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There is a first time for everything, and here Champions Matchday magazine selects a few firsts that could break the mould this season.
It won't be long before someone scores 20 goals in a UEFA Champions League campaign. This momentous haul isn't as unlikely as you might imagine. Cristiano Ronaldo was on target 17 times in 2013/14, hit the woodwork twice against FC Schalke 04 in the round of 16, and missed a penalty away to FC København in the group stage.
No one has scored a hat-trick in the UEFA Champions League final. Daniele Massaro, Hernán Crespo and Filippo Inzaghi struck twice for AC Milan in the 1994, 2005 and 2007 finals respectively, as did Karl-Heinz Riedle for Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Diego Milito for FC Internazionale Milano in 2010.
Hit for six
For almost two decades, four goals in a UEFA Champions League game was the hallmark of a great striker. Andriy Shevchenko, Marco van Basten and Zlatan Ibrahimović, among others, have all achieved the feat. Then Lionel Messi put five past Bayer 04 Leverkusen in 2012. Six is the next target.
Since the UEFA Champions League kicked off in 1992/93, Brazil have won two FIFA World Cups, but we are yet to salute a Brazilian player raising the trophy as captain.
Chelsea FC put London on the winner's podium in 2012, but many of Europe's largest capitals are yet to win the prize, notably Berlin (which hosts the 2015 final), Istanbul, Moscow, Paris and Rome.
FC Bayern München's Philipp Lahm can become the first captain to win the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League the following season. Iker Casillas came close in 2010, lifting the World Cup with Spain before losing in the semi-final with Real Madrid CF in 2011.
Three times a charm
No skipper has lifted the European Cup three times in the UEFA Champions League era. Carles Puyol's generosity prevented him from reaching the milestone. In the 2011 final FC Barcelona skipper Puyol, who held the cup aloft in triumph in 2006 and 2009, gave the honour to Éric Abidal. The gesture was a tribute to the French full-back’s recovery from serious illness. Franz Beckenbauer lifted the European Cup three times in succession between 1974 and 1976.
The UEFA Champions League isn't just the greatest test of a player's club career, it provides the most searching examination of a coach's ability. No manager has led his side to five finals, but Carlo Ancelotti has sat in the dugout in four – three with Milan (2003, 2005 and 2007) and one with Madrid (2014). The understated maestro could yet become the first man to lead a team to the final for a fifth time.
One fact proves that the UEFA Champions League really is club football's most rigorous, unpredictable and downright unforgiving competition: no team has yet defended the trophy. Four sides have fallen at the final hurdle: Milan (1995), Ajax (1996), Juventus (1997) and Manchester United FC (2009).
The über-competitive nature of the UEFA Champions League is further emphasised by the fact that no country has yet won the competition twice in a row. Italy have come closest, reaching six successive finals between 1993 and 1998, but only winning twice (Milan in 1994 and Juventus in 1996). Will this pattern be broken next June?
This is an abridged version of an article that appears in the latest issue of Champions Matchday, the official magazine of the UEFA Champions League. Champions Matchday is available in print and in digital format on Apple Newsstand, where the first three issues of this campaign are free of charge. You can follow the magazine on Twitter @ChampionsMag.
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