Every week, Martin will set you a question of his own to get your grey matter working. Click above for this week's Tyler's Teaser - which comes from the Etihad ahead of Manchester City's game with Barcelona.
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I was at the Etihad Stadium for the Manchester City v Barcelona game on Tuesday evening and saw Lionel Messi score his first goal in nine away games against English clubs. He had previously failed to score in eight away games against Chelsea (4), Arsenal (2), Liverpool (1) and Manchester United (1). He did score against United in the final at Wembley, but that is classed as a neutral venue.
It was his ninth goal overall in 19 appearances against English clubs - all in the Champions League. He has scored six times against Arsenal, twice against Manchester United and now once against Manchester City. The latest goal came from the penalty spot, but remember he had missed a penalty in his last appearance against an English team - he hit the bar in the 2-2 semi-final draw at home to Chelsea in April 2012.
Messi has now scored 66 Champions League goals, 30 of those coming in the knock-out stages. Meanwhile, Victor Valdes became the first player to play 50 games in the knockout stage and Andres Iniesta made his 100th European appearance, his 93rd in the Champions League and all for Barcelona.
City failed to score for the third time in four games, which is most unusual, while this was the first knockout Champions League match where both coaches came from South America.
Our first question this week is one that I came up with myself after watching the Championship game between Nottingham Forest and Watford recently live on Sky Sports. I noticed Billy Davies brought on Simon Cox at half-time and he scored his side's first goal. He then brought on Darius Henderson and he scored the next goal. He then brought on Jamie Mackie and he scored the next goal - before Cox scored another in the 90th minute. I decided to ask Opta if anything similar had ever happened in the Premier League.
I can now report that simple answer is no. We have never seen three substitutes score for the same side in a Premier League game. However, there have been 73 games in Premier League history where two substitutes have come on and scored for their team - and that has happened six times already this season:
Chelsea's Eden Hazard and Willian came on and scored against Norwich in October
West Ham's Joe and Carlton Cole came on and scored against Fulham in November
Stoke City's Oussama Assaidi and Stephen Ireland came on and scored against Chelsea in December
Manchester City's James Milner and Jesus Navas and scored against Fulham in December
Sunderland's Jack Colback and Steven Fletcher came on and scored against Cardiff in December
Chelsea's Oscar and Willian came on and scored against Southampton on New Year's Day.
There has only been one instance in Premier League history where a team has benefitted from four goals from a substitute. That came when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came off the bench and scored four goals in 12 minutes for Manchester United against Nottingham Forest in February 1999.
There have been four other instances of individual substitutes scoring hat-tricks:
27/03/2004: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for Chelsea v Wolves
19/03/2005: Robert Earnshaw for West Brom v Charlton
28/04/2008: Emmanuel Adebayor for Arsenal against Derby
19/05/2013: Romelu Lukaku for West Brom v Manchester United
And there have been three instances of two substitutes notching up three goals for their team:
23/12/2012: Oscar and Ramires for Chelsea against Aston Villa
21/08/2010: Yossi Benayoun and Salomon Kalou for Chelsea against Wigan
23/03/2002: Branko Strupar and Lee Morris for Derby against Everton
Liverpool to the four?
Dear Martin. All of a sudden people are starting to talk about Liverpool as title contenders and I was wondering how likely it is that a team in fourth place after 26 games could go on and win the league? Has it ever happened before? Ray Batrom (Liverpool fan)
MARTIN SAYS: To answer your question, we asked the clever chaps at Opta to look at each season and tell us which team had the fourth highest points tally after 26 games. We then asked them to tell us where they finished up at the end of the season.
I can tell you that we have seen a team jump from fourth after 26 games to top of the table after 38 - but it has only happened once. That was back in 2001/02 when Arsenal were fourth on 51 points with 26 games gone and were behind Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle in the standings. However, they were only three points off top spot and actually won all of their final 12 games (13 in total) to win the league by seven points with 87 points.
In the previous 21 Premier League seasons, 12 of the teams in fourth after 26 games finished inside the top four, but back in 1992/93 (which was admittedly a 42-game season), Ipswich Town slumped from fourth after 26 games to 16th after 42 games.
Here are the teams that have been in fourth place after 26 games of each Premier League season and where they ended up:
|Season||4th after 26 games||Points||Final position|
As you can see, Liverpool themselves have been fourth at this stage four times before - ended up finishing fourth on three of those occasions (and seventh on the other).
The real reason there is such optimism about Liverpool is that they only have 12 league games to play and nothing else to focus on, while Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea all have other distractions. However, it's worth pointing out that when Arsenal climbed from fourth to first in 2001/02 they played three further Champions League games after this point and also went all the way to the FA Cup Final and won it.
Shut outs and staying up?
Dear Martin First of all, great column. I'm a life-long Hammers fan living in Barcelona (and must admit to having also taken a serious liking to the local team!) and an avid reader and always look forward to your article at the beginning of each week. My question is the following: If I'm not mistaken, West Ham have kept 13 clean sheets so far (from 26 games). Has any team ever kept this amount or even more clean sheets in a 38-game season and still gone down? Keep up the good work! Simon (originally from London, now Barcelona)
MARTIN SAYS: Hello Simon. I can tell you that the omens are good for West Ham. You are correct to say that West Ham have kept 13 clean sheets in the league this season - more than any other side - and I can confirm that no side has gone down with that many clean sheets to their name in a 38-game Premier League season. In 38-game campaigns, every side that has kept a dozen clean sheets has stayed up.
Since the Premier League was reduced to 20 teams in 1995/96, we have eight teams hit 10+ clean sheets and go down. Those sides are as follows:
1996/97: Sunderland (11 clean sheets)
1997/98: Bolton (10 clean sheets)
1998/99: Charlton (11 clean sheets)
1998/99: Blackburn (10 clean sheets)
2004/05: Crystal Palace (10 clean sheets)
2005/06: Birmingham City (10 clean sheets)
2005/06: West Brom (10 clean sheets)
2006/07: Charlton (11 clean sheets)
In the final 42-game season, we did however see one team keep 15 clean sheets and get relegated. That was Crystal Palace, who finished 19th of 22 clubs and were relegated despite keeping clean sheets in 36% of their games. West Ham's current ratio of clean sheets in 50% of their games should hopefully bode well for their survival chances!
Premier League of nations
Dear Martin. I was very interested to learn that Felix Magath will become the first German manager in the Premier League. I wondered if you could tell me how many different nationalities of managers we have seen in the Premier League over the years? Hugo
MARTIN SAYS: I can tell you that Germany will become the 21st nation to have a manager in charge of a Premier League club. Of the 189 men (including caretakers) to have managed a Premier League club, 102 have been English and 31 Scottish - with the 56 other names coming from 19 different nations.
I have detailed all of those different nationalities for you below. Germany has become the third new nation to join the list this season, following Uruguay (Gus Poyet) and Chile (Manuel Pellegrini), while Denmark (Michael Laudrup) only joined the list for the first time last year.
|Nation||Number of managers||First manager|
|Northern Ireland||7||Danny Wilson|
|Republic of Ireland||6||Joe Kinnear|
Stevie on the spot
Dear Martin. After watching Steven Gerrard score a last-minute penalty for Liverpool against Fulham, I was wondering if any player has scored more penalties in the Premier League than he has? I think maybe Alan Shearer, but I can't think of many other that have been taking penalties for as long as he has. Frankie (Liverpool fan)
MARTIN SAYS: Thanks to our friends at Opta, I can tell you that Steven Gerrard's penalty against Fulham saw him move up to fourth place on the all-time list of penalty goal-scorers in the Premier League, level with former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry.
Only three men have scored more Premier League penalties than he has. As you suspect, Alan Shearer is way out in front with 56 penalty goals to his name, although Frank Lampard is 13 penalty goals behind with 43 and counting. Matt Le Tissier scored 25 penalties during his Premier League career and is the next man in Gerrard's sights.
Top 10 penalty goalscorers in Premier League history:
Alan Shearer (56)
Frank Lampard (43)
Matthew Le Tissier (25)
Thierry Henry, Steven Gerrard (23)
David Unsworth (22)
Teddy Sheringham (21)
Gary McAllister, Peter Beardsley, Danny Murphy, Gareth Barry, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Yakubu (18)
Gerrard's first Premier League goal from the penalty spot came against Birmingham City at Anfield and his record can be broken down as follows:
By opposition: Aston Villa (5), Birmingham (2), Bolton (2), Crystal Palace (1), Fulham (2), Man Utd (2), Middlesbrough (1), Newcastle (1), Portsmouth (1), Stoke (2), Sunderland (1), Swansea (1), Tottenham (2)
By location: Home: 13 Away: 10
This is already his best season with five penalty goals, beating his previous best of four penalty goals in the Premier League (2012/13 and 2008/09)
He has scored 14 penalties for Liverpool in other competitions with six coming in the Champions League, three in the FA Cup, three in the Europa League and two in the League Cup.