Rarely can three games inside as many days for continental combatants from these parts produced thumping defeats to the tune of goals for, eh, zero, goals against, uhm, 11. A certain understanding can be offered up for Celtic losing to Champions League holders Real Madrid, especially when they jousted so effectively with the cream of European grandees before being broken after conceding three goals across the closing 35 minutes. Equally, not much could really have been expected from Hearts in their Conference League bow that pitted them against a heavily-financed Turkish club in the form of Istanbul Başakşehir…even as their deficiencies were horribly exposed by a 4-0 home defeat. Moreover, although Rangers were unquestionably wretched in Amsterdam on Wednesday, a Scottish team can easily be rolled over by an Ajax with tails up inside their own environs, as panned out with the 4-0 skewering. Whatever the mitigation, though, our clubs face an almighty task to prevent a coefficient slide to the indifferent old days.
The coefficient points haul for a nation is the average obtained by dividing the total points its team garner by how many of them are represented in European competition. Each victory is worth two coefficient points, with draws earning one point. Scotland’s total for this season currently stands at 2.30. The four bonus points each earned by Celtic and Rangers for bagging slots in the Champions League group stages accounts for most of that. Not since the 2018-19 season has Scotland’s final such figure dipped below seven points - the number then 6.750.
With the nation having climbed to eighth in the UEFA rankings through averaging close to nine points from the following three campaigns, to roughly replicate even the meagre 2018-19 outcome then essentially Celtic, Rangers and Hearts will require to rustle up 11 wins between them. Cards on table, that is simply not going to happen. Not when Ange Postecoglou’s men are keeping company in their group with Shakhtar Donetsk, RB Leipzig and Madrid, the Ibrox club have the daunting trio of Liverpool, Napoli and Ajax in theirs, and there are no gimmes as the Gorgie side face up to Fiorentina, Latvians RFS and Başakşehir.
Frankly, if the trio could conjure up a handful of wins between them it would exceed reasonable expectations. Should they fall short and, as is eminently possible, snare three victories and a couple of draws that would take the final coefficient total to 3.90. Lower than even the decidedly poor four-point harvest of 2017-18. Indeed, not since 2015-16 has the haul dipped below four points. Mercifully, such a paltry return would not likely threaten Scotland’s retention of an automatic Champions League slot for the tournament revamp of 2024-25 and, at least, Conference League football for the Scottish Cup winners/top flight’s third-placed finishers (these berths are already set for next season).
To drop out of the top 10 ranked European nations that have a direct entrant into club football’s pre-eminent competition, the teams from ninth and 10th placed nations Belgium and Austria would require to win eight more games than the Scottish trio, while 11th-ranked Serbia’s two remaining sides also posted 10 more victories than Celtic, Rangers and Hearts return.