October 24, 2017

UEFA Rankings: Bundesliga safely 3rd . . . for now

The 2015/16 European campaign was “OK” for the Bundesliga, but unfortunately tons of coefficient points and glory were left on the table.

Bundesliga Clubs Outgained England and Italy

2015/16 Highs:

  • Wolfsburg’s home wins against ManU and Real
  • Augsburg’s draw with Liverpool FC
  • Gladbach’s two draws with Juventus
  • Dortmund’s thrashing of Tottenham
  • Bayern’s comeback victory from 0:2 down versus Juve

The Lows:

  • Leverkusen’s 1:1 at BATE Borissow
  • Schalke’s 0:3 home loss against Shaktar
  • Bayern’s shot conversion against Atletico
  • Dortmund and Wolfsburg couldn’t close the deal despite two-goal leads in the quarterfinals.

The rest was business as usual. English teams pulled some wins out of thin air, while La Liga teams made fools of every opponent. Both UEFA club trophies went to Spain. Only one Spanish team got kicked-out by a non-La Liga team all year; that was “mighty” Villarreal, population 51.000.

It seems like the rest of Europe isn’t even trying anymore.

The Champions League’s new nickname is “Copa Del Rey + Bayern,” and the Europa League should just be called “Sevilla Cup.” Spain’s dominance continues. Even the financial firepower in England can’t bother the Primera Division.

That’s the situation in the Five Year Coefficient Ranking (5YCR) at the start of 2016/17:

  1. La Liga 87 points
  2. Bundesliga 66.8
  3. Premier League 62.8
    ———————————————-
  4. Serie A 60.6
  5. Ligue Une 43

Italy vs England: Heated Battle for 3rd Place

Staying in the Top Three is what it’s all about. Right now, Italy has a lot of ground to make-up, and it’ll take them multiple seasons to catch the Bundesliga. Nevertheless, Serie A has a realistic shot at third place in 2017, as they trail England by only 2.2 points.

Next year the 2012/13 campaign, where the EPL teams outscored Serie A clubs by 2.1 points, will vanish from the ranking. This means, should Italian teams out-gain their English counterparts by exactly 0.215 coefficient points in 2016/17, the self-proclaimed “Best League in the World™” loses the 4th annual UCL ticket in 2018/19.

Wow.

Note: The number next to the team name refers to its UEFA team coefficient rank (TCR). A low TCR indicates that a team has been doing well over the five most-recent UEFA seasons; a high one means a team hasn’t done much lately.

Bundesliga

CL: Bayern (2), Dortmund (7), Leverkusen (15)
CL Qualifiers: Gladbach (41) vs Young Boys Bern (78)
EL: Schalke (14), Mainz (108),
Out: (stupid ol’) Hertha BSC Berlin (119)
Average TCR: 31

First of all, it was nice to see my beloved Verein, Hertha BSC, back in Europe after a seven-season drought. Hertha gonna Hertha, so our European campaign is over before it started, thanks to boneheaded display at Bröndby in Copenhagen.

Sucks for Hertha, but this also screws the whole Bundesliga. Why?

That’s because the 5YCR is an average, not a total. Hertha’s failure will drag down the Bundesliga’s average all year. Let’s hope Mainz 05 will be a positive surprise. The only realistic goal for the 05er is to replicate what Augsburg did last year: Qualify for the KO rounds.

Schalke is an Europa League team for the second-consecutive season. Another Round of 16 exit would be a bad start to the “Heidel Era.” After all, Schalke is a proud club that belongs in the UCL and beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu not all that long ago.

The Bundesliga’s UCL line-up looks loaded this year, Germany will throw it’s undisputed four best teams into the ring. Bayern is one of the favorites to win the Henkelpott, end of story. Dortmund is back at the big-boy table after a season of Thursday Night football. The BVB will be drawn from pot number two; this should give the Borussen a decent shot to advance, even though the BVB squad got torn apart and rebuilt.

By contrast, Leverkusen held on to all key players for once and added some nice pieces in Kevin Volland, Julian Baumgartlinger, and Danny Da Costa. Injury-prone stars Lars Bender, Kevin Kampl, and Charles Aranguriz finally got healthy. Bayer 04 will join Dortmund in Pot 2. If Leverkusen is serious about making the Bundesliga “Big Two” into a “Big Three,” they need to make stuff happen this year. Another embarrassing UCL exit (1:1 vs Borissow, 1:1 vs Barcelona’s U20 team) on national TV certainly won’t help.

Mönchengladbach still needs a playoff victory over Young Boys Bern to qualify for the group stage. No disrespect to the Swiss team, but Bern (78th) is ranked behind Stuttgart (73) and Hannover (74) in TCR, even though 96 and the VfB haven’t played a European game in years. So I’m pretty optimistic that we’ll see Foals GM Max Eberl at the UCL draw.

Verdict:

Unfortunately Hertha’s extremely early EL exit makes it hard to pull further away from England and Italy. Thing is, the glorious 2012/13 Bundesliga campaign (Bayern vs. BVB UCL final) will be deleted from the rankings next year and shrink the safety cushion. Dortmund, Schalke, and Leverkusen need to step up and make the Bundesliga less dependent on Bayern. Last year, all three got outsmarted or out-muscled by teams with inferior rosters (Villareal, Shaktar, Liverpool). Otherwise, the Bundesliga would have a lot less to worry about now and in the near future.

Things can change quickly. Bayern won the UEFA Cup in 1996. In 1997, Schalke won it again while Dortmund won the UCL. The mood was great back then. You could even hear “best league in the world” talk. There followed a couple of down years from Bayern and a handful of upsets here and there, and by the start of the 2001/02 Bundesliga season the Bundesliga had dropped to fourth in the 5YCR. There’s no reason to panic, but there is also no reason to relax. This stuff changes quicker than you’d think, just ask the English teams.

Premier League

CL: Leicester (98), Arsenal (11), Tottenham (21)
CL Q: Man City (13) vs Steaua Bucarest (54)
EL: Man United (22), Southampton (109)
EL Q: West Ham (117) vs Astra (139; Romania)
Average TCR rank: 55

England’s most-accomplished team in Europe, Chelsea (8th in TCR), won’t get to play internationally. Neither does Jürgen Klopp’s Europa League finalist Liverpool (28).

Arsenal and City will be drawn from Pot 2 and should advance comfortably from the UCL group stage. The Gunners could actually make a deep run if they don’t draw Bayern or Barca in the Round of 16 for once. Man City is in year one of the “Guardiola Experience” and among a group of teams (Juve, Atletico, PSG) that want to break up the “Big Three” and make it a “Big Four.”

The Citizens will first have to take care of Steaua in the playoffs. Tottenham will find itself in Pot 3, yet no one knows for sure until the qualifiers are done. It’s impossible to judge how the Spurs will do when they are actually trying hard, because coach Pochettino fielded B-squads in EL matches last year.

Surprise EPL champ Leicester City will be in Pot 1 by default, which is huge since the Foxes are barely among the Top 100 in TCR and will probably need an easy group to advance.

A rebooted Manchester United featuring Mourinho and Ibrahimovic is the odds-on favorite to take the Europa League title. It might suck for ManU fans to be in UEFA’s second-tier cup, but for England’s coefficient this is a blessing in disguise. United might be able to offset the points Leicester and Tottenham leave on the table due to inexperience.

Southampton enter the EL group stage straight away, while West Ham has to get rid of obscure Romanian side Astra first. An upset in that match-up would offset Hertha stupidity, so I’m pulling for the Romanians.

Verdict:

Last year, the EPL saved face thanks to City and Liverpool. These teams upset PSG and Dortmund to turn a horrible EPL Euro campaign into a mild success. What could hurt the English coefficient is the lack of int’l experience across the board. Leicester and Tottenham aren’t UCL regulars and could have some tough nights. This is where the more-experienced Bundesliga sides should capitalize, but we have to assume that ManU will make a deep EL run and Guardiola has never missed a UCL semifinal in his career.

Serie A

CL: Juventus (5), Napoli (17)
CL Q: Roma (43) vs. Porto (12)
EL: Inter (44), Fiorentina (25) / EL Q: Sassuolo Calcio (128) vs Crvena (210; Serbia)
Average TCR rank: 43

Juventus’ runs have been stopped by Barcelona and Bayern the past two UCL campaigns. 2017 is the year the Old Lady wants to finally break into the “Bayern, Barca, Real” tier. This summer’s 90 million Euro deal for Gonzalo Higuain is proof that Juve means business.

Napoli has been blown-up by the Higuain departure, but Partenopei Gli Azzuri (the Blues) will have a decent shot at the later stages as a Pot 2 team, no matter what they do with the Higuain money until deadline day.

AS Roma had some poor luck in the playoff draw, which handed them FC Porto. The “Dragons” are ranked 21 spots higher than the Romans on UEFA’s TCR and are favored to go through. Gladbach must feel really good about their draw if they see Roma’s match-up.

In the Europa League, Inter and Fiorentina are fringe contenders that will comfortably get out of their groups and some. I don’t know much about Sassuolo Calcio, yet I know even less about the Serbian team they’ll face in the EL playoffs. Let’s just assume that the Serie A side will prevail.

Verdict:

The Bundesliga doesn’t need to be scared of anything for now. The German league is deeper overall, and at the top, Bayern and Dortmund are better than Juventus and Napoli. What’s worrying is the recent sale of AC Milan to a Chinese investment group, months after Inter was similarly sold. Both Milan clubs are still among the biggest brands in football. That’s why those teams still get invited to play overseas exhibition games, even though AC Milan has been a total non-factor on the pitch for years now.

The two big Milan clubs have ten UCL titles between them and both used to sign top-shelf players like Kaka, Zanetti, Maldini, Ronaldo, Materazzi, Seedorf, Vieri etc. every summer. The second somebody is putting up real money at the San Siro/Giuseppe Meazza stadium, big time players will gladly join those big time clubs. Milan is also a beautiful place.

Unlike some rich EPL clubs without any legacy (Hey Chelsea & ManCity!), Milan and Inter won’t have any problems attracting world class players in their prime without having to overpay. Inter won the UCL just six years ago. Milan’s last UCL triumph happened in 2007, so it’s not like the two clubs have been gone for decades. Milan and Inter could be contenders again in no time, in which case, the Bundesliga must really worry about dropping out of the top three. That’s why it’s so important that BVB, S04, and Leverkusen take the next step as soon as possible.

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