It’s that time of the year again. Six of the top clubs in Europe are keeping the dream alive that this year might be their year, that they will be able to hold the cup up high in a stadium filled with fans and have the knowledge that they are the best club in the world. Of course I’m talking about the Champions League.
For those of you who are not as soccer savvy as myself, the UEFA Champions League (often called “The Champions League”, or just “The Champions” for short) is a competition that takes place every year between the top qualified teams from each European league in the previous year. Depending on the league, different numbers of teams qualify. In England and Spain, four teams qualify while in a smaller league like Luxemburg, only one team goes and they do not automatically qualify.
As the Champions League stands right now, there are eight teams remaining, and by the time this is printed, there will be four. The teams in right now are FC Barcelona and Villarreal from Spain, Arsenal, Manchester United, and Chelsea from England, and Porto from Portugal. Italy, much to its embarrassment, does not have any teams still alive in the competition.
Of these remaining clubs, Manchester United has won the most times (three) and Villarreal has performed the worst, never having made it to a final. Manchester United is the most recent and reigning champion, having beaten Chelsea last year.
Each team plays two matches against its rival, one at its home stadium, one at its opponents. The team with the most goals after those two games moves on. If the goals are equal, then the team with the most goals as visitors wins. For example, Villarreal and Arsenal tied 1-1 in Villarreal last week. If they end the game 0-0 in London, Arsenal wins because they scored a goal as a visitor. It’s as if a goal as a visitor is worth 1.00001 goals. However, if they tie 1-1 again in London, they play extra time and then finally, if they’re still tied, they have a penalty shootout.
Six of the eight quarterfinal games had been played when I wrote this article. Amongst them was Barcelona’s 4-0 annihilation of Bayern Munich, allowing them to secure a semifinal spot after a 1-1 tie in Munich. Chelsea also secured a semifinal spot, defeating Liverpool 3-1 in Liverpool, and following it with an exciting 4-4 tie in London. The other two games (Manchester United vs. Porto, and Villarreal vs. Arsenal) both ended in ties. The winners of those two games will face off in the semifinals.
The Champions League has come to its final and most competitive stretch. The top six teams in Europe are all competing for glory, and soon, there will be only four. Trust me, this will be fun to watch.