So, to mark this momentous occaision, this is NUFC Blog’s cut out and keep guide for Geordies with many interesting and informative facts about the competition, and of course, Newcastle United.
So here goes!
By the time the competitiom reaches it’s climax at Ajax’s “Amsterdam ArenA” (the last “A” has to be capitalised for some bizarre reason), a total of 193 teams from 53 countries will have taken part at some stage. Of these, only three will be English, Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Liverpool (in that order), unless, that is, one or more of the four English sides in the Champions League are dumped out at an earlier stage than would usually be expected, as the two Manchester teams were last season. There will be no places for English teams through the fair play league, and there is no more Intertoto Cup as there was in Roeder’s time, as that ceased in 2008.
Newcastle United with it’s fifth placed Premiership finish will drop in at the play offs for the group stages of the competition (the fourth and final qualifying round). This means we will enter the competition before fourth placed Premiership team, Tottenham, who will go straight into the group stage, but after the League Cup winners, Liverpool. The first leg of these play offs will be played on the 23rd of August, with the deciding legs being played a week later in the 30th. However, we Magpies will not know who / where we will be playing first in the competition until the draw for the group stage playoff on the 10th August, only 13 days beforehand. So, that’s not much time to plan ones overseas pilgramages to see the lads in action!
So far, the most “ranked” team in terms of their UEFA co-efficient rating in next season’s competition are Italian giants, Internazionale, who have a UEFA co-efficient of 104.996. Next on the list come the current holders of the Europa League, Atlético Madrid (100.837) then the 2005 Champions League winners, Liverpool (90.882). These co-efficients are calculated on the basis of the team’s performance in the Champions / Europa League over the past five seasons. Internazionale would cease to be the most ranked team though if Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Arsenal were to be dumped into the Europa League from the Champions League relatively early.
To put Newcastle United’s place in this food chain into perspective, our UEFA coefficient is a mere 16.882, which puts us between the Swiss Young Boys of Wankdorf (16.860) and the mighty Anorthosis Famagusta of Cyprus (17.099). As you may know, seeded teams are grouped into “pots” for the purposes of selection. While the likes of Internazionale and Atlético Madrid are in pot one, we are only in pot four, meaning that like the Young Boys of Wankdorf, we are more likely to face stiffer opponents than the more highly ranked teams. However, despite this, the mighty Internazionale, and as mentioned above, the mighty Liverpool, will have suffer the indignity of entering at the third round qualifying stage. Like Liverpool, Inter had a relatively poor season in Italy’s Seria A, finishing a lowly sixth. Other big teams who only made the third qualifying round include Olympique Marseille and last season’s finalists, Athletic Club of Bilbao. Hopefully, we will make some serious improvements to our co-efficient next season by gannin’ all the way!
Carrying on this optistic outlook, if/when the Toon get through the Group stage playoffs, and the Group stage itself, we will find ourselves in the second stage, the last 32. The teams who make it this far will be split into two groups. The first group will comprise of the winners of the twelve groups of the group stage, along with the four best placed rejects from the Champions League group stage. The other group will comprise of the runners up of the twelve Europa League groups, along with the fourth worst rejects from the Champions League group stage. Teams from these two pots will then be pitted against each other in the sixteen games of this phase. Here, the UEFA co-efficient ranking will cease to be relevant, but don’t worry, there will be other factors to keep things as complex as possible, ie:
Clubs from the same association / country will not be drawn against each other,
The 12 group-winners and the 4 best third-ranked teams in the Champions League group stage are drawn against the 12 group runners-up and the remaining third-ranked teams in the Champions League group stage,
The winners and runners-up of the same group cannot be drawn against each other,
Group winners and the four best refugees from the Champions League group stage will play the return leg at home.
Thanks to the playoff games for the group stage mentioned above, Newcastle United will be playing no less than five games in the opening fifteen days of their Premiership season. The lads will be facing the qualifier over two legs on 23rd and 30th August, along with games on the 18th (Tottenham), 25th (Chelsea) and the 1st September (Aston Villa).
Of course, fourth placed Tottenham Hotspur would usually be in the Champions League if it weren’t for the fact that sixth placed Chelsea were last season’s Champions League winners, and hence gained automatic qualification. However, some of you may have forgotten that this only started in 2005 after a special dispensation from UEFA for Liverpool after they won it whilst only finishing fifth in the Premiership that year. That time though, the fourth placed team that season, Everton, were allowed to take part in the higher competition, hence the Premiership were allowed an extra Champions League team as a special dispensation. But back to the Europa League!
As you probably know, the only European trophy ever won by Newcastle United so far was the “Inter City Fairs Cup” back in 1969. Although this is widely seen as a forerunner to the UEFA Cup (which started in 1971) and now the Europa League, it wasn’t the same thing in the same way as the UEFA Cup is essentially the same thing as the Europa League. Although all three are, or were seen as the “runners up cup” the the Fairs Cup wasn’t run under the auspices of Football’s European governing body, UEFA, the actual trophy was different and the differences in the entry requirements were somewhat different too, eg in the Fairs Cup, only one team from each city was allowed to enter. Hence, as an example, Manchester United and Manchester City, or Liverpool and Everton wouldn’t be allowed into the competition at the same time.
In the UEFA Cup, our previous best was reaching the semi finals with Bobby Robson, where we played Marseille. After a 0-0 draw in the first leg at St James’ Park, we sadly went down by 2 goals to nil over at their place (the Stade Vélodrome), with a young Didier Drogba doing the damage with a brace of goals.
For further guidance on this horrendously complex competition, you can also check out the links below:
And after you’ve tried to make sense of it all here and on these sites, you may also want to check out the link below too!
How far do you think we can go?