The European season continues on Tuesday evening with the knockout phase in the Champions League. The Europa League and Conference League will follow on Thursday. The moment of truth has arrived for the Netherlands in the fight for sixth place on the UEFA coefficient list. What is the chance of success?
To get straight to the point: the coefficient Valhalla is in sight. In 2018, the Netherlands was still the faded number fourteen, sandwiched between the Czech Republic and Greece. Now it is gearing up to knock out Portugal in the battle for the coveted sixth place. The countdown to a possible historic moment starts on Wednesday, when Benfica visits Club Brugge in the eighth finals of the Champions League.
2,984 points is the lead that the Eredivisie will defend this spring in the battle for sixth place on the coefficient list. In the previous sentence, the addition of ‘reassuring’ to ‘lead’ would not be out of place, because a lot must go wrong if the Eredivisie misses the very attractive package of European tickets. Then you should think of a Portuguese Champions League final in combination with a Dutch ax day in the intermediate round.
Why is that sixth place so important again? The country that is sixth can directly send two clubs to the Champions League, while the number three can participate in the preliminaries of the billion dollar ball.
It makes the Eredivisie a lot more interesting, also because the prize money in the Champions League is being increased considerably. If you miss the Champions League 2.0 twice as a top club, you will run into a financial deficit compared to your competitors that is difficult to bridge.
The Netherlands and Portugal both still have four clubs
With Ajax, PSV (both intermediate round Europa League), Feyenoord (eighth finals Europa League) and AZ (eighth finals Conference League), the Netherlands still has four irons in the fire. This also applies to Portugal, which is still in the race with FC Porto, Benfica (both eighth finals of the Champions League), Sporting CP (intermediate round of the Europa League) and Sporting Braga (intermediate round of the Conference League).
The Southern Europeans started this year with six teams and therefore have to divide every score by six. The Netherlands started the season with five teams, so that each result carries more weight.
Making up for a deficit of 2,984 points – the task facing Portugal – is extremely difficult. Each club win earns the southern European country just 0.33 points, so you could say that Portugal is nine wins behind. The phase of group stage little things is also behind us. There are also various bonuses to be earned, but they only really pay off if several clubs get very far.
Disadvantage for Portugal
Portugal is at a disadvantage, because two clubs are still active at the highest level. With Club Brugge and Internazionale as opponents of Benfica and FC Porto respectively, the draw for the eighth finals is far from impossible, but it is not expected that the Portuguese delegation will take a huge mountain of points in the Champions League.
In the intermediate round of the Europa League, Sporting CP will cross swords with FC Midtjylland, which is certainly not an unattainable card. Sporting Braga will meet Fiorentina in the intermediate round of the Conference League, FC Twente’s executioner in the play-offs earlier this season.
As you know, UEFA assigns the same value to results in all European tournaments: two points for a win and one point for a draw. A victory in the Champions League final is worth as much as a victory in the Conference League group stage.
Ajax and PSV will play an intermediate round on Thursday
The Netherlands will only come into action with Ajax and PSV in the coming weeks. As group winners in the Europa League and Conference League respectively, Feyenoord and AZ still have a round off. Ajax awaits a diptych with Bundesliga sensation 1. FC Union Berlin, while PSV enters the battle arena with Europa League specialist Sevilla, which is performing dramatically this season. The first episodes in these diptychs are already on Thursday.
The Netherlands must above all look at itself. If Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord and AZ do not make a muddy figure in the knockout phase, the flag can normally be thrown out sometime this spring.
In the best scenario, the Eredivisie is already certain of sixth place next Thursday. That is the case if Ajax and PSV win both their matches in the intermediate round and the Portuguese clubs suffer only defeats from now on. It won’t go that fast, but all signals are green for a Dutch coefficient party.
Dutch clubs in this European season:
THE: 12 duels, 10 wins, 0 draws, 2 losses
PSV: 10 duels, 5 wins, 3 draws, 2 losses
Feyenoord: 6 duels, 2 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses
Ajax: 6 duels, 2 wins, 0 draws, 4 losses
FC Twente: 4 matches, 2 wins, 1 draw, 1 defeat
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