This year’s European campaign is not over for Celtic yet, at least not officially, and there is still something for us to play for tomorrow night.
The association coefficient for Scotland has improved dramatically this year, due in equal parts to our progression to the KO rounds as well as the Rangers’ progression to and mild success in the Group Stage of the Europa League. Right now, our co-efficient is sitting in 20th place just a small fraction behind the 19th place Association (which has been fully eliminated). Even a draw in Spain on Thursday would allow Scotland to, at least temporarily, move up to 19th.
Had Scotland’s clubs collectively performed like this for each of the past 5 years (6.75 pts), our co-efficient would be 11th in Europe — good enough for our Champions automatic placement in Champions League Group Stage, 2nd qualifier for CL, and our top Europa qualifier automatic placement into Group Stages as well.
It may take several years to reach that point again, but I do believe Scotland’s clubs are collectively capable of achieving that result in the coming years.
In the short term, moving up the rankings will carry some smaller, though tangible, benefits. 19th place would allow our Champions to enter Champions League qualification at the 2nd round; 15th would allow entry at the 3rd round as well as a 2nd qualification spot for runners up, with an additional Scottish club entering Europe as each Association gets 3 Europa League spots (2CL+3EL vs 1CL+3EL).
15th would also see all of our Europa League entrants begin at the 2nd round or later. In other words, as we start moving back up the rankings, it becomes easier and easier to accumulate coefficient points across the board as the association points are earned for group stage performance and, for teams not making group stage, the round our teams exit the tournaments. So starting later means our clubs have a better chance of advancing as well as more points even when they fail.
At a club level, this also becomes hugely important in terms of pot seeding for the group stage as being in the 4th pot the last few years has been a real challenge in advancing out of the group. Regularly getting to the group stage of CL via easier qualification path (or automatic placement) would be hugely beneficial to our club co-efficient as that’s an automatic 4 club co-efficient points before we even play our 1st group stage match, with an additional 2 points earned per victory +1 point for each draw.
It should be noted that the cut-off for placement into Pot 3 this year was only 5 more club co-efficient points than Celtic started the campaign with (Valencia & PSV), so accumulating even 1 additional point per year than we’ve done the past 5 years should be enough to get us into Pot 3.
And that I think is very doable if we start making group stage an annual occurance by way of improved national co-efficient and entry stage. Pot 2 is a pipe dream IMO as it represents the top 8 teams across Europe who didn’t win their league and the cut-off co-efficient score is roughly equal to 3 group stage wins and advancement to round of 16 of CL for 5 consecutive years. Pot 1 is a slightly more realistic target long term IMO, although that would necessitate Scotland moving up to the 6-8 range of Association rankings (don’t worry, I’ll pass whatever it is I’m smoking around the table when I’m done!).
Even if the tie in Valencia is beyond us on Thursday (and I for one don’t believe that it is), achieving even a draw would be hugely beneficial for us and every other Scottish club in the years ahead. I do believe that eventual automatic Group Stage placement would have tangible benefits to the club beyond the obvious – eg enabling the club to have a longer summer break and participate in the International Champions Cup every season ($$$), and that’s to say nothing of player recruitment or sponsorship money. Getting a result in Valencia, even if we’re eliminated, and moving the Association Co-efficient up to 19th would be a small step in the right direction with a tangible benefit to the club in the 2020-21 European campaign.
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