The Champions League finally returns this month with 16 clubs across Europe still dreaming of lifting the famous trophy in May.
Liverpool, who beat Tottenham in last season’s final, will be hoping they can achieve a second-successive triumph while other European giants aim to end the Reds’ reign.
But how ready are you for the competition to return after an exciting group stage? Do you know who the favourites are among the remaining 16 teams? And which clubs will be playing in the knockout stages for the first time?
What’s more, some rule changes and other slight alterations are in place in this season’s Champions League campaign, as has been in the case in various competitions in recent months.
We’ve explained five of the most important things you need to know below.
1. How many of the 12 substitutes can clubs use?
Every Champions League club will be able to have 12 players on the bench, giving managers plenty of options to make game-changing substitutions and avoid fitness and injury problems.
The concept of having 12 substitutes in the Champions League was introduced in June’s final between Liverpool and Tottenham and continues this season – however they were only be able to use three of those in the group stages.
But now we have reached the knockout rounds, clubs will be able to bring on a fourth player in extra-time, as was the case last season.
2. Has the away goals rule changed?
The away goals rule has always been a point of contention in football. Some see it as a fair tie-breaker, as it rewards visiting sides for trying to score in the away legs of knockout ties. But others believe it is an outdated and unjust advantage – not to mention a cruel way to exit a tournament as Ajax will attest to after last season.
Uefa has discussed the possibility of scrapping the away goals rule, but it will stay in place in the Champions League this season. Keep an eye out for a possible future change, though.
3. How many clubs are making their knockout stage debut?
Going into the 2019/20 group stage campaign, Atalanta were the only club making their debut in the competition. The Serie A side were drawn in Group C with Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb, giving them hope of their journey lasting into 2020.
Atalanta in this season's #UCL:
The first ever team to progress to the knock-out stage having lost their first three games of the group stage. pic.twitter.com/khsej79PP8
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 11, 2019
And that’s exactly what has happened with Atalanta as they finished second to Man City despite gaining just one point from their opening four games, booking a place in the last-16 for the first time. Their reward is a very winnable tie with Valencia.
But Atalanta are not alone. RB Leipzig are also in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time after topping Group G ahead of Lyon, Benfica and Zenit in just their second campaign in the competition. Their task is slightly harder in the knockout stages, facing Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur led by Jose Mourinho.
Just one club will be playing in the Champions League group stages for the first time this year. Italian side Atalanta finished third in Serie A last season and will be hoping to make an immediate impact in Europe’s elite competition.
Atalanta have been drawn in Group C with Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb – all of whom won their domestic leagues last season. But Gian Piero Gasperini’s men will undoubtedly be confident of progressing to the round of 16.
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4. What are the last-16 ties and when will they be played?
The group stage of the 2019/20 Champions League was excellent with some strong performances from big sides mixed in with a handful of surprises. Last season’s semi-finalists Ajax were eliminated after finishing third in Group H, while Bayern Munich were the only team with a 100 per cent record.
Following the culmination of the group stage, the draw was made and we’ve known about the layout of the last-16 for some time, with the Champions League taking a break to build the excitement. But, now it’s finally here, how about a refresh of the ties and when they will be coming up.
Tuesday 18 February
Borussia Dortmund vs Paris Saint-Germain
Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool
Wednesday 19 February
Atalanta vs Valencia
Tottenham Hotspur vs RB Leipzig
Tuesday 25 February
Chelsea vs Bayern Munich
Napoli vs Barcelona
Wednesday 26 February
Real Madrid vs Manchester City
Lyon vs Juventus
The UEFA Champions League Last-16 Draw.
Which tie are you looking forward to most? 🏆 pic.twitter.com/5v14DOYEN0
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) December 16, 2019
Tuesday 10 March
Valencia vs Atalanta
RB Leipzig vs Tottenham Hotspur
Wednesday 11 March
Paris Saint-Germain vs Borussia Dortmund
Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid
Tuesday 17 March
Manchester City vs Real Madrid
Juventus vs Lyon
Tuesday 10 March
Bayern Munich vs Chelsea
Barcelona vs Napoli
5. Where is the final and who are the favourites to get there?
This year’s final will be held at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, which will be music to the ears of Liverpool fans.
The Reds claimed their fifth Champions League in 2005 at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium, in a dramatic penalty shootout win over AC Milan, while also adding this season’s Uefa Super Cup across Istanbul at Vodafone Park against Chelsea.
Despite being defending champions and Premier League leaders, Liverpool are second favourites to win the competition with most bookmakers, behind Manchester City while Barcelona come in at third. Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich round off the top five favourites to go all the way.