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Champions League: Format, history and odds

The Champions League is the premier competition in European club football, with the top sides battling it out on an annual basis to be crowned the best team on the continent.

Currently in its 68th season, or 31st since being rebranded as the Champions League in 1992, the competition has grown exponentially over the years, with further changes set to come into play ahead of the 2024/25 campaign.

WhatChampions League
WhereAcross Europe
When21st June 2022 - 10th June 2023
How to watchBT Sport
OddsMan City 7/4, Bayern Munich 11/4, Real Madrid 11/2, Napoli 6/1, Chelsea 10/1

What is the Champions League?

The Champions League is Europe's premier club competition and for the 2022/23 season 78 teams from 53 of the 55 UEFA member associations have taken part.

Most countries only have one representative, although depending on UEFA's coefficient ranking, as well as who the previous season's Champions League and Europa League winners were, some nations can have as many as five teams involved.

There are five qualifying rounds just to reach the Champions League proper, with teams entering at various stages of qualifying depending on their country's coefficient, while clubs from the higher-ranked nations secure automatic places in the group stage.

In total, 32 teams make it through to the group stage where they are split into eight groups of four, with the top two in each section progressing to the knockout rounds.

All ties during the knockout stage are played over two legs in a home and away format, with the exception being the final, which is staged at a predetermined neutral venue that changes on an annual basis.

What is the history of the Champions League?

The idea of a continent-wide knockout competition was first introduced ahead of the 1955/56 season, with Spanish giants Real Madrid winning the inaugural European Cup, beating French club Reims 4-3 in the final.

The competition remained in the same format for the next 36 years, with only the defending champions and winners of the previous season's domestic leagues eligible to play.

However, that all changed ahead of the 1992/93 season, as UEFA rebranded the competition, renaming it the Champions League and introducing a group stage rather than just a straight knockout format as it had previously been.

Since the 1992/93 season, the competition has continued to grow, with 32 teams currently competing in the group stage, while the biggest leagues in Europe have multiple representatives in the competition.

Who are the most successful team in Champions League history?

Real Madrid were not only crowned the first European champions, but they are also the most successful team in the history of the competition, winning it a record 14 times, most recently beating Liverpool in the 2021/22 final.

AC Milan are the next most-decorated side, with the Italian giants lifting the trophy seven times, one more than both Bayern Munich and Liverpool, the latter being Britain's most successful team in the competition's history.

Barcelona (five) and Ajax (four) have also enjoyed plenty of success in the past, while Manchester United (three), Chelsea (two) and Nottingham Forest (two) are the other British teams to have lifted the famous 'Big Eared' trophy on more than one occasion.

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Can I watch the Champions League on television?

Yes. British viewers can watch all Champions League matches from the group stage onwards on BT Sport, while in recent years the final of the competition has also been available to watch free-to-air.

What changes are expected to be made to the Champions League?

The Champions League has operated under the same format since the second group stage was scrapped at the end of the 2002/03 season.

However, UEFA have recently announced plans to change the competition's structure from the 2024/25 season, with 36 teams entering at the group stage rather than the current 32.

Each team will play eight matches rather than the current six and one league table will be used to rank all 32 sides, with the top eight qualifying automatically for the round of 16, while teams ranked ninth to 24th will go into a play-off round to decide the final eight places in the next stage.

From the last-16 stage, the competition will then continue in the same format as the current Champions League.

Who are the favourites to win the 2022/23 Champions League?

The 2022/23 Champions League has reached the knockout stage, with 16 clubs still in the hunt to be crowned Europe's best team.

Manchester City have never claimed that honour, but they are 7/4 favourites to go all the way after being drawn against RB Leipzig in the first knockout round.

Bayern Munich (11/4) and Real Madrid (11/2), are also being tipped for overall glory, with the two European heavyweights coming through with convincing victories in the round of 16 against PSG and Liverpool respectively.

Napoli (6/1), Chelsea (10/1) and Inter Milan (20/1) can also be considered contenders, with Benfica (25/1) and AC Milan (33/1) priced as outsiders.

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