The second half of the European season started this week and four Liga clubs will start to play in the Europa League this evening.
Portuguese pride is hurt by not having any clubs play in the more popular and lucrative Champions League, but with four playing in Europa Portugal stands a better chance to continue to build on its club ranking coefficient, which has in the past year increased and helped bring back a third berth for the Champions League in 2020-21.
Three of the clubs – Benfica (Ukraine x Shahktar ), FC Porto (Germany x Bayer Leverkusen), SC Braga (Scotland x Rangers) – go away for the first leg, while Sporting CP gets to host Turkey’s Başakşehir in Alvalade.
Portuguese clubs have largely benefited in the past from successful Europa League runs as evidence by Benfica playing in back-to-back-Europa Finals in 2013 and 2014. The FC Porto and SC Braga Europa Final in 2011 was also pivotal with two clubs making it all the way to the Final that year on Dublin. Those seasons, Portugal collected many points.
Simply put, Portuguese clubs have made their best efforts with the coefficient when being successful in the Europa.
Since the coefficient is based over a five-year period, the past success of playing in the Finals no longer matters, it is now time to see which club can return to play in the Final and continue the progress from the past year.
Portuguese clubs find it a difficult balance competing in the Liga and Europa in March and April, which can frustrate supporters when clubs may seem to hold back a few players for weekend Liga action.
Whether that will happen this Spring remains to be seen.
Portugal will need many more years to catch up to France, while also hoping the French stumble as well in those coming years. That appears unlikely but Portugal can own sixth place for a long time.
It all starts tonight and here is hoping all clubs stay around Europa for as long as possible