How Champions League playoffs could look across Europe's top leagues

Marcotti: Talks of an August Champions League final premature (1:38)

Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens assess the difficulties UEFA faces in completing the Champions League. (1:38)

Could places in the Champions League and Europa League for 2020-21 be decided by a series of playoffs? UEFA announced on Thursday that it would prefer matters to be settled using "a different format" if the coronavirus does not allow this season to play out in full, while also ruling out UEFA coefficient as an option.

So, this essentially means a playoff format. It may be that the virus rules this out too, and European places are decided by points per game, but we can dream.

Most leagues would need around a month to get all their games in, which means any playoff system would probably run for no more than a week or two.

Teams who are comfortably within Champions League places -- such as Liverpool, Leicester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona -- would not need to take part in these hypothetical playoffs. They are created solely for those clubs separated by just a couple of points.

Unless a cup competition has reached the final, we have considered it impossible to finish and transferred the European position to the league. Also, Manchester City's European ban is considered to be upheld.


Champions League (4 places): Liverpool, Leicester, Chelsea qualify automatically

The final place is decided by a playoff, with two possible systems.

Knockout method

Semifinal: Sheffield United v Wolverhampton Wanderers (one-off tie at Bramall Lane, losers to Europa League)
Final: Winners play Manchester United for a place in the Champions League in a two-legged tie; losers to Europa League group stage

Mini-league method

Man United 2 points
Sheff United 1
Wolves 0

Each team plays each other once, decided by random draw. Group winners to Champions League and other two teams to Europa League

Europa League (3)

The place in second qualifying round is to be decided. This is achieved by a two-legged tie between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.


Champions League (4): Barcelona, Real Madrid qualify automatically

The two other places are decided by a playoff, with two possible systems.

Knockout method

Two-legged playoffs: Atletico Madrid vs. Sevilla FC and Getafe vs. Real Sociedad. Winners of each tie to Champions League.

Mini-league method

Atletico Madrid, Getafe, Real Sociedad and Sevilla each play each other once, all starting on 0 points. Sociedad and Sevilla get two home games due to final league positions. Top two to Champions League, bottom two to Europa League.

Europa League (3)

The third place could be decided by playing the Copa del Rey final between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad. If Bilbao win, they go to the UEL group stage; if Sociedad win, then Valenica take the place in the Europa League qualifiers as they finished seventh in La Liga.


Champions League (4): Juventus, Lazio, Internazionale, Atalanta qualify automatically

As Atalanta have a three-point lead over AS Roma, hold the head-to-head and have a game in hand, no playoff is necessary.

Europa League (3): Roma, Napoli qualify automatically to group stage

So we have a second qualifying round playoff:

Semifinals: AC Milan vs. Bologna and Hellas Verona vs. Parma (one-legged)
Final: Winners meet at the home of the highest-ranked club for the place


Champions League (4): Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig qualify automatically

The final place is decided by a playoff, with Borussia Monchengladbach facing Bayer Leverkusen in a two-legged tie. Losers to Europa League group stage.

Europa League (3)

Two places to be decided.

Knockout method

Semifinals: Schalke 04 vs. TSG Hoffenheim and VfL Wolfsburg vs. SC Freiburg (one-legged)
Final: At the home of the highest-ranked club, winners to group stage and losers to second-qualifying round.

Mini-league method

Starting positions:
Schalke 2 points
Frieburg 1
Wolfsburg 1
Hoffenheim 0

Each team plays each other once. Schalke and Wolfsburg are granted two home games with the best league records. Group winners to Europa League, runners-up through qualifying.


Champions League (3): Paris Saint-Germain, Marseille qualify automatically

The final place, in the third-qualifying round, is decided by a two-legged playoff between Stade Rennes and Lille. Losers go to Europa League group stage.

Europa League (3)

This is solved by playing the French Coupe de la Ligue final (PSG v Lyon) and the Coupe de France final (PSG v Saint-Etienne). If PSG win one or both games, the European place will transfer to Ligue 1. Reims are fifth in Ligue 1 and Nice in sixth.