10 of football's oddest streaks and hoodoos: can Rafa reverse a trend this weekend?

The last four Sunderland managers have beaten Newcastle in their second match – but now the Toon have their chance to turn the tables. Tom Carter and Tom Phillips hunted down a clutch of other oddities...

1. Dave Bassett's Christmas Party

Come Christmas 1990, newly promoted Sheffield United were languishing at the foot of the table, but a run of seven consecutive wins in the New Year meant they surged to safety. Similarly, they won just five league games before the festive period the following term, but 11 afterwards. 

Inspired by their festive fillips, manager Dave Bassett organised an impromptu early Christmas party ahead of the 1992/93 season opener against Manchester United. Brian Deane netted the Premier League's first-ever goal, the Blades won 2-1 en route to a mid-table finish and they reached the FA Cup semi-finals for good measure. Bassett decided against a repeat party the following season, United were relegated and have enjoyed just one Premier League campaign in the two decades since.

Of course...

2. The curse of Ryoichi Maeda

Ryoichi Maeda is a deadly finisher in more ways than one. For six seasons straight between 2007 and 2012, the team he scored his first goal of the season against were relegated from the J-League. 

The former Japan international, at the time playing for Jubilo Iwata, sent Ventforet Kofu, Tokyo Verdy, Jef United Chiba, Kyoto Sanga, Motedio Yamagata and Gamba Osaka on their way to a tumble through the trap door to J2 – the latter having finished in the top three for the previous three seasons. 

The sequence was finally broken in 2013 when Urawa Red Diamonds ended in a lofty sixth place. Jubilo, on the other hand, were relegated. A 34-year-old Maeda currently plies his trade for F.C. Tokyo. 

Maeda's presence alone was a terrifying prospect

3. Game No.2, beat the Toon

Some will say it’s fate, others coincidence, but now the last four Sunderland managers have lost their first game in charge and then beaten north-east rivals Newcastle United in their second. Many bosses would want to avoid a local derby so soon into their tenure but Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat and Sam Allardyce have all enjoyed early brownie points by taming the Toon. 

Paolo, Gus, Dick and Sam have been Sunderland's Toon troopers

4. Guttmann's ghastly pledge

Bela Guttmann delivered five trophies in three seasons during his initial spell as Benfica boss. Following the 1962 European Cup Final triumph over Real Madrid, Guttmann asked for a pay rise.

When the board declined, Guttmann stormed out and famously proclaimed: "Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion."

Since Guttmann 'cursed' the club, the Eagles have duly lost all eight of their European showdowns, including five European Cup finals (1963, 1965, 1968, 1988 and 1990) plus three UEFA Cup/Europa League ones (1983, 2013 and 2014) – in 2014/15 on penalties to Sevilla, following late heartbreak against Chelsea the season prior. 

Guttmann's curse has held firm through eight finals, including two immediately after his departure

5. Andres the lucky charm

Andres Iniesta has scored some important goals in his illustrious career, not least the 2010 World Cup Final winner for Spain against the Netherlands, and the late strike that knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League semi-finals in 2009. Remarkably, the midfielder has now scored 53 club and 13 international goals – that's 66 in total, mathematicians – and not one of them has come in a defeat. The only time he's been on the losing side in a game he scored came way back in February 2003, a 2-1 Segunda defeat for Barcelona B. 

Joy and despair: Iniesta puts Holland to the sword in 2010