Champions League: Stats, jibes & Dutch pranksters

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There’s one UEFA Champions League stat I haven’t been able to track down... how many passes Arsenal didn’t complete against Porto.

For Manchester United fans, hoping to retain the UEFA Champions League trophy, the key numbers, as Mystic Meg might say, are four and 18. The last four winners have all gone out in the next round and it is now a mere 18 seasons since Milan became the last team to be crowned European champions twice in a row.

"I predict rain..." 

Here’s the tournament in statistics, with a few cheap jibes, Dutch pranksters and movie references thrown in.

29 months. The average tenure of a Real Madrid manager. Which compares unfavourably to the average tenure of Liz Taylor’s husbands: 41 months.

0 Dutch teams in the last 16. Ajax didn’t even qualify and PSV didn’t make the UEFA Cup. This might be just as well as the only time PSV won it, in 1977/78, their replica of the trophy was stolen, an episode highlighted in this classic YouTube clip from April 2007 in which comedian Theo Massen returns the UEFA Cup he had stolen as a prank live on a Dutch TV talk show.

12 match unbeaten run Aalborg have staged under Bruce Rioch’s successor, Allan Kuhn. Rioch, Schuster and Marius Lacatus are the three Champions League coaches to lose their jobs already. Kuhn won’t keep the job. He’ll stay on as assistant to Magnus Pehrsson.

2 of the last five winners clasped the cup with the big ears to their bosom despite coming second in their group: Porto in 2004, Liverpool in 2005. Two is also the number of games Manchester United won to top Group E.

Coach Kuhn celebrates Aalborg draw at Old Trafford 

7 points dropped on their travels by Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League compared to 0 – up until December 12 Ã¢Â€Â“ in the Premier League. Martin Samuels has been vociferous in The Times suggesting that minnows like Cluj have no place in this competition. A better question might be: why can’t Premier League sides, with much greater budgets, push Chelsea as hard as Cluj?

The Romanian champions’ team ethic, technical competence, fearless approach and tactical discipline stifled the Blues in Transylvania. And, for 10 minutes at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, after Cluj equalised, you could smell the fear.

2.57 goals a game on average in the 2008/09 group stage, compared to 2.79 in 2007/08. Barcelona averaged three a game in Group C.

5 seasons since an east European team made the last 16. Lokomotiv Moscow and Sparta Prague were the last teams from the other side of what used to the Iron Curtain to make the knockout round – back in 2003/04. Five teams – Atletico, Bayern, Juventus, Liverpool and Manchester United – have reached the last 16 undefeated.

1 game won by a Scottish club in Europe this season. Yes, Celtic’s 2-0 over Villarreal was the first – and only – victory. The fact that no Scottish side is left in Europe is not good news for the nation’s UEFA co-efficients or for the Scottish Cup winners/finalists.

6 seasons in a row the Champions League has been won by the team that knocked out the team who knocked out Real Madrid. This remarkable run started in 2003 when Juve beat Real in the semi and then lost to Milan at Old Trafford. (A big thanks to Champions staff writer Sheridan Bird for this uber-stat.)

Roma knock out Real, before losing to Man United... 

40 percent chance that Chelsea will face a team managed by a former member of staff. The Blues might like to face Panathinaikos, coached by the man mountain Henk Ten Cate who looked, last time I saw him in the flesh, like the result of a scientific experiment involving the genes of Tom Jones and Graeme Souness.

They might be less keen to do battle with Juve, coached by Claude ‘Tinkerman’ Ranieri who, with his new winter-proof hooded coat, looked like a monk in the movie The Name Of The Rose.

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