One of the on-going debates, as it relates to the Champions League, is the admission of teams that did not win their domestic title.
There is a lot to be said for the simplicity of the old format.
A team having won their championship went into the hat along with other like sides and after four rounds of two-leg knock-out play we were left with two teams playing in a winner take all final normally at a neutral venue.
Clean and easily understandable what could have been better?
From the clubs point of view quite a lot. In the nineties the clubs were no longer willing to accept a competition in which the winner of the Icelandic league was granted a place in the premier club competition while the runners-up from Spain, England, Italy, Germany etc were excluded.
Once a decision was made to allow non-champions to join champions there was no turning back although the last two seasons we have seen more places reserved for teams that had actually won their domestic title.
Over the previous five seasons the number of champion teams making it to the final four have never exceeded 50%. In fact even 50% has been a struggle – 2006 Barcelona, 2007 Chelsea, 2008 Manchester United, 2009 Barcelona and Manchester United and 2010 Barcelona and Inter.
This year we have Barcelona as the only team of the final four to have also won their league last season with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Schalke 04 all finishing as runners up.
In terms of domestic performances this season Barcelona and Manchester United are odds on to win La Liga and the Barclay’s Premier League. If either does, and goes on to also win the Champions League, it will be the 24th time the European Cup/Domestic Title double has been accomplished in 56 seasons.
What is worth noting is that it will be the 5th time in the last six seasons such a feat has been achieved – only Milan in 2007 will have failed.
At the other end of the spectrum there is a bit of a tradition of European Cup winners and poor domestic performances – Schalke 04 will be hoping to continue that tradition given that they are sitting 10th in the Bundesliga and are only 8 points above the relegation zone.
The three worst domestic performances by a European Champion all came under the “old” domestic champions-only format. Aston Villa finished 11th in the English First Division when they won the European Cup in 1982; Bayern Munich 10th in the Bundesliga in 1975; and Juventus 6th in 1985.
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