UEFA recently made some new changes to its Champions League and Europa League qualification procedures. With the new alterations, Europa’s top leagues are now guaranteed at least six spots altogether in these two competitions, which is the biggest one of them all.
Starting from the 2018/19 season, the top four teams in the English Premier League (EPL) will gain direct qualification to the Champions League group stages, which is different from the present system where the top three gain direct qualification and the fourth team has to go through a round of qualifiers just like Liverpool did against Hoffenheim earlier this 2017/18 season.
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This same rule applies to leagues in Spain, Germany, and Italy. In addition, the fifth and sixth teams from these countries will gain automatic qualification to the Europa League. This is indeed good news for most clubs in the respective countries as they won’t have to go through an extra round of qualifications.
There will now be 26 teams automatically qualified as per the access list drawn up from the UEFA association coefficients at the end of 2016/17.
For 2018/19 they will be …
UEFA Champions League holders (1)
UEFA Europa League holders (1)
The top four from associations ranked 1st to 4th: Spain, Germany, England, Italy (16)
The top two from associations ranked 5th and 6th: France, Russia (4)
Champions of associations ranked 7th to 10th: Portugal, Ukraine, Belgium, Turkey (4)
Apart from these new changes, the kickoff time of these competitions has also been adjusted as well. Not all the games (with the rare far European exception) will kick off at 19:45 GMT. Instead, we are going to witness staggered kick-offs of 17:55 and 20:00 GMT, like what you will see in the Europa League currently.
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Important dates for the 2018/19 season were also announced, with the Group Stage starting on the 18th of September 2018 and the round of 16 kicking off on 12th February 2019, at the earliest. The final of the UEFA Champions League for the 2018/19 season will take place on the 1st of June 2019, at Estadio Metropolitano, in Madrid.