There’s something Rangers fans might not realise about UCL draw…

There’s something Rangers fans might not realise about UCL draw…
BELGRADE, SERBIA - AUGUST 21: General view of the stadium prior to the UEFA Champions League Play Off First Leg match between FK Crvema Zvezda and FC Red Bull Salzburg at Rajko Mitic Stadium on August 21, 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

So, it actually turns out that while we wanted Seville more than anything at the time, there’s been a strange oddity to the Europa League outcome and last night.

Yes, indeed, an unexpected ‘bonus’ has surfaced thanks to how the Champions League format changed in 2015 (this is how long it’s been since Rangers were here) to weaken pot 1.

Until then, it was down purely to automatic qualifiers, by way of their league slot – coupled with coefficient to find the pot 1. So it could be the top three from England and Spain, and then two from Italy.

In other words, it was the very strongest teams regardless of any circumstances that would be in pot one – regardless of nationality as well. It was entirely possible for one country to have the first four teams all in pot 1.

This changed in 2015, and it changed in a way that actually, 7 years later, deeply benefits Rangers, and in fact helps us more than being in pot 1 does Eintracht.

In simple terms, it was changed so that pot 1 would now accommodate the CL winner from last season, and the 7 champions of the top 7 associations.

And it was watered down further in 2018 when the Europa League winners were also to be gifted a spot in pot 1.

So now it’s the CL winners, UEL winners, and the top SIX association champions. Meaning instead of a glut of world class Spanish, German and English teams, we have a MUCH weaker pot 1 than it used to be.

Here was pot 1 in 2014:

Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Benfica, Atlético Madrid, Arsenal, Porto.

About as tough as it gets.

But today’s pot 1?

Real Madrid, Eintracht Frankfurt, Manchester City, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Paris St-Germain, Porto, Ajax.

It’s the weakest pot 1 in the history of the Champions League, mainly in part thanks to a midtable German side (Eintracht) and the worst Serie A winners Italy has ever seen (a truly dismal Milan). Add to that Porto and Ajax who would have formerly been pot 2 or 3 sides, and you have only four teams (Real, City, Bayern and PSG) who actually merit being the very best.

In reality, it is pot 2 that is the dangerous one:

Liverpool, Chelsea, Barcelona, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Leipzig, Tottenham. Not a single weak side among them, poor domestic form aside in some cases.

What we’re getting at is we’d much rather get a team from this season’s pot 1, and by being in pot 4, both ourselves and Eintracht will still have to deal with a goliath from the incredibly tough pot 2.

And we get a team from pot 1, which is, as we say, the most modest incarnation that pot has ever seen.

By no means is it suddenly easy, but in reality, being in pot 1 (thereby avoiding pot 1 teams) is barely any advantage this season at all.

It’s the worst pot 1 there’s ever been, and it’s entirely possible to get a pretty weak group this season and go to the KO stage.

But we’re frankly just glad we’re there!

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