The group stages of Europe’s premier club football competition, the Champions League, get underway this week. A total of 32 teams will compete, hoping to progress to the latter knockout stages, with the top two going on to play in the final at Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium on 10 June 2023.
Situated in the Başakşehir area of the city, west of the Bosphorus, and opened in 2002, the stadium boasts a seated capacity of over 75,000.
The venue famously hosted the 2005 decider, when Liverpool managed one of the greatest comebacks of all time, recovering from a 3-0 deficit to beat AC Milan. The sensational manner of the Scousers’ victory led the game to be called the “Miracle of Istanbul”.
Istanbul was initially due to host the 2020 final, but this was moved to Lisbon due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coronavirus travel restrictions were also responsible for denying Istanbul the chance to host the 2021 showpiece.
The city was instead rewarded with next year’s final, which will have greater resonance as 2023 is the centenary of the creation of the Republic of Turkiye.
Group stages of the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League
The draw for the group stages of the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League was made during a glitzy UEFA awards ceremony in Istanbul last month.
The group stages comprise of eight groups of four teams. Of the 32 teams that went into the pot, 26, among them current holders Real Madrid, had automatically qualified for the group stages. A further six came through the qualifying rounds.
The UK has a total of six teams still in the competition, four from England: (Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Tottenham Hotspur) and two from Scotland (Celtic and Rangers).
Liverpool will be hoping to emulate their 2005 success in Istanbul
Turkiye has no teams left in this season’s Champions League after their two representatives, Super Lig champions Trabzonspor and runners-up Fenerbahçe, were both knocked out in the playoff and preliminary rounds respectively.
Key dates for 2022/23 Champions League season
The 68th season of Europe’s elite club competition, the 31st since it was renamed the UEFA Champions League, began on 21 June 2022 and runs to 10 June 2023.
The earlier rounds of qualifying games took place as follows:
- Preliminary round semi-finals: 21 June 2022
- Preliminary round final: 24 June 2022
- First qualifying round: 5 / 6 & 12 / 13 July 2022
- Second qualifying round: 19 / 20 & 26 / 27 July 2022
- Third qualifying round: 2 / 3 & 9 August 2022
- Play-offs: 16 / 17 & 23 / 24 August 2022
- Matchday 1: 6 / 7 September 2022
- Matchday 2: 13 / 14 September 2022
- Matchday 3: 4 /5 October 2022
- Matchday 4: 11 / 12 October 2022
- Matchday 5: 25 / 26 October 2022
- Matchday 6: 1 / 2 November 2022
Knockout stages of the Champions League
- Round of 16:
- 14 / 15, and 21 / 22 February 2023
- 7 / 8, and 14 / 15 March 2023
- Quarter-finals: 11 / 12, and 18 / 19 April 2023
- Semi-finals: 9 / 10, and 16 / 17 May 2023
- Final: 10 June 2023
Main photo, top, of the UEFA Champions League trophy taken in Berlin, 2016. Photo © Ugis Riba / Shutterstock.com