Top clubs will pay co-efficient price for European failures
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.