Champions League field can be cut down to four likely winners
Wise words from the soccer boffin
First, draw a line through half the teams. All those not from Spain, Germany, Italy or England, with the exception, for prudence’s sake, of moneybags French club PSG.
Spain, Germany, Italy and England have provided 17 out of 18 winners since the Champions League introduced a 32-team group stage in season 1999-2000. They contributed 44 per cent of teams for the group stage and 94 per cent of the winners. So they have been disproportionately successful.
Next, put a question mark beside teams from Spain, Germany, Italy and England who did not finish first or second in their national league last season. Teams have won the Champions League after finishing as low as fourth at home, but most had been in the top two. Fourteen out of 17 winners entered the Champions League as national champions or runners-up.
The strike-rates were ten per cent for the top two (14 out of 144) and three per cent for the others (three out of 109).
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Then put a tick next to the remaining teams who have played in the final or semi-finals recently. Ten out of 18 winners had reached the last four or beyond the season before, and some of the others had done so within four seasons.
The reason for not striking out PSG immediately is that they have rich sponsors and can afford to pay the high wages demanded by top players. In each of the last 12 seasons the Champions League was won by a team with one of the six highest payrolls.
In the Champions League this season there are five teams from England, four from Spain plus three from Germany and Italy, to which we added PSG from France, a total of 16.
Only nine finished first or second in their domestic league last season. Only five of those have been in the Champions League semi-finals recently.
Only two of those are sure to have one of the top six payrolls, though another two might.
You are left, my friends, with Real Madrid and Barcelona and the likely addition of Bayern Munich or Chelsea.
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