What if the Champions League Really Was a League?

With the second week of fixtures in the Group Stages of the Champions League about to begin, we thought it would be interesting to look at how the structure of the competition affects the percentage chance each team has of winning the competition. What if the Champions League really was an, admittedly large, league of 32 teams?

Is the current format, including draws which are seeded and which force teams from the same nation to avoid each other until the Quarter-Finals a disadvantage for the smaller teams? Is this disadvantage more than offset by the nature of a knock-out competition allowing lesser teams to progress off the back of a couple of lucky performances?

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UEFA Champions League Group Strength

So, the Champions League draw has taken place. Who is in a tough group and who has an easy ride?

Champions League Team RanksMeasuring Group Strength

We use our European Team Strength model to rank team across Europe and also to make Champions League predictions. Let’s take a look at how we rank the 32 Champions league qualifiers

We rank the teams by their chance of winning a match against an average European side. For example, Barcelona we rate as having a 91% chance of beating the average European league team, whereas Ajax only have a 62% chance.

Group A looks tough, with Man City and Bayern both ranked in the top 10 among Champions League Clubs. Group H is strong due to Barcelona, but the second to fourth teams in group H are weaker than average. Man United‘s group looks particularly low ranked.

Visualising group Strength

We can visualise group strength by plotting theĀ  goal difference that each team in each group is expected to achieve against an average European league team on a neutral venue. We find that group A is strongest, achieving an average goal difference of 1.7 goals, while group C attains on average a goal difference of only 0.9 goals against an average European league team. Continue reading