5 Champions League fun facts
Fact #3 is an eye-opener for football fans.
Soccer (football, as some like to call it) is a pretty big deal around the world, nowhere more so than in Europe. Each year the UEFA Champions League brings together the top club teams on the continent to compete. Last year the winner was Barcelona, the favorite to win the trophy again this year. It's no easy feat. Several qualifying rounds precede the Group Stage. From there only half of those teams make it into the final round in May. Intrigued? Here are some more interesting tidbits.
1. The tournament's all-time top scorers are competing this year
The top two goal scorers in Champions League history are competing in this year's tournament. Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 82 goals to Barcelona's Lionel Messi's 77, though the Portuguese star (Ronaldo) has played in 18 more games than his Argentinian counterpart. The two were actually tied at the start of the tournament, but Messi has been sidelined with an injury and Ronaldo has been able to pull away in his absence.
2. The tournament's winningest teams are competing, too
Real Madrid leads all teams in Champions League wins, thanks in no small part to past stars such as Zinedine Zidane, left, competing for a ball with a Barcelona player. (Photo: PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)
Ronaldo and Messi also play for the two winningest clubs in history. Again Ronaldo can claim the upper hand, with his Real Madrid club having won 125 games to Barcelona's 121. However, Barcelona has been the better of the two in recent years, taking the title three of the last seven years while Real Madrid has only won once in the same time span.
3. England has some catching up to do
England, the country that claims to have invented the modern form of the game and which is home to one of the top domestic leagues in the world, has only 12 active players competing on the 32 clubs left in the tournament. By contrast, the Mediterranean country of Israel has 16 players in the tournament. Other countries ahead of England also include Spain, Brazil and France.
4. This player has appeared in the most games
Spanish goalie Iker Casillas, seen here making a save during a game for his current club Porto, has played in the most Champions League games of any other player, present or past. (Photo: Christof Koepsel/Getty Images))
Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas has appeared in the most games of any player in the history of the tournament, 153 so far. The Porto keeper is participating in this year's tournament and, despite the wear and tear, has proven he's still got it, most recently blanking one of the better teams in Europe, Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv, 2-0.
5. It's a long road to the championship
Seventy-eight teams competed in four qualifying rounds to arrive at the 32 still standing in the penultimate stage of competition, known as the Group Stage. Of those, only 16 will make the last and final round, the Knockout Stage, with the top two teams battling it out in Milan this year to see who the best club team in Europe is.
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