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Spain’s dominance in Champions League, Europa leading to UEFA coefficient landslide

Pep Guardiola

FC Barcelona’s coach Pep Guardiola attends a press conference at the Camp Nou, in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, April 2, 2012. Barcelona will face AC Milan in a 2nd leg quarter-final Champions League soccer match Tuesday. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

AP

Three Thursday results from Spain’s survivors in Europa League meant, for the second year in a row, one federation is dominating the semifinals of UEFA’s second club competition. Last year, Portugal’s Porto, Sporting Braga, and Benfica were joined by some recalcitrant called Villarreal, with André Villas-Boas’s Dragons eventually knocking off Braga in Dublin to claim Porto’s third piece of silverware of the 2011-12 campaign. This year, the Portuguese representative (Sporting CP) is the sore thumb, matched against Athletic Bilbao in one semi while 2009-10 champions Atlético Madrid take on Valencia in the other.

All this, and Spain still has two teams alive in Champions League, giving them five of Europe’s eight surviving teams. And they’re not just any teams. Between Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletic and the all-Spain Europa semi, La Liga’s favored to assume all four finals spots. Suffice to say, it would be the most impressive showing a federation’s ever had in European competition (if it isn’t already).

Not surprisingly, Spain’s doing major damage in the UEFA coefficient. The coefficient, at a federation level, represents the average number of points a league’s clubs accumulate within a season, with those averages summed over five years. Points are earned by winning matches (two per win), drawing (one), or (at certain levels) advancing past certain markers in UEFA’s competitions. A league’s overall ranking by coefficient determines how many spots the federation gets in Champions and Europa Leagues. The ultimate goal is to get into one of the top three spots so your league has a chance to qualify the maximum four clubs in Champions League.

The previous high single-season coefficient was set by Spain in 2006-07 when the league had three UEFA Cup semifinalists while Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia got out of their Champions League groups. That year, Spain’s seven teams averaged 19 points.

This year, Spain’s already at that level. After Atlético and Valencia play the first leg of their Europa semi, Spain will pass 19 points per team. Unless Barcelona, Real, and Athletic fall on their faces, Spain will crush the old mark.

Here are the 10 federations who have accumulated the most ranking points this season, along with their five-year total and ranking:

11-12 RankLeague2011-12CoefficientOverall Rank
1Spain19.00082.3292
2England14.62583.7851
3Germany14.58374.5193
4Netherlands13.60045.5158
5Portugal11.50055.0135
6Italy11.35759.9814
7France10.50054.1786
8Belgium10.10032.40012
9Russia9.75047.8327
10Cyprus9.12525.49916

The gap between first and second tells how dominant Spain has been. The difference between Spain and England, first and second, is greater than the gap between second and seventh. While that’s typically how these kind of distributions work, it’s still a huge distance.

And that gap’s only going to get bigger. Standing with 133 total points now (19 times the seven teams Spain had in Europe), La Liga will get five points from the Atlético-Valencia final. For each other team they place in a final, they’ll get between three and five more points. If Spanish teams win whenever they’re not playing each other (or, put another way, when they’re favored), Spain will add 24 points to their total, leaving it with a single year coefficient of 22.429.

And if that happens, this is what the UEFA coefficient will look like going into next season:

RankLeagueCoefficientCL+EL places
1Spain85.7584+3
2England83.7854+3
3Germany74.5194+3
4Italy59.9813+3
5Portugal55.0133+3
6France54.1783+3

Long story short: It’s been a historic year for Spain, and the numbers UEFA uses to evaluate leagues already reflect it. Come the end of the year, we’re likely to see a change at the top.

All current and historic data in this post is courtesy Bert Kassies’ amazing UEFA European Cup Football, Results and Qualification site.