7 Champions League upgrades as Celtic and Rangers set to prosper from European Super League frightener


The Champions League is about to undergo a makeover.

Huge changes in the top level European competition have been rubber stamped that will leave the group stage format unrecognizable and spell over 100 extra matches.

That’s a lot to take in and it will test Glasgow’s big two to the limit.

But come through the challenge and the riches are unparalleled.

There are parts of the new changes, effective from the 2024-25 season, that some might not like. A massive 36-team league, for example, might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

But for the likes of Parkhead chief Michael Nicholson and Gers Managing Director Stewart Robertson it presents a huge opportunity.

And that trickle down effect will be felt for clubs in the Europa League and the Europa Conference League.

Here’s what we can expect.

The chosen four

To take advantage of the new format, qualification is required.

The good thing is that means more routes to qualification in Scotland. With the Champions League proper being expanded to 36 teams from 32 any extra room for Celtic or Rangers is to be gratefully accepted. One of those places goes to third place in the country ranked fifth in the coefficients – currently France. It’s unlikely that spot will be bothered by Scotland in the foreseeable future.

But another spot is afforded to a domestic champion as the ‘Champions Path’ is expanded from four teams to five, more chances to prosper, that’s for sure.

Then there is a new backdoor method of qualifying which two teams will take advantage of. It goes to the two clubs with the highest club coefficients that have not qualified automatically for the Champions League but have qualified either for the qualifying stage or either Europa competition. Right now, Rangers are in a good place to take advantage of that if they miss out on automatic qualification.

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They are being weighed down by history in the coefficient table because of the 2017-18 season but next term that will be wiped and they should shoot up the rankings. It would remain a long shot as the strength in depth of the Premier League means they occupy these two slots at present but it means good past runs, even if they’re in another UEFA competition, are now being taken into account.

top-table

The change that has been a little more contentious is the abolition of individual groups. Instead, the Champions League is set to be exactly that – one massive pan-European event that leans on the league part for the first time in its history.

Gone will be the days of nightmare draws and the fear of a fourth-placed wooden spoon from the get go. Instead it’s a setup where you’re pitted against the very best but also see how you stack up against teams of your own caliber. It might have its critics who claim the setup is being ever more weighted in favor of the big guns who have deeper squads with more games and those arguments do have merit.



Rangers and Celtic will see clearly how they weigh up with similarly-placed clubs like Slavia

But for Rangers and Celtic to judge themselves in Europe the league table is a better format. They’ll see how the likes of RB Salzburg, Red Star, Dinamo Zagreb, Slavia Prague and Copenhagen match up with themselves and there’s more that can be gleaned from that than finishing bottom of a group containing three European heavyweights. The pots can lie as Celtic found out when they grabbed top billing only to land AC Milan, Lille and Sparta Prague last season in the Europa League.

Hoops chair Ian Bankier told the club’s recent AGM: “You go into the Champions League and you get absolutely pasted by the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona. Celtic Football Club is not the Qatar Government. There’s a whole set of different players out there with completely different pockets.”

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The new league format might allay his concerns of getting regular ‘pastings’.

Extra games

More games mean more income and with a Scottish side not making the following round since Neil Lennon’s men took on Juventus in 2012-13 it can only be good for club coffers that there will be extra ‘group’ stage matches. Clubs will play 10 instead of the previous six. And they won’t all be against the same opponents either. That’s 10 different opponents, five at home and five away. It will take some getting used to playing one-off ties at this round.

knockout shout

UEFA like this new Schrodinger’s Knockout Round. Rangers came through the last 16 play-off in the Europa League against Dortmund to reach the ACTUAL last 16.



Rangers made the most of their last 16 play-off this term and the format is coming to the Champions League

Now the idea is coming to the Champions League. The top eight league table finishers get a bye while teams nine to 24 will serve as the inbetweeners. That’s eight more teams reaching the knockouts though and given it will be at least 10 years since a Scottish club achieved that feat by next term then that better chance and the greater riches involved are to be welcomed.

super league bounce

It’s no coincidence all of this is back in the headlines as the Super League proposal rears its head again. Last April the dastardly project was shot down by the fans and this time messrs Perez and Agnelli hold promises that their new incarnation won’t be a closed shop. UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin called the latter a “snake” last year and he’s hoping the changes will appease the figures that seek to meddle with a much loved competition.

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He sent them another warning this week at a business summit and slammed them for trying to revive the project in the middle of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – after first attempting to stage a mutiny on European football while Covid-19 raged.

loyalty factor

The European Club Association were one of the main fighters against the Super League and it’s on that organization’s board that former Celtic chief Peter Lawwell has been a prominent voice. He has been joined by the like of PSG’s Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the ECA chairman, and vice-chairman Oliver Kahn (Bayern), Edwin van der Sar (Ajax).




Loyalty is important for Paris’ Qatari figurehead and he wrote to members last month claiming there will be a “tectonic shift” in TV money. The ECA is becoming a bigger player as they work with UEFA to negotiate new deals for the new dawn of the Champions League between 2024 and 2027. New TV revenues are expected to increase by over £1billion in that time.

Those who weren’t turned by the Super League could well reap rewards moving forward.

Say our names

And UEFA hold Celtic and Rangers in high esteem, even if it’s sometimes not obvious. These are clubs that used to take entry to the Champions League as a given not long ago. Now the return of the automatic place has turned this season’s title fight into a game changing campaign.

“UEFA competitions needs Atalanta, Celtic, Rangers, Dinamo Zagreb and Galatasaray,” Ceferin said last year in the wake of the Super League reveal. “People need to know everyone has a chance. We need to keep the dream alive. Big clubs now were not necessarily big clubs in past and no guarantee there will be big in future.”




www.dailyrecord.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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