Be careful what you wish for.

The co-efficient was the buzzword on Thursday night in the wake of what have been impressive European campaigns from both Celtic and Rangers. Indeed, the elevation into 14th spot in UEFA’s co-efficient table would have been a fairly unimaginable leap at the start of the season such has been the shift.

Is it exciting to have two teams potentially going into the Champions League qualifiers? Yes. Is it good news to have an extra European place? Tin hats at the ready, the answer isn’t necessarily a straightforward yes. At the risk of bringing doom and gloom to the party, it is worthwhile just taking a moment to digest exactly what it will mean.

Glasgow Times:

For a start, two golden tickets to Europe's dream factory doesn’t mean two success stories. Whoever finishes as runner-up will face the fairly daunting non-champions route to qualification. Unless the summer recruitment drive delivers Indiana Jones into the dressing room ahead of that particular adventure – and age is catching up with him – then the reality is that there are two chances of making it into the lucrative stage of the tournament; slim and none.

The added nub of that is that any defeats along the way mean the co-efficient runs the risk of taking a battering. Given the quality of teams who go through that route from the elite leagues then there is every chance that by climbing to the top of the hill this season, the roll back down could feel a little harrowing.

In fairness, if they could cling on long enough to get to the parachuted Europa League place or a seeded place for a Europa League qualifier then that is a bonus since it offers the opportunity of some kind of European competition.

Celtic host Copenhagen next week. A win for Neil Lennon’s side has the potential to lift Scotland into 13th spot which could be key in a later placing in terms of qualification rounds next season.

The bigger issue is the additional European place. Given that all co-efficient points are then divided by the number of teams from that particular country who are in competition, this dilutes the ability to add more points onto the board; in actual fact if you have teams who are in for one round and then dumped out, the harm done is fairly substantial.

Kilmarnock’s defeat to Connah’s Quay Nomads was a case in point in July. As European tournaments go on and teams get stronger, it is easy to see that Scottish teams would struggle against clubs from leagues with more resources but that can hardly be levelled at recent defeats; Kazakhstan side Kairat ousted Aberdeen. Romania's Astra Giurgiu did the same to Inverness Caledonian Thistle. St Johnstone were humbled by Alashkert of Armenia.

Glasgow Times:

If Scottish clubs are happy with five European places – and there is a drip of cash from involvement that flows through all clubs in the league from participation – then it cannot only fall to two clubs to carry the can.

But what the past few months have shown, however, is that there was a fairly redundant argument in the narrative that Celtic don’t need a strong Rangers.

If a glance at this season’s league table doesn’t offer an informed call on a bit of competition bringing out the best when there are questions asked, then the benefits of the co-efficient are there to see.

It would have been impossible for one club alone to drive up the numbers and take Scotland into the 14th spot. Only five other countries have taken more co-efficient points in the last seven months and just about all of them were guaranteed Champions League bonus points.

Celtic and Rangers have benefitted from the results of each other and while the benefits will come in season 2021/22, perhaps the most important aspect is that it stays the same for next season.

If there is a continuation in terms of the manner in which they have both collected points then it would seriously strengthen the hand of the co-efficient. Sustaining it could led to a chap on the door for automatic entry into the group stages of the Champions League.

There is, however, an argument to be had that it is the Europa League that provides far more fertile ground for Scottish co-efficient points than the significantly more lucrative Champions League. If Europe’s premier competition offers vast economic rewards there is also the grim reality that copping 7-0 defeats at the hands of its regulars such as Barcelona and PSG – 7-1 on that occasion – is not just morale sapping for the manner in which it highlights the chasm between the teams but damages clubs in the long-term.

At the minute, though, there is some positivity of which to enjoy. Sustaining it will open up a fairly intriguing conversation.

And another thing

Few who have watched Hearts throughout this season would buy into the theory that the Tynecastle side are too good a team to go down.

In the light of the call to rescind the red card given to Jamie Hamilton last Saturday afternoon, it is worth considering whether or not Daniel Stendel’s side would have taken a point had they not played for well over an hour with a numerical advantage.

Hearts might have individual players of note, of experience and of ability but collectively they have never got to the point of sustaining any kind of run this season. And as we head into March, at which point does the penny drop that there is every chance this side could go down?

Of the three league games that Hearts have won in their last 27 games, all of them have come in Edinburgh; two home and one Easter Road win. It does not augur well that four of their next six league games are away from home.

The best that can be said of their current sorry plight is that they have not been isolated at the bottom of the table but the reality is that unless there is some urgency injected into their situation, they could very well find themselves sliding out of the top flight.