Why Celtic and Rangers need help from Scottish clubs, coefficient importance, Austria & Serbia pressure

The upcoming European campaign is set to be an intriguing one with five teams involved across three competitions.

Motherwell will be the first of Scotland’s entrants to feature when they face the winners of Bala Town and Sligo Rovers in the Conference Leauge second qualifying round. Dundee United enter at the next round by which time Rangers will have played the first leg of their Champions League third round qualifying tie.

As Scottish champions, Celtic earned automatic qualification for the Champions League group stages.

Then there is Hearts. The Tynecastle Park club will become the first non-Old Firm Scottish club to take part in the group stages of a European competition since Aberdeen in the 2007/08 campaign. A third-place finish last season means Robbie Neilson’s men enter the play-off round of the Europa League qualifying in mid-August. Even if they lose they will drop into the Conference League group stages.

This is a significant change from recent years where Scotland’s Champions League and Europa League entrants had to negotiate a raft of qualifying rounds.

Now, thanks to Celtic and Rangers’ performances in Europe, and the introduction of the Conference League, Scottish clubs have a much better outlook in European football.

As a country, Scotland finished the season ninth in UEFA coefficients which not only brings five European entrants but has helped put Scottish sides in a more advantageous position in the draw.

The UEFA coefficients are calculated over a five-season period. Scotland’s coefficient for 17/18 was 4.000. The subsequent four seasons saw scores of 6.750, 9.750, 8.500 and 7.900.

It is a big season for Scottish club in Europe. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Pressure from Austria & Serbia

Going into the new campaign, removing the 2017/18 season, Scotland sit in eighth place, jumping above Austria, as displayed by SPFL Mediawatch. The highest since 1988.

The total ranking is 32.900 with three nations close behind. Austria on 29.100, Belgium on 28.000 and Serbia with 27.000. A bit further back are the likes of Ukraine, Norway and Switzerland.

To show the pressure Scotland will be under, both Austria and Serbia recorded higher totals in 2021/22.

It is important Scotland doesn't drop out of the top 11 or 12.

For example, this season's Champions League saw the winners of nations ranked 1-12 earn an automatic group stage berth (with the exception of Russia who will slip down the rankings), while there was a place in the main path of the third qualifying round for the runners-up of associations ranked 7-11.

Celtic, Rangers and Scottish football require a third team to chip away at the ranking points by having a run of their own, which should be helped by Hearts’ place in the group stage of either the Europa League or Conference League.

Scotland are still, however, a good distance away from sixth and seventh place which would result in six European spots.

Portugal go into the new season with a ranking of 43.716 and the Netherlands are on 46.400.

How is the coefficient calculated

Points are awarded for wins and draws in group stage and qualifying matches, as well as qualifying from the group and progress to certain rounds of certain tournaments.

Then the average score is worked out “dividing the number of points obtained, by the total number of clubs representing an association in that season's club competitions. The resulting figure is then tallied with the results of the previous four seasons to calculate the coefficient.”

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