Tennis-style seeding, semi-automated picks: New Champions League draw format explained if LFC qualify

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The UEFA Champions League will have a radically different structure from the start of next season, and should Liverpool qualify as expected, we’ll have a new draw format to try and get used to also.

As reported by Dale Johnson for ESPN, the draw for the 36-team ‘Swiss model’ open league – which replaces the traditional group stage – will be semi-automated, with clubs drawn manually before a computerised system then determines which eight teams they’ll be facing (four at home, four away).

The top eight teams advance straight to the round of 16, with those ranked from 9th to 24th playing in a preliminary round featuring eight ties to decide who joins those from 1st to 8th in the next phase.

Once that phase is completed and the qualifiers for the knockout rounds are known, a tennis-style seeding system will be adopted whereby the top-ranked sides are positioned in certain parts of the draw to avoid playing each other.

There had even been a suggestion floated in one meeting of a US-style ‘draft’ which would’ve given the highest-ranked clubs a choice of opponents, but this idea was quickly shot down in discussions.

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Barring a calamitous collapse from hereon, Liverpool will participate in this first running of the new (and still somewhat inscrutable) Champions League format.

The top four Premier League finishers are guaranteed entry to UEFA’s flagship club competition, and the Reds currently have an 11-point advantage over fifth-placed Tottenham with just 10 matches remaining. Winning the Europa League would also ensure a place in next season’s Champions League.

The new format will seem unwieldy at first but hopefully become clearer as the competition progresses and LFC learn what they must do in order to try and finish among the top eight.

It’ll seem strange not seeing Giorgio Marchetti talk us through a group stage draw at the end of August, ably assisted by a collection of famous players from a generation ago.

The first order of business for Liverpool is to ensure that they’re involved in the Champions League next season, and then we can bring on the mental arithmetic of deducing which teams we could face later in the year, and which prospective opponents we’d either like or dread.

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  1. Quite simply it should be an unseeded Fa Cup style draw all the way through and if Real Madrid end up drawing Bayern in the first round, so be it. It’s called sporting integrity, though I guess UEFA would have little idea in that regard.

  2. Not sure what planet Dale is on but having top seed play bottom seed has no impact on sporting integrity! You might prefer to have an unseeded draw, and the advantage of that is you might get a big clash every round but if there is no benefit from finishing 1st compared to 8th in the league part then as soon as teams are guaranteed qualification then they could start playing their reserves or even worse they might deliberately lose to ensure a big rival misses out on qualification which would impact sporting integrity!

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