It is not just the domestic league campaigns that are drawing to a close at the moment. European cup competitions – a valuable source of silverware for many top-flight teams – are also nearing their conclusions.
With so many cup finals to look forward to this month, we decided to compare the foremost knockout competitions in each of Europe’s big five leagues to see what each has to offer.
Lower league cup runs
If you’re fond of seeing a relative minnow mixing it with the more established clubs then you should seriously consider following the Coupe de France. In the last decade there have been five clubs across Europe’s five main leagues that have made it to a cup final and three of those were French.
The German DFB Pokal and English FA Cup have also seen a lower league finalist in this period, along with a decent number of semi-finalists from outside the top flight, while they are an incredibly rare sight in either Spain or Italy. To win either the Copa del Rey or the Coppa Italia is no easy feat; you’ll need to overcome plenty of top-flight opposition.
Average league finish of winners
Both the Coupe de France and Spain’s Copa del Rey have allowed silverware to be spread more widely, with the average winner finishing their league campaign some way off top spot. By comparison, the teams that triumph in Germany, Italy and England tend to also finish in one of the Champions League places.
Could this be due to the difficulty in challenging on multiple fronts in France and Spain, or perhaps cup success being prized more highly in the other three nations?
If you are after an added sense of occasion then it is worth noting that four of the five main European cup competitions could well be claimed by a recently-crowned domestic champion this season, thereby completing the traditional league and cup double.
It is ironic that the exception is Germany, where Bayern Munich’s elimination by Borussia Dortmund means that they cannot add to the outstanding 10 doubles they have completed since the turn of the century. Since the year 2000, German sides have secured as many doubles as those of Italy, France and Spain combined and only once – in 2003/04 when Werder Bremen managed it – has this not been Bayern’s doing.
Goals scored per game
For the neutral fan in search of raw entertainment value, the standout recommendation is the DFB Pokal, which has seen an average of over three goals scored per game from the quarter-final stage onwards in the last decade.
Goals are far less common in the Coppa Italia – the only one of the five to see fewer than two-and-a-half per game – but perhaps that’s a reflection of how many closely-matched teams are left to slug it out in the later rounds.
Variety of finalists – and winners
The roll call of recent winners of European cup competitions is the most varied in France and Spain, who have each seen 10 different clubs prevail since the turn of the century.
While the FA Cup has been second only to the Coupe de France for the number of different finalists in this period, only seven teams have lifted the trophy. This is even fewer than the Coppa Italia which, despite having only 10 sides make it to the final since 2000, has seen eight different winners.