How does the qualifiers work?
The association ranking is a table with all the participating European countries in ranking of how good their league is. The amount of teams that are allowed to qualify in your country is determined on this table. If you are in the top 3, 4 clubs are able to qualify. If you are in the top 6, 3 clubs are able to qualify. If you are in the top 15 you get two teams a chance to play in the champion’s league and if you are outside the top 15 only your best club can enter. There are 55 countries in total, all battling it out to make the greatest competition in football.
First Qualifying Round
The 10 lowest ranked teams in the association ranking battle it out in the first round to qualify. In this round are Welsh champions The New Saints and Northern Ireland champions Linfield. The New Saints beat Europa 4-3 on aggregate. Linfield were favourites to beat San Marino champions and managed to narrowly qualify, winning 1-0 on aggregate. Other countries in this round are Malta, Kosovo, Gibraltar and Faroe Islands and Armenia.
Second Qualifying Round
A total of 34 teams will play in the second qualifying round: 29 teams which enter in this round, and the five winners of the first qualifying round. Scottish champions Celtic enter at this round, as well as Irish champions Dundalk, Copenhagen and Red Bull Salzburg. Celtic will play Linfield from the first round. This will be a massive fixture as these two teams are big rivals. Linfield are regarded as the equivalent of Rangers football club in Northern Ireland. However this should be an easy test for Celtic who were unbeaten in the Scottish league this season.
Third Qualifying Round
The draw for the third qualifying round will be held on 14 July 2017, at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. The third qualifying round is split into two separate sections: Champions Route (for league champions) and League Route (for league non-champions). The losing teams in both sections enter the 2017–18 UEFA Europa League play-off round. A total of 30 teams will play in the third qualifying round, with 13 new clubs. Greek champions Olympiacos are added, as well as Club Brugge, CSKA Moscow, Europa league finalists Ajax and French club Nice. Clubs try very hard to qualifying through this round because it they do they are guaranteed a place in the Europa League if they lose in the round.
The final round: the play-offs
The play-off round is split into two separate sections: Champions Route (for league champions) and League Route (for league non-champions). The losing teams in both sections enter the 2017–18 UEFA Europa League group stage. A total of 20 teams will play in the play-off round. The ten champion’s route winners of the third qualifying round will face each other while five teams who enter in this round will face the five league route winners of the third qualifying round. Big clubs are added into this round with the likes of Sevilla, Napoli, Liverpool, Sporting CP from Portugal and 1899 Hoffenheim from Germany. Whoever manages to succeed in this round will be entered into the group stages of the Champions League. Liverpool are seeded so they shouldn’t have a tough draw. They could face Hoffenheim, Young Boys of Switzerland, Nice of France, Athens of Greece Bucuresti of Romania or Istanbul of Turkey.
The draw for the group stage will be held on 24 August. The 32 teams are drawn into eight groups of four, with the restriction that teams from the same association cannot be drawn against each other. For the draw, the teams are seeded into four pots based on the following principles:
Pot 1 contains the title holders and the champions of the top seven associations based on their 2016 UEFA country coefficients. As the title holders, Real Madrid, are one of the champions of the top seven associations, the champions of the association ranked eighth are also seeded into Pot 1.
Pot 2, 3 and 4 contain the remaining teams, seeded based on their 2017 UEFA club coefficients.