In many ways, football is a simple game: the team that scores the most goals, wins. Yet in every single match, there are intriguing statistical sub-plots that help make the beautiful game the fascinating spectacle that it is. That's why, each week, FIFA.com takes a look at the numbers behind the results.
This week's review highlights a couple of stirring Spanish comebacks along with a landmark loss for Sparta Rotterdam, Marc Janko's scoring exploits and the chasing and breaking of domestic and European records by two English giants.
Eredivisie defeats was the unwanted landmark reached by Sparta Rotterdam in Saturday's 6-2 loss to Twente. Founded in 1888, the Netherlands' oldest professional club first tasted defeat in the modern top flight 52 years ago, going down 2-1 to Ajax, and have since lost more Eredivisie games than any other club. Ajax have also provided Sparta's two biggest reverses, inflicting 9-0 drubbings on 8 December 1985 and 18 March 2001. Yet despite their record number of defeats, Sparta have only been relegated once in their history and, even this season, they remain clear of the relegation zone, eight points above bottom side Volendam.
years and one month ago, Tottenham Hotspur set two records in the English top flight that, until Saturday, had stood ever since. Chelsea put paid to both with a 2-0 win at Bolton Wanderers that extended the Blues' run of consecutive away wins to 11, surpassing Spurs' long-standing benchmark while also eclipsing the North London outfit's record of eight straight wins in the process. Not content with that, Luiz Felipe Scorlari's side even added a third top flight record, becoming the first side since Queens Park Rangers in 1976 to keep a sixth consecutive clean sheet. Ironically for a team that had gone 86 home matches unbeaten prior to October, Chelsea's problem now lies at Stamford Bridge, where they have won just one of their last five domestic matches and lost to Liverpool, Burnley and Arsenal.
consecutive UEFA Champions League matches without loss is a record that, as things stand, only two clubs - Ajax and Bayern Munich - have achieved. However, Manchester United could become the third tonight, and the odds are stacked firmly in favour of the Red Devils doing just that. Their opponents, Aalborg, have conceded 12 goals in this year's competition, more than any other team except Basel, and have failed to win any of their five prior Champions League matches. United, by contrast, have conceded only one goal in the defence of their European crown thus far, fewer than any other team, and cruised to a 3-0 victory in the sides' corresponding meeting on 30 September.
goals in his last six games has helped Marc Janko strengthen his unlikely bid for Europe's Golden Shoe. The Salzburg star, who managed just seven goals in his last two campaigns combined, has scored 30 in just 18 starts this season to fire his team five points clear at the Austrian Bundesliga‘s summit. With the country's top scorer last season, Alexander Zickler, having topped the charts with just 16 goals, Janko can surely be guaranteed national supremacy, but he will need to continue his scoring streak if he is to succeed Cristiano Ronaldo as the continent's top marksman. Given his form in the first half of the campaign, however, this son of Olympic bronze medallist Eva Janko will feel rightly confident of claiming gold.
goals down is not a position from which many teams prove capable of fighting back. In Spain's La Liga, for example, only four sides had managed the feat in the last 10 seasons prior to Saturday. It was all the more remarkable, therefore, that two Liga teams should succeed in overhauling this mammoth deficit in one weekend. The first of the comeback kids were Villarreal, who fought back from 3-0 down to secure a draw against Getafe, becoming the first team since Athletic Bilbao in 2005 to cancel out a three-goal lead. The following day, Real Valladolid emulated the achievement, scoring three times in the final half-hour to rescue the unlikeliest of points away to Osasuna.