A total of 737 goals have been scored in the Champions League knockout stages in the past nine seasons, excluding the finals, at an average of just less than three goals per game.
Despite what José Mourinho might think, football’s objective is to score more goals than your opponent, and that’s what this European club competition provides in abundance.
There were four in two games this past week, and what a delight each was. This week, even more drama is expected and, if the stats are anything to go by (see graphic below), even more goals will roll in.
The pattern in the past nine seasons has been that the second leg of the semifinals generally produces more goals. Logically, this makes sense as teams only have 90 minutes to throw the kitchen sink, bathwater and baby out in search of more goals to secure a coveted spot in the final.
Only once in the past nine years has a semifinal tie averaged less than two goals a match across all four games. This was in the 2015/16 season – which was also the season that produced only 65 goals, the lowest of all nine previous knockout stages. The season after that produced 97 goals and takes top spot as the most goals scored in the past nine seasons (see graphic).
This season, there have been 80 goals in the knockout stages already, with Manchester City still topping the charts with 14, two ahead of Barcelona. In fact, Barcelona have been so dominant in scoring in the knockout stages that they have scored three or more goals in eight of their past 10 matches, with a current streak of five consecutive matches. And, of course, the constant has been Lionel Messi, who has scored in six of those eight matches and kicked in his 600th career club goal on Wednesday.
Messi is now top goal-scorer this season (12) – the first time that has happened since 2011/12, when the first leg of those semifinals also produced just four goals, while the second legs produced seven.
Ajax, on the other hand, have been prolific this season and have scored in every Champions League game. The only Uefa-sanctioned game they didn’t score in was their last Champions League qualifying game, making them the only team left with the most games played (17), the most wins (10) and the most goals so far (33).
Liverpool can at least take comfort that they still hold the record for most competition goals scored (47), which they set last year. This year, however, they are a few shades lighter with only 18 goals.
The other English side left in the competition, Tottenham Hotspur, are also barely breaking ground with only 17 goals to their name. Having won only once this season away from home in Europe, with a Harry Kane goal in Dortmund, it’s hard to see them doing any better in Amsterdam later this week.
In the history of the Champions League, there have been only three 0-0 semifinal second legs and two of them came in the 2005/06 season. Interestingly, that season was also Messi’s first full season as a Barcelona player in which he scored his first Champions League goal.
This week’s fixtures:
Tuesday: Liverpool vs Barcelona
Wednesday: Ajax Amsterdam vs Tottenham Hotspur
Both matches kick off at 9pm