Today, we can begin to look forward to Champions League nights after a six-season wait with the group stage draw taking place on Thursday.
Following the conclusion of many of the European leagues over the past couple of weeks, the picture as to who we might face in the group stage of the competition is becoming a little clearer, now the final round of qualifiers is in progress.
Here is everything we know so far about what our return to Europe’s premier club competition currently looks like:
What is the competition format?
The Champions League is entering its final season in its usual format of 32 teams, split into eight groups of four who play each other home and away. The two group winners advance into the round of 16, with the winners seeded and runners-up unseeded. The third-placed team enter the Europa League play-off round, while the team who finishes bottom of the group is eliminated from European competition entirely.
The 2024/25 edition however will see an increase in teams to 36, who will compete in a single league. Each team will play eight matches against eight different teams, four at home and four away.
The top eight sides in the league will qualify automatically for the knockout stage, while the teams finishing in ninth to 24th place will compete in a two-legged play-off to secure their path into the last 16.
Two of the additional places will go to the associations with the best collective performance by their clubs in the previous season. That could mean that should English teams perform well in European competitions during 2023/24, the top five teams in the Premier League may qualify for this new version of the Champions League.
Who has qualified for the group stage?
Our fellow top four finishers in the Premier League will all be in the group stage draw on August 31, with freshly crowned champions Manchester City joined by us, Manchester United and Newcastle United, who are making their first appearance in the competition for 20 years.
There will be five Spanish teams amongst the final 32, after Sevilla once again claimed Europa League glory. They will be alongside compatriots Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Real Socieded who finished in the top four of La Liga.
Italy also has four representatives in champions Napoli, runners-up Lazio and Inter Milan and AC Milan, while Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and first-time qualifiers Union Berlin will fly the flag for Germany.
Lens earned a spot by finishing behind Paris Saint Germain in Ligue 1, while Benfica and Porto nabbed Portugal’s two automatic places. Feyenoord, Red Bull Salzburg, Celtic, Red Star Belgrade and Shakhtar Donetsk have also all made it to the group stage by winning their national leagues.
Following the conclusion of the play-off round on Wednesday night, six other teams made it through the qualifiers to also punch their ticket into the group stage - Young Boys, Royal Antwerp, FC Copenhagen, Galatasaray, PSV Eindhoven and Braga.
Do we know any potential opponents yet?
Firstly, we cannot be drawn in the same group as any other English side, meaning a trip to Manchester to face either City or United is off the cards, as is a meeting with Newcastle.
Due to our UEFA club coefficient, we will be placed in pot 2 during the draw, meaning we cannot face fellow pot 2 teams Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig and Porto until the knockout stages.
What is guaranteed is that we will face a seeded team from pot 1, which means games against either Sevilla, Barcelona, Napoli, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint Germain, Benfica or Feyenoord.
We’ll also be drawn against a team from pot 3, which means we'll take on one of Shakhtar Donetsk, Red Bull Salzburg, AC Milan, Lazio, Red Star Belgrade, Braga or Copenhagen.
Finally, our options in pot 4 are Young Boys, Real Socieded, Galatasaray, Celtic, Union Berlin, Antwerp and Lens.
When is the draw?
The draw for the group stage will take place the day after the conclusion of the play-off round games on Thursday, August 31.
It will take place at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, and will be streamed live on UEFA's website from 5pm BST.
When will we be in action?
Our first group game is scheduled to take place on either 19/20 September, with two and three-week gaps between games alternating right the way through to the sixth and final game on 12/13 December.
|Matchweek||Dates||Opponent weekend before||Opponent weekend after|
|1||19-20 Sep||Everton (A)||Tottenham (H)|
|2||3-4 Oct||Bournemouth (A)||Man City (H)|
|3||24-25 Oct||Chelsea (A)||Sheff Utd (H)|
|4||7-8 Nov||Newcastle (A)||Burnley (H)|
|5||28-29 Nov||Brentford (A)||Wolves (H)|
|6||12-13 Dec||Aston Villa (A)||Brighton (H)|
How do the knockout stages look?
Following the winter break, the Champions League will return in February at the round of 16 stage, which will see two-legged ties take place. The quarter-finals will be in March with the semis the month after, and the final will be held at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, June 1.
It will be the eighth time the stadium has hosted a European Cup final, and the third in the Champions League era following on from the 2011 and 2013 finals.