UEFA Champions League: Ranking the Defenses of the Last 8

Jerrad PetersWorld Football Staff WriterMarch 19, 2013

UEFA Champions League: Ranking the Defenses of the Last 8

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    Defense wins championships, or so the saying goes.

    But what is defense? Is it the line of full-backs and central defenders in front of the goalkeeper? Is it something more encompassing—an idea the team has to buy into as a group?

    When analyzing an aspect of football in which players are involved it can often be easy to fall into the reputation trap. Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol have each won World Cups, European Championships and Champions League titles with Spain and Barcelona, but do they actually make a more effective tandem than Malaga’s Martin Demichelis and Weligton?

    Reputation would suggest so, but reputation is a far less worthy indicator of effectiveness than statistics, and it’s statistics we’ll be relying on to rank the defenses of the last eight teams remaining in the Champions League.

    Here is the metric we’ll be using:

    -Goals conceded in the Champions League divided by matches played equal A.

    -Shots conceded in the Champions League divided by matches played equal B.

    -Goals conceded in domestic league divided by matches played equal C.

    -Shots conceded in domestic league divided by matches played equal D.

    We will then divide B into A to get the number of shots it takes the opposition to score in the Champions League, and we’ll do the same with the domestic league.

    Given that the Champions League is the competition we’re most concerned with, we’ll assign the resulting number a value of 60 percent. The domestic league number will be valued at 40 percent. The final number is the team’s defensive score, and the higher the better.

    Our equation will look like this:

    B/A=E

    D/C=F

    E x 0.6=X

    F x 0.4=Y

    X+Y=Z

    The following slides include the starting goalkeepers and defensive units of the eight participants remaining in Europe’s most prestigious club competition, arranged in ascending order based on the results of our metric.

8. Barcelona

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    0.86 goals conceded per Champions League match

    8.9 shots conceded per Champions League match    

    1.11 goals conceded per La Liga match

    9.4 shots conceded per La Liga match

    SCORE: 9.5

    Barcelona often look shaky on set-pieces and counter-attacks, and there’s a reason. They have the poorest defensive scores of the eight sides remaining in the Champions League. Carlos Puyol is injured and Javier Mascherano is expected to start against Paris Saint-Germain.

    Goalkeeper: Victor Valdes

    Defenders: Dani Alves; Gerard Pique; Javier Mascherano; Jordi Alba

7. Real Madrid

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    1.38 goals conceded per Champions League match

    12.9 shots conceded per Champions League match  

    0.96 goals conceded per La Liga match

    10.5 shots conceded per La Liga match

    SCORE: 9.8

    Alvaro Arbeloa is a weak spot at right-back, and Sergio Ramos is given to the odd mistake as well. Diego Lopez provided reliable goalkeeping against Manchester United, but Iker Casillas will be expected to take over between the sticks against Galatasaray.

    Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas

    Defenders: Alvaro Arbeloa; Sergio Ramos; Pepe; Fabio Coentrao

6. Borussia Dortmund

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    0.86 goals conceded per Champions League match

    12 shots conceded per Champions League match     

    1.19 goals conceded per Bundesliga match

    10 shots conceded per Bundesliga match

    SCORE: 11.6

    Dortmund have allowed 20 more goals than Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and have yet to resemble the defensive juggernaut of the past two seasons. Mats Hummels is injured but should be back to face Malaga.

    Goalkeeper: Roman Weidenfeller

    Defenders: Lukasz Piszczek; Neven Subotic; Mats Hummels; Marcel Schmelzer

5. Bayern Munich

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    1.25 goals conceded per Champions League match

    8.9 shots conceded per Champions League match    

    0.42 goals conceded per Bundesliga match

    7.9 shots conceded per Bundesliga match

    SCORE: 11.9

    Bayern are this low because of a few Champions League wobbles, most notably in their second leg against Arsenal. They don’t give up a lot of shots, but their shots-per-goal ratio could use improving. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is having an average season.

    Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer

    Defenders: Phillip Lahm; Daniel van Buyten; Dante; David Alaba

4. Galatasaray

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    1.13 goals conceded per Champions League match

    13.6 shots conceded per Champions League match  

    1.12 goals conceded per Super Lig match

    14 shots conceded per Super Lig match

    SCORE: 12.4

    Galatasaray showed how defensively suffocating they can be during the second half of their Round of 16 second leg against Schalke. Their domestic numbers are helped by a weaker league, but Uruguay international Fernando Muslera is an excellent goalkeeper and receives useful coverage from Dany Nounkeu and Semih Kaya.

    Goalkeeper: Fernando Muslera

    Defenders: Emmanuel Eboue; Semih Kaya; Dany Nounkeu; Albert Riera

3. Paris-Saint Germain

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    0.63 goals conceded per Champions League match

    11.8 shots conceded per Champions League match  

    0.69 goals conceded per Ligue 1 match

    12.1 shots conceded per Ligue 1 match

    SCORE: 18.4

    PSG’s excellent defensive record is even more impressive in the Champions League than in Ligue 1. Salvatore Sirigu is among the best goalkeepers in the world, and there are few more effective centre-backs than a healthy Thiago Silva.

    Goalkeeper: Salvatore Sirigu

    Defenders: Christophe Jallet; Thiago Silva; Alex; Maxwell

2. Malaga

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    0.60 goals conceded per Champions League match

    13.9 shots conceded per Champions League match  

    0.96 goals conceded per La Liga match

    12.6 shots conceded per La Liga match

    SCORE: 19.13

    Only Atletico Madrid have conceded fewer goals than Malaga in La Liga, and their defensive record in the Champions League is nearly to the point where they’re only giving up a goal every other match. Goalkeeper Willy Caballero has been immense this season.

    Goalkeeper: Willy Caballero

    Defenders: Jesus Gamez; Martin Demichelis; Weligton; Vitorio Antunes

1. Juventus

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    0.50 goals conceded per Champions League match

    11.4 shots conceded per Champions League match  

    0.60 goals conceded per Serie A match

    9.8 shots conceded per Serie A match

    SCORE: 20.8

    It’s no surprise that Juventus are the best defensive side remaining in the Champions League. Interestingly, they’re also the only team that utilizes a three-man defensive unit.

    Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon

    Defenders: Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini

     

    Data for this exercise was compiled with the help of WhoScored.com.