Return of the Old Firm: Scotland on the brink of winning back a second Champions League place from 2020-21 after strong displays by Celtic and Rangers in Europa League groups
- Scotland has had only one Champions League entrant since 2013-14 season
- But they are on the brink of winning back a second spot in the competition
- The distribution of places is based on the UEFA National Coefficient table
- Scotland has climbed to 15th after strong Rangers and Celtic performances
- Celtic have reached Europa League last-32 and Rangers should join them
- Two more wins by Old Firm and they’ll get second Champions League slot
Celtic and Rangers have an excellent opportunity to gain Scotland an additional spot in the Champions League qualifying rounds from the 2021-22 season.
The UEFA national coefficient table ranks the collective Champions League and Europa League performances of clubs from each nation over the past five seasons and determines how many places they receive in each competition.
A series of miserable performances from Scottish clubs had left them with just one Champions League spot – starting in the first qualifying round – that went to Premiership champions Celtic.
Celtic’s progress to the last-32 of the UEFA Europa League has boosted Scotland’s standings in the UEFA national coefficient table
Rangers are also on the verge of qualifying for the Europa League last-32 in what would serve as a further boost to Scotland’s chances of winning back another Champions League spot
Scotland also received three spots in this season’s Europa League, with Rangers, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock starting in the first qualifying round and then joined by Celtic in the Play-off round after they dropped out the Champions League.
But because the two Old Firm sides have performed well in the group stage, with Celtic already through as group winners and Rangers likely to join them, Scotland’s coefficient has been boosted.
They have already jumped from 26th position at the start of the season to 15th, and if they can hold or improve that ranking, they will receive an additional Champions League place from the season after next.
That’s because places in the Champions League are assigned on the strength of each nation’s performances.
At present, Spain, England, Italy and Germany get four clubs each, while France and Russia get three.
Celtic missed out on the Champions League group stage after losing in qualifying to Cluj
Celtic fans have become accustomed to Champions League campaigns in recent seasons
Positions seven down to 15 – which this season were Portugal, Ukraine, Belgium, Turkey, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Holland and Greece – are allowed two entrants.
Scotland have already moved to 15th in the coefficient after Celtic and Rangers did well in their groups, and their position has been strengthened this week.
They were boosted when Dinamo Zagreb exited the Champions League on Wednesday night, meaning there are no more Croatian sides left in European competition this season.
Croatia were one of Scotland’s rivals in trying to break into the top 15 and claim that second Champions League place.
Steven Gerrard has lifted Rangers back to a position where they can compete in Europe
Rangers fans set off flares ahead of their 2-2 draw with Feyenoord in Rotterdam last month
Likewise, the Czech Republic, who also don’t have a side left in Europe this season after Slavia Prague went out of the Champions League.
It means that if Rangers and Celtic can get two more Europa League wins between them, Scotland will move above the Czechs in the coefficient ranking and cement their position in the top 15.
You have to go back to the 2012-13 season to find the last time Scotland had two teams in the Champions League.
Celtic reached the last-16 of the competition before losing 5-0 on aggregate to Juventus. Motherwell, who took Rangers’ place after they went into administration, lost to Panathinaikos in the third qualifying round.