The early rounds of the new Champions League campaign have been notable for some high-scoring affairs. In week one, Liverpool needed a late winner to overcome Paris Saint-Germain in a five-goal thriller, while the subsequent round included a 4-2 win for Barcelona against Spurs.
PSG overcame that loss to Liverpool by putting six goals past Crvena Zvezda, while there were five goals for Roma as they breezed past Viktoria Plzen. It’s early days, of course, but those numbers suggest that the 2018/19 Champions League season could be the highest scoring edition of all time.
Early front runners
Having put four past PSV Eindhoven in their first match, Barcelona now have eight from two games, while Lionel Messi leads the way in the top goalscorer charts with five. Barca are now a short-priced 1/5 favourite in Paddy Power’s Champions League betting markets to win Group B while the La Liga giants are joint-favourites along with Manchester City to win the trophy outright.
PSG also have eight goals after two matches of the new UCL season and it’s Neymar who leads the scoring charts for the French side with three goals. That tally puts the Brazilian international level in second place in the Golden Boot running with Paulo Dybala of Juventus and AS Roma’s Edin Dzeko. The battle is therefore firmly on for the right to be named the competition’s leading goalscorer but how high can the players, and the teams, actually go?
The gulf widens
‘There’s no easy game in world football’ is an old sporting cliché that has widely been dismissed in the modern era. Shocks can still happen as Leicester City proved in the 2015/16 English Premier League season but in evolutionary terms, the survival of the fittest is becoming a brutal affair.
In leagues across Europe, the gap between the biggest clubs and those at the bottom is continuing to widen. England is a good example and while Leicester did achieve that extraordinary success, it was a clear anomaly and, if football fans from outside of the UK were to look at the early season EPL table, a number of sides are already starting to get cut adrift at the bottom.
In short, there should be plenty of easy games in world football and not only are the big teams winning those matches, but the margins of victory are also becoming far more comfortable.
We don’t have to look too far back to find the highest scoring Champions League season to date in terms of goals to game ratio. The previous campaign in 2017/18 saw a total of 401 goals from the group stages of the competition all the way through to the final between Liverpool and Real Madrid. Those goals came from 125 matches at an average of 3.21 per game, thereby beating the benchmark of 3.04 per match which had been set the previous season.
In terms of pure numbers, the 2000/01 campaign produced the current record of 449 goals but with a higher number of games being played (157), the ratio was lower at 2.86. It’s early days, of course, but with goals raining in across the continent, both of those records look to be at risk in 2018/19.