Scots to face four rounds of qualifiers in Champions League

Celtic negotiated three rounds of qualifying to reach the Champions League group stage this season. From 2018-19, the Scottish champions will be required to play four rounds. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Celtic negotiated three rounds of qualifying to reach the Champions League group stage this season. From 2018-19, the Scottish champions will be required to play four rounds. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
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The Scottish Champions will face an extra qualifying round for the Champions League from the 2018-19 season under a new format approved by Uefa.

To reach the group stage, 
the champions of countries outwith the top 17 of the Uefa rankings will start their campaign in the first of four qualifying rounds. Scotland are currently ranked 23rd.

In recent seasons, Scottish champions Celtic have had to get through three qualifying rounds to make it to the 
money-spinning group phase.

But an unwelcome extra hurdle will face the team which wins the Scottish Premiership in 2018.

The change is part of a 
radical revamp by Uefa – prompted by pressure from the European Club Association. The new set-up will see the top four clubs in the four highest-ranked domestic leagues – Spain, Germany, England and Italy – go directly into the group stage of the Champions League.

The “champions path” in qualifying is being retained, however it will only offer four places in the group stage – one fewer than under the present format.

But all teams who lose even their first Champions League qualifier will now be handed the reprieve of dropping into the qualifying rounds of the Europa League.

Clubs currently have to reach at least the third qualifying round of the Champions League before that consolation prize is available.

From Celtic’s perspective, should they maintain their dominance of Scottish football which sees them firmly on course for a sixth consecutive league title, the retention of the “champions path” in qualifying will be welcome.

They will also be seeded throughout the process, their ranking set to be improved by a change to the co-efficient calculation system in which clubs will be judged solely on their own results.

The current system includes a 20 per cent contribution from the national co-efficient ranking which can see domestic champions penalised for poor performances in Europe by other clubs from their own countries.