Feb 12, 2021
Feb 12, 2021

Can UEFA coefficients inform Champions League betting?

What are UEFA coefficients?

What role do coefficients play in the Champions League?

How often does the team with the higher coefficient win?

UEFA coefficient and Champions League stats

Can UEFA coefficients inform Champions League betting?

UEFA coefficients offer an imperfect yet straightforward method of assessing which teams have recently demonstrated a consistent capability to perform well in European club competitions. With this in mind, to what extent can they be relied upon as a tool to help predict the outcome of Champions League matches?

What are UEFA coefficients?

Every team that competes in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League is assigned a coefficient. Coefficient points are awarded on a combination of the results of their individual matches in the tournament and how far they progressed within it.

For the Champions League, coefficient points are awarded as follows:

UEFA Champions League coefficient points

Event

Points

Winning a match

2

Drawing a match

1

Qualifying for the group stage

4

Qualifying for the Round of 16

5

Qualifying for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final

1 per round

The maximum number of coefficient points a Champions League team can earn across a season is 38 (NB: In the 2019/20 season, the quarter-finals and semi-final were only one leg and awarded three points for a win, meaning Bayern Munich earned 36 points out of a possible 36).

UEFA coefficients offer a calculated reflection of how a team has fared in European competitions during recent seasons.

The main role UEFA coefficients play in the Champions League is for the group stage draw, whereby the 32 qualified teams are divided into four pots of eight. Pot 1 is comprised of the previous season’s Champions League and Europa League winners, plus the six champions of Europe’s six best leagues according to the coefficients (if any of these six teams also won the Champions League or Europa League, the seventh and eighth best leagues are used).

For Pots 2, 3, and 4, the remaining 24 teams are ranked in order of the coefficient that they have amassed across the previous five seasons. A consequence of this setup is that it is possible for a Pot 1 team to have a lower coefficient than a team in any of the other three.

Arguably the most important thing to remember about UEFA coefficients is that they do not seek to offer a direct assessment of a team’s ability, but rather a calculated reflection of how they have fared in European competitions during recent years.

For instance, when Liverpool won the Champions League in 2018/19, at the start of the tournament they were only rated as the 16th best team in it according to their coefficient. This was largely courtesy of the fact that they did not feature in any European competition whatsoever in both 2013/14 and 2016/17.

How often does the team with the better UEFA coefficient win?

A simple way of gauging the broad usefulness of UEFA coefficients is to assess both how many teams that possessed one of two highest coefficients among their Champions League group successfully progressed to the Round of 16, and how many of the subsequent knockout ties were won by the team with the higher coefficient.

Here are the stats on that front for the last five seasons in the Champions League:

Season

Top two coefficient teams that progressed from their group

Knockout ties won by team with higher coefficient

2016/17

14 out of 16

11 out of 15

2017/18

9 out of 16

11 out of 15

2018/19

12 out of 16

5 out of 15

2019/20

12 out of 16

8 out of 15

2020/21

10 out of 16

-

This means that during this time, if a team possessed one of the two highest coefficients in their Champions League group, they qualified from it 71.25% of the time. Meanwhile, 58.33% of the knockout ties were won by the team with the higher coefficient.

These can be considered strong and decent return rates respectively, thereby suggesting to at least some extent that a strong coefficient is an indicator for a productive Champions League campaign. However, these stats do not consider the specific teams – and more importantly, the difference in coefficient between them – involved.

Therefore, for the purposes of assessing exactly how often the team with a superior UEFA coefficient to their opponent emerges victorious from a Champions League fixture, the results of the 471 matches during the 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 tournaments plus the 2020/21 group stage were collated. The coefficients used were those belonging to teams at the start of that season.

The teams possessing a greater UEFA coefficient were divided into three groups; those whose coefficient was 0.5 to 19.5 points higher than their opponent (Group 1), those whose coefficient was 20 to 39.5 points higher (Group 2) and those whose coefficient was at least 40 points higher (Group 3).

Margin of UEFA coefficient superiority

Win

Draw

Loss

0.5 – 19.5 points (Group 1)

36.84%

28.07%

35.09%

20 – 39.5 points (Group 2)

46.57%

23.28%

30.15%

40 points + (Group 3)

61.70%

19.15%

19.15%

The immediate (and perhaps unsurprising) observation from this data is that there appears to be a degree of proportion between the margin of UEFA coefficient superiority that a team possesses over their opponent and the win rate they tend to enjoy in Champions League matches.

However, while all three groups won more matches than they lost, this varied between a barely discernible advantage for Group 1, to Group 3 winning just over three times as many fixtures as they lost. It is also interesting to note that while overall, the team possessing the superior coefficient won a narrow majority of their matches (54.41%), they also lost (24.31%) more than they drew (21.28%).

We can also look at these results from more specific angles, such as whether any supposed coefficient-led advantage is affected by whether the team is playing home or away:

Margin of UEFA coefficient superiority

Home

Away

Win

Draw

Loss

Win

Draw

Loss

0.5 – 19.5 points (Group 1)

41.37%

34.48%

24.15%

34.48%

27.58%

37.94%

20 – 39.5 points (Group 2)

58.97%

15.38%

25.65%

33.33%

33.34%

33.33%

40 points + (Group 3)

66.10%

15.25%

18.65%

57.80%

22.02%

20.18%

While the previously identified proportional relationship appears to remain intact for home fixtures, it is utterly diminished by the away results. Indeed, both Group 1 and Group 2 failed to win more matches than they lost away from home, and Group 2 actually endured a lower win rate than Group 1.

This suggests that to be as best placed as possible to enjoy an advantage against their opponents irrespective of venue, Champions League teams require a coefficient advantage of at least 40 points. This extent of superiority is often only possible if the other team has missed at least one season of European competition among the previous five and/or has consistently failed to qualify from the group stages of either major European competition.

Another perspective these matches can be viewed from is whether there is a discrepancy in win rate between fixtures in the group stage and the knockout stages. Based on the stats discussed earlier, we would expect the win rates to be lower for the latter.

Margin of UEFA coefficient superiority

Group stage

Knockout stage

Win

Draw

Loss

Win

Draw

Loss

0.5 – 19.5 points (Group 1)

37.36%

34.09%

28.55%

28.57%

21.43%

50.00%

20 – 39.5 points (Group 2)

45.44%

31.48%

23.08%

47.62%

0.00%

52.38%

40 points + (Group 3)

66.30%

18.23%

15.47%

45.65%

19.57%

34.78%

Indeed, this again appears to suggest that coefficient advantages play a more active role in group stage matches. While Group 2 posted a higher win rate in the knockout stages than in the group stage, they were only successful in winning more matches than they lost in the latter.

For all three groups, their loss rate significantly increased from the group stage to the knockout stages, more than doubling for Group 2 and Group 3. Group 1 actually lost half of their matches in the knockout stages, implying their superior coefficient entailed no identifiable advantage whatsoever.

Are UEFA coefficients a useful tool for bettors?

There are several interesting takeaways outlined by the data above. Most prominently, they seem to suggest that a team is most likely to win a Champions League match when they are playing at home in the group stage.

By their very nature, there are many drawbacks to how useful UEFA coefficients can be.

This is by no means revelatory information, although it does appear to underline that group stage matches are easier to predict than their knockout counterparts and that the nature of the tournament inherently favours the more experienced teams.

In terms of their practicality as a resource, UEFA coefficients come with obvious limitations. Five seasons is a long time in soccer, during which time clubs and the likes of their playing squad, coaching staff, and financial situation can undergo significant changes.

The fact that coefficients are based on an accumulation of this timeframe can also inadvertently suggest that a team’s performances in European competitions are more consistent than in realty.

For instance, at the start of the 2020/21 season Ajax boasted the 21st highest UEFA coefficient of 69.5. However, 49 of these points were amassed from two seasons, in which they reached the Europa League final and Champions League semi-finals respectively. Among the other three seasons, they failed to qualify for the Champions League group stage in two and were eliminated from it in the other.

Coefficients can also be disputed in the respect that they combine performances in the Champions League and Europa League and there is an arguable gulf in quality between the two – of the last five Europa League winners, none have progressed beyond the Round of 16 in the following season’s Champions League. Finally, a coefficient will also never be able to indicate form, injuries or any other developments that might dictate a team’s likelihood of winning a specific match.

The usefulness of UEFA coefficients for an individual bettor is therefore perhaps directly correlated to the significance they place on previous results and trends within soccer betting.

As per many other data-based betting tools, they should not be exclusively used to inform predictions and arguably serve best as one of many components of research you should undertake before betting on a Champions League fixture.

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