The most prestigious club competition in Europe, the Champions League is followed across the globe with much zeal. It is accountable for pitting colossal teams of diverse leagues, and bringing world class players and stars of many nations to prove their mettle. Clubs which have tussled their way to the top or have accomplished the top three or four positions are part of the Champions League draw. The defending champion gets direct qualification. Still, it may happen that certain teams are not able to qualify directly by their league standing. Nevertheless, they still have a spark of optimism to be part of this exclusive league. UEFA, the authoritative panel of the League, give such teams a brisk chance. Each qualifying team is given an equivalent chance, thereby making a statement that domestic leagues of all nations acknowledged by UEFA are taken into consideration. It in general emphasizes the fact that “Football is for all”.
The process of selecting teams for the final few slots are done through qualifiers. It is a long, complete and fool proof way of selecting teams eligible for the competition. We shall now guide you through the procedure and show which teams are in contention for the spots, and against whom they have to battle it to make it to the exclusive league. One should note that the process of the teams playing in their respective qualification rounds depends on two important things. It depends on the coefficient ranking of teams, and the coefficient ranking of European nations. Each team has a coefficient ranking based on performances, both current and previous outings of theirs’. For instance, Spain have the highest coefficient ranking. Hence they have four qualification spots in the Champions League. This is also applicable to English League. An example of coefficient rankings of team will be of Real Madrid. Madrid are ranked first by UEFA with coefficient ranking of over 170 points.
The first seven national coefficient ranking teams chronologically are Spain, Germany, England, Italy, France, Russia and Portugal. Therefore, teams selected for the playoffs are from these leagues only. Now that this is decided, teams with the highest coefficient rankings are selected, keeping in mind the first four spots. Hence, teams which qualify chronologically according to their rankings are Sevilla, Napoli, Liverpool, and Sporting CP. The last qualification spot requires considering the national spot too, for the 5th team. The last qualification spot decider was between Nice and Hoffenheim. Hoffenheim belonging to German League, gets the 5th spot. And Nice, play in the third round of Champions League Qualifiers. From the third round, the coefficient ranking of the club matters. This is the reason Nice, plays Ajax in the third round. Ajax has a higher coefficient ranking than many teams including Liverpool. Here in comes the role of the Coefficient rankings of nations. Ajax although having a higher coefficient ranking, do not qualify directly for the Playoffs. It is because of the coefficient ranking of Netherlands. Netherlands sit on 11th spot in the National Coefficient ranking of UEFA. The 5 teams for the playoffs are decided. The world also recognises the teams participating in the Third round of the Champions League. The stage is set. Let’s see which teams advance to the third round, to be played on 25th/26th July.
The season for European Nights?? (Image via Liverpool Echo. https://goo.gl/icZf2r)
The process kicked off after sixteen days of the Champions League Final in Cardiff. After Real Madrid clinched a 4-1 victory over Juventus, in the Principality Stadium of Wales; the headquarters in Nyon, were witness to draws of the first round. The first round of draw saw ten teams compete with each other. These teams belonged to the European nations such as “Faroe Islands”, “Malta”, “Estonia”, “Kosovo”, “Wales”, “Northern Islands” and other European nations. They are teams from the domestic league of nations whose coefficient ranking is very low. In case of Kosovo it is 0.00. Hence, they play in the first round. The teams that qualified from the first round were “Vikingur” from Faroe Islands, “Hibernians” from Malta, “Alashkert” from Armenia, “The New Saints” from Wales and “Leinfield” from Northern Islands. The second draw saw first round winners joined by 29 other teams. These teams play in the leagues of European nations ranked low in the coefficient ranking system. The teams which joined them in the second draw were teams which play in the footballing leagues of countries like Cyprus, Luxembourg, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Israel, Croatia, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Slovenia, Poland, Scotland and many other countries. The second round matches were played on 11th/12th July and 18th/19th July, home and away legs respectively. Out of these matches, the results were almost as predicted by footballing pundits, except for a few. Away goals decided one of the matches. There were a total of 34 fixtures out of which 17 teams qualified for the third round. The results of the second round are as follows:
- APOEL, a team from Cyprus defeated Dudelange of Luxembourg 2-0 over aggregate, scoring one on each leg.
- Ludogrets Razgard, a Bulgarian team defeated Lithuanian team, Zalginis 5-3 on aggregate.
- Qarabag, a team from Azerbaijan crushed their opponents Samtredia, a Georgian team 6-0 on aggregate.
- Serbian team Partizan were winners over Buducnost Podgorcia, a team from Montenegro. This was the only team which represented Montenegro in the European competition.
- Salzburg, an Austrian team, and sister team of RZ Leipzig, destroyed their opponents, Hibernians of Malta 6-0 on aggregate.
- Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova, won over their opponents on away goals. The aggregate score being 2-2. They are the only team to represent Moldova in this league and are still going strong.
- Astana of Kazakhstan, defeats their opponents 2-1. Their opponents being Spartaks Jurmala from Latvia.
- BATE Borisov, a Belarusian Team defeats Alashkert 4-2 on aggregate. Alashkert hailing from Armenia.
- Kobenhaven from Denmark defeated Zilina of Slovakia. The aggregate score being 4-3.
- The Israeli team, Hapoel Beer-Sheva defeated the Hungarian team Honved, 5-3 on aggregate.
- Croatian team, Rijeka were winners over The New Saints of Wales thereby defeating them 7-1 on aggregate.
- A surprise being the match between Malmo, the Sweden team and Vardar, a Macedonian team. Vardar defeated Malmo 4-2 on aggregate. Everyone was expecting Malmo to at least feature in the third round if not for the play offs. Malmo is the youth team of Ibrahimovic.
- Slovenian team Maribor, defeat Zrinjiski 3-2 on aggregate. This was one of the exciting matches as the score of the first leg mattered. Maribor were defeated at home in the second leg.
- Norwegian team, Rosenberg were winners over Irish team, Dundalk. The Norwegian team should have had a comfortable win but the Irish side showed a lot of resilience. The aggregate score 3-2.
- The Israeli side, FH Hafnarfjordur were winners over Vikingur. 3-1 being the aggregate score.
- Celtic marched on to the third round by defeating Linfield 6-0 on aggregate.
- Legia Warszawa, the Polish side routed their opponents IFK Mariehamn, a Finnish team 9-0 on aggregate. Last season, in a group match against Real Madrid they played behind closed doors. It was due to UEFA’s disciplinary verdicts.
The Prodigal Son Returns?? (Image via Google Images. https://goo.gl/ZDNJtq)
This meant 17 teams go through, to the third round. They were to be joined by 13 other teams which were a mixed bag. Among the 13 teams were winners of the football leagues of Greece, Czech Republic and Romania. Other teams were from France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Turkey. The third round also features Ajax. They were second in the Dutch League and finalists in the Europa League as well. It is in this round where the split between the Champions Route and the League Route takes place. The Champions Route merely meaning that the teams which have escalated to the next round. The League Round is, where there is a match between the teams qualifying on the basis of their league position. For instance, the match between Nice and Ajax who were third and second in their leagues respectively. The 5 teams for the playoffs are decided. The world also recognises the teams participating in the Third round of the Champions League. The stage is set. Let’s see which teams advance to the third round, to be played on 25th/26th July. Take a look into the key fixtures which take part in the third round. We’ll also see the players can influence the match:
- The first mouth-watering fixture between the winners of Greece, AEK Athens and CSKA Moskova, runners up of the Russian League. The Russian league runners up were also subject to the rules and regulations laid down by UEFA and hence have to start their qualification procedure from the third round.
- The second jewel of a match being the match between FCSB of Romania and Viktoria Plzen of Czech Republic. Both teams were comfortable winners in their respective leagues. It will be fascinating to see these dark horses fight it out.
- The third match being between Dynamo Kyiv and Young Boys. The Ukrainian and Swiss sides both stood second in their leagues respectively. An enthralling match, as the winner either plays Sevilla or Napoli and it will be very difficult, if not next to impossible, for the winner of this fixture.
- The most awaited being the match between the titans of this round, Nice and Ajax. Ajax although have an upper hand being finalists in the Europa league. However, this will be a match worth watching as both the squads have some amazing strikers. The rejuvenated Mario Balotelli has carried Nice to this stage. He has found his form and composure after leaving Liverpool. Here he again as a chance to prove his critics that the “Super Mario” still has it in him. Ajax on the other hand have Kasper Dolberg. Although in the great words of Zlatan, “There is only one Zlatan”, many consider him the next Zlatan. The Denmark born player has been in marvellous form. Zinedine Zidane considers him an alternative if the bid for Mbappe does not go through. It will be a delicacy to watch these two forwards play it out for their teams.
- The fifth league match being between the Belgium side, Club Brugge and Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir. The Turkish side are for the first time playing in such a high level. They have an element of surprise, as this team stood second in the Turkish league beating the likes of Galatasary. Galatasary is the club who has recently released Wesley Sneijder. They are also home to one of the most hostile stadiums ever to play at.
- Another classic match is the fixture in which Celtic play Rosenberg. Rosenberg have experience and form by their side but had to survive a scare to reach the third round. Celtic on the other hand have an enormous upper hand as they have won, one sided in their domestic league. They amassed a point tally of 106 points, with 34 wins and 4 draws. Celtic also have hot properties of football in the form of young talents of Moussa Dembele.
- Another match between league winners is that of the winners of Israel and Bulgaria. The Israel side, Hapoel Beer Sheva is going to take on Ludogrets. Ludogrets has been regulars in the recent seasons in the Champions League. Ludogrets and Beer Sheva both have shared the same fate last season. Both have finished first in their season, both have amassed over 80 points in their respective leagues. Both have also defeated their opponents 5-3 in order to reach to the third round of the Qualifying process. It will be a stimulating match off, since both have shared almost the same luck. Although considering the experience, the Ludogrets team have a slight advantage to their opponents. And if they go through, it will be interesting to see as to who they will face in the playoffs.
The contention to become kings of Europe. (Image via 32 Flags. https://goo.gl/uwn8xi)
The round 3 commences on 25th/26th July, with the second leg being on 1st/2nd August. The 15 winning teams will meet the 5 remaining teams. These 20 teams will fight it out, where 10 teams progress further. These 10 teams will then join the 22 teams who have already secured a berth in the Champions League. These 32 teams will be awaiting the Champions’ League group stage draw scheduled on 24th August, 2017. The first match takes place on 12th/13th September, 2017. Till then one needs to watch out, which teams qualify for the most elite competition on the globe.