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 Arsenal and Chelsea’s Champions League hopes hang by a thread ahead of this week’s final group games.
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.
The good news for the Premier League is that, like Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea are guaranteed to at least drop into the Europa League, as neither side can finish fourth in their group.
Here, we explain how England could lose its fourth spot, but why the Europa League should not be overlooked …
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.
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.
At present, Italy are 0.041 ahead of England going into the final Champions League and Europa League group games. 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.
Scenario 1) Arsenal 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 15 COEFFICIENT POINTS to contribute towards England.
Scenario 2) Arsenal are knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday night, drop into the Europa League, and win every game on their way to glory in Basel. This gives them 29 COEFFICIENT POINTS to contribute towards England. Even a run to the semi-final, with two defeats when they get there, would gain them 22 COEFFICIENT POINTS.
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 playoff 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.
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. Currently, England’s coefficient for this season is 7.625, and Italy’s is 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.
© 2015 Fox Sports | This article was written by Gerard Brand and first appeared on the Fox Sports Website on 9 December 2015.