Tottenham Hotspur got the four points they needed Wednesday to secure Champions League football in the 2018/19 season, which will be played in a shiny new stadium in north London. It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but that 1-0 win over Toon and the improbable draw at Stamford Bridge by Huddersfield Town have made Sunday meaningless other than Spurs’ placement in the Top Four. The important thing is that Spurs aren’t dropping out, and UCL football is in the future again.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at Spurs’ status for the group stages next season. The Twitter account @UEFACalculator lays out the current country coefficient:
Top 25 UEFA Country Coefficient Standings - Spain and Italy are no longer perfect - only 12 nations left! England still leads the pack for the year, while Czech Republic passes Netherlands and is on Switzerland's heels for the important #12 spot in the rankings. pic.twitter.com/tlKmNcSxrb— UEFA Coefficient (@UEFACalculator) February 23, 2018
Surprise! England has managed to move into second place in UEFA, even though they’re still 25 points behind Spain. Because of this, England will get four guaranteed spots in next year’s competition, but it’s even better than that.
Next season, UEFA’s new rules regarding the group stages and qualification go into effect. The top four countries now get four guaranteed spots in the group stage and do not have to endure any kind of playoff like Spurs had to go through back in 2010 against BSC Young Boys. With Arsenal out of Europa League, the nightmare situation of having England taking home both European trophies and knocking the fourth place team to Europa is dead. The only nightmare possibility left goes to Liverpool, who if they manage to choke on Sunday and lose to Brighton and Hove Albion while Chelsea pick up three points against Toon means Pool drop to fifth and Chelsea takes the final spot. Liverpool could then lose the UCL final to Real Madrid and, after all they’ve done this season, could find themselves in Europa next season.
Getting back on track, Tottenham Hotspur are sitting in a great position for the dreaded pot draw. Right now, this is how it looks in Pot 1, all of which are champions of their country’s league:
- Manchester City
- Bayern Munich
- Paris Saint-Germain
- Lokomotiv Moscow
- 2017/18 UEFA Champions League winner (Real Madrid/Liverpool)
A lot of familiar faces in there, sans Lokomotiv. The Russian champions did Spurs a favor this past weekend by knocking off Zenit to officially end any chances of qualification. Arsenal losing to Atletico Madrid in Europa League also boosted Spurs up due to our north London rivals having a better coefficient. Currently, here’s how Pot 2 looks:
- Real Madrid (if they lose the UCL final)
- Atletico Madrid
- Borussia Dortmund
- Manchester United
- Shakhtar Donetsk
- FC Basel
Tottenham sit at the top of Pot 3, which means any club that screws up and misses out on qualification bumps Spurs into the second pot and eliminates a lot of Group of Death possibilities. Yes, Spurs had a brutal draw this year and pulled 16 of 18 points out of it, but it’s never a bad thing to have an easier draw to get to the knockout stages.
So who can screw up that’s remaining? In order:
Benfica: The Portuguese side currently sit in a tie for second place with Sporting CP in the Primiera Division. The two sides played to a draw last weekend, meaning that Sporting controls their own destiny. Yes, Benfica have a +17 GD difference, but that is not the first tiebreaker in Portugal. The first tiebreaker is head to head, which Sporting have an advantage on away goals with a 1-1 draw in January. Sporting will play seventh placed Maritimo at 1pm Eastern while Benfica play relegation-threatened Moreirense. Simply put, a Sporting win bumps Benfica and puts Tottenham in Pot 2.
Liverpool: If Benfica manages to survive, the next chance for Spurs is for Liverpool to lose the UCL Final, plain and simple. A win by the Reds puts them in Pot 1 instead of Pot 4 if they qualify via the Premier League standings.
Basel: The aforementioned BSC Young Boys have wrapped up the Swiss Super League, while FC Basel sit very comfortably in second to take the second UCL spot, but because Switzerland are 13th in coefficient, both of those spots are the dreaded “.5” spots, meaning both sides will have to do some form of qualification. Due to the league’s rating, Young Boys will be in the fourth and final round of qualification while Basel will have to start in the second round, meaning the RotBlau will have to play three sets of qualification matches in order to get to the group stages.
So there you have it. Spurs could get into Pot 2 before they even play their final match Sunday against Leicester, or they could have to wait as late as August to find out their final placement in the draw.