Champions League promises more of the same, predicts report

September 7 – The Champions League kicked off last night with a number of the biggest names in action. And if Football Benchmark are correct, then it will be the biggest names that dominate the competition.

Not a difficult prediction to make but Football Benchmark back it up with a look at the background data.

It is obvious that the bigger and wealthier clubs will dominate Europe’s premier club competition, bit it is the scale of that dominance that Football Benchmark looks likely to increase.

“Since the tournament was revamped and introduced the round of 16 in 2003, the average number of non-Big Five clubs reaching this stage stands at three per season. Even fewer non-Big Five clubs tend to advance significantly further: out of the last 19 years, there were only three editions in which a non-Big Five team managed to reach the semi-finals, with FC Porto being the only one to reach the final (and win the coveted trophy) in 2003/04,” says Football Benchmark.

This season bookies are predicting only one non-Big Five club to advance from the group stages (Ajax).

While the dominating financial power of the Premier League in the transfer market (gross expenditure was €2.25 billion, virtually the same as the other four Big Five leagues’ combined gross spend of € 2.29 billion), and there is a strong correlation between financial might, activity in the transfer market and sporting success, Football Benchmark says there are other factors in play. I

“The narrative created around Real Madrid’s continental success revolve not only around their squad’s world class football ability, but also the experience they have amassed in the UCL throughout the years,” says Football Benchmark.

They point to analysis of the past five UCL editions that shows a correlation between the number of UCL games played prior to the season by squad members and the stage at which a team finishes the tournament.

“If a side has the experience of around 650 UCL games – which averages out to around 26 games per player considering a 25-man squad – it is extremely unlikely that they do not reach the knockout stages at the very least,” says the research.

“In fact, in these five years only Barcelona were an exception in 2021/22 when they finished only third in their group despite having 1098 UCL matches under their belt… The most “inexperienced” UCL-winning squad was Liverpool’s in 2018/19 with only 377 UCL games prior to the season, and the most experienced was Real Madrid’s in 2021/22 with 1157 UCL games under their “collective belt”.

Real Madrid (1055) are the most seasoned squad this year, with PSG (960), Barcelona (889), Liverpool (854) and Atlético de Madrid (837) making up the top five.

It seems unlikely that FC Viktoria Pizen will be playing Maccabi Haifa in the final in Istanbul in June. But Shaktar Donetsk’s 4-1 win over RB Leigzig will not only bring joy to a nation in a battle for their lives against Russian forces, but will also bring hope to football fans of top flight teams all over Europe that they too can dream of big European nights and not just big money owners.

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