Top clubs will pay co-ef­fi­cient price for Euro­pean fail­ures

The Scotsman - - Sport - StEPHEN HaL­L­I­day

THE melt­down of Scot­land’s Europa League cam­paign on Thurs­day night was a dev­as­tat­ing blow to hopes that re­cent dam­age to the coun­try’s Uefa co-ef­fi­cient could be re­paired this sea­son.

Hav­ing slipped out of the top 15 of the rank­ings ear­lier this year for the first time since 2001, Scot­land is pre­par­ing to pay a heavy price for a shock­ing se­ries of re­sults in Europe by its clubs.

By drop­ping to 16th po­si­tion, Scot­land lost a Cham­pi­ons League berth. Only this sea­son’s SPL ti­tle win­ners en­ter the Cham­pi­ons League next year where they will have to come through at least two qual­i­fy­ing rounds to reach the group stage. The SPL run­ners-up will be one of three teams go­ing into the Europa League along with the third place club and the Scot­tish Cup win­ners.

In or­der to re­claim a sec­ond en­try to the Cham­pi­ons League in 2012-13, Scot­land needs to climb back into the top 15 of the rank­ings this sea­son. In the pro­vi­sional list, Scot­land is 15th but the elim­i­na­tion of Celtic, Mother­well and Dundee United on Thurs­day, fol­low­ing Hibs’ exit in the pre­vi­ous round, has se­verely di­min­ished the po­ten­tial for gath­er­ing co-ef­fi­cient points.

It leaves Rangers as Scot­land’s sole rep­re­sen­ta­tives with the Ibrox club fac­ing a daunt­ing Cham­pi­ons League group stage cam­paign against Manch­ester United, Va­len­cia and Bur­sas­por.

In the bat­tle for a top-15 slot, Scot­land must out­per­form at least one of Roma- nia, Bel­gium and Switzer­land who are cur­rently in po­si­tions 13, 14 and 16 in the pro­vi­sional list. But Ro­ma­nia have two clubs left in Europe, while Bel­gium and Switzer­land both have three teams re­main­ing to give them a greater chance to im­prove their co-ef­fi­cient.

If Rangers fail to progress in Europe be­yond Christ­mas, ei­ther by reach­ing the last 16 of the Cham­pi­ons League or drop­ping into the Europa League as third-place fin­ish­ers in their Cham­pi­ons League group, Scot­land is al­most cer­tain to re­main out­side the top 15.

Since Rangers reached the Uefa Cup fi­nal in 2008, a sea­son which saw Scot­land record its high­est co-ef­fi­cient points tally since 1983, the record of Scot­tish clubs in Europe shows 12 wins from the last 54 matches played. Last sea­son, the prob­lem was height­ened by Scot­land hav­ing six clubs in Europe as a coun­try’s fi­nal co-ef­fi­cient rank­ing is de­ter­mined by di­vid­ing its points tally by its num­ber of teams.

Un­less Rangers can ex­ceed all rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tions of them this sea­son, they may be the last Scot­tish club for many years to en­joy the ben­e­fit of an au­to­matic place in the group stage of the Cham­pi­ons League. In next sea­son’s qual­i­fy­ing rounds, the SPL ti­tle win­ners will go into the Cham­pi­ons path which sees them avoid third and fourth place clubs from coun­tries such as Eng­land, Spain, Ger­many and Italy. Re­cent ev­i­dence, how­ever, sug­gests that there is no such thing as an easy route to the Cham­pi­ons League for Scot­land’s best.

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