Saturday, February 01, 2020

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2019/20 Knockout Round Preview

This year both halves of the Old Firm made it through to the Round of 32 in the Europa League! There are important consequences, detailed below!

I tell you, it's a long wait between the draw (December 16th) and the first games (February 20th). Now is as good of a time to do this post as any, though.

The most points a team can earn in the Europa League knockout stage is 21, while the most two teams can earn together is 40. This knowledge was used to expand the table excerpt I usually give to go all the way down to Sweden (who can earn 21/4=5.25 for the coefficient and catch Scotland) and up to Ukraine (who can be caught by Scotland adding 40/4=10).

Group-Stage Review

Celtic went 4-1-1. That's 9 points, giving 2.25 for the coefficient. Really good! The one loss was after they clinched advancement, and is the type of disappointing result I've come to expect (if not excuse) in European competition.

Rangers went 2-1-3. (I'm writing it where the "3" is the number of draws.) That's 7 points, giving 1.75 for the coefficient.

I expected around 3 points, so 4 points (with both clubs advancing) is fantastic. I also projected Scotland in 17th place, and they are in 16th. I said Scotland was unlikely to make it into 15th place (and two Champions League places in 2021/22). With a Celtic draw in their last game, that's where they would be! So the race for 15th place continues!

Playoff-Round Preview

Fivethirtyeight gives Celtic a 65% chance of advancing, with an average of 2.39 points, providing about 0.6 for the coefficient. Keep in mind that the only number of points they can actually get is whole numbers 0 through 4. 0 and 1 mean they don't advance, 3 and 4 mean they do, and 2 means extra time or the away goals rule comes into play.

Rangers has a 50% chance of advancing, with an average of 2.00 points (which makes sense), giving 0.5 for the coefficient.

Here is what 13-21 will look like, on average, after the round of 32.
  • 13. Denmark 27.902
  • 14. Scotland 27.722
  • 15. Czechia 27.3
  • 16. Cyprus 27.185
  • 17. Greece 26.106
  • 18. Serbia 25.5
  • 19. Croatia 24.876
  • 20. Switzerland 24.852
  • 21. Sweden 23.135
But these results are very swingy. For example, if Celtic sweeps Copenhagen, Scotland is guaranteed to move above Denmark. That's true for too many scenarios to list (e.g., Celtic gets 2 points against Copenhagen, and Rangers sweeps Braga), also many in the opposite direction.

So 15th place is in reach after all, and even 13th is not out of the question.

2020/21 Sneak Peak

 Remember, this affects the 2022/23 leagues (the second year of the new format).

Scotland is already in 14th place, and the likely positions after the Round of 32 are:
  • 13. Scotland 24.722
  • 14. Cyprus 24.185
  • 15. Ukraine 24.024
  • 16. Denmark 22.402
That would put Scotland in a pretty nice position going into next season, but an up season by Denmark and a down season by Scotland could very easily lock Scotland out of the 15 spot.

So much to cover over the next year, before Scotland gets comfortably ensconced in the 5-team range. (If things go well next year, they may lock it in for several years.)

Also, with Scottish Cup round-of-16 action getting underway next weekend, let's look at clubs' chances of making Europe, again via Fivethirtyeight.

If a top 4 team wins the Cup (meaning the top 4 teams all go to Europe):
  1. Celtic 100%
  2. Rangers 100%
  3. Motherwell 86%
  4. Aberdeen 78%
  5. Livingston 24%
  6. Hibernian 10%
  7. Kilmarnock 1%
If a non-top 4 team wins the Cup (meaning the 4th place team misses out):
  1. Unnamed non-top 4 team 100%
  2. Celtic 100%
  3. Rangers 100%
  4. Motherwell 46%
  5. Aberdeen 45%
  6. Livingston 6%
  7. Hibernian 2%
I am on record as saying that Scotland is better off when four of the "Big Five" (Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibs) are in Europe. That frequently doesn't happen, so I've learned to settle for three. Hopefully, Aberdeen joins Celtic and Rangers, or Hearts or Hibs get in via a Cup-set (get it?) All of the teams listed above are still alive in the Cup (as, in fact, are all Premiership sides except St. Mirren).

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