UEFA have confirmed a restructure to the Champions League – including changing the kick-off times and guaranteed entry to the group stages.
Liverpool’s fourth-placed finish in last season’s Premier League meant they had to navigate a play-off in August – against Hoffenheim – to qualify for the competition proper.
But under new rules sanctioned ahead of the 2018/19 season, the top four from England – as well as Spain, Italy and Germany – will gain direct qualification into the group stages.
The tournament will also now have two new kick-off times, with the traditional 7.45pm kick off being replaced by 5.55pm and 8pm.
The news comes as a boost to the Reds, who will no longer have to face a play-off in order to gain entry into the group stages regardless of where they finish in the top four.
Winning the Champions League – or Europa League – will also guarantee entry into the last 32.
However, if two teams who finish outside England’s top four win those two competitions, then the fourth-placed team would drop into the Europa League.
The rules for automatic qualification read:
There will now be 26 teams automatically qualified.
For 2018/19 they will be…
UEFA Champions League holders (1)
UEFA Europa League holders (1)
Top four from associations ranked 1st to 4th: Spain, Germany, England, Italy (16)
Top two from associations ranked 5th and 6th: France, Russia (4)
Champions of associations ranked 7th to 10th: Portugal, Ukraine, Belgium, Turkey(4)
There will also be six other qualifiers – four champions of their domestic league, two ‘non-champions’ – to make up the group stages.
The teams who finish fifth and sixth in the Premier League are also guaranteed a spot in the Europa League group stages.
The 2019 Champions League final will be played in Madrid, Spain, on June 1.
Liverpool currently sit third in the league and are considered one of the favourites to finish in the top four, and also face a semi-final with Roma.
./ source – Here