Europa League success could save Premier League's fourth Champions League spot
By Gerard Brand
Last Updated: 09/12/15 10:43pm
A successful Europa League run could be more helpful to England's coefficient ranking than qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages as the Premier League looks to keep hold of its fourth qualifying spot in Europe's elite competition.
Manchester United will be playing in Europe's second competition from February after finishing third in their group following a defeat to Wolfsburg on Tuesday, while both Arsenal and Chelsea secured their place in the Champions League knockout stages on Wednesday night
There is concern that Serie A could snatch England's fourth Champions League qualifying slot for the beginning of the 2017/18 season due to a stronger coefficient.
But with the points system weighing Europa League progress only slightly lighter than that of the Champions League, elimination from the group stage could be salvaged by a successful run in Europe's second-tier competition.
Here, we explain how England could lose its fourth spot, but why the Europa League should not be overlooked...
What's the current situation?
English sides' poor showing in Europe over the previous two seasons has weakened the country's coefficient ranking, while the progress of Italian sides has strengthened theirs.
This means a repeat of last season's performances in Europe from English and Italian clubs would see the Premier League lose its fourth Champions League spot to Serie A for the 2017/18 season.
The Premier League will have four teams in the 2016/17 Champions League. This cannot change.
Spain and Germany are unlikely to relinquish first and second spot in the UEFA club coefficient rankings any time soon, but Italy could potentially surpass England in the near future.
European League - Current coefficient standings
For Italy to overtake England and get four teams in the 2017/18 Champions League, they need to beat England's coefficient score by 3.095 points this season.
To put 3.095 points into context, Juventus' run to the Champions League final last season earned Italy four more points than Chelsea's last-16 exit contributed for England.
Before Matchday 6 of the Champions League group stages, Italy were 0.041 ahead of England. A lot of making up to do, but a lot more football to be played.
How is this coefficient score calculated?
The coefficient is calculated by working out an average score for the country, which is gained by dividing the number of 'points' obtained by the total number of clubs representing a country. England have eight clubs this season; Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Southampton and West Ham.
That resulting number is then added to the results of the previous four seasons to calculate the coefficient, making a five-year run. The total of those five years is the decisive number.
So, how can the Europa League help?
Scenario 1) Manchester United progress to the last 16 of the Champions League, but lose both legs and are eliminated, with no Europa League back-up. This gives them 19 COEFFICIENT POINTS to contribute towards England.
Scenario 2) Manchester United knocked out of the Champions League, drop into the Europa League, and win every game on their way to glory in Basel. This would give them 33 COEFFICIENT POINTS to contribute towards England. Even a run to the semi-final, with two defeats when they get there, would gain them 26 COEFFICIENT POINTS.
Scenario 1: Manchester United knocked out of Champions League last 16
|2 CL qualifying wins||2|
|CL group stage qualification||4|
|3 CL group stage wins||6|
|2 CL group stage draws||2|
|CL last 16 qualification||5|
|TOTAL: 19 POINTS|
Scenario 2: Manchester United knocked out of Champions League but win every Europa League game
|2 CL qualifying stage wins||2|
|CL group stage qualification||4|
|2 CL group stage wins||4|
|2 CL group stage draws||2|
|9 EL wins||18|
|EL quarter-final, semi-final and final qualification||3|
Spain's dominance in the European coefficients is in much part thanks to their success in the Europa League, where they have had three winners in four years.
To add, Italian sides' strong show in last season's Europa League, where both Fiorentina and Napoli reached the semi-finals, added to Serie A's healthy coefficient campaign.
But how do you gain 'points', and how similar are Europa League points to Champions League points?
Each team gets two points for a win in either European competition and one point for a draw, though points are halved for matches in the qualifying and play-off rounds.
Clubs that reach the last 16, quarter-final, semi-final or final of the Champions League, or the quarter-final, semi-final or final of the Europa League, are awarded an extra point for each round.
How points are gained
|Win||2 points (halved for qualifying and play-off rounds)|
|Draw||1 point (halved for qualifying and play-off rounds)|
|Reaching Champions League last 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final||1 point for each round|
|Reaching Europa League quarter-final, semi-final and final||1 point for each round|
|Champions League group stage participation||4 points|
|Champions League last 16 participation||4 points|
In addition, four bonus points are awarded for participation in the group stage of the Champions League and four points for qualifying for the last 16. So, qualifying for the last 16 gains a side an extra five points.
The total amount of points a country gains is then divided by the number of clubs representing. Before Matchday 6 of the Champions League group stages, England's coefficient for this season was 7.625, and Italy's was 7.666. To gain the country's total coefficient, as previously explained, this score is added to the four previous seasons.
How likely is it England will lose a fourth spot?
Despite English teams' performances in Europe steadily dropping over the last three seasons, last term remains an extreme and unusual occurrence.
It was only the second time since 2003 that Italy have outperformed England in Europe, while the last time Serie A had two teams in the Champions League quarter-finals was 2006/07. In the nine seasons since, England have managed that feat six times.
But it is in the Europa League where English teams have failed to make their mark on overall coefficients. Since 2010/11, Chelsea are the only English side to have reached at least the semi-finals of Europe's second competition, on their way to winning it in 2012/13. In that time, Italy have had three semi-finalists.
So, even if the Premier League's Champions League sides perform badly, a run to the final of the Europa League could make up for it.