CELTIC’S thumping 5-0 home win over Estonian champions Nomme Kalju in the first leg of their Champions League 2nd Qualifying Round tie and indeed the 2-0 win in Tallinn in the second leg this week helped improve Scotland’s UEFA coefficient, moving the nation up from 20th to 19th in the continental rankings. While Celtic supporters will rightly have one eye on their 3rd Qualifying Round opponents – Romanian Champions Cluj who beat Maccabi Tel-Aviv 3-2 on aggregate – many in Scottish football will be keeping a keen eye on the country’s UEFA coefficient.
These coefficients are used to rank and seed teams for both the Champions League and the Europa League. They are generally based on the results of domestic teams competing in the last five seasons of European competition. Put simply, the further Scottish teams go in European competition, the higher Scotland’s UEFA coefficient will be. This will ensure that SPFL champions and runners-up get byes into the latter stages of the Champions League and Europa League qualifying rounds respectively.
A greatly improved UEFA coefficient reflects well on SPFL trio
While it was Celtic’s impressive hammering of Nomme Kalju that will have had the overriding impact on the country’s rising UEFA coefficient, positive results for the Rangers and Aberdeen in Europa League qualification against Progres Niederkorn and Chikhura will have also been factored in. It’s a significant relief for the Scottish FA given that Kilmarnock’s Europa League showing left everyone more than a little red-faced. Killie’s shock exit at the hands of Welsh part-timers Connah’s Quay Nomads has thankfully been overshadowed by the prospect of three Scottish teams still being in with a chance of qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League.
The Scottish teams have earned 3 coefficient points so far this term, more than any other country so far, with Celtic raking in almost a third of these thanks to four wins from four games in Champions League qualification. As things stand, Scotland are only just behind the Croatian, Serbian and Greek leagues having leap-frogged the Swiss leagues in the last few weeks.
1. So 3 Scottish teams make it into the 3rd round of qualifying, and will feature in the playoff round draws on Monday.
Here’s a look at how the national rankings now look around our current 19th position. These were the countries we were closest to at the start of the season.
— Moravcik67 (@Moravcik67_) August 1, 2019
It was a very comfortable tie for Neil Lennon’s men against Estonia’s Champions, with a brace from Ryan Christie setting the Hoops on their way, before goals from Ajer, McGregor and an emotional return goal for Leigh Griffiths that lit up Parkhead. With a 5-0 advantage, the second leg was a formality with an early own goal increasing Celtic advantage before Marian Shved added a second and Celtic’s seventh of the tie near the end.
Scottish Football wipe their brow after Killie’s unceremonious Europa League exit
There will no doubt be a collective sigh of relief for those running the Scottish game, after Kilmarnock’s defeat to Connah’s Quay Nomads threatened to damage the nation’s standing in Europe. Killie’s eyebrow-raising defeat is one of the main reasons why so many SPL teams find themselves having to battle through a long, gruelling qualification process in July to make the group stages of both the Champions League and Europa League.
Back in 2005, Scottish football was ranked tenth in the whole of Europe in the UEFA coefficient, which was back when Celtic and Rangers were both highly competitive and battling it out for domestic supremacy on all fronts. It’s been an almighty fall from grace for Scotland since then, (Rangers were liquidated in 2012) and when it bottomed out at 26th place at the beginning of the 2018/19 campaign. However, both Celtic and the re-formed Rangers enjoyed reasonable European campaigns last season, helping the country to 20th place by the end of last term.
One of the biggest talking points among British sporting tipsters is whether the Rangers will offer genuine competition for the Hoops in the SPL this season, particularly with possible improved European qualification opportunities up for grabs. If their boss Steven Gerrard has his way, it will certainly be more of a two-horse race for Celtic than in the last decade. The Liverpool legend sets exceptionally high standards and expects a lot from his team. He urged his players to be “more clinical” after their Europa League win over Luxembourg side, Progres Niederkorn.
Gerrard has also apparently drawn up a new code of conduct for his players in a bid to improve their awful disciplinary record, which caused considerable debate last term. A stronger challenge from Ibrox can be a good thing to help Celtic raise their game – both domestically and in Europe and the Celtic captain Scott Brown spoke about relishing their challenge at the club’s Media Conference yesterday. Scott Brown is a veteran of 8 Consecutive title wins in a row and has heard all about the Rangers challenge every summer since they made it into the Scottish Premiership in 2016 after being founded in 2012 by Charles Green and starting in the old Third Division of Scottish football.