Rangers: Why Benfica failing in Champions League qualifying is important for the Ibrox club
Rangers get their European campaign underway this evening in Belgium in the third qualifying round of the Champions League.
They face Royale Union Saint-Gilloise who finished second in the Jupiler Pro League last season.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men, following their exploits last season when they reached the Europa League final, will be expected to win through the two-legged tie with the second leg at Ibrox next week.
Doing so will see them progress to the play-off round where they will face the winners of either Monaco v PSV Eindhoven. On paper much tougher tests to reach the promised land of the Champions League group stage and the financial rewards which come with it.
The most important thing for the Ibrox club is that they win through the two qualifying rounds to join Celtic in UEFA’s premier tournament. If they do it will be the first time Scotland has had two clubs at that stage since the 2007/08 season
Ange Postecoglou’s men earned direct qualification to the group stage as champions of Scotland but due to possessing one of the lower coefficients Celtic are in Pot 4.
If Rangers do reach the group stage they will also likely join their city rivals in Pot 4.
How it could still be Pot 3...
There is, however, still an opportunity of the club moving to Pot 3 but it is out of their hands.
There are currently seven teams all assured of a place in Pot 3 with Benfica expected to finalise the pot as the eighth side. Yet, the Portuguese giants are still required to defeat Midtjylland over two legs before facing the winners of Dynamo Kyiv and Sturm Graz in the play-off round.
If they were to be knocked out at the third qualifying round or in the play-off round, Rangers would take their spot in Pot 3, providing the Europa League finals navigate through their two ties.
Why it is important
The reason is down to club coefficients. Benfica's currently stands at 61.000. It is higher than Marseille, Club Brugge and Celtic, sides who have already qualified, and higher than any team still left in the qualifying paths.
The team in the qualifiers with the second highest coefficient is Rangers with 50.250.
Benfica’s exit would see Rangers take their place as the eighth and final team in Pot 3.
It is important as it would provide Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men with a less strenuous group.
As things stand, the pots are currently:
Pot 1: Real Madrid, Eintracht Frankfurt, Manchester City, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Ajax and Porto
Pot 2: Liverpool, Chelsea, Barcelona, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, RB Leipzig, Tottenham Hotspur.
Pot 3: Borussia Dortmund CC, Red Bull Salzburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan, Napoli, Sporting CP and Bayer Leverkusen.
Pot 4: Club Brugge, Celtic, Marseille*
Rangers would avoid plenty of difficult opponents in the third pot if they were to sneak their way into it. They would likely get a 'weaker’ side in the group, giving them a better chance of reaching the knockout stages or at least finishing third and dropping into the Europa League.
Due to country protection, if Rangers were in Pot 3 they could not be drawn with Celtic.
*The French giants could still be in Pot 3 but it would involve Benfica, Rangers, Dinamo Zagreb and Red Star Belgrade all being knocked out in qualifying.
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