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Champions League matches are moving to two new kick-off times from next season

Uefa has also increased direct qualification to the group stages to 26 clubs, meanwhile.

Current Champions League holders Real Madrid.
Current Champions League holders Real Madrid.

THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE’S quota for direct group stage qualification has been increased from 22 to 26 teams, while Uefa also announced changes to kick-off times.

Although the format of the competition remains the same from the group stage onwards, Uefa has revealed a number of alterations will come into effect at the start of next season for both the Champions League and Europa League.

Chief among those will see kick-off times for group games in both competitions staggered – with all games moving from the traditional 7.45pm (Irish time) slot to begin at either 5.55pm or 8pm.

Uefa also confirmed that the Champions League will increase the teams going straight into the group stage by four.

It is broken down as follows:

  • Champions League holders (1)
  • Europa League holders (1)
  • Top four from associations ranked 1st to 4th: Spain, Germany, England, Italy (16)
  • Top two from associations ranked 5th and 6th: France, Russia (4)
  • Champions of associations ranked 7th to 10th: Portugal, Ukraine, Belgium, Turkey (4)

The Europa League will see a similar change, with 17 clubs now going directly into the group phase, plus another 10 dropping into the competition from the Champions League play-offs and third qualifying round.

There is also set to be a preliminary round introduced at the start of Champions League qualification, with four teams entering in a mini knockout tournament, from which one club shall emerge and then be joined by another 33 sides in the first round of qualifiers.

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