Thursday, August 25, 2016

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: Group Stage Preview

Playoff-Round Review

Well, Celtic qualified for the Champions League, but everything about it was ugly. They let their opponent score 2 goals in the first leg, and then got shut out in the second leg. The one win netted 1 point (and 0.25 for the coefficient), and more importantly 4 points (and 1 for the coefficient) for qualifying for the Champions League.

Group Stage Preview

Celtic face FC Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Let's see, sides that finished in the top four in the top three leagues in Europe (and let's face it, the world). That can't be good.

A good result would be a third-place finish in the group, while netting 4 points (and 1 for the coefficient). That would be two wins, four draws, or a win and two draws, i.e., a third of what is available in the six matches. But honestly, that looks like it would take a miracle at this point. Still, third would get them into the knockout phase of the Europa League, and they could actually pick up more points.

A bad result would be six losses. That is more likely than third place right now.

Where We Stand

Still in 23rd? Seriously? I was not expecting them to stay in 23rd the whole time I was tracking this. Fortunately, three of the four teams ahead of them are out of European competition, so by putting together some super-miracle and qualifying for the knock-out phase of the Champions League, Celtic could vault Scotland up at least three notches. Probably four, given Legia Warsaw is unlikely to do the same for Poland. More realistically, any sort of result (i.e. even one draw) will pull them past Norway.

From below, Israel and Azerbaijan both have two teams in Europa League action, where points are easier to come by. Actually, Celtic may have done better for the coefficient in forgoing the 4 point bonus and dropping back to the Europa League where they would have a chance to win more games. Of course, the money and exposure is more important. Celtic better enjoy it this year because...

Champions League Changes

UEFA is supposed to announce changes tomorrow which would see the top 4 leagues get their top 4 teams directly into the Champions League group stage. It's not clear how that's going to be done, but it will certainly make it harder for everyone else (including Scottish teams) to get there.

My analysis of the UEFA coefficient has been based on the assumption that the same rules would apply in future years. But the coefficient I'm following above impacts the 2017/8 season, which is when the new format would start. Right now, countries ranked 19-28 are treated exactly the same, and major changes only happen when you move up to 15, when the runner-up gets in the Champions League. So the goal was to get Scotland up to 15.

It's possible that the coefficient will be more important, particularly if 19-28 are no longer treated the same. Maybe (for example), 23 and below will have to enter in an expanded first round. Or it's possible that the coefficient will be less important, with everybody below (say) 10 only getting one entrant. I'll leave that analysis for another day.

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