UEFA Champions League is back


The UEFA Champions League resumes this week with the first round of the group stage matches. The 32 clubs competing in the group phase represent 15 countries – 19 clubs from Europe’s Big 5 leagues and 13 further clubs from other countries. Spain is represented by five clubs, with Europa League winner Villarreal joining the four sides who qualified via their league finish. Seven national associations are sending more than one club to the competition – beyond the top 5 league clubs, Portugal is represented by three teams, Benfica, Porto and Sporting Club de Portugal, while Ukraine by two clubs, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv.

26 teams qualified directly via their league position, while six teams – Shakhtar, Benfica, Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg, Swedish champions Malmö, Swiss side Young Boys and Sheriff Tiraspol from Moldova – made it through the qualification rounds. Sheriff Tiraspol will make their debut in the last-32, also the first team from Moldova to play in the UCL group stage.

Our chart shows the group participants according to their UEFA club coefficient points, which are calculated by the sides’ performance in European club competitions over the previous five years.

This season’s tournament is the first one, when Lionel Messi will play for someone other than Barcelona, also making his new club, Paris Saint-Germain a top favourite to win the club’s first UCL trophy. The best result by PSG so far has been finishing runners-up in the  2019–20 season.

Similarly, Manchester United fans hope that the other shock signing of the summer, Cristiano Ronaldo joining them from Juventus, will boost their chances to finish high in this year’s campaign. United have won the UCL three times so far, but their last success dates back to the 2007-08 season. They won the trophy then with Ronaldo in the squad, against Chelsea, in the first all-English final in the history of the competition – United won the match 6–5 on penalties, after a 1–1 draw following extra time.