Reports suggest that the long proposed Champions League format changes could finally be confirmed by the end of March, with 36 teams likely to feature from 2024.
This is not the only alteration either. The group stages of the competition will also be subject to a shake up. It is proposed that each team play a random 10 games against opposition of weighted quality, as decided by UEFA coefficients.
Teams will then be ranked in a table, with the top 16 progressing to the knockout stages, although there has also been talk of playoffs for teams battling for the final few places.
It all sounds pretty exciting…right? As long as you ignore that is a thinly veiled, big club power grab, over which supporters have not been consulted at all.
That’s an article for another time though. Here we will be focussing on which European sides stand to gain the most from this new look Champions League format.
Incredibly, under current regulations, winning the Super League Greece is not enough to ensure passage into the Champions League group stages.
Therefore, this season, Olympiacos were forced to beat Cypriot club Omonia in order to earn their place in the competition proper.
Under these new proposals, four more spots in the competition will be up for grabs, and there is a decent chance that Greece may be bumped up to having one automatic qualification place. This is good news for Olympiacos, who pretty much win the league every season.
The ownerships of both Liverpool and Manchester United are said to be keen backers of the proposals – probably because they will likely one day save them from the embarrassment of missing out on Champions League football.
Not only could England be awarded a fifth automatic qualification place if the changes go ahead, there is also talk of several ‘wildcard’ spaces being saved for big teams who are so rubbish they cannot even finish in the top five.
The same applies over in Spain. As they narrowly top the UEFA coefficients list currently, the chances of them being handed an additional place in the competition are high.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez – one of the proposals other key supporters – will be particularly excited about this.
For him, it is one step closer to his ultimate dream – a European Super League. Barcelona and Atletico Madrid (who are part of the elite, even if they do not like to admit it) will be pleased as well
Despite this, the pair have been feeding off scraps in the Champions League for many years. The last time one of the Old Firm qualified for a knockout tie was in 2013, when Celtic was swatted aside by Juventus in the round of 16.
These new reforms offer some hope for Scottish football. Not only could winning the SPFL confirm a group stage spot from 2024, a runner-up position may be upgraded to ensure a chance at qualification through the playoffs.
Imagine an Old Firm derby in the quarter finals. Glasgow would never be the same again.
In terms of UEFA coefficient, Benfica were the highest ranked side forced to go through the Champions League preliminary stages this season.
Despite their apparent edge they didn’t make it through to the competition proper, falling to a shock defeat against Greek side PAOK.
In a post reform world, Benfica – who have won more European Cups than many of these state funded super clubs, don’t forget – would likely be spared this embarrassment.
Currently, Liga NOS is afforded just two Champions League spots, with only one sending teams straight into the group stages. The extra spaces afforded from the format change could see this bumped up to three, providing a safety net for Portugal’s Big Three.