The 2011–12 UEFA Champions League was the 57th season of Europe's premier club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 20th season in its current UEFA Champions League format. As part of a trial that started in the 2009–10 UEFA Europa League, two extra officials – one behind each goal – were used in all matches of the competition from the play-off round.
A total of 76 teams participated in the 2011–12 Champions League from 52 UEFA associations (Liechtenstein organises no domestic league competition). Associations are allocated places according to their 2010 UEFA country coefficients, which takes into account their performance in European competitions from 2005–06 to 2009–10.
Below is the qualification scheme for the 2011–12 UEFA Champions League:
Associations 1–3 each have four teams qualify
Associations 4–6 each have three teams qualify
Associations 7–15 each have two teams qualify
Associations 16–53 each have one team qualify (excluding Liechtenstein)
Since the winners of the 2010–11 UEFA Champions League, Barcelona, obtained a place in the group stage through their domestic league placing, the reserved title holder spot in the group stage was effectively vacated. To compensate:
The champions of association 13 (Switzerland) were promoted from the third qualifying round to the group stage.
The champions of association 16 (Scotland) were promoted from the second qualifying round to the third qualifying round.
The champions of associations 48 and 49 (Faroe Islands and Northern Ireland) were promoted from the first qualifying round to the second qualifying round.
Teams entering in this round
Teams advancing from previous round
First qualifying round
4 champions from associations 50–53
Second qualifying round
32 champions from associations 17–49 (except Liechtenstein)
2 winners from the first qualifying round
Third qualifying round
3 champions from associations 14–16
17 winners from the second qualifying round
9 runners-up from associations 7–15
1 third-placed team from association 6
10 winners from the third qualifying round Champions Route
2 third-placed teams from associations 4 and 5
3 fourth-placed teams from associations 1–3
5 winners from the third qualifying round League Route
Turkey (TUR): Fenerbahçe, the 2010–11 Süper Lig champions, was banned by the Turkish Football Federation on 24 August 2011 from participating in the 2011–12 UEFA Champions League due to the ongoing investigation into match-fixing. UEFA decided to replace them in the group stage with Trabzonspor, the league runners-up, who had lost in the Champions League third qualifying round and were participating in the Europa League play-off round at that time.
The draw for the third qualifying round was held on 15 July 2011. The first legs were played on 26 and 27 July, and the second legs were played on 2 and 3 August 2011.
The third qualifying round was split into two separate sections: one for champions (called the Champions Route) and one for non-champions (called the League Route). The losing teams in both sections entered the play-off round of the 2011–12 UEFA Europa League.
The draw for the play-off round was held on 5 August 2011. The first legs were played on 16 and 17 August, and the second legs were played on 23 and 24 August 2011.
The play-off round was split into two separate sections: one for champions (called the Champions Route) and one for non-champions (called the League Route). The losing teams in both sections entered the group stage of the 2011–12 UEFA Europa League.
Location of teams of the 2011–12 UEFA Champions League group stage. Brown: Group A; Red: Group B; Orange: Group C; Yellow: Group D; Green: Group E; Blue: Group F; Purple: Group G; Pink: Group H.
The group stage features 32 teams, which were allocated into pots based on their 2011 UEFA club coefficients (except the title holders, Barcelona, who were placed in Pot 1 automatically), and then drawn into eight groups of four. Teams from the same association cannot be drawn against each other. The draw was held on 25 August 2011 in Monaco.
In each group, teams play against each other home-and-away in a round-robin format. The matchdays are 13–14 September, 27–28 September, 18–19 October, 1–2 November, 22–23 November, and 6–7 December 2011. The group winners and runners-up advanced to the round of 16, while the third-placed teams entered the round of 32 of the 2011–12 UEFA Europa League.
If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches, the following criteria are applied to determine the rankings (in descending order):
higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question;
superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question;
higher number of goals scored in the group matches played among the teams in question;
higher number of goals scored away from home in the group matches played among the teams in question;
If, after applying criteria 1) to 4) to several teams, two teams still have an equal ranking, the criteria 1) to 4) will be reapplied to determine the ranking of these teams;
superior goal difference from all group matches played;
higher number of goals scored from all group matches played;
higher number of coefficient points accumulated by the club in question, as well as its association, over the previous five seasons.
In the knockout phase, teams play against each other over two legs on a home-and-away basis, except for the one-match final. The draw for the round of 16 was held on 16 December 2011. The draws for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final (to determine the "home" team) were held on 16 March 2012. Both draws were assisted by German footballer Paul Breitner, the ambassador for the 2012 final.
In the draw for the round of 16, the eight group winners were seeded, and the eight group runners-up were unseeded. The seeded teams were drawn against the unseeded teams, with the seeded team hosting the second leg. Teams from the same group or the same association could not be drawn against each other. In the draws for the quarter-finals onwards, there are no seedings, and teams from the same group or the same association may be drawn with each other.