Portugal's strong performances in European club competition sees them close the gap on Russia in UEFA Coefficient
A strong showing in the Champions League and Europa League by Porto and Benfica respectively has seen Portugal begin to close the gap on Russia in the UEFA country coefficient ranking.
That is because, while Portugal have two representatives still competing in European competition, Russia by comparison have none, meaning they are not able to get any more points this campaign and therefore are unable to extend their lead ahead of Portugal any further.
Should Portugal be able to overtake Russia in the rankings, they will gain an additional automatic qualifying place in the Champions League, meaning they will have two guaranteed representatives in the competition, with third place being awarded a spot in the Champions League play-off.
Currently, Portugal only have one automatic Champions League berth, with second in the league having to go through two rounds of qualifiers to make the Champions League proper.
What is the UEFA Coefficient?
The UEFA coefficient is what determines how many Champions League and Europa League allocations each nation is given, and combines each country’s performance in both competitions over the previous 5 years to come to an overall ranking.
The four nations in the top four positions in the country coefficient ranking are given 4 Champions League group stage places each, in addition to 2 automatic Europa League group stage spots and another allocation to the Europa League qualifiers (so 2+1 Europa League places).
That means each of the top four teams have up to 7 representatives in European competition.
5th and 6th place in the ranking then get 2 Champions League group stage spots and one additional qualifying spot each (2+1 Champions League allocations), while they also get 2+1 and 1+2 Europa League group stage places respectively.
Where are Portugal in the coefficient ranking?
Portugal currently sit 7th in the ranking after being overtaken by Russia a couple of years ago. That drop by just one place in the rankings had serious repercussions on Portugal’s allocations in European competition.
It meant that Portugal lost a Champions League berth - so now only have 1+1 Champions League representatives instead of 2+1.
It came after a couple of disappointing European campaigns for Portuguese clubs, while Russian clubs collectively performed very well in the continent’s elite competitions, meaning Portugal’s Primeira Liga slipped in the rankings and was only considered the 7th best league in Europe.
More frustratingly for Portugal, there is no difference between being 7th in the rankings, and 15th in the rankings; whether you are 7th or 15th, you get the same benefits, having 1 automatic Champions League qualifier and one automatic Europa League qualifier, and a further 3 qualifying spaces to go with those allocations.
It means Portugal in 7th are rewarded with the same benefits as Croatia in 15th, despite Portugal being over 20.000 points above Croatia in the overall coefficient ranking. By comparison, Portugal are only 2.717 points behind Russia, but are given fewer allocations in the Champions League.
For this reason, it has made it impossible for the “Big Three” in Portugal all to qualify for the Champions League at the same time, while with Braga also thrown into the mix, one of those four clubs is now not even assured of a Europa League group stage spot.
The gap is closing
However, Portugal are punching above their weight this season when compared with Russia and other strong European leagues.
Indeed, while Portugal have two clubs left in Europe, both France and Russia, who sit above them in the UEFA Coefficient ranking, have none. This comes as a bit of a surprise, with 16 teams still in the competition but no French or Russian representatives to show for it.
Additionally, the four nations directly below Portugal in the rankings - Belgium, Ukraine, Turkey and Austria - also have no representatives left in either competition, giving Portugal additional breathing space on the chasing pack.
In fact, a total of 48 nations have no clubs left in either the Champions League or Europa League, showing just how well Portugal are doing to have not just one but two sides left in European competition.
Not only that, but of the 7 countries to still have clubs competing in one of Europe’s club competitions, only 4 have at least two clubs left, with Germany, the Netherlands and Czech Republic all left with just a sole representative.
This again indicates that Portugal have performed exceptionally well this campaign in Europe, and it is shown by the points accumulated in the UEFA coefficient as a result.
Indeed, Portugal have already reached double figures, sitting on 10.500 points in total for this season, already as many points as they managed in total in each of the last four campaigns. Russia, by comparison, have just 7.583 points this season, and are unable to add any more points to that tally with their final two representatives Zenit and Krasnodar crashing out of the Europa League at the round of 16.
This leaves Portugal 2.717 points behind Russia - a gap that is surely too large to close this season, but is nevertheless far smaller than the 6.634 lead Russia had over Portugal at the start of the 2018-19 campaign, indicating that Portugal are making strong progress to catch Russia and reclaim their additional Champions League allocation.
Who is getting Portugal so many points?
If you look at the breakdown of Portugal’s points by club, you will see that the country owe a great deal to Porto for Portugal’s strong performance in the UEFA coefficient.
With Porto topping their Champions League group with 5 wins and a draw and advancing to the quarter finals after toppling Roma, they have managed to single-handedly earn Portugal 23 points this campaign.
Benfica are currently in a close second, earning 18 points for Portugal’s coefficient rankings so far. Sporting, after a disappointing Europa League campaign, lagged behind, bringing in just 10 points in total.
After a disastrous Europa League campaign from Braga, where they registered just two draws as they crashed out in the qualifying round, they picked up just a single points for Portugal, while Rio Ave - who lost on aggregate to Polish side Jagiellonia - got 0.5 points.
This averages out to 10.500 - and counting.