What is it?
The Champions’ League, or CL as it is more often referred to by us lazy arses on the comm, is a competition run that has been run by UEFA since 1955 to allow the top football clubs from across Europe to play each other in their own league to find out who really is the best team in Europe. Prior to 1992, the CL was known as the “European Champion Clubs' Cup” and was more commonly known as the “European Cup” or “European Champions’ Cup”
When is it?
The CL is an annual competition with the first round beginning in July and the final being held the following May, which – along with the Super Bowl – is the highest rated sporting event in the world, attracting over 100million viewers every year. The final is held in a different European city each year – the 2010/11 CL final will be held at Wembley in London on May 28th 2011
Who plays in it?
Originally the competition was only open to the champions of each country, with the tournament comprising of a straight knockout competition. However, in the 1990s UEFA expanded the competition to include more teams and more rounds and now there is the potential for up to 4 teams from the strongest national leagues to be in the CL each year. This season, 76 teams in total play in the entirety of the competition, with 32 teams taking part from the group stages onwards.
What’s the format of the tournament?
The current format has the tournament split into different stages.
Qualifying and Playoff Rounds
The first qualifying stage takes place between the end of June and the start of August with the first three qualifying rounds taking place followed by the play-off round. The winners of the third qualifying round progress to the play off round and the winners of the play off round progress to the group stage. The losing teams from the third qualifying round and the play-off round enter the Europa League play-off round and the group stage respectively.
In the qualifying rounds clubs play two matches against each other on a home-and-away basis. The club which scores the greater aggregate of goals qualifies for the next round, with away goals and then penalties used to determine the winner in the event of draws.
This season, the teams joining the CL in the second qualifying round are
AIK (SWE) Aktobe (KAZ) BATE (BLR) Birkirkara (MLT) Bohemians (IRL) Debrecen (HUN) Dinamo Tirana (ALB) Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) Ekranas (LTU) FH (ISL) H. Tel-Aviv (ISR) HB (FRO) HJK (FIN) İnter Bakı (AZE) Jeunesse Esch (LUX) Koper (SVN) Lech (POL) Levadia (EST) Liepājas Metalurgs (LVA) Linfield (NIR) Litex (BUL) Olimpi Rustavi (GEO) Omonia (CYP) Partizan (SRB) Pyunik (ARM) Renova (MKD) Rosenborg (NOR) Rudar (MNE) Salzburg (AUT) Sheriff (MDA) Sparta Praha (CZE) TNS (WAL) Željezničar (BIH) Žilina (SVK)
This season, the teams joining the CL in the third qualifying round are
Ajax (NED) Anderlecht (BEL) Basel (SUI) Braga (POR) Celtic (SCO) Dynamo Kyiv (UKR) Fenerbahçe (TUR) Gent (BEL) København (DEN) PAOK (GRE) Unirea Urziceni (ROU) Young Boys (SUI) Zenit (RUS)
This season, the teams joining the CL in the playoff round are
Auxerre (FRA) Bremen (GER) Sampdoria (ITA) Sevilla (ESP) Tottenham (ENG)
This is the point at which most people get involved with the CL – the 10 teams who have survived from the qualifying rounds join the 22 teams that join the competition at this point. These 32 teams are then sorted into eight groups of four teams.
The groups are determined with seeding so that the top eight seeds are in different groups with the 8th to 16th seeds taking the second spot in the groups and so on. Also, in the group stage there is “country protection” which means that no two clubs from the same country can be in the same group – so for example Utd and Chelsea or RM and Barca can’t meet each other in the group stages.
These teams play home and away against each of their pool opponents between September and December to decide which two teams from each section advance to the first knockout round. The third-place finishers in each group enter the Europa League in the round of 32.
This season, the 22 teams joining the CL in the Group Stage are:
Arsenal (ENG) Barcelona (ESP) Bayern (GER) Benfica (POR) Bursaspor (TUR) CFR Cluj (ROU) Chelsea (ENG) Internazionale (ITA) Lyon (FRA) Man. United (ENG) Marseille (FRA) Milan (ITA) Panathinaikos (GRE) Rangers (SCO) Real Madrid (ESP) Roma (ITA) Rubin (RUS) Schalke (GER) Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) Spartak (RUS) Twente (NED) Valencia (ESP)
From the last 16 until the semi-finals, clubs play two matches against each other on a home-and-away basis with the same rules as the qualifying and play-off rounds applied.
In the last 16, group winners play runners-up other than teams from their own pool or nation, while from the quarter-finals on the draw is free.
The final this season is played at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 28 May 2011.
Who has won the Champions League?
21 different teams have won the Champions League - Real Madrid, AC Milan, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Man Utd, Benfica, Juventus, Porto, Nottingham Forest, Olympique de Marseilles, Steaua Bucureşti, Hamburg, Celtic, Borussia Dortmund, Red Star Belgrade, PSV Eindhoven, Aston Villa and Feyenoord (but none for Chelsea ;) )
Only 3 teams have won the competition more than 4 times:
Real Madrid have won the CL 9 times - the inaugural competition in 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000 and 2002
AC Milan have won it 7 times - 1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003 and 2007
Liverpool have won it 5 times - 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984 and 2005
What all time records are there in the Champions League?
The top ten all time goal scorers
Raul is the all time top goal scorer in CL history, scoring 66 goals in 130 appearances. The second placed player is Ruud van Nistelrooy who has scored 54 goals in 73 games. Thierry Henry is close behind in third with 50 goals in 109 games. Andriy Schevchenko has scored 48 in 100 games. Filippo Inzaghi has scored 44 in 78 games Alessandro Del Piero has scored 42 goals in 87 games. Fernando Morientes scored 33 in 93 games. Didier Drogba has scored in over half his games, scoring 31 in 60 games. David Trezeguet has scored in half of his games - scoring 29 in 58 games. Roy Makaay scored 29 in 61 games
Only 18 players have made 100 or more Champions League appearances - Raúl, Roberto Carlos, Andriy Shevchenko, Paolo Maldini, David Beckham, Oliver Kahn, Luís Figo, Clarence Seedorf, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Thierry Henry, Gary Neville, Fernando Morientes, Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernández, Roar Strand and Deco.
All time club appearance records:
Real Madrid have the record number of consecutive participations in the Champions' Cup with 15, from 1955/56 to 1969
Manchester United have the record number of consecutive participations in the UEFA Champions League with 15 from 1996/97 to 2010-11
The Champions League Trophy
Who is the current holder of the trophy?
The trophy was awarded to Inter Milan in 2009/10, however they don't get to keep the trophy - the real trophy remains in the possession of UEFA at all times and instead the current holders are given a replica which they are allowed to put on display. Also, since 2009 each winning club has been given a personalized replica, with their name engraved on it which they are allowed to keep
When was it first awarded?
The original trophy, which was donated to the competition by the French newspaper, L'Équipe, was awarded to Real Madrid after they won the inaugural competition in 1956. They were allowed to keep this trophy permanently after they won it for the 6th time in 1967. This happened because UEFA brought in a rule which stated that any team which won the cup five times, or 3 times consecutively, were awarded the cup permanently, with a new one being created for the next season's competition.
Which teams have been awarded the trophy permanently?
Real Madrid were awarded their trophy after six wins, 1956-60 and 1966.
Ajax recieved theirs after their third consecutive win in 1973.
Bayern München also recieved theirs after their third consecutive win, this time in 1976.
Milan were awarded theirs after their fifth title in 1994
Liverpool were given theirs after their fifth win in 2005.
Some of the key moments in Champions League history
Man Utd's comeback from 1-0 down to win the CL title that gave them the treble in 1999:
Quarter final of the Champions League 2002/2003 - Redondo's taconazo de Old Trafford.
2005 - one night in Istanbul for Liverpool
The fateful penalty shoot out of the 2008 final between Utd and Chelsea
2009 - Semi final between Chelsea and Barca, with *that* goal from Iniesta
2010 - Jose and Inter winning the CL to give them the Treble:
Feel free to add any key moments of your own in the comments!