Liverpool take on Belgian league champions Standard Leige today in their first leg of Champions League qualification.
The contest revives an interesting and often-visited debate – is the Champions League a competition for ‘champions’ or merely the most marketable teams in Europe?
Liverpool are favourites for the clash and with good reason – they’ve got a massively superior squad and play in a tougher league.
If champions were automatically qualified for Champions League (which would either reduce qualification spots for big leagues or force qualifiers from those leagues to start at a lower level), it would have two direct consequences:
1. The exposure to guaranteed Champions League football will bring more attention and therefore more investment into the smaller leagues, raising standard of play and allowing top clubs a better chance of retaining players. Eventually (eventually, not overnight) the standard of football as a whole would rise across Europe.
2. There’s an increased chance of big teams failing to qualify for the Champions League (either because the allocation was reduced or because they had to face qualification earlier in the season [Liverpool today are not as fluent as Liverpool 2 weeks ago]). Bad for business.
What do you think?