We’re down to the Final Four (don’t sue) in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League, and by now we know plenty about Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern Munich. So who will we see in next season’s edition?
Some slots are firm, while there’s plenty to be settled in the next few weeks in others. Let’s take a look at whose guaranteed to make the group stage:
Spain: Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona
Germany: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund
Italy: Juventus, Roma
Portugal: Benfica, Sporting CP
France: Paris Saint-Germain
As for the open spots in the group stage:
England (Second and third-place clubs still undecided): Right now, it’s Chelsea (75 points, 3 to play) and Manchester City (74 points, 4 to play) with a sizable advantage on fourth-place Arsenal (70 points, 3 to play) and fifth-place Everton (69 points, 3 to play). City’s pretty much a lock, and the Blues aren’t far behind despite recent injury troubles.
Germany (Third-place club still undecided): Schalke is in the driver’s seat, with 58 points and three matches left in the Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen is four back of Schalke while Wolfsburg is five back.
France (Second-place club still undecided): Monaco will be in the Champions League, but it’s group stage fate is uncertain until Lille fades a bit further back. There are four matches to be played, but any points lost by Lille will all but clinch the group stage spot for Monaco.
Ukraine (First-place club still undecided): This one could go right down to the final match day on May 17. Shakhtar Donetsk is currently in first by three points, but have played one more match than Dnipro. Shakhtar has the better goal differential as well.
Russia: (First-place club still undecided): Zenit St. Petersburg has the pole position by a single-point, but their upcoming match with second-spot Lokomotiv Moskva means CSKA Moskva has a shot despite being four points back.
Netherlands: (First-place club still undecided): Ajax is in the Champions League and their group stage fate with a single point in their remaining two matches, both against lower clubs. Feyenoord waits six points back with only the weakest hopes.
Turkey: (First-place club still undecided): Fenerbache would be in the competition, holders of a healthy 12-point lead on second-place Besiktas, but sanctions have the club barred from Europe. So it’ll be either Besiktas or third-place Galatasaray, the latter being two points back of second place.
Belgium: (First-place club still undecided): Still five rounds of playoffs to go, meaning Standard Liege, Club Brugge, Zulte Waregem, Anderlecht, Lokeren and Genk are all options. The first round mentioned are within four points of each other and have the best chance to advance.
And while there are plenty of clubs alive for berths, why don’t we take the chance to congratulate some of the other auto-qualifiers, regardless of whether their missions begin in July or December:
Gibraltar: Lincoln Red Imps
Estonia: Levadia Tallinn
Northern Ireland: Cliftonville
Faroe Islands: Havnar Boltfelag
Wales: The New Saints
Austria: Red Bull Salzburg
Belarus: BATE Borisov
Croatia: Dinamo Zagreb
Finland: Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi
Iceland: Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur
Ireland: St. Patrick’s Athletic
Lithuania: Zalgiris Vilnius