Who is in the group stage, when are the games, how can they be watched and how do the squads work: explained.
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The new UEFA Women's Champions League group stage has begun, with the 16 trailblazing contenders split into four pools. We explain how it works.
Who is in the group stage?
Group stage draw in full
Group A: Chelsea (ENG), Wolfsburg (GER), Juventus (ITA), Servette (SUI)
Group B: Paris Saint-Germain (FRA), Breidablik (ISL), Real Madrid (ESP), WFC Kharkiv (UKR)
Group C: Barcelona (ESP, holders), Arsenal (ENG), Hoffenheim (GER), HB Køge (DEN)
Group D: Bayern München (GER), Lyon (FRA), Häcken (SWE), Benfica (POR)
Four teams qualified directly. In principle, these are the title holders and the champions of the three highest-ranked associations – in 2021/22, France, Germany and Spain. Because this season Barcelona are both title holders and champions of Spain, the champions of the fourth-ranked association – England – also enter in the group stage, meaning the direct entrants are Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern München and Chelsea.
The other 12 contenders emerged via two rounds of qualifying. Seven (Benfica, Breidablik, Häcken, HB Køge, Juventus, WFC Kharkiv, Servette) came from the champions path, consisting of all those domestic title-winners who do not gain direct entry to the group stage.
The other five (Arsenal, Hoffenheim, Lyon, Real Madrid, Wolfsburg) came from the league path, which involved the teams finishing second and third in the top six-ranked associations – France, Germany, Spain, England, Sweden and Czech Republic – and the runners-up of the next ten highest-ranked associations, namely Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, Kazakhstan, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Scotland, Russia and Belarus.
- Lyon's five-year reign as champions was ended last season; they have a record seven titles overall.
- Along with Lyon and holders Barcelona, Wolfsburg have won this competition twice and Arsenal claimed the title in 2006/07.
- HB Køge, Hoffenheim and Madrid are playing in Europe for the first time this season.
- Benfica, Juventus, Kharkiv and Servette have never previously made the last 16 under any format. Benfica are the first Portuguese team to do so.
- Breidablik (the first club from Iceland to reach a major UEFA club home and away group stage) and Häcken (previously known as Göteborg) are past quarter-finalists.
- Juventus have an additional motivation to reach this season's final, with the May showpiece to be held in their men's stadium.
How does the group stage work?
The 16 teams were drawn into four groups of four on Monday 13 September.
Each side will play their group opponents home and away, with the top two from each pool qualifying for the quarter-finals. The draw for the rest of the competition will be on 20 December; the knockout games begin in March.
Matchday 1: 5/6 October
Matchday 2: 13/14 October
Matchday 3: 9/10 November
Matchday 4: 17/18 November
Matchday 5: 8/9 December
Matchday 6: 15/16 December
For the next four years all games from the group stage onwards will be shown live across the world thanks to a global broadcasting partnership with streaming platform DAZN, together with YouTube. The multi-year deal grants DAZN exclusive rights worldwide, with the exception of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) – where rights include clips and highlights – and China and its territories.*
For the first two seasons (2021/22 and 2022/23), fans will be able to watch live and on demand all 61 matches from the group stage onwards on DAZN, and free on DAZN's YouTube channel. For the following two seasons (2023/24 and 2024/25), all 61 matches will be shown live on DAZN, while 19 matches will be free to view on DAZN's YouTube channel.
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Is there VAR?
To further professionalise the competition, the video assistant referee (VAR), previously only deployed for the final, will be used for all matches in the knockout stage, i.e. from the quarter-finals onward.
How many players are in each squad?
Every club submits two lists of players, including details such as shirt number, date of birth and nationality. List A was submitted to UEFA by 24:00 CET on Thursday 30 September. The same process applies to List B (more details below), which must be submitted no later than 24:00 CET the day before each match.
Can clubs involved in rounds 1 and 2 make changes to their squads, and can any team include players who were fielded in those rounds for another club?
Clubs submit a totally new player list for the group stage which may include players who have played for another club in rounds 1 or 2 of the competition.
Who can be on List A?
No club can have more than 25 players on List A during the season, of whom at least two must be goalkeepers.
Players who are at least 16 years of age by the end of the calendar year when the match is played, are eligible to play.
What is List B?
A player may be registered on List B if she is born on or after 1 January 2000 and has been eligible to play for the club concerned for any uninterrupted period of two years since her 15th birthday by the time she is registered with UEFA, or for a total of three consecutive years with a maximum of one loan period to a club from the same association for a period no longer than one year. Players aged 16 may be registered on List B if they have been registered with the participating club for the previous two years without interruption.
Clubs are entitled to register an unlimited number of players on List B during the season, but the list has to be submitted no later than 24:00 CET the day before a match. A club must include at least three goalkeepers in total combining Lists A and B.
Can teams change their List A squad during the group stage?
In general, no. However, there are exceptions:
- If a club cannot count on the services of at least two goalkeepers registered on List A because of long-term injury or illness, the club concerned may temporarily replace the goalkeeper in question and register a new goalkeeper at any time during the season and complete the official registration List A with a goalkeeper fit to be fielded. An injury or illness is considered long-term if it lasts at least 30 days as of the day the injury or illness occurred. In case the recovery of the goalkeeper happens before this 30-day period, the player must remain out of the player List A until the end of such period. The club must provide UEFA with the necessary medical evidence in one of UEFA's official languages. UEFA may require further medical examination of the goalkeeper by an expert appointed by UEFA at the cost of the club. Once the injured or ill goalkeeper is fit to be fielded again, she can resume her position in place of her nominated substitute. The return of the original goalkeeper must be announced to the UEFA administration 24 hours before the next match in which the original goalkeeper is due to play.
- At any time during the season, the club may temporarily replace a pregnant player who has decided to provide employment services to her club in an alternate manner in line with the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, or a pregnant player who is not able to continue to provide sporting services to her club, nor provide employment services to her club in an alternate manner, because of health reasons attributable to the pregnancy, or a player who has taken maternity leave. On completion of her maternity leave, a player may resume her position on the official registration List A in place of her nominated substitute.
Can clubs change their List A squads after the group stage?
Yes. Prior to the quarter-finals teams may register a maximum of three new eligible players for the remaining matches by 24:00 CET on 17 March at the latest. Those three players can have played for another club in an earlier round, including the group stage. The limit of 25 players in the List A squad remains.
*The People's Republic of China, the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, the Special Administrative Region of Macau and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan)