Europe’s governing body has barred Russian clubs from participation in next season’s competitions, continuing their current continent-wide suspension over the invasion of Ukraine.
It means the SPFL champions – with Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic in pole position leading by six points with three games to play – will gain direct access, regardless of the outcome in this season’s competition.
Villarreal's progress in the top tournament carried a risk for Scotland’s automatic group stage hopes, which would have been revoked and passed to the Spanish side in the event they won the trophy and had not qualified to defend it via La Liga.
However the additional element of jeopardy hanging over the win, increasingly unlikely with Unai Emery’s side 2-0 down to Liverpool in the semi-final, has been definitively wiped by UEFA’s decision.
Probable Premiership runners-up Rangers’ qualification burden is also reduced by a third – if it is needed at all.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side can earn their own direct pass by winning this season’s Europa League, but if not, the path to the group stage has lessened by Russia’s removal moving the SPFL up the co-efficent table. The league runners-up will enter the third qualification stage rather than the second, placing them two rounds and 360minutes from the promised land.
Hearts’ path to the group stages of either the Europa League or Conference remains unchanged by the re-shuffle with Robbie Neilson’s team still guaranteed European football until December through the Europa League play-off or an elimination parachute straight into the Conference groups.
Scotland’s fourth and fifth league finishers will also be granted a qualifier at the second and third preliminary stages of the Conference League.
Russian clubs were banned from European competition earlier this year over the actions of the country’s armed forces in Ukraine. It saw Spartak Moscow removed from the Europa League and Rangers’ eventual semi-final opponents RB Leipzig given a bye to the quarter-final.
Russia had appealed various bans across several competitions and disciplines to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but withdrew their case last month.