Friday, October 23, 2015

Scotland's UEFA coefficient still heading in the wrong direction

Celtic Kick Off

I posted this summer about hypothetical scenarios where Scottish club's European fortunes improve to the point where they get improved entry into the Champions League and the Europa League (as determined by the European coefficient).

Since then, uh, things have gone in the other direction. Everyone but Celtic has been bounced from the Europa League. Celtic has (have?) been bounced from the Champions League, into the Europa League. They have then proceeded to go 0-2-1 in their first three group matches, including a 3-1 loss last night. If they don't pick up any more points (a sadly realistic possibility!), Scotland will have its worst year (tied) since 2009.

So how much worse could things get for Scotland? Actually, not much worse. Scotland's ranking is 23rd for next year's competitions, and that should spare them first-round entry for the Scottish Cup winners. But Scotland is currently on target to drop to 25th the following year, which might make the Scottish Cup winners enter in the first round of the Europa League along with the second- and third-place Scottish Premiership teams. Beyond that, however, nothing much changes until around 47th place, which would make a nation's top team enter the Champions League in the first round. Scotland is in trouble, but it's unimaginable they'll get that bad. And the dip to 25th might allow the Scottish Cup champion to enter against easier competition, which wouldn't be so bad.

STV Sport observes that the drop in Scotland's coefficient is the second worst in Europe over the past decade. I would argue that the drop from 11th to 23rd is actually worse than the drop from 32nd to 46th that Latvia suffered.

Celtic has three more matches to turn things around this year, however. They are actually only two points out of second place in their Europa League group. The math isn't too friendly for moving up from 25th in the 2016 rankings (which will determine 2017 entry) -- Norway is currently in 24th, and they have two teams active, including Molde, which beat Celtic last night. Denmark is in 23rd, and their remaining team is in second place in their group. Overtaking Israel, in 22nd, would require more than just Celtic winning their remaining games (while Maccabi Tel-Aviv loses the rest of theirs); Celtic would actually have to pick up some points in the knock-out phase.

2017 (for 2018 entry) is a little more encouraging. Scotland sits solidly in 23rd place (with their bad 2011 performance aged off), and it wouldn't be impossible to move up a place or two in advance of next year's competitions.

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