How are teams who finish on the same amount of points in the Champions League group stages separated?

How are teams who finish on the same amount of points in the Champions League group stages separated?
Teams are firstly separated in the Champions League group stages by head-to-head (Image credit: Getty Images)

At the beginning of the 2021/22 season, UEFA decided to abolish the away goals rule for knockout fixtures in the Champions League, Europa League and newly formed Europa Conference League. 

However, away goals are actually still used in UEFA competitions as a way to separate two sides, although only during the group stages of the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League when those two sides are level on points at the end of a round of fixtures.

Six options still need to be exhausted first if two teams finish on the same amount of points in the Champions League group stages, though, with points in head-to-head matches among tied teams the first differentiator in the group stages. Goal difference in head-to-head games between the sides are then considered, and, if they're still level, then goals scored in head-to-head matches come into the equation.

The fourth facet considered if there is still nothing to distinguish the two sides are away goals scored in head-to-head matches, before goal difference in all group matches. Goals scored in all group matches are then looked at, should they still be equal.

Eventually, after exhausting all previous options, the away goals scored in all group matches is used to try and place one team over another.

Thereafter, UEFA ruling states the wins in all group matches is used, before away wins in all group matches. Disciplinary points is the penultimate option, with UEFA club coefficient the final way to separate two sides level.

While a rare occurrence, away goals have been used to determine one side finishing higher than another. 

During the group stages of the 2022/23 Champions League, Paris Saint-Germain were initially leading Group H on goal difference heading into the final minutes of the final match. The French side managed to beat Juventus 2-1, but two late goals from Benfica meant they beat Maccabi Haifa 6-1 away from home.

Consequently, both sides finished level in the group on 14 points. Head-to-head is the next determinant of who finishes above the other, but both matches between PSG and Benfica finished 1-1, meaning the next permutation relied on goal difference.

However, both also completed the group stages with exactly the same goal difference of +9 having each scored 16 goals and conceded 7. Quite literally, there was nothing to separate the two sides.

Therefore, the group positions were ultimately decided by goals scored away from home, as per the official UEFA ruling. Benfica's victory in Israel ensured they topped this category, and consequently the group, their nine away goals better than PSG's six.

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