Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: Group Stage Review

Stitched Celtic Stadium-1
"Stitched Celtic Stadium-1" by Zhi Yong Lee is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Well, the group stage is over, and for Scotland, there's no knockout stage to preview. Scotland is now ranked 23rd for 2017 -- where they started and spent most of the competition. They took 22nd briefly after overtaking Norway, but they were in turn overtaken by Israel at the end of the group stage.
It helps to have teams in the Europa League! The games there are much more winnable -- by contrast, all 16 teams left in the Champions League are from the top six leagues. Somehow Legia Warsaw did well enough in the Champions League to fall to Europa League knockout, so while it looked like Scotland had a chance of catching Poland on the strength of three draws, Poland is itself moving up.

Could Scotland fall further? The only two teams below it still alive are from Cyprus and Bulgaria. If Apoel Nicosia wins both legs in the round of 32 against Ajax (seems unlikely), that would push Cyprus past Scotland. Bulgaria, by contrast would need to see Ludogorets make at least the quarter-final to move ahead.

So it's most likely 23rd, but we'll keep an eye on it. We'll also keep an eye on what it means, as UEFA is supposed to announce this month the qualification procedures for the 2018-19 Champions League and Europa League, which is where this coefficient will matter.

Beyond that, Scotland starts next year in 24th for the 2018 coefficient (again, subject to the fortunes of teams from countries behind them), but things are much more bunched up. Hopefully by the time qualifying starts, we'll have a better idea of how the ranking will matter.

In the Scottish Premiership, things are shaping up well.

Celtic is running away with the title (and the Champions League place). Since they're the only club with a chance of competing, that's good for the coefficient. Rangers may have the resources to make a run in the Europa League; I'd like to see that. Aberdeen has contributed 2.375 of that coefficient over the past three years, so they are a healthy third choice. The fourth place depends on Scottish Cup outcomes, but Hearts is probably the best-placed if the Cup goes to one of the top 3.

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