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Last season of the Champions League in its current format

19 September 2023

Celtic start their Champions League campaign tonight against Feyenoord in Rotherham. This will be the last season of the current CL format.  UEFA will replace it with a new format from next season. The group stages as we know them will be replaced with a 36 team league structure.

Is the new format to counter anymore challenges from the clubs wanting to breakaway and form a European Super League?  Is it to appease those clubs who threatened to break away from UEFA? Or is it in response to the new 32 team World Club Championships set for the summer of 2025?

The new World tournament is set to be bankrolled by the Saudi Wealth Fund, so will this lead to the Saudi teams being eventually invited into the Champions League at the expense of  less well off league champions based in Europe.

Remember when Celtic won the European Cup in Lisbon in 1967 it was a competition open only to the Champions of each domestic league in Europe.

The new format will see teams play eight matches, two more than they currently play. Teams will play four home and four away games against different opposition. The top 8 teams will go straight into last 16. The teams placed between ninth and 24th in the table will then take part in a playoff round.

In a move to secure more places for the super rich leagues like the EPL etc., the two spots reserved for historical performance of teams in the competition will be replaced by the leagues with the best coefficient.

Club managers will not be too happy with their players having to play more games in the new format as 189 games will replace the current 125 in the competition. Squad and young players may be used for domestic cup competitions to keep players fresh for the big money games.

The four seeded pots will still remain but the domestic champions will not be guaranteed a spot at the top table. Now it will be based on the coefficient which again will favour the EPL teams. The new group stages/ league format will see the final matches take place in January (possibly during the SPFL shut down).

Teams in the CL will no longer have the chance to play in the Europa League, when you are out you are out. Two teams from each pot will play each other in the new league structure after the draw is made. After that the knockout stages teams will be seeded to make it easier for the big hitters to get to the final.

Andrew Milne is More than 90 Minutes Editor and host of the Celtic Soul Podcast