“It’s not an easy place to go,” is one of the oldest clichés in the book when it comes to the Champions League.
It’s a phrase usually reserved for tricky group phase trips to Eastern Europe, with countries like Ukraine, Turkey, and Russia all immediately springing to mind.
Many an English side has come unstuck against seemingly inferior opposition while playing in these unfamiliar surroundings in the past. Or at least, that’s what fans have always been led to believe.
The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective decided to investigate the claim further though and identify, once and for all, which place is the most difficult to go to in Europe’s premier cup competition.
Group stage results from the 2003/04 season, when the current 32-team format was first introduced, were analysed as part of the research.
In order to measure a particular team or country’s strength, the number of points these sides collected in home games were compared with the amount picked up on the road.
These were then aggregated across all seasons for every country before the percentage of points claimed at home was recorded.
Only countries that won at least 50 group stage points were included while all the clubs featured had to have played at least five group stages.
And in a surprise twist, Scotland was revealed as the most difficult place to go in the Champions League, with the study author citing the “intimidating atmospheres” on offer at both Celtic Park and Ibrox during European nights.
Interestingly, Netherlands came second in the study, just ahead of Greece, Turkey, and Russia.
At club level, Celtic came out on top as the toughest place to go just ahead of Galatasaray and Ajax in third.
So does the old adage about Eastern Europe being a difficult place to go ring true? Perhaps, though with the addition of Scottish champions Celtic.
Fortress Parkhead is very much alive and kicking. Take a look at the research, in full, here.