Favourites join European elite

England, Spain and Italy will each have four sides in this season's UEFA Champions League group stage, after the big guns all prevailed as the third qualifying round ended on Wednesday. Only Liverpool flirted with disaster after being taken into extra-time by tenacious Belgian champions Standard Liege.

In total, 36 goals were scored in normal time, with an average of 2.25 strikes per game. The draw for the group stage will be held in Monte Carlo at 18.00 CET.

The result
Atletico Madrid 4-0 Schalke 04
Goals: Sergio Aguero (19), Diego Forlan (51), Luis Garcia (83), Maxi Rodriguez (87 pen.) for Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid are back among the European elite 4,179 days after their last appearance in the competition. Beaten 1-0 away by Schalke 04 in the opening leg, Los Colchoneros took the return encounter by the scruff of the neck at a vibrant Vicente Calderon stadium. Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan and Olympic gold medallist Sergio Aguero of Argentina carved out a large number of chances for the hosts, and after Forlan hit the woodwork early on, Aguero brought the aggregate scores level by heading in on 19 minutes. His strike partner Forlan then put Atletico ahead from close range, and as full time approached the visitors began to crack, leaving them grateful to escape with just a 4-0 reverse.

The other games
Of all the top sides, Liverpool experienced by far the most nervous night, failing to convert their superiority into goals at home against a Standard Liege side strong in defence and dangerous on the counter. Congolese forward Dieudonne Mbokani repeatedly threatened to break hearts on Merseyside, but it was Dirk Kuyt who finally made the difference after 118 minutes, giving Liverpool a slender 1-0 aggregate win and averting the need for spot kicks.

Barcelona and Juventus found life much easier, on the other hand, having already snuffed out any suspense by triumphing 4-0 in their first legs. With those goals in the bank, Barça could afford to lose 1-0 to opponents Wisla in Krakow, while Juve had exciting new Brazilian signing Amauri to thank for securing a 1-1 draw at Artmedia Petrzalka.

Fellow Serie A representatives Fiorentina defended their 2-0 opening-leg success by playing out a goalless stalemate away against Slavia Prague, and there was joy for Arsenal too as the Gunners added a 4-0 home victory to their 2-0 win over FC Twente in the Netherlands. Samir Nasri, William Gallas, Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner all found the net in a comprehensive victory.

Elsewhere, Dynamo Kiev proved just as merciless as they racked up their second consecutive 4-1 win against Spartak Moscow, Belarussian striker Artem Milevskiy hitting the target twice to help complete an 8-2 aggregate scoreline. Fortunes varied in Turkey, meanwhile, with Galatasaray falling short and Fenerbahce surging through to the group stage. Weakened by a 2-2 draw in their home leg, Gala succumbed to Banel Nicolita's goal for former European champions Steaua Bucharest in Romania, while Semih Senturk and Alex were on target as Fener saw off Partizan Belgrade 2-1 and 4-3 on aggregate.

After holding firm in Portugal two weeks ago, Basel used home advantage to steer their way past Guimaraes. The all-important winner came from powerful 20-year-old marksman Eren Derdiyok on 54 minutes, giving the Swiss side a 2-1 victory on the night. For their part, Marseille made the most of some slack defending to piece together a 2-1 win at home against Brann, with Mamadou Niang firing both their goals after the Mediterranean outfit triumphed 1-0 in the opener.

The upset
For the first time in Champions League history, a Cypriot team will rub shoulders with the continent's finest. Anorthosis Famagusta created the sensation of the first-leg matches a fortnight ago by beating Olympiakos 3-0, and they finished their task by restricting the Greek giants to a 1-0 success in Wednesday's decider.

The stat
Following their two-year absence, Juventus sealed their 25th qualification for Europe's premier club competition, having competed 14 times in the old European Champions' Club Cup and 11 times since its Champions League makeover.

Goal of the day
Atletico Madrid 4-0 Schalke 04
Goal: Luis Garcia (83)

A superb through ball from Argentinian Maxi Rodriguez sent his compatriot Aguero free, and the 20-year-old released a thunderous effort that Mathias Schober was just about able to parry. Aguero pounced first to reclaim the loose ball and centred for Luis Garcia, who was left with the simple task of tapping into an empty net.

Quote of the day
"Now we're back in the Champions League. That's Juve's true home," Juventus President Cobolli Gigli

Have your say
Will England's clubs be able to repeat their successes of the last two seasons? Do Juventus have the means to launch a bid for European glory? Will group-phase minnows Anorthosis Famagusta be able to crown their inaugural campaign with a win?