The group stages of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League will kick off next week, and after nine weeks of qualifying, the race for important spots in the UEFA nation rankings could not be any more intense.
Here is a look at the situation of the Belgian and Dutch coefficients as the first main rounds of the competition get underway.
Netherlands in pole position for sixth place
It was a reasonable qualifying campaign for the Dutch this summer with PSV (Champions League), AZ and FC Twente (Europa Conference League) taking part in the pre-group stage portion of continental action.
Starting with PSV, the Eindhoven side defeated AS Monaco 4-3 on aggregate in the third qualifying round before falling to Rangers at the play-off stage.
Along with the 0.400 points earned for the Dutch coefficient as a result of their performances, PSV will partake in the Europa League group stage where they will go up against Arsenal, Bodø/Glimt, and FC Zürich.
AZ went 5-0-1 throughout their Conference League matches, ultimately winning ties against Tuzla City (5-0), Dundee United (7-1), and Gil Vicente (6-1).
The impressive showings yielded 1.000 points for the Netherlands. Making the Conference League group stage, they’ll now will face Apollon Limassol, Vaduz and Dnipro-1.
Although Twente did not manage to reach the Conference League groups, they did still contribute well. The third round of qualifying saw them beat Cukaricki 7-2 on aggregate, winning both legs.
The challenge in the play-off round proved to be too much though, as they fell to Fiorentina 2-1. With an overall record of 2-1-1, Twente did earn 0.500 points for the country.
This still leaves PSV and AZ along with Ajax (Champions League) and Feyenoord (Europa League) to fight
and earn more and more points. Ajax’s group is a difficult one where they will face Liverpool, Napoli and Rangers. Feyenoord will battle Lazio, Midtjylland and Sturm Graz.
Overall, the Netherlands won 1.900 points from this summer’s qualifiers, adding to the 0.800 bonus from Ajax reaching the Champions League proper. This leaves the Dutch sixth in UEFA’s five-year country ranking, a point behind France and two points ahead of Portugal.
It is likely that the Netherlands will hold on to sixth spot, as both them and Portugal have four teams each heading into the group stage.
The Dutch will receive 0.400 for each win and 0.200 for a draw from this stage onwards. Portugal, like France, will get 0.333 per win and 0.166 for a draw. As France have six teams in the first main round, they are heavy favourites to hold on to fifth spot.
As the new format for the European club competitions looms, this season is of massive significance in finding out how many clubs a country will be afforded in Europe. Fifth place will allow for seven European places (including 3.5 Champions League spots), sixth will continue to be six total places (2.5 UCL spots) and seventh just five spots (1.5 CL berths).
Belgium trying to hold on to top 10
The summer saw mixed results for Belgian clubs in the qualifiers. It was Union St. Gilloise (Champions League), Gent (Europa League), Anderlecht and Antwerp (both Conference League) that played a part.
Union had the most arduous task as they had to get through two rounds of action to make the Champions League group stage. They ended up falling at the first hurdle, throwing away a 2-0 first leg advantage in a 3-2 aggregate defeat to Rangers. The first leg success gave Belgium 0.200 points.
The Pro League runners-up from last season will now partake in the Europa League group stage where they will face Sporting Braga, Malmö and Union Berlin.
Gent also played just two matches in qualifying as Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s side kicked things off in the Europa League play-offs. Unfortunately for the defending Belgian Cup winners, they were beaten 2-0 twice by Cyprus’ Omonoia Nicosia. Of course, with the two defeats, Belgium did not get any coefficient points from Gent’s performance so far.
The European adventure is not yet over for Gent, who will once again play in the Conference League group stage. There they will battle Molde, Shamrock Rovers, and Djurgården.
Anderlecht played in the Europa Conference League qualifiers. After beating Paide 5-0 over two legs, they faced Young Boys in the play-offs. With both sides winning their respective away legs 1-0, penalties were required, and it was the Brussels club that prevailed.
A 3-0-1 record in Europe gave Belgium 0.600 points overall. Having progressed to a group stage for the first time in four years, Anderlecht will face West Ham, FCSB and Silkeborg.
Finally, Antwerp played in the Conference League early rounds, where they got past Drita (2-0) and Lillestrøm (5-1) in their first two rounds of action. Unfortunately for them, Istanbul Basaksehir proved to be a step too much for The Great Old. Despite drawing the first leg 1-1, they could not make the most of their home advantage in the return match, going down 4-2 on aggregate to the Turkish club.
Antwerp still contributed 0.800 points to Belgium’s coefficient even though they will not grace group stage football for a third year running.
The other group stage participant will be league champions Club Brugge. They will go up against FC Porto, Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League. Their assured six-game participation results in an extra 0.800 points for Belgium.
Like the Dutch, Belgian clubs will earn their country 0.400 points per win and 0.200 for every draw from the group stage onwards. The same goes for Belgium’s rivals Austria, who only have three group stage participants. As for the other competitor, Serbia, each win rewards 0.500 points while a draw equivocates to 0.250.
Overall, Belgium have obtained 2.400 points on the season, sitting in tenth place. Austria are just 0.600 ahead, while Serbia are a little over 1.500 behind.
In this battle, Austria, Belgium and Serbia are aiming for at least 10th spot so that their champion will automatically make the Champions League proper and avoid the qualifiers.
Ninth will guarantee three group stage places in total, with the runner-up starting in the penultimate round of UCL qualifying. As for 11th place, the domestic league champion would not be assured Champions League football in the fall and would, at least in the initial access list, start in the play-off stage.