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According to this article Atlético Madrid has to play in the Europa league next year.

But Atlético Madrid finished last liga championship - La liga 2016-17 in the "top 3 qualification spots for Champions League group stage". And this year they are in the top 3 also. Why do they have to play in the Europa League then? Isn't qualification for the Champions League supposed to be the top3/top4 teams in La Liga?

  • No, they move into this year’s Europa League. Finishing third in your Champion’s league group puts you into Europa. – Jon Custer Dec 5 '17 at 23:01
  • But then why they say the top 3 in la liga go to Champions league? Why do they say? – Pablo Dec 5 '17 at 23:45
  • The top three start in the Champions league. If you finish third in your group, you drop to the Europa league. Champions League moves on to the knock out rounds with 16 teams. Other teams (below the top 3 in La Liga) went directly to the Europa league play-in or group play. The top 8 are then matched with 8 dropping in from the Champions League to create the final 16 of the Europa League. – Jon Custer Dec 6 '17 at 0:11
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    Yes, in the knock out rounds. – Jon Custer Dec 6 '17 at 1:13
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    @JonCuster It's strongly preferred to post answers as answers rather than as comments. – Philip Kendall Dec 6 '17 at 8:52
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In which European competition a team starts to play is determined by the results of the team in the previous season of their domestic league. Which means, as in the season 2016-17 Atlético became third in La Liga, they started 2017-18 season in the Champions League (CL) group stage.

But as the CL is more prestigious tournament than the EL, it allows a team finishing third in the group stages of the CL to continue their European campaign in the EL of the same season.

And this is what exactly the article tells us: Atlético finished La Liga 2016-17 in the top 3. This allowed them to start their European campaign in CL 2017-18, then finished third in their CL group and advanced to the next stage in the EL 2017-18.

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