The race for five places in next season’s Champions League

Photo of author

By jeenmediaa

Two leagues will be rewarded with an extra place in next season’s Champions League based on performance in Europe this season, all part of the revamp to expand it to a 36-team competition — but who is likely to benefit?

With the knockout stages of the Champions League (UCL), Europa League (UEL) and Europa Conference League (UECL) under way, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of which leagues could get the two places.

That said, we’re still a long way from finding out who is going to get an extra spot — and it could yet go down to the wire.

This article will be updated throughout the season to track the race for the extra spots.

It’s about the best average coefficient of all teams taking part in Europe for each country. The two leagues with the best score get an extra place.

Each win is worth two coefficient points, a draw gets you one, and you get nothing for a defeat.

There are also bonus points for getting to certain stages, which help give extra prominence to those teams who do well in the higher-profile competitions.

Champions League bonus points
4 – Group stage participation
5 – Round of 16
1 – QF, SF, final

Europa League bonus points
4 – Group winners
2 – Group runners-up
1 – Round of 16, QF, SF, final

Europa Conference League bonus points
2 – Group winners
1 – Group runners-up
1 – SF, final

The points gained by all clubs are added together, and that total score is divided by the number of clubs a country has in Europe in the season. That gives the coefficient average.

For example, if a country has 35 coefficient points and seven teams in Europe, its score is 5.00 for the table (35 / 7 = 5.00.)

So wins aren’t worth more in the Champions League?

No, the coefficient system is designed to assess the overall strength of leagues. Wins are the same in all competitions, otherwise it would be impossible for those leagues with few or no teams in the UCL group stage to move up the coefficient ranking.

The bonus points serve two purposes: firstly, to give weight to the strength of the competitions on a sliding scale, and second to provide points to those teams taking part in the UCL who might get few positive results.

In fact, it could be argued that it’s better for leagues to have some teams drop down into the UEL for the knockout rounds. Bonus points might be lower in the UEL, but each two-legged tie has five points up for grabs (four for the result and one for progressing to the next round). If a team stays in the UCL, they might not get past the round of 16 and have little chance of adding to the country’s coefficient through wins.

Won’t this just turn out to be extra places for two top leagues?

If we look back at the previous five seasons, England and Spain take seven of the 10 slots, with Italy and Germany one each. Only in 2021-22 did one of the countries with fewer than four teams in the Champions League (the Netherlands) finish in the top two of average coefficient.

So yes, history tells us that it’s highly likely two of the top leagues will have five places in next season’s Champions League.

2022-23: England and Italy
2021-22: England and the Netherlands
2020-21: England and Spain
2019-20: Spain and Germany
2018-19: England and Spain

Right, so who’s in contention this season?

This is the top 10 as of Feb. 20.

1. Italy, 15.000
2. Germany, 14.071
3. England, 13.875
4. Spain, 12.937
5. France, 12.250
6. Czechia, 12.000
7. Belgium, 11.800
8. Turkey, 11.000
9. Netherlands, 9.200
10. Denmark, 8.500

There’s barely anything between Italy, England and Germany while Spain certainly cannot be ruled out.

Could Czechia or Belgium produce a shock and gatecrash the top two? And we need to talk about France…

But one thing is for sure, the final table will not look the same at the end of the table. Any country that has multiple teams run deep is likely to get a top-two slot.

Why the knockout playoff round is so important in February

A quirk of the coefficient system is that results in the knockout playoff round, essentially the round of 32, of the UEL and UECL add points to the national association score, but not a club’s. So results count in the races to be one of the two top leagues.

While there are higher bonus points for winning a group compared to finishing second, the runners-up are capable of adding more points overall than the group winners by advancing from the knockout playoff round.

For instance, the UEL group winners get four bonus points, and the runners-up get two bonus points. But the runners-up play in the knockout playoff round with an additional four points available through the results of each leg, if they win both matches.

E.G. West Ham got four points for winning their UEL group, with SC Freiburg getting two for being second. If Freiburg were to win both legs in the knockout playoff round, the total add to the coefficient could be six points compared to West Ham’s four.

It means leagues with multiple clubs in the knockout playoff round can add to their score. Remember, we need to talk about France …

The bad news for the Premier League? All its teams in the UEL and UECL won their group, which means the league cannot pick up any points from those competitions in February. England will likely be in a worse position as we move into March.

OK, so what’s the state of play for the leagues?

A league needs to keep as many teams as possible still active deep into the knockout rounds. The fewer teams in European competition, the less chance there is to score coefficient points to compete for the top two.

Results will be harder to come by with the fixtures becoming increasingly difficult.

It’s even more important for England and Spain, who started with eight teams in Europe; each win is worth slightly less to the coefficient (as the score is divided by eight rather than seven for Germany and Italy.)

1. ITALY, 15.000

Internazionale, Lazio and Napoli are in the UCL round of 16, but the draw didn’t look too promising for the trio, having been unseeded. While Lazio won 1-0 at home to Bayern Munich in the first leg, the Bundesliga side will still be favourites to go through on home turf. Inter also secured a 1-0 home win over Atletico Madrid, while Napoli take on Barcelona on Wednesday.

AC Milan dropped into the UEL, where they beat Stade Rennais 3-0 in the first leg of the knockout playoff round, while AS Roma are taking on Feyenoord and drew the first leg in the Netherlands 1-1.

Atalanta and Fiorentina topped their group and do not play in February.

Taking part in the round of 16: 5
Taking part in the knockout playoff round: 2
Out: 0

Serie A has all seven clubs through, but with such a tough UCL draw, it’s highly unlikely to be intact heading into the quarterfinals. However, Milan and Roma look likely to go through in the UEL which makes Italy strong favourites right now.

Knockout playoff round: Milan and Roma could boost Italy’s position, with a total of 0.85 coefficient points available to the national association score from the second legs.

2. GERMANY, 14.071

Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig went through in the UCL. Bayern (lost 1-0 away to Lazio) and Dortmund (drew 1-1 at PSV) may both progress, but Leipzig were drawn against Real Madrid and lost the first leg at home.

SC Freiburg drew 0-0 in Lens in the UEL, with Eintracht Frankfurt drawing 1-1 with Union St.-Gilloise in the first leg of their UECL tie.

Bayer Leverkusen are straight through to the round of 16 of the UEL so don’t play in February.

Union Berlin were eliminated from Europe at the bottom of their UCL group.

Taking part in the round of 16: 4
Taking part in the knockout playoff round: 2
Out: 1

The Bundesliga has six of its seven clubs still in European competition, though having three teams in the Champions League might actually be a negative in the long term.

Knockout playoff round: Two German clubs will take part in the knockout playoff round. A total of 0.71 coefficient points could be added to the average from the second legs.

3. ENGLAND, 13.875

Arsenal and Manchester City went through as group winners in the UCL, and will be favourites to advance against FC Porto and FC Copenhagen respectively. Man City added to the coefficient score with their first-leg win in Denmark.

Brighton & Hove Albion, Liverpool and West Ham United are all through to the UEL round of 16, as are Aston Villa in the UECL.

Manchester United and Newcastle United were knocked out after finishing bottom of their UCL groups.

Taking part in the round of 16: 6
Out: 2

The Premier League is in third place after two of its teams failed in the Champions League. It makes it much harder to make the top two — but deep runs from multiple teams would still give the league a chance.

Knockout playoff round: The Premier League has no teams in the knockout playoff round, so it cannot score any coefficient points and is therefore set to be in a worse position after February’s games as other leagues pick up results and bonus points.

4. SPAIN, 12.937

Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad continue in the UCL. Real Madrid will be expected to advance against RB Leipzig after winning the first leg 1-0 in Germany, but it’s not so clear after that. Atletico lost 1-0 away to Inter, with Real Sociedad also beaten 1-0 away to Paris Saint-Germain. Barca then meet Napoli on Wednesday. LaLiga will be fortunate to escape unscathed from those ties.

Real Betis dropped into the UECL, where they lost 1-0 at home to Dinamo Zagreb in the knockout playoff round.

Villarreal don’t play again in the UEL until March.

Osasuna failed to qualify for the UECL, while Sevilla were knockout out in the UCL.

Taking part in the round of 16: 5
Taking part in the knockout playoff round: 1
Out: 2

Even though LaLiga has four teams through in the Champions League, Osasuna’s failure in UECL qualifying has severely affected its hopes of making the top two.

The loss of Sevilla, who finished bottom of their UCL group, is also damaging, while Real Betis were beaten in the first leg of their UECL tie.

That said, Spain has six clubs still in action, which means it cannot be ruled out. But the likes of Atletico, Barca and Real Sociedad are going to have to shrug off some less-than-inspiring domestic form.

Knockout playoff round: Spain will have one club, Real Betis, in the knockout playoff round with the coefficient average able to increase by a maximum of just 0.25 points.

5. FRANCE, 12.250

Paris Saint-Germain went through in the UCL, and beat Real Sociedad 1-0 in the first leg of the round-of-16 tie.

Lens dropped into the UEL knockout playoff round, where they drew the first leg at home to Freiburg 0-0.

Marseille (vs. Shakhtar Donetsk, first leg 2-2), Stade Rennais (vs. AC Milan, lost the first leg 3-0) and Toulouse (vs. Benfica, lost 1-0) will also be in the knockout playoff round of the UEL.

In the UECL, Lille are straight through to the round of 16.

Taking part in the round of 16: 2
Taking part in the knockout playoff round: 4
Out: 0

The knockout playoff round was a land of opportunity but also fear for Ligue 1. It could have all six clubs through to round of 16, or be left with just two. Not one of its four teams won, with Stade Rennais suffering a heavy loss in Milan.

Knockout playoff round: If France does keep most or all of its clubs in Europe, it will be right in the mix for an extra UCL place — though that looks tough now. The league could add a maximum of 2.00 points to the average from the second legs.

5. CZECHIA, 12.000

Sparta Prague are taking on Galatasaray in the knockout playoff round of the UEL, but lost the first leg in Turkey 3-2.

Slavia Prague are straight through to the UEL round of 16, as are Viktoria Plzen in UECL.

Bohemians failed to qualify.

Taking part in the round of 16: 2
Taking part in the playoff round: 1
Out: 1

The surprise league to appear in the race for the extra Champions League places, especially as only three teams made the group stages.

With just four teams in Europe, wins for Czechia’s clubs are worth 0.5 coefficient points to the average, compared to 0.25 for England and Spain. A successful group stage has put them in contention, but the league is very much the outsider with so few teams left.

Knockout playoff round: Czechia has one team in the knockout playoff round, with Sparta Prague able to increase the average by 0.60 from the second leg.

7. BELGIUM, 11.800

In the UECL knockout playoff round, Union St.-Gilloise drew the first leg with Eintracht Frankfurt 2-2, while Gent lost 1-0 away to Maccabi Haifa.

Club Brugge are straight through to the UECL round of 16.

Antwerp finished bottom of their UCL group and are out, while Genk were eliminated from the UECL.

Taking part in the round of 16: 1
Taking part in the knockout playoff round: 2
Out: 2

With just three of their five teams left, and only one certain to be in the round of 16, like Czechia, it would be a huge surprise if Belgium mounted a serious challenge. Both Union St.-Gilloise and Gent must go through in the UECL, and they are up against it.

Knockout playoff round: A total of 0.80 coefficient points could be added.

What to look out for this month

Champions League

With four teams still in contention, Spain can make a real dent. Its teams face rivals from Italy (Inter Milan vs. Atletico Madrid, Napoli vs. Barcelona), France (Paris Saint-Germain vs. Real Sociedad) and Germany (RB Leipzig vs. Real Madrid), all having the second leg at home.

Germany’s three teams take on the Netherlands (PSV Eindhoven vs. Borussia Dortmund), Italy (Lazio vs. Bayern Munich) and Spain, so two chances to knockout out the competition.

Italy has three teams left, but all must be away from home in the second leg against opposition from Spain and Germany.

England, meanwhile, faces teams from Portugal (FC Porto vs. Arsenal) and Denmark (FC Copenhagen vs Man City), no direct battle.

It’s the four ties involving teams from Germany, Italy and Spain which will prove crucial. It may well be that England’s two teams go through while rival leagues knock each other’s teams out. The Premier League’s strength may come from the other head-to-heads.

Europa League

AC Milan against Stade Rennais will be important, as Italy could damage France’s hopes of a late run; likewise Lens vs. SC Freiburg for Germany. France’s other two teams in the round face opposition from Portugal (Benfica vs. Toulouse) and Ukraine (Shakhtar vs. Marseille).

Czechia’s Sparta Prague have drawn Turkish club Galatasaray.

Belgium, England and Spain have no team in the knockout playoff round — so the important games are those two matchups between Italy and France, and France and Germany.

Europa Conference League

Only one head-to-head tie as Eintracht Frankfurt take on Union St.-Gilloise of Belgium, which could end the latter league’s slim hopes. Gent, Belgium’s other remaining club, meet Maccabi Haifa.

For Spain, Real Betis have been drawn against Dinamo Zagreb.

Czechia, England, France and Italy have no team in the knockout playoff round.

What to look out for in the round-of-16 draws

The draw for the next stage of the UEL and UECL, to be played in March, takes place on Friday.

Country protection remains, which means teams from the same league cannot face each other.

So once again it’s the key head-to-head ties between the top leagues which could prove crucial.

When we move into the quarterfinals, teams from the same country can be drawn together — which could prove detrimental as one club is guaranteed to be eliminated.

When will we find out who gets the extra places?

In many seasons it may be obvious in March, once we know which leagues have teams through to the quarterfinals of the three European competitions.

However, the 2019-20 season shows that it can go right down to the wire. Germany didn’t overtake the Premier League for second place until Bayern Munich beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the final of the Champions League. If that’s repeated this season, we wouldn’t know which league gets the second additional spot until the UCL final takes place June 1.

It would leave two clubs in the domestic leagues praying for the right result in the final. In 2019-20, Bayer Leverkusen and Leicester City finished fifth in Germany and England respectively. Leverkusen would have needed Bayern to win the UCL final to get the place, while Leicester required Bayern to lose the match.

We could also hypothetically see a situation where, for instance, Arsenal winning the Champions League could hand fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur a place in the Champions League.

What’s the maximum number of places in the UCL and in Europe?

Under the old system, a maximum of five clubs from one association could play in the Champions League. It meant that in the unlikely event teams from the same league won the Champions League and Europa League, yet both finished outside the UCL places domestically, then fourth would have to surrender their place and drop into the UEL.

But from 2024-25 it will be possible for seven Premier League teams to get a place in the UCL: The top four, fifth through league performance in Europe, and the winners of the UCL and the UEL.

It would also technically be possible to have 11 Premier League teams in Europe: The usual allocation of seven, plus the extra Champions League place and the titleholders of all three European competitions (if they finished outside a European position.) UEFA has yet to take a decision on a maximum number in Europe from one association, though sources have indicated that it may be capped at 10 if this very unlikely scenario occurs, with a place in the UEL taken away.

Who gets the extra place?

If we assume the extra spots will go to one of the top leagues, it means fifth place will enter the Champions League and it will have eight (rather than seven) places in Europe. Other European berths drop down a place.

If the Premier League gets it, the access will be:

Champions League: 1-5
Europa League: 6, FA Cup winners
Europa Conference League: Carabao Cup winners

If the cup winners finish in the top 6, the European places could drop to 7th and 8th in the table.

If LaLiga, the Bundesliga or Serie A gets it, the access will be:

Champions League: 1-5
Europa League: 6, Cup winners
Europa Conference League: 7

If a team wins the UEL but doesn’t qualify for the UCL domestically, that league could have six places in the UCL — the five places to the leagues plus the UEL titleholders as an additional.

Which teams would benefit right now?

Right now, RB Leipzig are fifth in the Bundesliga, with Bologna holding that spot in Serie A.

Source link

Leave a Comment