A guide to the 2011/12 Champions League
- Mon 30 May 2011, 8:47AM
- Posted by David Clayton
City’s historic third-place Premier League finish means automatic entry into the Group Stages of European football’s elite competition.
The Blues have only once before entered the premier tournament of champions, then under its former guise of the European Cup when Joe Mercer’s side played Turkish side Fenerbahce in 1968, drawing 0-0 at Maine Road and exiting stage left after a 2-1 defeat in the second leg.
It’s been a long, long wait to get back where we belong and on 25 August, City will discover the three other teams in our qualifying group, drawn from the eight pots each containing four teams - you cannot face a team from your own country at this point.
The competition kicks off on 28 June with a First Qualifying Round made up from four clubs – F91 Dudelange (Luxembourg), Valetta (Malta), FC Santa Coloma (Andorra) and the San Marino champions Tre Friori.
The two winners from that round will progress to the Second Qualifying Round which will begin on 12 July and see the entrance of 32 champions from UEFA-ranked countries that are positioned 17 to 42 in the 2012 qualification list.
Among the teams entering at this stage will be Shamrock Rovers, Maccabi Haifa, Rosenberg, Malmo, Linfield and Bangor City and 17 teams will then progress to the Third Qualifying Round which will be a mix of champions from higher ranked countries, runners-up and the clubs who progressed from the previous round.
The 17 winners from the above will go into the Third Round which will see the entry of 13 even stronger sides and include Benfica, Rangers, FC Copenhagen and two sides the Blues faced in the 2010/11 Europa League in FC Timisoara and Dynamo Kyiv. This will begin on 26 July.
Still with us? It’s a long process!
Just 15 teams will make the Play-off Round – the round the Blues would have entered into had we not overtaken Arsenal in the final stretch and the quality of the sides involved illustrate the reason Roberto Mancini was so keen to avoid finishing fourth!
Finally, after the second legs have been completed on 24 August, the draw for the groups will take place in Monaco a day later. This is where the 22 elite sides enter and will join the 10 teams who have qualified for the right to join them.
Eight groups of four will then battle out the Group Stages, with the top two teams going into the last 16 – the two- leg knockout stage – plus eight more best-finishing third placed teams going into the Europa League Round of 32.
There is the Round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final to negate before the 2012 Champions League Final which will be staged in Munich on 19 May.
Though the seedings haven’t been confirmed for the group stages, it’s reasonable to expect City to have to face a team of the calibre of current champions Barcelona, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Real Madrid or Ajax when the Group Stages begin on 13 and 14 of September.