New Champions League format explained as Liverpool guarantee top 4 place

Liverpool have officially qualified for next season’s Champions League, but it will look a lot different to their last experience in the competition.

The Reds have mathematically qualified for the top four, meaning they are back dining at Europe’s top table after a season out.

It is a major boost for the club and the incoming manager, who will be the first man after Jurgen Klopp to lead Liverpool in the Champions League since 2014/15.

UEFA have sought to change the format from next season, you can guess why, and so here’s all you need to know about the changes.


The ‘league phase’

From 2024/25, the number of clubs will rise from 32 to 36 in the ‘league phase’ (former group stage), with each team playing eight games in the initial stage.

Teams will be ranked in four seeding pots, and each club will be drawn to play two opponents from each of these pots, essentially creating four groups of nine.

The seeding for these pots are determined entirely by a club’s UEFA coefficient.

The teams will, however, be ranked in one table to determine who progresses to the knockout stages.

Half the games will be played at home and the other half away, with no repeat fixtures – and the final standings will determine who progresses.

UEFA opted for this route to increase the number of competitive games at the earliest opportunity.


Knockout stages

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, February 21, 2023: Liverpool supporters on the Spion Kop before the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st Leg game between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The results of each ‘league phase’ match will decide the overall ranking, with the top eight sides automatically qualifying for the round of 16.

Teams who finish 9th to 24th will compete in a two-legged knock-out phase play-off to secure a place in the last 16.

And finally, those who finish 25th or lower will be eliminated and will not drop down into the Europa League, as we have been accustomed to.

In the playoff, teams who finished between 9th and 16th will be seeded and will face a team placed 17th to 24th with the return leg at home.

Those who prevail will meet one of the top-eight finishers in the last 16, who will be seeded for this tie.

From the round of 16 onwards, the competition will revert to its existing format up to and including the final.

In this new format, a team could play a potential 17 games on the way to the final, in comparison to the maximum of 13 in the current format.


Key dates

MUNICH, GERMANY - Wednesday, March 13, 2019: The UEFA arch at the Allianz Arena ahead of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg match between FC Bayern München and Liverpool FC. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With an increase in the number of games, there are a few more dates to be mindful of next season when it comes to draws and fixtures:

  • League draw – August 29
  • Matchday 1: September 17-19
  • Matchday 2: October 1/2
  • Matchday 3: October 22/23
  • Matchday 4: November 5/6
  • Matchday 5: November 26/27
  • Matchday 6: December 10/11
  • Matchday 7: January 21/22
  • Matchday 8: January 29
  • Play-off draw – January 31
  • Knockout play-offs: February 11/12 and 18/19
  • Last 16/quarter-final/semi-final draw – February 21
  • Last 16: March 4/5 and 11/12
  • Quarter-final: April 8/9 and 15/16
  • Semi-final: April 29/30 and May 6/7
  • Final: May 31 (Munich)