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Coefficient race explained: What Aston Villa & Tottenham need for fifth place to get CL qualification

It doesn’t come naturally to fans in English football, but Aston Villa and Tottenham fans have been put in the novel position of needing to root for their Premier League rivals in Europe to give them a major boost in their hopes of Champions League qualification for next season.

Newcastle, Chelsea and Manchester United all still have the tiniest sliver of making the top four, but Aston Villa and Spurs have built up a healthy lead and look almost certain to finish in the fourth and fifth spots.

It’s a close race between Unai Emery and Ange Postecoglou’s sides, with fourth as usual enough to secure a spot in European football’s most prestigious cup competition, which will have a revamped ‘Swiss style’ group stage from 2024-25.

But there may also be a fifth Champions League place up for grabs this season, due to a change in the coefficient Champions League qualification rules. We’ve put together a quick explainer of what it all means and the state of play heading into the final weeks of the campaign.

Coefficient system explained

Promise it’s not as unfathomable as you think — just a bit of GCSE maths, we can get through this. Basically, it’s two points for a win, and one point for a draw. Easy.

A country’s total number of points is divided by the amount of teams it had competing in Europe that season. England had eight teams in Europe this season, so, essentially, a win is worth two points divided by eight. That means that if Arsenal beat Bayern Munich, it will be worth 0.25 points to England’s coefficient.

And we should clarify — that’s per match, not per two-legged tie. So a draw in the first leg is still worth a point (or 0.125 points by the time you’ve divided it by eight).

ALSO, teams are awarded points for qualifying for various rounds of their respective competitions, as follows:

Champions League
4pts – Group stage participation
5pts – Round of 16
1pt – Quarter-final, Semi-final, Final

Europa League
4pts – Group winners
2pts – Group runners-up
1pt – Round of 16, Quarter-final, Semi-final, Final

Europa Conference League
2pts – Group winners
1pt – Group runners-up
1pt – Semi-final, Final

So, if Arsenal beat Bayern (without a penalty shootout — if it goes to pens the match counts as a draw), they’ll get two points for winning the game, plus a further bonus point for reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League.

That’s three points, divided by eight because of England’s eight teams in Europe, equalling 0.375 points for the coefficient.

Europe's most successful club lifting the trophy in 2014.

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The season so far

The top two countries in the coefficient rankings once all is said and done will be awarded an extra Champions League berth next season.

Italy are home and dry for an extra Champions League spot next season. They’ve only had seven teams in Europe to start with, making each win, draw, or advancement to the next stage worth that little bit more compared to England, for example.

Those seven teams performed pretty well, and three of them (Milan, Roma, and Atalanta) are still in the Europa League, with Fiorentina still in the Conference League.

Spain are out of the running. Gone. They only have one team left in Europe—Real Madrid—and even if Los Blancos win the whole thing, it won’t be enough to drag them out of the coefficient quagmire. Our condolences to the Basque clubs.

France still have a very slim chance of getting that extra place, but Marseille are trailing to Benfica after the first leg in the Europa League, and Lille are behind to Aston Villa in the Conference League.

PSG may have brought the good sh*t in Barcelona, but France will need basically everything to go in its favour to grab that extra spot. It’s not gonna happen. We’re calling it.

That leaves England and Germany slugging it out for the second spot. We’ll get to that shortly.

England have 5/8 teams remaining, Germany have 3/7, but with Dortmund already in the semi-finals of the Champions League, and Leverkusen ahead of West Ham after the first leg of their Europa League QF.

Here’s the top 10 as things currently stand on April 16th:

1. Italy, 18.428
2. Germany, 17.214
3. England, 16.750
4. France, 15.250
5. Spain, 15.062
6. Belgium, 13.600
7. Czechia, 13.500
8. Turkey, 11.500
9. Portugal, 11.000
10. Netherlands, 10.000

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What happens now?

Let’s just machete our way through the possibilities and permutations, shall we?

It’s England vs Germany for a second spot. Essentially, there’s an awful lot hinging on Bayern Munich v Arsenal. England have 5/8 teams remaining, Germany have 3/7, but with Dortmund already in the semi-finals of the Champions League, and Leverkusen ahead of West Ham after the first leg of their Europa League QF.

If Bayern and Leverkusen both make it to the semis of their respective competitions, that puts Germany in a strong position, especially with Liverpool 3-0 down to Atalanta after the first leg at Anfield.

However, Villa might well be the favourite for the Conference League now, and if Arsenal can overcome Bayern at the Allianz, and Manchester City can do the business at home to Real Madrid, that would put England firmly in the driving seat.

Got all that?