Champions League: Little Chance of All-England Quarterfinal

John HoumesSenior Analyst IMarch 13, 2008

After four English Premier League teams qualified for the next round of the UEFA Champions League, Sir Alex Ferguson proclaimed that the EPL is simply the best. Despite the historic hype surrounding the quarterfinals open draw, the probability is very small that these four will all be matched against each other.

After scouring probability websites, reading up in Champions League chatrooms, and emailing a mathematician, I was unable to figure out the exact probability that Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool would each draw one of the others.

But the probability is small, definitely less than 10 percent.

Most of those who had taken a stab at it had mistakenly assumed in their calculations that the EPL teams would be drawn first. Without boring the reader, the calculations must focus on the numerous combinations of ties that are possible, accounting for drawing home and away as well.

If Dr. Math is right, there are 1,680 possible results for tomorrow's open draw.

Chances are much better that two EPL teams will play each other and the other two will be matched against one of the other four teams from Turkey, Spain, Italy, or Germany.  This brings up an interesting question:

If two England clubs are matched in the quarterfinals, will they have met before in European play? reports that the only European meetings have been Chelsea vs. Liverpool twice in the semifinals (2004-05 and 2006-07) and group stage (2005-06), and Chelsea vs. Arsenal once in the quarters (2004).

This leaves Man U as the only kid who hasn't been in a big-time European fist fight with the other lads on the block. I'm sure they'll do fine no matter whom they draw. 

With Roma eliminating Madrid in the first knockout round and Barca being an old hat at the Champions League, Fenerbahce and Schalke would definitely make for the easiest tie—although they have shown that they can throw a punch or two.

Whatever happens in the draw tomorrow, it will show for an exciting quarterfinals.