UEFA coefficient: French clubs facing the specter of major downgrading

So we were reduced to that. On May 11, French football as a whole certainly let out a big and frank “phew” of relief. Its clubs, however, had deserted the European scene for a while. However, the defeat of AZ Alkmaar on the pitch of West Ham, in the semi-final first leg of the Europa Conference League (2-1) had a very positive consequence for France, certain of retaining its fifth place in the UEFA coefficient. As a result, it will have up to four representatives in the new version of the Champions League, in 2024-25 (three direct qualifiers, plus one having to go through the preliminary rounds).

Beyond its symbolic significance, for anyone who still dares to give credence to the expression “Big Five” and consider that Ligue 1 is one of the five “big” championships of the Old Continent, this famous 5th place in the UEFA coefficient is therefore such a precious possession. It is in the general interest of French football to preserve it, at all costs. While the poor performances of the past season are still in people’s minds (the best performance is to the credit of Nice, quarter-finalist in C4), the current exercise will resemble a tough battle. Which, to be honest, got off to a bad start.

The Netherlands took the lead

When the group stage of the Champions League opens and, following that, those of the Europa League and the Europa Conference League, France is in 6th place in the UEFA coefficient. Two reasons for this: the ranking being established on the results of the last five seasons, those of the 2018-19 edition are no longer taken into account. In addition, the Netherlands took advantage of the performances of their teams during the preliminary rounds to gain a few points and narrowly beat their French rival (55,100 points, against 52,331).

However, it should be noted that four Dutch teams were involved in this sorting phase (Ajax, PSV, AZ Alkmaar and Twente) and it is not surprising, therefore, that they capitalized more than Marseille and Lille. Even if the early exit of OM, eliminated by Panathinaikos in the third preliminary round of C1 (0-1, 2-1 ap, 3-5 TAB) did not help, there is therefore no reason to panic when observing the slight decline of the Tricolores in the continental hierarchy.

Lens-PSV and OM-Ajax, double confrontations with major stakes

The risk of suffering a huge disappointment at the end of the season nevertheless remains more relevant than ever. If France is still sixth at the end of the exercise, it will have one less folding seat in the Champions League from 2025. The stakes are high, and this is why French and Dutch clubs will engage in a fierce struggle for the months to come. With a small accounting subtlety, which could be favorable to the first mentioned: for each country, all the points reported during the European week are divided by the number of representatives engaged at the start of the season.

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The points reported by the four Batavian teams will be divided by five, since Twente has fallen by the wayside. On the other hand, France will be able to count on its six standard bearers, which will not be a luxury. The confrontations between Lens and PSV Eindhoven (in C1) as well as between OM and Ajax Amsterdam (in C3) will have a major stake, which will go beyond the simple quest for qualification for the next round. As a reminder, according to the scale established by UEFAa victory in the group stage earns two points, while a draw earns one point.

It’s hard to be optimistic

If its representatives shine in Europe, France therefore has a good chance of regaining its seat in the Top 5 and retaining the advantages that go with it. The problem is that as the group stages get underway, it’s really hard to be optimistic. Of course, given its squad and the sums spent during the summer, PSG must at least aim for the last four in the Champions League. Luis Enrique’s squad is, however, still in training and his group, certainly the toughest (Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Newcastle) will not give him – or very little – room for error.

The situation is even more worrying for the other French club involved in C1, namely Lens, last in the championship after five days. Their group may seem homogeneous (Arsenal, PSV, Seville), the Sang et Or no longer have the lethal efficiency which was their strength last season, and their recent setback against Metz (0-1) was a resounding one. drawing. There is also concern in Marseille, where the Marcelino method is slow to take effect, while spicy confrontations are looming in the Europa League (Ajax, Brighton and AEK Athens).

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Opposed to Villarreal, Maccabi Haifa and Panathinaikos, Rennes has a card to play, just like Lille, logical favorite of its group in the Europa Conference League (Slovan Bratislava, Olimpija Ljubljana, Ki Klaksvik). Finally, Toulouse will have a lot to do against Liverpool, Union Saint-Gilloise and LASK, a damn copious menu after fourteen years of continental diet. Whatever their potential, their status or adversity, these six Ligue 1 players will have to contribute, within their means – and even beyond, if possible – to French success on the European scene. Otherwise, the much-feared downgrade will most likely become a reality.

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