League final between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich was moved to Benfica’s Estadio da Luz in Lisbon as UEFA decided to host a behind-closed-doors last-eight tournament in Portugal after COVID-19 wrecked the usual football calendar.

A year later, the final between Manchester City and Chelsea was also relocated to Portugal — this time, Porto’s Estadio do Dragao — just two weeks before to allow fans to attend. This was because Turkey was on the UK government’s “red list” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A final in Turkey at that point would have meant City and Chelsea fans travelling back to the UK would have to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days on their return.

And what is the schedule?

Group stage

  • Matchday 1: September 6-7
  • Matchday 2: September 13-14
  • Matchday 3: October 4-5
  • Matchday 4: October 11-12
  • Matchday 5: October 25-26
  • Matchday 6: November 1-2

Knockout phase

  • Round of 16: February 14-15/21-22 & March 7-8/14-15
  • Quarter-finals: April 11-12 & 18-19
  • Semi-finals: May 9-10 & 16-17
  • Final: June 10

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was on top form to stop Mohamed Salah and Liverpool in last season’s final (Photo: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

The rules

How does the draw work?

The 32 teams are separated into four “pots”, with each group containing one side from each pot.

The pots are representative of teams’ ranking within Europe. Pot one contains the winners of last season’s Champions League and Europa League, as well as the winners of the top six divisions in Europe. Pots two, three and four are then determined by clubs’ UEFA coefficients.

If a country has two clubs in the group stage, they will be “paired” to split their matches between Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

If a country has four representatives, such as England, two pairings will be made to split them up. These pairings are determined by TV audiences.

The process begins with teams from pot one being drawn into group A, group B, group C and so on.

Teams from pot two are drawn, followed by pots three and four. Once a side is picked, a computer immediately selects the next available group in which it can be placed, in accordance with TV pairings and restrictions on who they can face.

So, which teams cannot play each other?

Two teams from the same football association cannot be drawn into the same group. That means, for example, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur cannot be placed together despite being in different pots.

England and Scotland have separate UEFA member associations, even though they are technically part of the same country, the United Kingdom. Therefore, Celtic and Rangers could be drawn against an English side.

There are usually geographic restrictions on the draw too. Since 2014, Russian and Ukrainian teams have been prevented from being placed in the same group.

However, this season, Russian teams have been banned from playing in UEFA competitions.

Zenit Rubin

No Russian sides will compete in the Champions League this season (Photo: Mike Kireev/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The pots

Pot one

  • Real Madrid (Champions League holders and La Liga champions)
  • Frankfurt (Europa League holders)
  • Manchester City (Premier League champions)
  • AC Milan (Serie A champions)
  • Bayern Munich (Bundesliga champions)
  • Paris Saint-Germain (Ligue 1 champions)
  • Porto (Primeira Liga champions)
  • Ajax (Eredivisie champions)

Pot two:

  • Liverpool (UEFA coefficient: 134.000)
  • Chelsea (123.000)
  • Barcelona (114.000)
  • Juventus (107.000)
  • Atletico Madrid (105.000)
  • Sevilla (91.000)
  • RB Leipzig (83.000)
  • Tottenham Hotspur (83.000)

Pot three

  • Borussia Dortmund (78.000)
  • Red Bull Salzburg (71.000)
  • Shakhtar Donetsk (71.000)
  • Inter Milan (67.000)
  • Napoli (66.000)
  • Benfica (61.000)
  • Sporting Lisbon (55.500)
  • Bayer Leverkusen (53.000)

Pot four

  • Rangers (50.250)
  • Dinamo Zagreb (49.500)
  • Marseille (44.000)
  • Copenhagen (40.500)
  • Club Bruges (38.500)
  • Celtic (33.000)
  • Viktoria Plzen (31.000)
  • Maccabi Haifa (7.000)
Bayern have the highest UEFA coefficient (Photo: Getty Images)

Bayern have the highest UEFA coefficient (Photo: Getty Images)

What is the toughest and kindest possible group according to the coefficient rankings?

The “toughest” possible group according to UEFA’s methodology would see their top-ranked team Bayern Munich (138.000) pitted against Liverpool, Salzburg and Rangers, for a combined group coefficient score of 393.250.

The “weakest” possible group would see Milan (38.000 — a coefficient that would ordinarily see them placed in pot four) drawn against Tottenham, Leverkusen and Maccabi Haifa, for a combined coefficient score of 181.000.

The three Premier League teams in pot two will probably be hoping to draw Frankfurt or Milan, one of the Portuguese sides or Salzburg in pot three and possibly Israeli side Maccabi Haifa.

What’s new?

Boost for Scottish sides and German history

UEFA announced in May that Russian sides would be banned from competing in European competition until further notice following the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Their co-efficient points were also removed.

That has had a knock-on effect for the Champions League’s “access list” — with Scottish sides among those to benefit in 2022-23.

Scottish champions Celtic — as well as Ukraine champions Shakhtar Donetsk — will enter the group stage rather than the play-off round, and Rangers started their campaign in the third qualifying round instead of the second before beating PSV Eindhoven last night to take their place in the draw.

Frankfurt are playing in the renamed Champions League for the first time, which means this season will be the first in which the Bundesliga has had five clubs competing in the competition (Bayern, Dortmund, Leverkusen and Leipzig join Frankfurt).

World Cup impact

Last season’s Champions League group stage ran from mid-September to early December but the 2022-23 competition will begin earlier than normal to accommodate the winter World Cup.

Group games will start a week earlier on September 6-7 and conclude on November 1-2.

With Premier League fixtures scheduled for the weekends of November 5-6 and 12-13, players are set for gruelling schedules before the big World Cup kick-off on November 20 — and international managers face a tight turnaround in getting their squads ready for action.

End of ‘armpit’ offsides?

A camera-based system to judge tight offside calls will be used in the group stage of this season’s competition, UEFA has confirmed.

Semi-automated offside technology, which was approved last month by FIFA for the forthcoming World Cup, uses multiple cameras to track players’ limbs and the moment when a key pass is made.

Controversial calls have occurred across Europe, with on-screen lines drawn for marginal calls criticised for resulting in “armpit offsides”.

But UEFA insists the specialised system, which can monitor 29 different body points on a player, will determine offside decisions “quickly and more accurately”.

On announcing the tech’s introduction, the governing body said that 188 tests had been performed since 2020, with the system checked in all matches in last season’s Champions League, the knockout stage of the Women’s Champions League and every match at Euro 2022.

Five subs now set

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) made a temporary amendment to their substitution regulations in May 2020 as a response to the global pandemic.

Top domestic and international competitions were given the option of allowing teams to use up to five subs, but after extending that provision several times, the IFAB this summer finally made the change permanent.

Up to five substitutes listed on a teamsheet can take part in a match and a sixth sub is permitted to take part in knockout games — but only during extra time.

Each team can use a maximum of three stoppages in play to make substitutions, with one extra allowed in extra time. Substitutions made before the start of the match, at half-time, between the end of normal playing time and extra time, and at half-time of extra time do not count towards the allocation.

There are a number of rule changes this season (Photo: Getty Images)

There are several rule changes this season (Photo: Getty Images)

Any other changes?

IFAB has attempted to clarify the offside rule for 2022-23, explaining what constitutes defending players “deliberately playing” the ball.

Law 11, which relates to offside, has not explicitly changed but the new guidelines say that an attacking player who is offside will not automatically become onside when a defender touches the ball — but rather only through “deliberate play”.

That was the case in the 2021 Nations League final when France’s Kylian Mbappe had strayed offside by the time Theo Hernandez played him through — only for Spain’s Eric Garcia to unwittingly play him onside when he tried to cut out a pass.

“‘Deliberate play’ is when a player has control of the ball with the possibility of passing the ball to a team-mate, gaining possession of the ball, or clearing the ball,” IFAB’s updated guidelines state.

“If the pass, attempt to gain possession or clearance by the player in control of the ball is inaccurate or unsuccessful, this does not negate the fact that the player ‘deliberately played’ the ball.”

IFAB has provided further indicators as to when a player “deliberately played” the ball: the ball had travelled from a distance and the players had a clear view of it; the ball was not moving quickly; the direction of the ball was not unexpected; the player had time to coordinate their body movement; a ball moving on the ground is easier to play than a ball in the air.

IFAB has also tweaked law 14 relating to the position of the goalkeeper when it comes to a penalty kick.

Previously, a goalkeeper was required to have part of at least one foot on or in front of the goal line at the moment a penalty was taken. If a goalkeeper had one foot in front of the line and one behind it, that was technically deemed an offence.

Updated guidelines state that the “spirit” of the law requires the goalkeeper to have both feet on or in front of the line until the moment when the kick is taken.

The future

Hang on… what about that ‘Swiss model’?

That’s not for this season.

UEFA’s executive committee agreed in May to a new format for the Champions League from the start of 2024-25 after two years of intense debate.

The number of teams competing in the competition will increase from 32 to 36, meaning there will now be 189 matches instead of 125, and the group stage will be replaced by a league phase — otherwise known as the “Swiss model”.

Each team will be guaranteed to play eight matches in the league phase. The top eight sides in the league will qualify automatically for the knockout stage. Those finishing in ninth to 24th will compete in a two-legged play-off to determine who reaches the last-16 of the competition.

Two of the extra four slots will be awarded to nations whose clubs achieve the best collective performance in the season before — a notable move away from the much-maligned and heavily criticised five-year historical coefficients.

(Photos: Getty Images; design: Sam Richardson)

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