2012/13 Europa League – Format and Seeding

This season’s final will be played at the Amsterdam ArenA.

The list of entrants for next season’s Europa League is now complete, and it is therefore possible to work out the potential seedings for each round.

Format

The format of the Europa League is tweaked slightly every season, and that has been the case yet again this year, with the highest ranked teams from the top 6 countries now earning a direct spot in the group stage alongside the holders.  In total, 161 clubs will enter this season’s Europa League, and they will also be joined by 32 clubs who drop down from the Champions League at various stages, taking the total number of participants to a staggering 193 teams.

Most countries are entitled to 3 entrants in this season’s Europa League.  The only exceptions are the nations ranked 7th-9th (Russia, Ukraine and the Netherlands), who have 4 entrants*, the two bottom ranked nations (Andorra & San Marino) who have 2 entrants, and Liechtenstein who only have 1 entrant (cup winners) on account of having no league.  There are also extra places available to the top 3 nations in UEFA’s Fair Play league which this season went to Netherlands (FC Twente), Norway (Stabaek) & Finland (MyPa).  Clubs from the same country cannot face each other in any of the qualifying rounds.

The stages at which these teams enter at depend on their country’s position in the UEFA country coefficient rankings.  This is too detailed to go into here, but if you are interested then look at the table provided by Bert Kassies.  For each country, the national cup winners are given preference ahead of clubs who qualified through the league (which is why Hearts enter the tournament later than Dundee United).  This is driven by Michel Platini’s desire to reward teams who have actually won something in the preceeding season.

The flowchart below tries to make some sense of the pathway through the qualifying stages.

Seeding

The seeding in both the Champions League and Europa League is based on the UEFA club coefficients, which are based on results in European competition over the past 5 years.  Clubs which have not participated in Europe over that period are given a score based on their nation’s coefficient.

All the seeding information is taken from Bert Kassies’ website, which is a treasure trove of statistics and ranking information.

1st Qualifying Round

Draw: 25th June
Matches – 5th July and 12th July

74 teams enter the Europa League at this stage, which kicks off 4 days after the final of Euro 2012.  FC Twente, Lech Poznan, Elfsborg all enter at this round, and all have players at Euro 2012.  In theory these players could take part in the Euro 2012 final and then be expected to start their 2012/13 season a matter of days later.

The teams taking part, and their seedings, are listed below.

2nd Qualifying Round

Draw: 25th June
Matches – 19th July and 26th July

43 teams, including St Johnstone, enter at this stage, and are joined by the 37 winners from the previous round.

The draws for the 1st and 2nd Qualifying Rounds are carried out at the same time (25th June), which means that 37 entrants will be unknown at the time of the draw.   UEFA work around this by assuming that the seeded team will win each tie in the previous round.  That means that St Johnstone are guaranteed to be unseeded for this round.  They are ranked 42nd of the 80 teams who are predicted to take part, which means they miss out on being seeded by 2 places.  Had the draw been held separately from the 1st Qualifying Round, they could have been seeded if 2 of the 10 teams ranked above them lost in the previous round.

The list below shows the seeding for the 2nd Qualifying Round.  The teams listed in white and italics are the seeded teams from the 1st Qualifying Round ties, whose seeding is used in the draw.  If these teams lose in the 1st Qualifying Round, they would be replaced by the team who beat them.

3rd Qualifying Round

Draw: 20th July
Matches – 2nd August and 9th August

18 teams, including Dundee United, enter at this stage, and are joined by the 40 winners from the previous round.

The draw for this stage takes place between the 1st and 2nd legs of the 2nd Qualifying Round, so none of the other 40 entrants will be confirmed at the time of the draw.  Again, for the purposes of the draw UEFA assume that the seeded teams from the 2nd Qualifying Round will win.

Dundee United are ranked 41st of the 58 teams who are expected to be in this round.  The only teams ranked above them who could potentially be eliminated before the draw are those who enter at the 1st Qualifying Round, and there are only 5 such teams.  That means that Dundee United could at best be 36th out of 58 by the time of the draw, and are therefore guaranteed to be unseeded.

Curiously, St Johnstone could end up “seeded” in this round if they were to beat one of the higher ranked seeds from the previous round.  They would then take the place, and the seeding of that team in the 3rd Qualifying Round because the draw is made before the 2nd Qualifying Round is complete.

The list below is only an indication of the potential seedings – it could still change if any of the seeded teams lose in the 1st Qualifying Round.  The teams in white are not guaranteed to reach this stage, and could be replaced by their opponents from the 2nd Qualifying Round.

Play-off Round

Draw: 10th August
Matches – 23rd August and 30th August

19 teams, including Hearts, will enter at this round, and are joined by the 29 winners from the previous round, and the 14 losers from the Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round.

This round is drawn after the previous round is completed, so the seedings will only be known at that stage.  The table below is merely speculative, and assumes that every single seeded side wins in the previous round, and that every single unseeded team loses in the Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round.

Hearts will almost certainly be unseeded – they would need somewhere in the region of 25 unseeded teams to win in the previous round to have any chance of being seeded.  The same would apply to Motherwell if they were to lose their Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round match.  If Celtic were to lose in the Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round, they would definitely be seeded at this stage.

Again, with so many matches to be played before these seedings are decided, it is difficult to be anything more than speculative at this stage.  The table below shows what the seeding would look like if every single seeded team won in each of the previous rounds, and every unseeded team lost in the Champions League.  The teams who would drop down from the Champions League are coloured in blue.

The 31 winners from this round will enter the group stage, where they will join holders Atletico Madrid plus Tottenham, Bayer Leverkusen, Napoli, Lyon, Rubin Kazan and Academica, as well as the 10 losers from the Champions League Play-off Round.

2012/13 Champions League – Format and Seeding

With the 2011/12 season finished almost everywhere in Europe, we now know all of the teams who will participate in next season’s Champions League, and  it is possible to work out the seeding for each round.

Format

The format of the Champions League has changed a few times over the years, particularly in the qualifying stages.  Since 2009/10, the qualifying rounds have been split into two distinct sections – one for Champions and one for non-Champions.   This idea was proposed by Michel Platini, who wanted more champions of smaller countries in the group stage.  To some extent it has worked, with APOEL Nicosia making it to the quarter-finals of last season’s tournament.

22 teams are granted direct entry into the group stage.  These places are given to the champions of the 12 highest ranked countries , the runners-up of the 6 highest ranked countries and the 3rd placed team in the 3 highest ranked countries.  The holders get a place in the groups if they haven’t already qualified, which is the case with Chelsea this year.  Had Bayern Munich won the Champions League, the holder spot would have been vacated and the champions of the 13th ranked nation (Anderlecht) would have entered at the group stage.

The “Champions Pathway” features the national champions from the UEFA members outside the top 12, with the exception of Liechtenstein, who don’t have a league.   There are 4 qualifying rounds, with the lower ranked countries entering earliest.

The “Non-Champions Pathway” features the lowest placed qualifiers from each of the 15 highest ranked UEFA leagues.  This season, it will feature just 14 teams as a result of Chelsea’s success.   UEFA rules state that no country is allowed to have more than 4 entrants in the Champions League, so 4th placed Spurs dropped into the Europa League.  This section has just 2 qualifying rounds, with the lowest ranked countries entering earliest.

Scotland are ranked 15th in the UEFA league coefficients, so we only just scraped a second Champions League spot.  With the poor performances in recent seasons, it is unlikely that we will have a second CL spot again for at least a few years.

Seeding

First of all, a note about seeding.  The seeding in both the Champions League and Europa League is based on the UEFA club coefficients, which are based on results in European competition over the past 5 years.  Clubs which have not participated in Europe over that period are given a score based on their nation’s coefficient.

All the seeding information is taken from Bert Kassies’ website, which is a treasure trove of statistics and ranking information.


Champions Pathway

Celtic will take part in this section of qualifying, and will enter at the 3rd Qualifying Round.  Here, I’ll look at the seeding in each of the rounds in turn to give an idea of who Celtic might face.

1st Qualifying Round

Draw: 25th June
Matches – 3rd/4th July and 10th/11th July

Only 6 sides enter the Champions League at this stage.

The first matches will take place 2 days after the final of Euro 2012, but it is highly unlikely that any players will take part in both matches given that this round features clubs from Andorra, Faroe Islands, Luxembourg, Malta, Northern Ireland and San Marino.

The teams taking part, and their seedings are shown below.

2nd Qualifying Round

Draw: 25th June
Matches – 17th/18th July and 24th/25th July

31 teams enter at this stage, and are joined by the 3 winners from the previous round.

The draws for the 1st and 2nd Qualifying Rounds are carried out at the same time (25th June), which means that 3 entrants will be unknown at the time of the draw.   UEFA work around this by assuming that the seeded team will win each tie in the previous round.  In this case it doesn’t matter too much, because even the highest ranked team from the 1st Qualifying Round would be unseeded in the 2nd Qualifying Round anyway.

Linfield, F91 Dudelange and Valletta FC in white text and italics because they may not actually make it to this round.

3rd Qualifying Round

Draw: 20th July
Matches – 31st July/1st August and 7th/8th August

3 teams, including Celtic, enter at this stage, and are joined by the 17 winners from the previous round.

The draw for this stage takes place between the 1st and 2nd legs of the 2nd Qualifying Round, so none of the other 17 entrants will be confirmed at the time of the draw.  Again, for the purposes of the draw UEFA assume that the seeded teams from the 2nd Qualifying Round will win.

While Celtic will come out of the hat on the 20th of July, their opponents won’t be confirmed until nearly a week later, giving them just 6-8 days to prepare.

The list below gives an indication of the sides which should reach the 3rd Qualifying Round according to seeding, but only Celtic, Anderlecht and CFR Cluj will definitely be in this round. It is therefore not a complete list of opponents and Celtic could also play any of the unseeded teams from the previous round.

The teams who lose at this stage will enter the Europa League Play-off Round.

Play-off Round

Draw: 10th August
Matches – 21st/22nd August and 28th/29th August

The 10 winners from the previous round will take part in this round.  There are no new entrants.

This round is drawn after the previous round is completed, so the seedings will only be known at that stage.  The table below is merely speculative, and assumes that every single seeded side wins in the previous round.  Celtic are guaranteed to be seeded at this stage if they make it through the previous round.

The teams who reach this round are guaranteed a place in a group stage of some sort.  The 5 winners progress to the Champions League Group Stage, while the 5 losers will drop down to the Europa League Group Stage.

Non-Champions Pathway

Motherwell will take part in this section of qualifying, and will enter at the 3rd Qualifying Round.  Their potential opponents for their first tie are already known, but I’ll also look at who they could play if they make it through to the next round.

3rd Qualifying Round

Draw: 20th July
Matches – 31st July/1st August and 7th/8th August

8 teams, including Motherwell, enter at this stage.

Despite being the first round in the non-Champions section, this round is referred to as the 3rd Qualifying Round because it runs parallel to the 3rd Qualifying Round in the Champions section.

The 8 teams participating in this round are all known, and Motherwell are unseeded.  They only have 4 potential opponents – Dynamo Kyiv, Panathinaikos, FC Copenhagen or Fenerbahce.

The teams who lose at this stage will enter the Europa League Play-off Round.

Play-off Round

Draw: 10th August
Matches – 21st/22nd August and 28th/29th August

6 teams enter at this stage and are joined by the 4 winners from the previous round.

This round is drawn after the previous round is completed, so the seedings will only be known at that stage.  The table below is merely speculative, and assumes that every single seeded side wins in the previous round.

That previous table is slightly lacking in Scottish interest, and I’m sure Motherwell fans will be interested to know who they might play if they manage to pull a shock off in the previous round.  In that case, their potential opponents would depend on the outcome of the other matches in the 3rd Qualifying Round.

If we assume that the other 3 matches go to seeding, then Motherwell’s potential opponents would be Braga and Spartak Moscow plus the other 3 seeded teams from the previous round.  I’ve illustrated this below by assuming that Motherwell face and beat Fenerbahce in the 3rd Qualifying Round, but the same applies if they beat Dynamo Kyiv, Panathinaikos or Copenhagen (simply replace the beaten side with Fenerbahce).

If any the other ties in the previous round go in favour of the unseeded teams then Motherwell could potentially face Udinese or Lille.  It is not possible that they could face Malaga or Borussia Monchengladbach though – both of these sides are guaranteed to be unseeded in the Play-off Round.

The teams who reach this round are guaranteed a place in a group stage of some sort.  The 5 winners progress to the Champions League Group Stage, while the 5 losers will drop down to the Europa League Group Stage

How Hearts Won the Scottish Cup

An emphatic 5-1 victory over city rivals Hibernian secured the 2011/12 Scottish Cup for Heart of Midlothian.  They have now won the famous trophy 8 times, more than any other team outside of Glasgow, and 4th overall on the list of winners behind Celtic (35), Rangers (33) and Queen’s Park (10).  Hearts have been the biggest challengers to the Glasgow clubs’ stranglehold over the trophy in recent years – this was their 3rd success in the last 14 years. Dundee United were the only other non-Old Firm team to win the trophy in that period.  Rudi Skacel was the only survivor from the side which won the cup in 2006, making him the first player in over a century to win the Cup twice with Hearts.

Their 5-1 victory was the biggest winning margin since Rangers beat Aberdeen 4-0 in 2000.  On that day, Jim Leighton was injured early on, and with no goalkeeper on the bench (only 3 subs at the time), Robbie Winters had to play almost the entire match in goals for the Dons.  The last time a team scored 5 goals in a Scottish Cup final, Hearts were on the receving end, as a Brian Laudrup-inspired Rangers beat them 5-1 in 1996.  The 4 goal winning margin for Hearts equalled that achieved in their only previous meeting with Hibs at Hampden, when Paul Hartley’s hat-trick helped them to a 4-0 win in the 2006 semi-final.  Hibs have lost all 4 neutral meetings between the clubs in major competitions.

For Hibernian, it was another miserable day in a tournament which hasn’t been kind to them.  They last won the trophy in 1902, and have lost in 9 finals since that success.  Only 5 clubs can better Hibs’ total of 12 appearances in the final, but their 2 victories leave them trailing behind Vale of Leven and Clyde, and equal with Renton, who folded  in 1922.  Only Rangers and Celtic have lost more finals than Hibs, but those two clubs have 68 successes between them.

Hearts used 24 different players in their seven matches, with Jamie MacDonald and Andy Webster being the only ones to play the full 660 minutes of the campaign.  Rudi Skacel was the only other player to appear in every game, starting six times and appearing as sub at home to St Mirren in the quarter-final.  There were 11 different nationalities represented at some point in the campaign, with players from Scotland, England, Ireland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Spain, Australia, Poland, Morocco, Uganda and Germany appearing in at least one of the matches.

Denis Prychynenko spent the least time on the field, coming on for 13 minutes of the semi-final against Celtic.  He was an unused substitute for the final.  Substitute goalkeeper Mark Ridgers managed to get a medal without making a single appearance – he was on the bench for every single match of the campaign.

With five goals, including two in the final, Rudi Skacel finished the campaign as Hearts’ top goalscorer.  Skacel finished just one goal behind overall tournament top scorer, Jack Hay of Gala Fairydean, who scored a hat-trick in each of the first two rounds.  Craig Beattie and Jamie Hamill were the only other players to score more than a single goal for Hearts, with the remaining goals being spread around the squad.

The chart below summarises Hearts’ run in this season’s cup.  The white bars represent the amount of time a player spent on the pitch during a match, with yellow cards and goals represented by relevant images.  The green and white balls at Jamie MacDonald’s name represented the goals conceded by Hearts during the campaign.

Scottish Clubs in Europe 2012/13

With the Scottish Cup final marking the end of the season for the SPL clubs, we now know the 5 teams who will represent Scotland in European competition next season.  Rangers were not granted a UEFA licence as a result of their financial situation, so they will not take part next season – the first time they haven’t been in Europe since 1980/81.

European places were available for the 4 highest placed eligible clubs in the SPL, plus the Scottish Cup winners, with 2 Champions League places and 3 Europa League slots up for grabs.

Celtic (1st) and Motherwell (3rd) took the two Champions League spots, while Dundee United (4th) and Hearts (5th) guaranteed themselves a place via their league finish.  Hearts’ Scottish Cup win means that they take the Scottish Cup slot*, freeing up a league berth for St Johnstone (6th).

*As part of Michel Platini’s drive to restore interest in national cup competitions, the Scottish Cup winners are given the “best” Europa League place, with entry to the tournament at a later stage than the league qualifiers.  The Scottish Cup runners-up only get a place in Europe if the cup winners qualify for the Champions League.

Champions League

Which round will they enter?

Both Celtic and Motherwell will enter the competition at the 3rd Qualifying Round, and will have to win two ties to reach the group stage.

If either team loses their 3rd Qualifying Round tie, they would be parachuted into the Europa League at the Play-off Round. If either team loses their Champions Play-off Round tie, they would drop down into the Europa League Group Stage.

Who will they play?

Celtic will have an easier route – they will only play the champions of other smaller nations.  They will be seeded, but a full list of opponents is not available yet because not every league in Europe is finished yet.  I will post another blog when all of the entrants and seedings have been confirmed.

Motherwell will face non-champions from larger countries and will find it very tough to qualify. They will be unseeded, and in the 3rd Qualifying Round they could face Dynamo Kyiv or Fenerbache, plus 2 of Panathinaikos, FC Copenhagen, Club Brugge, Steaua Bucharest and AEK Athens depending on the outcome of their respective leagues.  The Play-off Round would be harder still, with the likes of Spartak Moscow and Udinese waiting.  Again, a full list of opponents will be confirmed as soon as the other leagues are finished.

When are their matches?

The 2012/13 Champions League starts on 3rd July 2012 – two days after the final of Euro 2012. Scottish teams don’t quite enter that early, but will play their first matches before the start of the SPL season.


3rd Qualifying Round

Draw – 20th July.

1st Leg – 30th July/1st August

2nd Leg – 7th/8th August


Play-off Round

Draw – 10th August

1st Leg – 21st/22nd August

2nd Leg – 28th/29th August


Group stage

Draw – 30th August

Matchdates – 18th/19th September, 2nd/3rd October, 23rd/24th October, 6th/7th November, 20th/21st November, 4th/5th December.

Europa League

Which round will they enter?

Our sides will enter at the following rounds of the Europa League.

Hearts- Play-off Round
Dundee United – 3rd Qualifying Round
St Johnstone – 2nd Qualifying Round

Who will they play?

The list of potential opponents is far too long to list at the moment, particularly since their is still unfinished business across Europe.

In terms of seeding, St Johnstone must eagerly await the outcome of the battles for Europe in Georgia and Bulgaria to see whether they will be seeded.  It looks likely they will miss out.  Dundee United will definitely be unseeded and Hearts will almost certainly be unseeded.

Keep an eye on my Twitter for updates, and I will post again when entrants and seeding is confirmed.

When are their matches?

St Johnstone will play their first European match on 19th July, two and a half weeks before the start of the SPL season.  Dundee United will kick off a few days before the SPL season starts.

2nd Qualifying Round

Draw – 25th June

1st Leg – 19th July

2nd Leg – 26th July

 

3rd Qualifying Round

Draw – 20th July

1st Leg -2nd August

2nd Leg – 9th August

 

Play-off Round

Draw -10th August

1st Leg – 23rd August

2nd Leg – 30th August

 

Group Stage

Draw – 31st August

Matchdates – 20th September, 4th October, 25th October, 8th November, 22nd November, 6th/13th December