Celtic Europe form behind Scotland's rise in rankings

CELTIC have already helped secure an important result for Scotland in Europe this season - whether they win, lose or draw in Barcelona tomorrow night.

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Celtic's Champions League victory over Ajax helped Scotland rise one place to 23rd in Uefa's co-efficient rankings
Celtic's Champions League victory over Ajax helped Scotland rise one place to 23rd in Uefa's co-efficient rankings

Thanks mainly to the efforts of Neil Lennon's side as they battled successfully through two qualifying rounds and a play-off for the Champions League, then grabbed a victory over Ajax on matchday three, the slide down the co-efficient rankings has been arrested.

From a lofty ninth place just 11 years ago, Scotland slipped to 24th spot last season.

In real terms, that has meant the Scottish champions have gone from shooting straight into the Group Stage - with the guaranteed £16million that goes with it - to having to negotiate three rounds before they can get into the draw with the big boys of Europe.

At the same time, Scotland has lost the second qualification spot which went to the runners-up in the SPL.

Just four years ago, those two places were still available as Scotland were in 13th position in the rankings, having spent the previous six years between ninth and 11th spot.

However, such has been the drop off in results from Scottish participants in European competition, a dramatic and damaging fall from a high of 33.375 ranking points to just 15.191 last year has occurred.

Uefa base their co-efficient rankings on the previous five years' results, with points awarded for wins and draws plus bonuses for reaching the Group Stage and further rounds.

Now, thanks to Celtic getting to the last 16 of the Champions League last season, and qualifying again for this season's competition proper, Scotland's alarming drop has finally been reversed and 23rd spot will be our new position.

Next season again, the champions will kick-off their European campaign in Champions League qualifying round two, while the Scottish Cup winners or runners-up, plus the sides finishing in second and third places in the SPFL Premiership, will go into the qualifying rounds for the Europa League.

It will take a series of high points-gathering seasons to restore Scotland's second spot in the qualifying rounds for the Champions League, reserved for the top-15 ranked nations.

And more of a contribution has to be made by the other clubs who join the Premiership champions in Europe because all points earned are divided by the number of clubs who enter the two competitions from that country.

This season, Celtic have already contributed 10.5 of the points earned, while St Johnstone chipped in with 2.5. Motherwell and Hibs provided none.

Celtic can also improve their own club ranking - which determines whether you are seeded or not and into which pot you will be placed if you reach the Group Stage - with a victory or even a draw in the Nou Camp tomorrow.

But Lennon is not looking at that, and believes there are plenty of other reasons why his side - which cannot finish above bottom spot in Group H - can take much from their match against Barca.

He said: "There's still money at stake, in terms of points and bonuses for the players. But it's pride more than anything, and the opportunity for them to play in a great stadium and for me to coach in a great venue.

"That is still something for us all to really relish."

Football

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