Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Juventus - Benfica, or the fight for the 4th spot of the UEFA Country Ranking

66.772 versus 61.466. A gap of 5.306 points. This is what is currently separating Italy (4th) and Portugal (5th) in the UEFA Country Coefficients Ranking. It does seem like a large gap, but this ranking takes into account the last 5 seasons only. So when the points of the 2009/2010 season (and the historical Inter treble) go out of the equation next year, Italy will lose an advantage of 5.428 points over Portugal. Simple maths show that this is greater than the current gap...

Antonio Conte has taken the Europa League as seriously as he can, even though he (rightfully) feels that the Champions League is Juventus' "natural habitat". Following the win against Lyon in the quarter finals, he said:
We cared about reaching this objective and hope all of Italy can be happy with it. We represent Italy and that has to bring satisfaction, as there hadn't been a European semi-finalist for six years.
Conte makes a reference to the 2007-08 season, when Cesare Prandelli's Fiorentina made it to the semi-finals only to lose to Rangers on penalties. He is also proud that he is flying the flag for the Italian Football, because he knows very well that Italian clubs have been very poor in the past few years and that the UEFA Country Coefficient is a serious matter. Italians do not care that much about this ranking, and Italy has already lost the 3rd spot and subsequently its allocation of 4 teams in the Champions League.

Being 4th, 5th or 6th, is actually pretty much the same thing, as you would get 3 Champions League slots anyway. But today, instead of being close to catching Germany and to winning back its 3rd spot, Italy is way behind and it's the 4th spot that is in danger.

At last week's draw, Ciro Ferrara decided that it will be an Italy / Portugal clash, and the 4th place will be up for grabs. Juventus must beat Benfica to keep the status quo. Juventus must beat Benfica to play the final in its own beautiful Juventus Stadium. Juventus must beat Benfica to emulate the 1993 generation. Back then, Juventus, led by a fantastic Roberto Baggio (and Antonio Conte), beat Benfica 4-2 in aggregate in the quarter finals on their way to winning the then called UEFA Cup.

Good luck Juve...

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