The 2009/10 UEFA Champions League will feature the highest number of actual national champions for a decade with 18 titleholders in the 32-strong lineup for today's draw in Monaco.
This is the first season since UEFA changed the qualifying format to boost the prospects of clubs from outside the leading footballing nations in Europe – and it has meant for more champions than in any campaign since 1999/2000.
Besides direct entry for the respective Belgian and Romanian titleholders R. Standard de Liège and AFC Unirea Urziceni – both group-stage debutants – the newly installed Champions Route in qualifying has also had an impact. FC Zürich, twice semi-finalists in the European Champion Clubs' Cup, secured their first group-stage appearance through this path while there were returns for Maccabi Haifa FC and Olympiacos FC after they faced fellow title-winners in the play-off round.
Standard, Unirea and Zürich are three of the eight first-timers in the hat for the group stage – more newcomers to this phase of the competition than in any season since 1992/93. Of the other five, AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands), FC Rubin Kazan (Russia), VfL Wolfsburg (Germany) qualified directly while Cypriot champions APOEL FC and Debreceni VSC made it through from the second qualifying round via the Champions Route.
Made it through
APOEL beat EB/Streymur, FK Partizan and FC København to emulate the feat of Anorthosis Famagusta FC who became the first Cypriot qualifiers last term. Debrecen defeated Kalmar FF, FC Levadia Tallinn and PFC Levski Sofia to become Hungary's first representatives since 1995/96. Maccabi also overcame three opponents – Glentoran FC, FK Aktobe and FC Salzburg – to secure their second shot at the group stage after a maiden appearance in 2002/03.
Each of the 32 teams in the group stage of European club football's leading competition this season will receive a participation bonus of €3.8m plus a match bonus of €550,000 per group game played. The clubs can also expect to receive performance bonuses, with €800,000 being paid out for every win and €400,000 for every draw in the group stage.
Ten former European winners will contest the group stage with Manchester United FC and FC Porto the two clubs in today's draw with the most appearances in the UEFA Champions League – 15 each including this season. Holders FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF will be competing for the 14th time. Greek champions Olympiacos's play-off win over FC Sheriff means they will return for their 12th time after a qualifying defeat last term ended a run of eleven successive showings.
|UEFA Champions League group-stage appearances (including 2009/10)|
|Manchester United FC, FC Porto||15|
|Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona||14|
|AC Milan, FC Dynamo Kyiv, FC Bayern München||13|
|Arsenal FC, Juventus, Olympiacos FC||12|
|Rangers FC, FC Internazionale Milano||9|
|Liverpool FC, Chelsea FC||8|
|Olympique de Marseille||6|
|Beşiktaş JK, PFC CSKA Moskva||5|
|FC Girondins de Bordeaux||4|
|ACF Fiorentina, Club Atlético de Madrid, VfB Stuttgart||3|
|Sevilla FC, Maccabi Haifa FC||2|
First participation: VfL Wolfsburg, Debreceni VSC, AFC Unirea Urziceni, APOEL FC, FC Zürich, AZ Alkmaar, FC Rubin Kazan, R. Standard de Liège.
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