Champions League holders Real Madrid top the list of 22 teams that have received byes to the 2014-15 group stage, while 55 others will compete in the three qualifying rounds or play-offs this summer in an effort to join them.
On Wednesday UEFA confirmed the 77 teams that will endeavour to reach the final at the Olympiastadion, Berlin on Saturday 6th June 2015. Atlético de Madrid, Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao complete the Spanish contingent.
The champions route, involving the 40 league winners not given byes to the group stage, starts with six sides entering the first qualifying round, including Gibraltar’s inaugural entrants Lincoln FC.
The draw for this stage and the second qualifying round, involving 31 confirmed teams, will take place on Monday 23rd June at 12:00 (10:00 GMT).
FC Salzburg, APOEL FC and Aalborg BK will begin their journey in the third qualifying round, which will see 20 teams battle for five group-stage berths.
UEFA also confirmed that each country’s representation in the Champions League is dictated by its UEFA coefficient ranking, which is calculated over a five-year basis.
The coefficient ranking of the participating clubs is as follows:
– Group stage:
.1. Real Madrid (ESP) – 161.542
.2. Barcelona (ESP) 157.542
.3. Bayern Munich (GER) 154.328
.4. Chelsea (ENG) 140.949
.5. Benfica (POR) 129.459
.6. Atlético de Madrid (ESP) 119.542
.7. Schalke 04 (GER) 95.328
.8. Borussia Dortmund (GER) 82.328
.9. Juventus (ITA) 80.387
10. Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) 80.300
11. Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) 78.193
12. Basilea (SUI) 75.645
13. Manchester City (ENG) 72.949
14. Olympiacos (GRE) 67.720
15. CSKA Moscow (RUS) 66.899
16. Ajax (HOL) 61.862
17. Liverpool (ENG) 58.949
18. Sporting Lisboa (POR) 58.459
19. Galatasaray (TUR) 55.340
20. Anderlecht (BEL) 50.260
21. Roma (ITA) 39.887
22. Monaco (FRA)
Ancelotti helped Real end their ‘La Decima’ obsession at first attempt.
“I believed Real Madrid had the quality to win it and I’ve always had maximum confidence. In each Champions League match I saw a different atmosphere in the dressing room because it was so motivating for everyone. Everybody was talking about the Décima and that gave us confidence and strength to play the matches with personality and courage. The pressure to win the Décima was positive pressure.
“I never thought that the final was lost. I’m an optimist. Time was going too quickly, but the team was doing very well. We did it with two minutes to spare but we had chances to equalise beforehand.
“I didn’t celebrate Ramos’ goal much because I started to think about extra time and how to arrange the team. When Marcelo scored I thought the match was over, that we were champions of Europe. La Décima is home.”
He added: “I’d never seen what I saw after winning the Décima. It was crazy. Real Madrid is not just a football team, it’s becoming a global religion. I’ve seen a lot of videos from the fans and it’s really incredible.”
While fans around the world were glued to their screens to watch the Champions League final – not to mention 65,000 packed into the Estadio do Luz, I had a day with a difference.
I flew out to Ibiza to the Heineken Star Final, and watched the game with Real Madrid hero Fernando Morientes and former Atletico star Luis Garcia.
Legends on either side of the Madrid divide, the two former Champions League-winners were bound to have different takes on the Lisbon showpiece.
After appearing the night before at a beach dinner for hundreds of competition winners, Garcia and Morientes showed off their skills by shooting into a floating goal in the Mediterranean, aided by some truly impressive jetskiing skills.
After proving that I’m better off writing about football than playing it with a spot of beach soccer, I caught up with the two stars to gauge their nerves before the game.
Morientes was predictably hell-bent on Real securing the famous ‘La Decima’ – their tenth European Cup – while Garcia was quietly confident Atletico could do the double over their illustrious neighbours by following up winning La Liga in spectacular fashion and winning the Champions League.
Former striker Morientes left you under no illusion who he thought the bigger team was, saying: ‘La Decima is not life or death, but it’s the most important thing for the club, the city and the supporters.
‘It’s the biggest competition in Europe and Real Madrid are the most important club in the world, so it’s a necessity.