“I think we can all agree the 2018-19 season of Netflix drama The Champions League is one of the best ever,” wrote BBC Sport live texter Tom Rostance at the end of a breathless two days of European football. “A bit far-fetched at times…”
He had a point.
Here are key stats behind some epic Champions League plotlines.
Don’t underestimate the bite of the underdog
Manchester United fans haven’t had much to cheer about this season – but a stunning revival to knock out Paris St-Germain in the last 16 gave them something to cling on to.
But then Liverpool and Tottenham blew that out of the water with exhilarating comebacks of their own in the semi-finals.
All of which meant half of the 14 knockout ties this season have been won by a team given less than a one in three chance of progress after the first leg.
|Underdogs||Opponents||Situation||Chance of progress|
|Liverpool||Barcelona||SF: Liverpool 3-0 down||4%|
|Ajax||Real Madrid||R16: Ajax 2-1 down||4%|
|Man Utd||PSG||R16: Man Utd 2-0 down||5%|
|Ajax||Juventus||QF: 1-1 after first leg||15%|
|Juventus||Atletico Madrid||R16: Juve 2-0 down||22%|
|Tottenham||Man City||QF: Spurs 1-0 up||27%|
|Tottenham||Ajax||SF: Spurs 1-0 down||29%|
Gracenote uses its Euro Club Index formula to calculate the relative strength of teams – and therefore make predictions based on probabilities
Any more upsets?
Those huge turnarounds overshadowed Liverpool beating Bayern Munich 3-1 in Germany after a 0-0 draw at Anfield and Porto’s even more dramatic 4-3 aggregate comeback victory over Roma.
Both were underdogs (39% and 42% respectively) going into the second legs of those last-16 ties.
Oh, and Porto v Roma even threw in an extra-time penalty for good measure. After a VAR review.
What about the group stage? Spurs were down and out weren’t they?
Tottenham’s first piece of bad luck this season was landing in a group with Inter Milan, Barcelona and PSV Eindhoven.
At that point they had a 74% chance of progress but defeats by Inter and Barcelona and a draw at PSV left them at 15%, needing at least two wins and a draw, and Inter’s results to go their way too.
Cue Harry Kane’s 89th-minute winner against Eindhoven and a late goal from Lucas Moura (more on him later) in the Nou Camp and it was glory, glory Tottenham Hotspur.
OK then… Man Utd had no chance against PSG did they?
A 5% chance actually.
The 2-0 loss to Paris St-Germain in February was Manchester United’s heaviest home defeat in European football.
The 5% chance they were given looked generous to some, but Romelu Lukaku’s two goals put United right in the mix. And then, as time ebbed away, VAR intervened.
Handball. Penalty. Marcus Rashford. United through.
Elsewhere in the last 16, Juventus were given only a 22% of getting past Atletico Madrid after a 2-0 defeat in Spain. A record-equalling eighth Champions League hat-trick for Cristiano Ronaldo later and the Italian champions were through.
Well City will fly the flag for Manchester…
Into the quarter-finals and Spurs were given only a 27% chance of getting past Manchester City even after winning the first leg.
A competition record four goals in the first 11 minutes left Spurs 3-2 up on aggregate and ahead on away goals.
City struck next to lead 4-2 but – in some of the most remarkable scenes ever witnessed in the competition – VAR first approved Fernando Llorente’s goal for Spurs, then cancelled out Raheem Sterling’s for the hosts as the Londoners held on.
Messi masterclass sees off Liverpool… almost
When Lionel Messi stepped up to take a late free-kick against Liverpool in the first leg of the semi-final, only he could have truly expected to beat Alisson.
What followed was his 600th goal for Barcelona and his eighth from a direct free-kick this season – his best ever return and double that of his closest rival in Europe’s top leagues, Angel di Maria.
Barcelona were 3-0 up and coasting, with Liverpool’s chance of a second successive Champions League final estimated at 4% by the Euro Club Index.
Little did we know what would follow at Anfield.
This was the eighth time since April 2015 that a team had recovered from a first leg deficit of two goals or more to progress in the Champions League.
In the first 22 years of the competition, such a comeback happened only seven times. Prior to the 1999-2000 season, no team had come back from a first leg deficit of two or more goals behind.
Anything you can do…
Twenty four hours after Liverpool’s stunning success, their Premier League rivals Tottenham stood 90 minutes from the final.
They were given a 29% chance after a first-leg defeat in London, but that was around the 4% mark when they trailed 2-0 at half-time.
Had the two semi-finals been played at the same time, 50 minutes in the chance of an all-English final would have been about 100-1.
But Moura – yes, him again – had other ideas.
His hat-trick was the first by a Spurs player in the knockout phase. He had three-left footed shots on the night, and all three went in. They are his only left-footed shots in this season’s Champions League.
Moura is right-footed.
It’s been THAT kind of season.