UEFA Champions League rewind – Playing for 90 - Techy Hunters

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Tuesday, November 9, 2021

UEFA Champions League rewind – Playing for 90

The UEFA Champions League format has undergone considerable changes over the years. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Taking a look at the Champions League so far using previous format

With club soccer at a halt in Europe due to the international break, I thought it’d be interesting to go back and live in the past a bit. I thought about taking the old format of the European Cup from the 1990-91 season and applying it to clubs that would be involved in the current format but using the old model and creating a fantasy UEFA Champions League and looking ahead.

The Champions League used to be called the European Cup. The name changed after the 1991-92 season. Over the years, the format has changed and now with more than one club from each country, there are more qualifying matches to be played. In the European Cup, there were only 32 clubs at the start of the tournament, the difference being there was no qualifying round.

Every club from their respective domestic leagues that finished first would qualify and the previous year’s winner would get a spot as the holders.

Over the last 30 years, the tournament has gone through changes and so has the map of Europe . To keep the same format as the 1990-91 European Cup season, I took the top 31 UEFA country coefficients plus last year’s Champions League winner (Chelsea) to get 32 clubs. With the top 31 UEFA coefficients, I took the 31 domestic league winners from last year’s campaign.

There were no group stages as it was all a two-leg playoff until the final with the exception of the 1991-92 season. After the second round, there were two groups of four with the winner of each group advancing to the next round.

To determine who plays who, the title holders, along with the top 15 UEFA coefficients would be in Pot 1 and the 16th to 32nd ranked coefficients would be in Pot 2. Sorry FC Sheriff Tiraspol, you didn’t make this year’s tournament as Moldova is not in the top 31 UEFA country coefficients.

Below is how the clubs are seeded based on their UEFA club coefficients.

Pot 1 clubs

Chelsea 104 pts (England) Title holders

Bayern Munich 120 pts (Germany)

Manchester City 113 pts (England)

Atletico Madrid 93 pts (Spain)

Ajax 68.5 pts (Netherlands)

Red Bull Salzburg 61 pts (Austria)

Inter Milan 54 pts (Italy)

Zenit 44 pts (Russia)

Dynamo Kiev 44 pts (Ukraine)

Sporting CP 43.5 pts (Portugal)

Dinamo Zagreb 42.5 pts (Croatia)

Club Brugge 38.5 pts (Belgium)

Young Boys 35 pts (Switzerland)

Crvena Zvezda 35 pts (Serbia)

Rangers 31.25 pts (Scotland)

Lille 18 pts (France)

Pot 2

Slavia Praha 44 pts (Czech Republic)

Olympiacos 37 pts (Greece)

Besiktas 33 pts (Turkey)

Malmo 22.5 pts (Sweden)

Ludogorets 21 pts (Bulgaria)

CFR Cluj 17.5 pts (Romania)

NK Maribor 14 pts (Slovenia)

Legia Warsaw 12.5 pts (Poland)

Ferencváros 12.5 pts (Hungary)

Slovan Bratislava 8 pts (Slovakia)

Neftçi Baku 7 pts (Azerbaijan)

Brondby 6.5 pts (Denmark)

Kairat 6.5 pt (Kazakhstan)

Bodo/Glimt 5 pts (Norway)

Maccabi Haifa 5 pts (Isreal)

Omonia 4 pts (Cyprus)

I don’t own a PS5 or a magical supercomputer to predict and simulate the tournament, but club strength and historical performance will decide who advances  in the two-legged matchups.

By randomly taking clubs from pot 1 and pot 2, here are my first round matchups. In the1990-91 season, the title holder got a bye to the second round but to keep the process easier to follow I added Chelsea to round 1.

Red Bull Salzburg vs CFR Cluj

Sporting CP vs Slovan Bratislava

Ajax vs Ludogorets

Club Brugge vs NK Maribor

Dinamo Zagreb vs Besiktas

Chelsea vs Brondby

Manchester City vs Olympiacos

Atletico Madrid vs Legia Warsaw

Zenit vs Kairat

Bayern Munich vs Malmo

Inter Milan vs Neftçi Baku

Crvena Zvezda vs Slavia Praha

Young Boys vs Bodo/Glimt

Rangers vs Maccabi Haifa

Dynamo Kiev vs Omonia

Lille vs Ferencváros

In round 1 there was a lot of uneven matchups, leading to 14 of the pot 1 teams advancing, leaving Slavia Praha and Besiktas to advance to the next round from pot 2. Here are the round 2 matchup with some more competitive matches.

Red Bull Salzburg vs Sporting CP

Ajax vs Club Brugge

Besiktas vs Chelsea

Manchester City vs Atletico Madrid

Zenit vs Bayern Munich

Inter Milan vs Slavia Praha

Young Boys vs Rangers

Dynamo Kiev vs Lille

In the heavyweight matchup of Man City and Atletico, I gave the edge to Manchester City solely on the fact they have most recently made the Champions League final and have dominated the Premier League.

Quarterfinals

Red Bull Salzburg vs Ajax

Chelsea vs Manchester City

Bayern Munich vs Inter Milan

Young Boys vs Dynamo Kiev

To setup the semifinals, I had Ajax advancing to take on Manchester City. Manchester City gets their revenge over Chelsea over last year’s 1-0 loss in the final. Bayern Munich are too much for Inter to handle and same for Dynamo Kiev

Semifinals

Ajax vs Manchester City

Bayern Munich vs Dynamo Kiev

UEFA Champions League Final

Bayern Munich vs Manchester City

Bayern Munich won the UEFA Champions League in 2020, defeating Paris St. Germain. (Photo by Julian Finney / UEFA / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

No big upsets here as we have a Manchester City and Bayern Munich final. It’s amazing how much the dynamics change when only the domestic league winners qualify. No PSG, no Manchester United, no Real Madrid, no Juventus etc.

One could argue it’s harder to win now just because there are more powerhouse clubs. At the same time, winning your domestic league is also a grueling task and it’s not automatic to win it every year. Money can only buy so much.

For the record I would have Bayern Munich win over Manchester City in the reverse retro UEFA Champions league.

With the news of the European Super League creeping around, I think going back to the old format would be beneficial. Less games and less travel for clubs who already play enough as it is. Let clubs from smaller nations participate in the tournament.

The Champions League prestige will never be replaced by a Super League. Let’s be honest, no matter how much money is pumped into the proposed Super League, it will never have an anthem as spine-tingling good as the Champions League anthem.



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