Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2019/20 First-Round Preview

Ah, summer, when a man's thoughts turn to Europa League qualifying. (And, OK, the Champions League.) After an amazingly good 2018/19 campaign, what does the new season have in store for Scotland's teams?

Where We Stand

Scotland climbed from 26th to 20th last year, but there's more than a point separating them from moving up to 19th. We always keep in mind the important thresholds. The nation in 15th place gets two Champions League berths, the one in 17th gets later entry into the qualifying, and 24th is necessary to prevent all the teams from entering in the first qualifying round. The 26th place ranking from two years ago determines that is what happens to Scotland this year. Another fantastic performance like last year would probably be necessary to get up to 17th, with 15th a more realistic target for the subsequent year. It would take a truly terrible performance to drop down to 25th.

First-Round Matches

Everybody has something to look forward to, although sometimes they have to wait for the preliminary round (zeroth-round?) to know exactly who that is. A total of 2.0 points are available. No Swiss teams enter yet, so a clean sweep would pass Switzerland. Serbia, Norway and Belarus also have 2.0 points available, while Sweden has 1.5 and Israel has 1.0.


In the Champions League, Celtic (Elo 1570) face Bosnian champions Sarajevo (Elo 1239). (The source of these stats, as in previous seasons is A difference of 331 Elo points corresponds to an 87% win probability, but that does not account for the fact that in a two-legged tie, the favorite has even more of an advantage. I expect the full 0.5 from Celtic, although 0.375 would not be shocking. If by some weird sequence of events, Celtic loses, they get placed in third-round Europa League qualifying due to an odd number of teams, or a wormhole.


In the Europa League, runners-up Rangers (Elo 1514) face the winner between FC Prishtina (Elo 1111), the 2nd place Kosavar team and St. Joseph's (Elo 875), the 3rd place Gibraltar team. You expect to face Prishtina, and be even stronger favorites than Celtic. Look forward to the full 0.5, but remember that Scottish clubs have embarrassed themselves in Europe before (though not last year, and not under Brendan Rogers).


Can they make some noise under a new manager? Third-place Kilmarnock (Elo 1392) face Welsh runners-up Connah's Quay Nomads (Elo 1005). I expect another full set of points, but I am less confident here. Connah's Quay were invited to the Scottish Challenge Cup last year, where they lost in the final to a second-division Scottish club.


It's good to see Derek McInnes have a shot at a longer run this time, instead of facing a Premier League club out of the gates. Fourth-place Aberdeen (Elo 1403) face Finnish runners-up RoPS (Elo unknown). Finland operates on a calendar year schedule, so that second-place finish was in 2018, and RoPS is currently 10th (out of 12 teams).

Anyway, for any one of these sides, you expect two victories, but someone somewhere is surely going to slip up. The best case is that nobody does, and you get the full 2.0 (or at worst 1.875). The worst case is a shock exit. I think between 1.5 and 1.75 would be a reasonable outcome, with all teams advancing.

Second-Round Sneak Peak

If Celtic wins, they face the winner of Estonian champions Nõmme Kalju (Elo 1046) and North Macedonian champions Shkëndija (Elo 1326). Probably a tougher match, with Celtic a definite favorite.

If Rangers wins, they face one of Cork City (Elo 1198), Progres Niedercorn (Elo 1190) or Cardiff Met University (Elo unknown). Although Niedercorn knocked Rangers out two years ago, this is a much better side, which should be a heavy favorite against any of those three.

If Kilmarnock wins, they face Partizan Belgrade (Elo 1560). They will be definite underdogs.

If Aberdeen wins, they face Fola Ech (Elo 1173) or Chikhura Sachkhere (Elo 1214). Either way, they should be favored.

Getting three sides through to the third round would be even better than last year's excellent start, and is the most likely scenario.

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