Rangers will have been pleased to avoid the big guns in the Europa League draw for a number of reasons – not least because it gives a big automatic Champions League boost.
The 9-5 aggregate win over Royal Antwerp means Scotland remain 11th in the coefficient rankings which should be enough to ensure a group stage spot for the champions of the Premiership next season.
For the 2022-23 Champions League 26 teams qualify automatically for the group stage with the final two of those spots coming from the winners of this season’s competition and the victors of the Europa League.
However if the winner of either has already qualified then their place goes to the country ranked 11th in the coefficient seedings and that is currently Scotland, but Ukraine are 0.325 points behind and gunning for their spot [Daily Record].
Dynamo Kiev scoring with seven minutes to go will put them through. A blow for Scotland's hopes of getting an automatic CL place for 2022/23.
— Jordan Campbell (@JordanC1107) February 25, 2021
Rangers reporter Jordan Campbell posted in the Athletic’s Antwerp discussion board that they “need to make sure they go the furthest of the two” between them and Shakhtar Donetsk” who also made it through on Thursday.
In a tweet on his personal Twitter account he also mentioned Dynamo Kyiv scoring late on was another blow to Scotland hopes, as they also progressed to the last 16.
However both sides will face tough draws in the next rounds, as Kyiv face La Liga toughnuts Villarreal while Shakhtar meet Serie A giants Roma.
We’re favourites for a reason
The Gers are surely strong favourites to overpower Slavia Prague and the Ukranian clubs will both be huge underdogs in their respective ties.
Villarreal are no pushovers while Roma are just one point behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus in the Seria A title race and both hold a strong recent pedigree in Europe as they have each reached a Champions League semi-final since the turn of the century.
It would be a big boost for Scotland to pip an established football nation like Ukraine to the post but with our form this season it is perhaps more pertinent to our club.
With the way we are cantering to number 55 in the Premiership we should be confident of retaining our crown next season and securing an automatic Champions League group stage spot would be massive financially.
It would allow us to draw up plans much earlier than usual as we would know the competition we are going to be in and it would help us to attract better players, so progressing into the latter stages of the Europa League this season is now vital for more than instant cup success.
In other Rangers news, Kris Boyd reacts to Slavia Prague draw.