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These are the teams Tottenham fans should root for during the season's final month.

Hint: You're now cheering for AVB, Spurs fans.

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Our own Michael Caley's top four estimates now have Tottenham at a 99.9% lock for making next season's Champions League. What's more, it appears that the Soccer Gods have decided to smite Spurs by denying us the title via the most improbable league title run in Premier League history rather than screwing us via an English team beating a German team on penalties in a cup final.

So it's probably finally safe to start talking about next season's Champions League draw. (And yes, you can feel free to harass me on Twitter if we fall to fourth place behind Leicester, Arsenal, and Manchester United only to have Manchester City and Liverpool both win European trophies, thereby knocking the fourth place Premier League team out of the Champions League.)

How does the UEFA Champions League group stage draw work?

Here's a quick refresher on how the draw works: 32 teams are split into four eight-team pots. Pot 1 consists of the defending Champions League winner and the domestic champions from the top seven European domestic leagues. In the common event that the Champions League winner is also the domestic champion from one of the top seven leagues, then the domestic champion from the eighth ranked league is also thrown into pot one. (Right now the eighth ranked domestic league in UEFA's rankings is Ukraine.)

Subsequent pots are simply the remaining 24 qualifying teams ranked in order by their UEFA club coefficient, which is a scoring system built around how the club has performed in European competition for the past five seasons.

If current results hold, here is what pots one and two would look like in next season's group stage draw:

Pot 1:

  • Barcelona
  • Bayern Munich
  • Leicester City
  • Juventus
  • Benfica
  • PSG
  • CSKA Moscow
  • Dynamo Kyiv
Pot 2:
  • Real Madrid
  • Atletico Madrid
  • Dortmund
  • Arsenal
  • Zenit
  • Porto
  • Napoli
Manchester City would also be in pot 2, assuming they win their best-placed playoff round match in August. This means that Tottenham would be in pot 3 of the group stage draw. Now look again at the list of teams in pots 1 and 2. We do not want to be in pot 3. The odds of us getting a Group of Death if we are in pot 3 are high. We could easily end up drawn with Juventus and Real Madrid or Bayern Munich and Atletico or Barcelona and Dortmund. Even some of the "easier" draws wouldn't be fun—PSG and Napoli isn't a group of death, but it's also a group we'd struggle to get out of. If at all possible, we really want to get into pot 2.

What needs to happen for Spurs to get into pot 2?

Here's where it gets tricky. There aren't a lot of scenarios where Spurs get into pot 2. In fact, we will need a ton of help to make that happen.

At time of writing (prior to this week's Champions League and Europa League matches), this is what the UEFA coefficient ratings look like:

  1. Real Madrid: 167.199
  2. Bayern Munich: 158.835
  3. Barcelona: 158.199
  4. Atletico Madrid: 136.199
  5. Chelsea: 135.956
  6. Benfica: 115.583
  7. PSG: 112.516
  8. Dortmund: 108.835
  9. Juventus: 107.087
  10. Arsenal: 104.956
  11. Valencia: 96.199
  12. Schalke: 95.835
  13. Manchester City: 94.956
  14. Zenit: 93.216
  15. Porto: 92.583
  16. Napoli: 90.087
  17. Bayer Leverkusen: 88.835
  18. Basel: 87.755
  19. Sevilla: 85.699
  20. Manchester United 81.956
  21. Shakhtar Donetsk: 75.736
  22. Tottenham Hotspur: 73.956
The shortest way of understanding Tottenham's situation is this: To get into pot 2, Spurs need as many teams ranked above them as possible to miss out on the Champions League entirely and as few teams as possible that are ranked behind them to qualify for pot 1 via winning their domestic league.

Of the 21 teams ahead of Spurs, a few are already virtual locks to miss out on the Champions League next season:
  • Chelsea
  • Valencia
  • Manchester United

Schalke and Sevilla are also long shots at this point, but Schalke could still get fourth in the Bundesliga and Sevilla could qualify by winning their favorite tournament, the Europa League. So there is potentially five teams ahead of Spurs that could miss out on the Champions League entirely. Theoretically that lifts Spurs up to 17th, functionally speaking, which means we don't need a ton of help to get into pot 2. Unfortunately, there are three teams ranked below Spurs in club coefficient who are, if current results hold, going to be in pot 1:

  • Leicester City
  • CSKA Moscow
  • Dynamo Kyiv

As a result, Spurs are pushed further down the rankings because high-ranking teams in the club coefficient that would be in pot 1 typically (like Manchester City or Arsenal) are falling into pot 2 because of upstarts like Leicester.

Who should Spurs fans be rooting for during the season's final month?

So what this means, briefly, is that Spurs need a lot of help to avoid pot 3 and a potential group of death draw. The following teams are basically locked in for pot 2:

  • Real Madrid
  • Atletico Madrid
  • Dortmund
  • Arsenal
  • Napoli

Manchester City is also locked-in to pot 2 if they win their best-placed playoff tie. That leaves only two spots up for grabs. And a bunch of teams have a shot at pot 2 depending on what happens in the season's final month. To make things worse, Tottenham is pretty far down the pecking order when you look at the club coefficient ratings for these teams. Here's the list of clubs that could climb into pot 2:

  • Schalke
  • Zenit
  • Porto
  • Bayer Leverkusen
  • Basel
  • Shaktar Donetsk
  • Tottenham

Let's break this down a bit by country.

Let's start with England: If West Ham beat both Manchester City and Manchester United to fourth, they would be in pot 4 and Spurs would move up a spot closer to pot 2. Also, if Manchester City finishes fourth but loses the best-placed playoff, Spurs would move up.

Second, in Spain we need Sevilla to not win the Europa League.

Third, we'll go to Germany. Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen are ahead of Spurs in club coefficient. In an ideal world, both of them will miss out on the Champions League. This could happen a few ways: If either finish in 4th in the Bundesliga, they could lose in the best-placed playoff. The other possibility is that they could both finish outside the top four. Currently there is a four point gap between 3rd and 7th in the Bundesliga:

  • Hertha Berlin--49 points
  • Bayer Leverkusen--48 points
  • Monchengladbach--45 points
  • Mainz--45 points
  • Schalke--45 points

So if Bayer and Schalke both finish outside the top four (which means any combination of Hertha Berlin, Monchengladbach, and Mainz take third and fourth) that would also increase Tottenham's chances of getting into pot 2. So in Germany, here's the summary:

  • We want Hertha Berlin, Monchengladbach, and Mainz to do well.
  • We want Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke to drop points.

Next, we turn to Portugal. If Sporting wins the league, they will go into pot 1. That means Benfica or Porto or both will be in pot 2. Benfica will be for sure and Porto would be if they win the best-placed playoff in August. If that happens, that alone could keep Spurs in pot 3.

But if Benfica wins the league and Porto finishes third and then loses in the best-placed playoff, Benfica goes to pot 1 and Sporting, who is behind Spurs in the club coefficient ratings, goes into pot 3 or even pot 4. So in Portugal, here's the summary:

  • We want Benfica to win the league and go into pot 1, Sporting to finish 2nd and go into pot 3 or 4, and then we want Porto to lose in the best-placed playoff this August, keeping them out of the competition entirely.

Now lets look at eastern Europe. This is one of the biggest problem areas for Tottenham's pot 2 odds.

The Russian and Ukrainian leaders, CSKA Moscow and Dynamo Kyiv, are both trailing Spurs in club coefficient so if they qualified via league placement, Spurs would be above them in the rankings and have a clear path to pot 2. That said, because both are currently leading their domestic leagues they can make pot 1 by virtue of winning their leagues.

This then pushes the Russian and Ukrainian teams that are ahead of Spurs in club coefficient into pot 2. So we want to see Zenit, who is ahead of Tottenham in club coefficient, chase down CSKA Moscow to win the Russian Premier League. We also want Shakhtar Donetsk, who is also leading Spurs in club coefficient, to overtake Dynamo Kyiv in the Ukrainian Premier League. In other words, go AVB!

Finally, one last note: Spurs need a bunch of these scenarios to all happen because Basel is also ahead of Tottenham in club coefficient and will qualify for the Champions League as they are currently 15 points clear in Switzerland. So even if most of those scenarios do happen, Spurs would only be second in line for pot 2 after the Swiss champions.

This is confusing. Give me the bullet points.

Here you go:
  • West Ham needs to get fourth or Manchester City (or Manchester United) needs to lose the best-placed playoff in August.
  • Sevilla needs to be eliminated from the Europa League.
  • Hertha Berlin, Monchengladbach, and Mainz need to keep Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke out of the top four in the Bundesliga. If either Leverkusen or Schalke get fourth, they need to lose in the best-placed playoff round.
  • Benfica needs to win the Portuguese Premeira League and Porto needs to lose in the best-placed playoff round.
  • Zenit needs to win the Russian Premier League.
  • Shakhtar Donetsk needs to win the Ukrainian Premier League.
  • We need five of the six above scenarios to happen because Basel is also above Spurs in the club coefficient ratings.


Obviously there is one other possibility we haven't mentioned: Tottenham could win the Premier League and go into pot 1. The odds aren't in our favor on that one, but it is possible. That being said, you can almost argue that from a strategic perspective it's better to be in pot 2 than pot 1. Because of the rules governing the draw, the collection of teams top-to-bottom in pot 2 is almost certainly better than the collection in pot 1.

If you're in pot 2, you avoid all the elite non-champion clubs (Real Madrid, Atletico, Dortmund, Napoli, etc.) and you have a shot at drawing a weaker domestic champion from Portugal, Russia, or Ukraine (Benfica, Zenit, Shakhtar, etc.).

If you're in pot 1, you get a nasty pot 2 opponent and have a shot at drawing a tricky pot 3 side and having a group of death. For example, Spurs could win the league and still get a draw like this:

  • Tottenham
  • Atletico Madrid
  • Bayer Leverkusen
  • Random Pot 4 team

On the other hand, if we make pot 2, then odds are very good we get one giant in our group and two manageable opponents from pots 3 and 4. There are still Group of Death scenarios in play because there are good teams in pot 3, but there are as many good teams in pot 3 as there are bad in pot 1, so you'd really need to hit the bad kind of jackpot to be in pot 2 and get a Group of Death. (Of course, both pot 1 and pot 2 have a lower chance at a Group of Death than pot 3.)

In any event, the big idea here is: We want West Ham to get fourth, Sevilla to lose in the Europa League, Benfica, Zenit, and Shakhtar to win their leagues and we want to see Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke fall apart down the stretch in Germany... or we could just win the league and none of this matters.