The UEFA Champions League is your basic Royal Rumble of European club teams. The big leagues send their best teams to directly into the round robin phase of the competition while the smaller league champions have to fight through a qualifying stage in order to make the 32 team competition. Progressing from the round robin phase to the 16 team one-and-done knockout phase is important to big and small clubs alike because the payday of a Champions League knockout game is the footy equivalent of divorcing Tiger Woods. If a smaller club can make the knockout rounds, it suddenly finds itself with an enormous unexpected windfall. Conversely, large clubs often set their finances with the expectation of making the knockout rounds of Champions League and find themselves in dire straights if they fail to progress (see: Liverpool & Juventus, circa yesterday).
The round robin phase ended yesterday and the knockout stages don’t begin until Feb. 16, 2010. Here are the teams that advanced: