Key Celtic and Rangers Champions League dates - and the rest of Scottish teams in Europe next season
While Celtic and Rangers are guaranteed to take the two Champions League spots on offer for finishing first and second in the Scottish Premiership, a number of clubs are still competing for the other three slots.
The next two best-placed teams in the top flight will clinch a place in the Conference League qualifiers with third place securing a place in the third qualifying round, while the team finishing fourth enters a stage earlier at the second qualifying round.
The last remaining European place, which is allocated to the winners of the Scottish Cup, is a lucrative one as it secures a place in the Europa League play-off round. That two-legged tie carries a parachute into the Conference League for whoever loses, essentially guaranteeing group-stage European football either way.
If the Scottish Cup is won by a team who has already qualified for the Champions League through league placing - i.e Celtic or Rangers - then the Europa League play-off berth switches back to league placing and to the team that finishes third. Last year that was Hearts, who would go on to pocket a £3m-plus profit from six group matches in the Conference League.
So which teams are in contention? One of Falkirk or Inverness will face either Celtic or Rangers in next month's Scottish Cup final and if either can pull off a miracle by beating one of the Old Firm at Hampden then it will be a lower league side who takes the money-spinning path into European group-stage football.
The more likely scenario is that either Celtic or Rangers will lift the Scottish Cup meaning that the third-placed Premiership side - currently Aberdeen - will secure the coveted Europa League play-off prize and the riches that come with it.
Such a scenario would also open the door to Europe for the team that finishes fifth thanks to the domino effect with the spot in the Conference League second qualifying round dropping down a place while the fourth placed side would be elevated to the Conference League third qualifying round.
Aberdeen are currently five points clear in third, while Hearts, St Mirren, Hibs and Livingston are seperated by just three points from fourth to seventh ahead of the final round of fixtures before the top six split - so everything is still to play for.
What does seem guaranteed is that Celtic will take the direct path into the Champions League group stages on offer to the Premiership champions due to their 12-point advantage over Rangers, who will need to negotiate two qualifying rounds, as they did earlier this season, to reach the group stages for a second year running.
Here are the key European dates for clubs to look out for ahead of next season.
When are the 2023/24 Champions League qualifers?
Presuming Rangers finish runners-up, then they will face four consecutive midweeks of Champions qualifers. The Ibrox side would enter at the third qualifying round with the first legs taking place on August 8/9 and the second legs on August 15. The play-offs are then scheduled for August 22/23 and August 29/30.
When are the 2023/24 Champions League group stage matches?
If Celtic go on to clinch the title as expected then their first Champions League group match will take place on the midweek of September 19/20. The remaining matchdays are: 3/4 October, 24/25 October, 7/8 November, 28/29 November, 12/13 December.
When are the 2023/24 Champions League knock-out matches?
Should Ange Postecoglou's side go one step further than this season and qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League then the ties would take place on February 13/14/20/21 and March 5/6/12/13 next year. Other dates for 2024 are: Quarter-finals - April 9/10 and April 16/17; Semi-finals: April 30/May 1 and May 7/8. Final: June 1.
When are the Europa League play-offs?
Barring a major upset in the Scottish Cup, Aberdeen are the current frontrunners to secure the Europa League play-off berth which would see Barry Robson's side in first leg action on August 24 with the second leg to follow on August 31. Of course, Hearts, St Mirren, Hibs and even Livingston are still in the race for third. Should a Scottish side reach the Europa League group stages – Rangers could also end up here if they lose either of their Champions League qualifers – then the dates are: Matchday 1 – September 21; Matchday 2 – October 5; Matchday – October 26; Matchday 4 – November 9; Matchday 5 – November 30; Matchday 6 – December 14.
When are the Conference League qualifiers?
If, as expected, Celtic or Rangers win the Scottish Cup then the teams finishing fourth and fifth in the Premiership will secure a place in the Conference League qualifers. Fifth place - currently St Mirren - would enter at the second qualifying round, which takes place on July 27 and August 3. Fourth place - currently Hearts - would enter at the third qualifying round, which takes place on August 10 and 17. The play-off round, should either make it, for a place in the group stages follows on August 24 and 31. The group stages dates are the same as the Europa League.
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