Old Firm rivals seek to turn back the clock in Europe

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Celtic and Rangers kick off their Europa League campaigns on Thursday and will need strong showings if they are to bring the Champions League back to Glasgow.

Celtic and Rangers kick off their Europa League campaigns on Thursday and will need strong showings if they are to bring the Champions League back to Glasgow.

Scotland might only have the two representatives left in Europe this season after Aberdeen and Kilmarnock crashed out in qualifying for the Europa League but, as a nation, have still managed to collect the most Uefa coefficient points so far.

That table is likely to change quickly now the big boys have entered the Champions League and Europa League, with England earning a whopping 158,500 points as Liverpool and Chelsea took the honours, meaning there can be no let up from the Gers and Bhoys.

The Scots are currently on 4,500 points and as anyone old enough will tell you, points mean prizes.

The prize at the end of the tunnel for the Scottish Premiership is two qualifying spots for the Champions League, a competition both Celtic and Rangers need if they are to recapture their former glories.

To secure that qualifying berth they will need to climb the coefficency ladder and have already made some progress, moving up to 19th since qualifying started.

That is still someway off where a football-mad nation like Scotland will feel they should be in the Uefa standings, currently finding themselves behind the likes of Cyprus and Denmark.

With the number of points gained based on the amount of games played and with nations currently around them in the coefficent such as Greece, Cyprus and Denmark having fewer teams qualify for the group stage of either the Europa or Champions League, the path is clear for Scotland to move up the standings.

Top 15 is the goal for Scottish football at this time as that would mean two teams make it through to Champions League qualifying.

That would require an extended run in Europe from both Rangers and Celtic, and that is easier said than done with both the Old Firm rivals being handed tough draws.

Rangers face Dutch giants Feyenoord on Thursday and have games against FC Porto, who reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season, and Young Boys to come.

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Meanwhile, Celtic travel to Brittany to face French Cup winners Rennes, with Lazo and Romanian side CFR Cluj completing Group E.

The Scottish Premiership champions have reached the last-32 of the Europa League in each of the last two years so will harbour hopes their home form can see them through their group.

Rangers were unfortunate not to make the knockout stages last season, falling just short in another tricky group but look to have improved since then.

While the sums of money on offer for doing well in the Europa League are not to be sniffed at – Rangers pocketing £4.3million from their run last year – it is small change compared to what could be earned by Champions League action.

Rangers are in need of the cash to restore parity with Celtic but the Hoops are also equally desperate in order to hang on to their top stars and challenge consistently in continental action.

In a bizarre nuance of Uefa’s complicated coefficent method, the two sets of supporters need to be cheering each other on in Europe this season if they want to bring back the good times to Glasgow.

That is as likely as Scotland winning the 2022 World Cup but a bigger slice of the Champions League pie is a more realistic prospect after a strong start to the European season and one the Old Firm cannot afford to let slip.

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