Last week I heard a couple of pundits on the radio commenting on how qualification for the Group Stage could easily be a “thing of the past” for Scottish teams, due to the new qualification method and quality of teams we now have to play. Even heard one caller from the dark side last night claiming, “It’ll be years before Rangers & Sellic are in the Champions League again”. Yes, I know you’ll say I shouldn’t listen to these programmes but I happened to be in the car a few times last week, at the time the phone-ins are on, and yes, sometimes they can be a blessed relief. A relief from having to listen to my son’s choice of station, Capital, with it’s endless playing of Katy Perry, Like A G6 (whatever that means) and Tinie Tempah telling me that, although he’s “bin to Southampton”, he’s “never bin to Scunthorpe.” Well, nor have I mate, nor have I but I know of someone who used to play for Scunthorpe.. 

Sorry, I digress but I had to get that one off my chest, back to the subject of The Champions League then. Is it right to suggest it will be nigh on impossible to qualify for the Group stage, as the so-called experts have been telling us all? Most certainly not and I’ll tell you for why. 

We all know of our recent failure to qualify in the past two seasons, losing out to Arsenal & FC Braga respectively but this has been as runners-up in the SPL, which gave us a much tougher task in qualifying. If we can maintain our current run of form and go on to win the league, then the quality of opposition awaiting us in the three or maybe only two qualifying rounds next season, differs greatly from what we were up against in 2009 & 10. 

The qualification route for Champions of their leagues is as follows… 

Round 1 – The six Champions from The Faroe Islands, N.Ireland, Luxembourg, Andorra, Malta & San Marino play each other – 3 teams going through. 

Round 2 – The 3 winners from Round 1 plus 31 Champions from countries ranked 16-47. SPL Champions joining here, as Scotland are ranked 16th (other rankings listed below). If however the winners of this season’s Champions League have already qualified through their league position, which is almost always the case, then Scotland’s Champions would be exempt from this round and join at round 3. 

Round 3 – 17 Winners from Round 2 plus the Champions of Denmark, Belgium & Switzerland or Champions of Denmark, Belgium & Scotland, if we had been exempt from Round 2. 

Round 4 – 10 winners from Round 3 play each other to get 5 teams qualifying for the Group Stage. 

All these rounds are of course seeded, and no matter whether we join at round 2 or Round 3, we will be in the top half of the seedings, for both of these rounds. Once into Round 4 – the final qualifying round – we will be seeded once again, as there are only two sides ranked higher than us who could be in the draw. Those teams are FC Copenhagen & Anderlecht and as we would be seeded along with them, we therefore could not draw them. What is pleasing to know, is that it will be impossible for us to meet a team from any of the top 12 ranked countries, meaning we can’t play teams from England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Portugal, Holland, Turkey or Greece. 

We only have to look at Utrecht last season, to know that simply because you are seeded or ranked higher, it doesn’t mean you will get past a lower ranked team. It is plain to see however, that we are far stronger team than the one that lined up against Utrecht back in August. Therefore, I believe it is not complacency to suggest that we should expect to qualify; the teams we could draw are teams we should expect to beat. There will be a few tricky opponents lurking in the draw no doubt and a few destinations you would rather not make the journey to but we should have confidence, that if we are Champions at the end of this season, then come next season, we will be back in the big one. 

So my friends I tell you…….Go back to your supporters clubs and prepare for qualification! 

Aye alright, let’s get the league won first and not get too carried away….


Ranking for Champions League 2011/12, with teams already qualified in brackets. 

17. Bulgaria

18. Czech Republic

19. Austria

20. Israel

21. Cyprus

22. Norway (Rosenborg)

23. Slovakia

24. Sweden (Malmo)

25. Serbia

26. Poland

27. Croatia

28. Belarus (BATE Borisov)

29. Ireland (Shamrock Rvs)

30. Finland (HJK Helsinki)

31. Bosnia

32. Lithuania (Ekranas)

33. Latvia (Skonto Riga)

34. Moldova

35. Slovenia

36. Hungary

37. Georgia

38. Azerbaijan

39. Iceland (Breidablik)

40. Macedonia

41. Liechtenstein

42. Kazakhstan (Tobol Kastani)

43. Estonia (Flora Tallinn)

44. Albania

45. Armenia (Pyunik Yerevan)

46. Wales

47. Montenegro