England and Italy are duking it out for third spot in the UEFA country coefficient rankings as we head to the Champions League and Europa League knockout stages.
There’s still many points to play for, and with England and Italy neck and neck for the third spot in the coefficient standings, this season’s European cup play has huge implications. Coefficient points are handed out for wins and draws, with additional bonus points being awarded for reaching certain plateaus. A win is one point and a draw is a half point.
The coefficient points take into account the last five seasons in European cup play. With Juventus reaching the Champions League final last season, Italy got a huge boost for next season as England will lose 3.893 points from the 2011/12 season. With Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal making it to the Champions League knockout phase, the hopes will be that one of them can make a deep run and at least make it to the final. This season the two nations are very close together, with England currently having 10.625 points and Italy 10.333
England also have three teams in the Europa League. Liverpool and Tottenham went through the group stage and Manchester United will also be in the tournament after failing to get through their group in the Champions League. Liverpool topped their group ahead of FC Sion despite having a record of only two wins and four draws. Tottenham also won their group after four wins, one draw and one loss.
Italy has Juventus and Roma in the Champions League knockout phase, along with Napoli, Lazio and Fiorentina in the Europa League. Both Juventus and Roma finished second in their respective Champions League groups. Napoli has been steamrolling through their group in the Europa League, having won all six games and outscoring their opponents 22-3. Lazio also won their group while Fiorentina finished second to clinch a berth in the Europa League knockout phase.
A lot will come down to the draws for the two tournaments. Both the Champions League and Europa League knockout phase draws takes place on Monday. If one nation ends up with favorable draws, then we could see a shift if Italy has another strong year. The difference between third and fourth place in the coefficient standings is that with the third place you get another spot in the Champions League group stage, while in fourth place the team must go through a qualification round.
Tottenham has looked strong in Europa League play, and that might be the strongest bet for England to take home some silverware and some points. Because despite having Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City in the Champions League knockout phase, they would at some point most likely have to play one of Bayern Munich, Barcelona or Real Madrid. And sure upsets can happen, but with the injuries at both Arsenal and Manchester City, combined with Chelsea’s poor league play, they are not predicted to go very far.
Juventus has started to pick things up a bit after a poor start to the season, but it’s unlikely that they will make it back to the Champions League final for a second straight season. Roma has had some ups and downs in European play and will most likely not make it past the first round. So Italy will be hoping that Napoli, Lazio and Fiorentina will make deep runs in the Europa League and get enough points to push Italy ahead of England.
While it might feel bad for some fans to root for another team from the same country, English and Italian soccer fans will have to look at the big picture this season and what it means for the respective leagues to get that third spot in the rankings.