Benfica likely to be in pot 3 of the Champions League next season
Benfica are at risk of only being in pot 3 of the Champions League next season.
Should Benfica win the league, which is looking increasingly likely with just one game of the season remaining, they will automatically qualify for the group stage of the Champions League, but will not be in pot 1 of the tournament, and even have a significant chance of only being in pot 3 of Europe’s most illustrious competition.
Pot 1 will consist of Barcelona, PSG, Manchester City, Juventus, the winners of the Bundesliga (likely Bayern Munich), Zenit St Peterbsurg, the Champions League winners (Liverpool or Tottenham), and the Europa League winners (one of Chelsea or Arsenal).
Should Arsenal win the Europa League, Benfica are even more likely to miss out on pot 2 and be destined for pot 3 for the next Champions League campaign, with Arsenal being put in pot 1 upon winning the Europa League while Chelsea would slide down to pot 2. As such, if Arsenal qualify, it will bump Benfica down one place in the overall team rankings and deeper into pot 3.
If we therefore focus on only the best possible outcome for Benfica and Chelsea win the Europa League, pot 1 will look as follows:
We would then have both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in pot 2 (they are guaranteed to be in pot 2 regardless of what happens between now and the end of the season) while, if leagues across the continent finished as they are right now, they will be joined by Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Shakhtar Donetsk and one of Tottenham or Liverpool depending on who wins the Champions League. These six teams will qualify directly to the Champions League group stage and be put into pot 2.
Meanwhile, FC Porto and Ajax are both higher than Benfica in the current UEFA Club Rankings (ranked 10th and 20th respectively, while Benfica are only 21st). Both Porto and Ajax need to get through a couple of qualifying rounds to then make it to the Champions League group stage. If they both manage to do that, which is the most likely scenario, then they would both also make pot 2, occupying those final two places in the second highest pot for the Champions League draw.
Pot 2 would therefore look as follows. Asterisk (*) denotes teams that don’t qualify directly to the Champions League group stage and instead have to go through qualifying rounds instead:
Benfica would then be guaranteed to be the highest ranked pot 3 team in the draw. Pot three would then look as follows based on the domestic leagues across the continent finishing as they are currently and assuming the highest ranked sides that don’t qualify directly for the Champions League group stage win their qualifying matches to ultimately make it to the Champions League proper - these sides are denoted with an asterisk (*):
The teams are written in order of ranking; that is, the team written first are the highest ranked side in the pot, the team written second are the second highest ranked side in the pot etc. As such, Benfica are the highest ranked team within pot 3 should Chelsea win the Europa League. That means that, should Portugal’s own FC Porto, or Ajax slip up in the qualifying rounds, Benfica would then be bumped up to pot 2, just about making it into pot 2 as the lowest ranked side.
That, however, seems unlikely, with this year’s Champions League semi-finalists Ajax a relatively safe bet to make it through Champions League qualification, while FC Porto are also favourites to make it.
Should this happen, Benfica will be in pot 3 for the upcoming Champions League, and will be set for a very challenging Champions League group.
In any case, the likelihood of both Portuguese clubs being in pot 2 for this upcoming Champions League campaign is slim, and ultimately depends on Ajax slipping up in the qualifying rounds and Chelsea winning the Europa League.
For the sake of completion, this is what pot 4 would look like based on how the domestic tables currently stand and predicting that the highest ranked clubs prevail from Champions League qualification:
What needs to happen between now and the end of the season?
However, all is not lost for Benfica’s hopes of being in pot 2 for next season’s Champions League. Indeed, depending on how domestic league tables across Europe change in the final gameweek or two over the coming week, Benfica’s chances of making it into pot 2 will either increase considerably, or end altogether.
The sides Benfica fans should therefore be supporting from countries from abroad therefore include the likes of Chelsea, Inter Milan and Atalanta, while the teams Benfica fans should be rooting against include Roma, Sevilla and Arsenal.
For Benfica to be assured of a place in pot 2 for next season’s Champions League (alongside FC Porto), all of the following 4 things must happen:
Chelsea win the Europa League instead of Arsenal
Sevilla do not finish in the top 4 of La Liga
Roma do not finish in the top 4 of the Italian Serie A
Ajax do not qualify for the Champions League group stage