FEATURE | BeNe in Europe – Matchday 5 Review: Belgium overtake Scotland, PSV pick up huge win

Here is a look back at what went down for their eight clubs and where things stand for Netherlands and Belgium in the coefficient rankings following the latest round of European football.

The Netherlands pick up decent points, but lose ground to rivals

It was another decent week for Dutch sides, with two wins among the four. All in all, sixth place is still theirs, but it is not going to be easy to hold on.

On Wednesday, Ajax lost their fourth successive Champions League game, losing 3-0 at home to Liverpool. It means they cannot advance to the knockout rounds, with third being the highest they can finish. They will go to Rangers next week, and as long as they do not lose by more than four goals, they will enter the Europa League knockout play-offs.

On Thursday, PSV played Arsenal for the second week running. This time it was more successful for Ruud van Nistelrooy’s men as they triumphed 2-0 at home. The result, paired with Bodø/Glimt’s defeat to Zürich, means that PSV are assured of a top-two finish in their section. They will go through as group winners and make the last 16 should they beat Bodø away next Thursday and Arsenal do not beat Zürich. Otherwise, it is knockout playoffs for the Eindhoven club.

Feyenoord were not so successful in their Europa League clash at Sturm Graz. After hitting the same opponents for six in Rotterdam, it was the Austrian Bundesliga runners-up who found the net in the 93rd minute to sink Arne Slot’s men. The match ended 1-0, leaving Feyenoord with it all to do at home to Lazio next Thursday. A draw or a defeat could see them eliminated from Europe altogether; a win will guarantee at least the Europa Conference League knockouts, though they will finish either first or second if they and Midtjylland win their matches.

Finally, AZ found their way past a resilient Vaduz side in the Europa Conference League. It was far from straightforward, but in the end, Pascal Jansen’s side prevailed 2-1 in Liechtenstein. The win keeps AZ top of Group E, and they will enjoy knockout football in the new year. They will meet Dnipro-1 next week, and as long as they do not lose, AZ will win the section and make the round of 16. Lose and it will be the knockout round playoffs.

The Netherlands went 2-0-2 and earned 0.800 match points. Since PSV and AZ earned top-two finishes in their respective groups, they earned a combined 0.600 bonus points for the country. The total this season is now 7.500 for the Dutch, with a five-year total of 53.900.

Challengers Portugal had an excellent week, with victories coming from Porto and Benfica in the Champions League. That spells danger for the Netherlands as the Portuguese are now just 1.184 behind and could pass the Dutch again by the end of the group stages. Everything will depend largely on what Sporting CP, Braga, Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord and AZ do next week. In total, the Netherlands can earn up to 3.400 points next Thursday, while Portugal can get 2.500 at most.

Belgium now eighth thanks to Union

It was not a stellar week by any means for Belgian football in Europe. At the same time, the job was done, and all four teams that reached the group stage can still get out of it.

Wednesday saw Club Brugge concede their first goals in the Champions League this season. To make matters worse for the Blauw-Zwart, they were well beaten 4-0 at home to FC Porto. While a top-two finish is already assured, they missed a chance to lock up top spot. So long as Porto do not score more points than Club on the final night, the section will still belong to the Belgians though.

Union St. Gilloise triumphed for the fourth time in five outings in the Europa League. This time, it was Malmö who fell to last season’s Jupiler Pro League runners-up. A 2-0 win sealed the deal with USG winning Group D with a game to spare.

Anderlecht played in the early kick-off of the Europa Conference League on Thursday against the already-eliminated FCSB. Twice did the record Belgian champions hold a lead, but could not record a win in Robin Veldman’s first game as interim head coach. The result was 2-2, leaving Anderlecht in third. Fortunately for them, West Ham beat Silkeborg in the other game, setting up a winner takes all clash between the Brussels-based team and the Danes. Anderlecht must win to join West Ham in the knockout stage.

Gent were held to a draw by recently crowned Irish champions Shamrock Rovers. De Buffalo’s fell behind just minutes in, but levelled the game with 15 to play. Djugården came from two down to defeat Molde, giving Gent one more shot at going through. Should they defeat the Norwegian side next week, they will progress.

Overall, the 1-2-1 record yielded 0.800 match points for Belgium from a coefficient standpoint. However, as Union St. Gilloise won their group, another 1.000 was tacked on in bonus points. That now leaves the Belgians with 9.200 points this season, the fifth-best in Europe. In the 5-year ranking, Belgium now has 37.200, passing Scotland for eighth spot.

Scotland are 0.800 behind Belgium in the five-year ranking, meaning that one more win from a Belgian side will ensure that they finish ahead of the Scots.

Austria and Serbia are 3.600 and nearly 6.000 behind Belgium, respectively. That means that Belgium are virtually assured of a top 10 finish, which will become top nine with one more win. Austria can still win 2.000 bonus points if Salzburg defeat Milan and Sturm Graz top their group. While both are unlikely to happen, should the pair pull through, Austria will still have some hope in catching Belgium before season’s end.

David Parkes

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