64 teams start the youth tournament again this season. The teams come from two separate routes: the Champions League clubs and the champions of the 32 youth competitions from the top ranked associations and whose first teams have not qualified for the Champions League group stage. Both paths start in September. They come together in the knock-out stages and the play-offs start on 7 and 8 February.
The groups in the Champions League route are identical with the groups with the first teams. The Leverkusen youth team face FC Porto, Atlético Madrid and FC Brugge. The group winners go through to the Round of 16 and the runners-up go into the play-offs. The teams in the champions route play two rounds of home and away games. The eight winners go onto the second round of play-offs.
The matches in the knockout stage are one-off games with the aforementioned play-offs coming first. The eight winners from the champions route are at home to the runners-up from the Champions League section. Th eight winners of the play-offs meet the eight group winners from the Champions League route. The semi-finals and final are played at the Colovray Stadium in Nyon, the Swiss base for UEFA, with the games on 21 and 24 April this year.
The group matches in the UEFA Youth League are always played the day of the games in the UEFA Champions League – in the same venue but not at the same stadium. That means the Black and Red youth team will play on the same days as the Werkself battle for points in the Champions League. Overview of fixtures:
Matchday 1, 7 September (kick-off: 16.00 CEST): FC Brugge vs Bayer 04
Matchday 2, 13 September (kick-off: 00 CEST): Bayer 04 vs Atlético Madrid
Matchday 3, 4 October (kick-off: 13.00 CEST): FC Porto vs Bayer 04
Matchday 4, 12 October (kick-off: 14.00 CEST): Bayer 04 vs FC Porto
Matchday 5, 26 October (kick-off: 16.00 CEST): Atlético Madrid vs Bayer 04
Matchday 6, 1 November (kick-off: 12.00 CET): Bayer 04 vs FC Brugge
Every club taking part in the UEFA Youth League has until the end of August to register 40 qualified players. Up to five U20 players can be included in this list.
Each club names an 18 to 20 man squad for each matchday with 14 having to be ‘Local players.”. That means they have to have been at the club for at least two calendar years. That rule means coaches cannot exclusively call on players from league football.
If a player from a club has appeared in three matches in the current UEFA Champions League campaign he will automatically excluded from the UEFA Youth League.
Further rules on substitutions (five in three windows), one-match bans (after three yellow cards) etc. follow the rules of the UEFA Champions League.
As previously mentioned, Bayer 04 are in this season’s tournament for a sixth time since the start of the UEFA Youth League in 2013/14. The Black and Red youth team benefits from the Werkself qualifying for Europe’s premier club competition. The Leverkusen youth team has always finished third in the UYL group stage with Bayer 04 just missing out on progress to the knockout rounds.
Opponents and positions from previous seasons:
2013/14: Real Sociedad, Shakhtar Donetsk, Manchester United (third place)
2014/15: Benfica, Zenit St. Petersburg, AS Monaco (third place)
2015/16: FC Barcelona, AS Roma, Bate Borisov (third place)
2016/17: CSKA Moscow, AS Monaco, Tottenham Hotspur (third place)
2019/20: Juventus, Atlético Madrid, Locomotive Moscow (third place)
2022/23: Atlético Madrid, FC Porto, FC Brugge
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