Manchester City are in need of a small miracle. More precisely, they need to beat Champions League Group A winners Bayern Munich whilst hoping that pointless, injury-ravaged Villarreal can prevent Walter Mazzarri's partenopei from leaving El Madrigal with the three points which would seal last-16 qualification.
Europa League action would not be the end of the world for Manchester City in the long term, as Roberto Mancini's men seek to climb the UEFA Club Coefficient Rankings, ensuring situations as encountered in this season's "group of death" are more easily avoided.
Before we can discuss how the blues will progress up the table, first we must understand how the rankings are formed.
UEFA Champions League points system
First qualifying round elimination – 0.5 points
Second qualifying round elimination – 1 point
Group stage participation – 4 points
Group stage win – 2 points
Group stage draw – 1 point
Round of 16 participation – 4 points
Since 2009/10 clubs have been awarded an additional point if they reach the round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals or final.
UEFA Europa League points system
First qualifying round elimination – 0.25 points
Second qualifying round elimination – 0.5 points
Third qualifying round elimination – 1 point
Play-off elimination – 1.5 points
Group stage win – 2 points
Group stage draw – 1 point
Since 2009/10, clubs have been guaranteed a minimum of two points if they reach the group stage and are awarded an additional point if they get to the quarterfinals, semifinals or final.
By using a five-year template, teams are graded on individual performances in the European competition, as well as on their country as a whole.
Each club is therefore afforded the opportunity to progress healthily on their own, but should other teams from their particular league also prosper on the European stage, greater points will be awarded. Twenty percent of the country's total coefficient for that season will be added to the team's total, meaning the likes of England with its recent history of latter-stage Champions League domination receives the greatest amount of bonus points.
As much as domestic rivalry may cloud judgement regarding other English teams in Europe, it is in the interest of each club to see English clubs performing well, thereby increasing the coefficient total.
Currently sitting 33rd in the coefficient index, City are by far the lowest of England's Champions League representatives, with a total of 54.807. The current five-year spread for the blues consists of the following: '07/'08: 3.575; '08/'09: 20.000; '09/'10: 3.585; '10/'11: 16.671; '11/'12: 10.975. Total: 54.807.
Lack of European competition for Manchester City means that the '07/'08 and '09/'10 seasons are comprised entirely of the nation's bonus coefficients. This lack of individual accumulation has severely hindered the Blues' ranking, but with the poor '07/'08 outgoing, next year's total will include (barring a total league form meltdown) another spell in the Champions League group stage.
If we simply remove the '07/'08 low figure of 3.575 and repeat the number of points gained so far in their rather unsuccessful '11/'12 Champions League campaign, a prediction of City's coefficient total for this time next year would be 62.207, a much healthier figure to put them in contention for a higher seeding pot.
If the Blues manage the unlikely and progress to the last 16, a bonus of four points will be awarded. If, however, City finish third in their group, the drop into the Europa League will still present an opportunity to gather vital points, awarded for reaching the quarterfinal, semifinal and final.
City still have some way to go to catching up with the established European teams of the Premier League. Tottenham Hotspur may be treating the Europa League as a burden this term, but they currently lie in 27th place with 63.807.
A huge gap then opens up, with Liverpool in ninth position, on 89.807, despite no Champions League or Europa action on Merseyside this term. This lack of competition will see Liverpool fall down next season's ranking, with the high 24.575 of '07/'08 being replaced with the national percentage score of '11/'12.
Arsenal may have finished below Manchester City in the league, but being forced into the fourth qualification round had no effect on the Gunners' ability to slot straight into Pot 1 of the UEFA seedings, on 105.807 points.
Roman Abramovich-funded Champions League campaigns has seen a meteoric rise up the table for Chelsea, with the Londoner's comfortable in third—three places above recent Champions League winners Internazionale—on 114.807 points.
Across Manchester, whilst United may lag behind City in the Premier League table, they have developed a considerable gap with regards to UEFA Club Coefficients. The Reds top the table with 138.807 points, 0.456 points above current champions Barcelona.
Eighty-four points separate the Blues from their red neighbours. The fact that only 10 teams in the coefficient index have a greater total than 84 emphasises the magnitude of the gap City are attempting to bridge. It may not be Europe's premier cup competition, but winning the Europa League would be extremely beneficial to City's future Champions League ambitions.