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May 9, 2013

Relegated European champions

If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to ESPN's team of football anoraks at asknorman@hotmail.com and they will try to answer as many as possible.

As Jose Bosingwa is being relegated with QPR a season after winning the Champions League with Chelsea, I would like to know if this has happened to any players or clubs being relegated immediately after winning Europe's top cup, Dapomolo Banjo asked.

He is not, swift as the decline in Bosingwa's fortunes has been. There are two other examples of a player being relegated from the Premier League 12 months after winning the Champions League. Roque Junior endured a remarkable couple of years a decade ago: in 2002, the centre-back was a World Cup winner with Brazil; in 2003, he won the Champions League in the colours of AC Milan; and in 2003-04, he was part of the Leeds United squad who were relegated, even though his loan deal was terminated before the end of the season.

In the Champions League era, there is another example of a player who both played in the final win and was then demoted the following year. Fabrizio Ravanelli scored in the 1996 final, when Juventus went on to beat Ajax on penalties, but was then transferred to Middlesbrough, who went down from the Premier League in 1997.

In addition, there is a club which won the Champions League and then was relegated a year later. Marseille, champions of Europe in 1993, were sent down in France for match-fixing rather than the results on the field. Among individuals, however, over the last two decades only Ravanelli, Roque Junior and Bosingwa have gone from being members of officially Europe's finest team to being demoted in the space of a year.

I was wondering if Bayern's victory over Barcelona (7-0) over two legs in the semi-final of the Champions League was a statistical record for this stage of either the European Cup or Champions League? William Mollers from Berlin, Germany asked.

In the Champions League era, Bayern's seven-goal margin of victory does make it a record. The biggest aggregate win in a European Cup semi-final also belongs to a German club. In 1960, Eintracht Frankfurt beat Rangers 6-1 and 6-3 in the last four for a 12-4 win over the two legs. Having recorded the biggest semi-final win, however, they were then on the receiving end of the heaviest defeat in the final, losing 7-3 to the Real Madrid team of Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas.

This year we have the semi-finalists of the Champions League coming from two countries. Not only that but they have a bit of symmetry. When last did we have such a scenario? Or a resemblance to it? Davirai asked

By 'a symmetry', Davirai means that both semi-finals were between German and Spanish sides with the Bundesliga team winning each (Bayern Munich against Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund versus Real Madrid).

It has made this a unique season in the Champions League while, because only the holders and the champions entered the competition in the European Cup era, there is certainly no equivalent there.

Indeed, there are only five previous seasons when two countries have supplied all four semi-finalists and, on each occasion, three came from one. In 2000, there were three Spanish sides and one German team in the last four. In 2003, a trio of clubs represented Italy along with a solitary Spanish side. From 2007 to 2009, England had three semi-finalists every season, accompanied by AC Milan (in 2007) and Barcelona (the following two years).

So for something that resembles it, we have to look at the UEFA Cup. In 2009, there were two German semi-finalists and two from Ukraine but Werder Bremen drew Hamburg, leaving Dynamo Kiev to play Shakhtar Donetsk.

But the most accurate comparisons come from a decade when Serie A dominated the UEFA Cup, despite the occasional challenge from the Bundesliga, Italian teams twice beat German rivals in the semi-finals before facing each other in the final.

In 1990, Juventus saw off Koln and Fiorentina went past Werder Bremen before the bianconeri won the final 3-1. Five years later, Parma beat Bayer Leverkusen in the last four while Juventus overcome Dortmund. With Dino Baggio scoring in each leg of the final, Parma went on to lift the trophy.

The UEFA Cup's predecessor, the Fairs Cup, also provides an example. In 1966, Barcelona went on to beat Real Zaragoza in the final after they had both eliminated English opponents, Chelsea and Leeds respectively, in the semi-finals.

Chelsea coach Gianluca Vialli became the first coach in the history of the Premier League to field an entire team of non-English/British players for a Premier League match . My question is if any coach has named a team in the history of the Premier League comprising of only English/British players? Patrick Senesie from Freetown, Sierra Leone asked.

Plenty have. While the Premier League is a League of Nations now, that was not the case when the division began in 1992. In the opening weekend only 13 non-British and Irish players featured - Eric Cantona (Leeds/France), Craig Forrest (Ipswich/Canada), Gunnar Halle (Norway/Oldham), John Jensen (Arsenal/Denmark), Andrei Kanchelskis (Manchester United/Russia), Anders Limpar (Arsenal/Sweden), Roland Nilsson (Sheffield Wednesday/Sweden), Ronnie Rosenthal (Liverpool/Israel), Peter Schmeichel (Manchester United/Denmark), Hans Segers (Wimbledon/Holland), Jan Stejskal (QPR/Czech Republic) and Robert Warzycha (Everton/Poland) - and some of those were not automatic choices.

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