As Europe’s premier club competition kicks off for another campaign, Goal.com’s Carlo Garganese takes a light-hearted look at 10 things to expect this season…
9) The game between Braga and Shakhtar Donetsk breaks the European record for the number of Brazilians on the field. The Portuguese side have more Brazilians in their first team squad than Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd and Spurs have Englishmen between them. Every English player in the tournament (all three of them) discusses the 'dream' of lifting the Champions League trophy at Wembley.
8) “The Champions League is in our DNA.” These words are repeated by Milan vice president Adriano Galliani at least 80 times before and after each European game. When Milan get knocked out, president Silvio Berlusconi blames the referees: "Even in Europe they are all communists!"
7) In contravention to tradition, Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas attempts to swap shirts with his Barcelona opponent before the match. Arsene Wenger tries to pass it off as “something young kids do nowadays”. Barcelona win 8-2 on aggregate, but Wenger stresses after the tie that the “potential” of his side is very high.
Uncle Fester celebrates his strong genes
6) There will be three Anglo-Italian ties in the last 16 for the billionth year in succession. “Just a coincidence, nothing to worry about,” says Michel Platini from his hospital bed after suffering severely burnt hands at the draw.
5) Goal.com's Peter Staunton hails Martin Demichelis as "world class" despite the disaster-ridden Argentine scoring four own goals, and providing more assists (all for the opposition) than anyone else in the Champions League. Staunton even rings up an asleep Carlo Garganese at 2am to share his excitement at receiving his Argentina No.2 shirt with Demichelis printed on the back.
4) Spurs beat Twente in Group A through a Peter Crouch header from a corner, and Harry Redknapp uses it as proof that English managers are the “best in the world”. When asked before kick-off what he thinks of the Dutch champions, Sky Sports’ Jamie ‘I’ve never heard of Pato’ Redknapp offers his legendary insight: “Twenty? I prefer the number 7.”
Thumbs up if you don't know who Pato is
3) New Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho declares that Iker Casillas is the “best goalkeeper in the world”, Ricardo Carvalho the “best defender in the world”, Mesut Oezil the “best midfielder in the world” and Cristiano Ronaldo the “best forward in the world”. Last year these players had been Julio Cesar, Lucio, Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto’o. In 2006, they had been Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. In 2004, they had been Vitor Baia, Jorge Costa, Deco and Benedict McCarthy. Nevertheless, Real Madrid are eliminated in the round of 16.
2) Holders Inter complete the first of another 45 years without winning the Champions League. The next successful triumph is in 2055, four years after Calciopoli XI when Juventus, Milan and Roma are all relegated to Serie C by Inter shareholder, lifelong fan, and occasional judge Guido Rossi Jr.
1) Wayne Rooney is top scorer for the season. The Manchester United hitman is particularly prolific during the visit to Amsterdam in the quarter final, scoring 10 times in one night…although none of them against Ajax. Man Utd’s matches against Rangers are labelled ‘Battles of Britain’ and treated as the most interesting games in the group stages, even though nobody outside of Scotland knows who plays for Rangers. Nevertheless, Rangers fans manage to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the real Blitz by smashing up Manchester city centre.
Wayne actually scored 10 beauties this time