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Portugal keeps UCL play-off place

Benfica's qualification for the Europa League final means France will again end the season outside the top five in UEFA's coefficient ranking of European leagues leaving Ligue 1 clubs with a further obstacle to clear en route to the Champions League group stages for the next two campaigns.

With France dropping to sixth at the end of the 2011-12 season, the club which finishes third in the top flight this season will enter the 2013-14 Champions League in the third qualifying round rather than directly into the two-legged play-off round as Lille did this term.

That reality will be extended a further season after Benfica's dramatic 3-1 second-leg truimph over Fenerbahce, which lifted Portugal to 59.168 points to fifth in UEFA's coefficient table, again ahead of France on 59.000.

Anything other than a Benfica triumph would have kept France inside the top five in the ranking, which is based on club performance in European competition over the last five seasons.

With the third qualifying round games scheduled for July 30/31 and August 6/7, whichever French team qualifies faces a truncated summer with the new Ligue 1 season due to kick-off on August 9. That club is currently Lyon, the Champions League semi-finalists in 2010 who have a small lead over St Etienne, Lille and Nice and who sit two points behind second-placed Marseille.

But it means there is better news for the third-placed team in Portugal which will go directly to the play-off round for the next two terms. At present that place is occupied by Paços de Ferreira, who are four points ahead of Braga with three games remaining in the season.

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