Euro qualifiers Update

An update to our article in NTV 259 (subscriber issue) on what lies in store when the Champions League qualifying rounds get under way next month.

 

UEFA’s latest stitch up to help the top four leagues in Europe means that this season’s Champions League qualification rounds will finish with six teams entering via this route instead of the previous ten. Essentially, this means it will be even harder than usual for Celtic to hit paydirt come August.

With the attention of the football world focussed on some trivial kickabout taking place in Russia during the summer, the big news is that there will be a mini league to decide which of the four teams ranked in the bottom four places will get to be knocked out in the first round proper.

The draw for the preliminary round will take place on June 12th. The venue for the final is yet to be decided but keep an eye on your local park just in case. All of Europe will be holding its breath as the following names are pulled from their Kinder Surprise plastic egg cups:

Champions League Preliminary Qualifying Round
Semi-finals on June 26th
Final on June 29th

euro 18 1 prelim

With the minnows lying in wait in round 1, the road to Madrid starts here for the plankton of European football. For three of them that road will quickly take a sharp detour off a cliff.

Lincoln Red Imps are back after a brief hiatus when they lost their title to Europa FC having won the Gibraltarian championship fifteen years in a row before that. For details of their relentless march to supremacy on their quintessentially British rocky outpost in the Med see NTV 227. Suffice to say their domestic record will be the envy of nobody bar supporters of Sevco.

It’s doubtful that the Imps will be quite so dominant against any of their potential opposition in this competition, although they might not be overly intimidated at the thought of a trip to Andorra to play Santa Coloma, the only Andorran side to have won a match in Europe (any match) and the only Andorran side to have kept a clean sheet in Europe.

The San Marino championship was won by La Fiorita. They will  be knocked out before mid July.

The numbers will be made up by FK Drila who won the unlikely branded Football Superleague of Kosovo. Drila’s ultra group is called The Intellectuals. Don’t be fooled. They’re nutters.

Take your pick out of those four but my money’s on the Imps to qualify, with the Drila Killas to cause the most mayhem.

 

Champions League First Qualifying Round
The draw for the first qualifying round will take place on June 19th.
1st legs on July 10/11: 2nd legs on July 17/18

euro 18 2 round 1

Celtic enter at this stage in the qualification process.

There may be no easy games in Europe these days (copyright Captain Cliche) but this is as near as it gets. There’s not much to worry about in the unseeded half half of this draw other than the usual caveats about teams who are already well into their season in July and those where travelling huge distances is involved. Ideally this round will be a quick hop across the Irish sea or else a nice kickabout against the Dudes from Dudelange.

Preferably we’ll avoid the assorted eastern European outfits and their right-wing bonehead followers.

Winners go through to Champions League Q2. Losers go to the Europa League qualifying round 2.

 

Champions League Second Qualifying Round
The draw for the first qualifying round will take place on June 19th. Eagle-eyed readers will note that this is directly after the draw for round 2.
1st legs on July 24/25: 2nd legs on July 31/ August 1.

euro 18 3 round 2

This round is split into two sections: the Champions Path and the League Path (for league non-champions).

 

We are assuming throughout this post that all of the results go according to seeding. This is unlikely, but because of the timing of the draw, if a lower seeded team wins then they take the coefficient of the team they beat into the next draw.

That said, this is a rough guide to the standard of team that lies in wait. And there are plenty of them that are probably best avoided at that time of year, some of whom we’ve toiled against in recent seasons. Give us the New Saints!

Winners through to the third qualifying round. Losers to the EL Q3.

 

Champions League Third Qualifying Round
The draw for the third qualifying round will take place on July 23rd.
1st legs on August 7/8: 2nd legs on August 14.

euro 18 4 play off

This round is split into two sections: the Champions Path and the League Path (for league non-champions).

Assuming we have made it past Q2 this looks like the first of our August cup finals. Definitely no easy ties in this round.

Losers from the Champions Path through to the Europa League Play-Off Round. Losers from the League Path through to the Europa League Group Stage (I would have thought it should be the other way round but I don’t work for UEFA).

 

Champions League Play-Off Round Round
The draw for the Play-Off Round will take place on August 6th.
1st legs on August 21/22: 2nd legs on August 28/29.

euro 18 5 play off

This round is split into two sections: the Champions Path and the League Path (for league non-champions).

And so, after six crucial games  before our domestic league has even started we come to our Champions League final (if we have made it this far).

Losers from both Champions Path and League Path enter the UEFA Europa League group stage.

Whatever way up you look at these ties it’s going to be a mighty achievement (and we’re going to need some luck along the way) to get into the Champions League group stages this year and in the future. I trust Brendan and the board have started planning for this already.

 

Meanwhile, a total of 215 teams from all 55 UEFA member associations are expected to participate in the 2018–19 UEFA Europa League.

Scotland is ranked 23rd amongst the European associations, one below Israel and one above Cyprus. This entitles us to three participants in the UEFA Europa League. Those clubs who placed third and fourth in the SPFL will enter the competition in the first qualifying round along with another 92 clubs: 86 enter at this stage and 8 will have qualified from the preliminary round.

There are so many possible outcomes still to be decided in terms of qualifiers, but our gallant contenders will be seeded in the first round draw.

Coeff          Ranking         1 below                       1 above
Aberdeen          4.000           236                AIK Solna SWE           Nomme Kalju FIN
Hibernian         3.725*          267 T.            Zhodino BLR               Hearts SCO

Rangers FC         3.725**        265                St Johnstone                 T Zhodino BLR

* actually 1.000
** actually 0.250 The national coefficient bumps it up slightly

 

Q1 ties are due to be played on July 12th and July 19th.

Q2 sees the draw split into two halves: The Champions Path, for those clubs dropping out of the Champions League qualifiers, and the League Path. All of the Scottish clubs will be in the League Path at this stage, assuming Celtic safely negotiate the early round in the CL.

The third Scottish club, Aberdeen, enter at this round.

Also entering stage left are some of the lower placed teams from the higher ranked leagues. Scottish clubs will be unseeded.

Worst case scenario in terms of opponents for the Scottish teams would be the likes of Sevilla, RB Leipzig, Burnley, AC Milan or Rennes. Even mid-ranked teams in this round come from Portugal, Russia, Ukraine and Belgium.

Q2 will be played on July 26th and August 2nd.

Any Scottish clubs that have survived this far are now joined in the league path by CSKA Moscow, Sporting Lisbon, Gent, Feyenoord, Olimpiacos and a whole load of others of a similar standard. The unseeded half of the draw is where the Scots will be placed.

These ties will be played on August 9th and 16th.

To qualify for the group stages of the Europa League and the chance to win a wee bit of pocket money, one further round must be negotiated with ties to be played a week after Q3 on August 23rd and 30th. A total of 42 teams play in the play-off round: The ten Champions Path winners of the third qualifying round, and the six Champions Path losers of the 2018–19 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, along with the 26 League Path winners of the third qualifying round.

If you are a club chairman and you are pinning your financial future on a good run in Europe you should have everything crossed that the draw is kind. If it isn’t, a Scottish club might have to play the following sequence of matches and in order to get to the UEFA Europa League group stage they would have to win every tie:

July 12th Q2 Progres Niederkorn LUX h
July 19th Q2 Progres Niederkorn LUX a
July 26th Q3 Sevilla ESP a
August 2nd Q3 Sevilla ESP h
August 9nd Q4 Sporting POR a
August 16th Q4 Sporting POR h
August 23rd PO Feyenoord NED h
August 30th PO Feyenoord NED a

If you think this scenario is even remotely possible then you are either HG Wells or a member of Dave King’s Barmy Army.

Euro Sceptic

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Could someone please explain to me why this farce of a competition is called the CHAMPIONS LEAGUE? When proper league winners have to go through this nonsense?

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