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Scoring defenders, season-long leaders

If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to ESPN's team of football anoraks at and they will try to answer as many as possible.

Are there any defenders (centre-backs) who have scored double digits in any season (league goals)? I once read that Marco 'The Matrix' Materazzi once scored 16 league goals in a season, Henry from Nigeria asked.

There are. Steve Bruce scored 19 times for Manchester United in the 1990-91 season, 13 of them in the old Division One. Materazzi's best is 12 league goals in a Serie A campaign, which he achieved for Perugia in 2000-01, and he twice got double figures.

Fernando Hierro struck 26 times (21 in La Liga) in 1991-92 and followed that up by scoring 18 goals (13 of them in the league) in 1992-93. However, the complication here is that, while he spent the majority of his Real Madrid career at the back, he was often used in midfield. In Hierro's most prolific season, Ronald Koeman also chipped in with 16 for Barcelona. Both were set-piece specialists and Koeman, who scored more than 200 goals for his club and country in a career largely spent at the back, is regarded as the most prolific defender ever.

The 1978 World Cup winner Daniel Passarella struck 24 times in the Argentine league in 1976 -- the most by a defender in a single season I am aware of. He also reached double figures in a Serie A season during his time at Fiorentina.

Has any team stayed at the top of the Premier League from the start to the finish of a season? Brown from Nigeria asked.

The short answer is no. However, Chelsea have a claim to have done that. Jose Mourinho's team of 2005-06 were champions and, by winning each of their first nine league games, made a perfect start to the season.

Nevertheless, the fixture list means that, technically, they weren't top throughout. The season began on August 13, but Chelsea did not play until the following day, when they beat Wigan 1-0. That took them from 13th -- because 12 other teams had picked up at least a point the previous day -- to sixth place, but only behind early-season pacesetters Charlton on goal difference.

The following weekend, and for the second round of fixtures, Chelsea again played on the Sunday. So they slipped down to ninth on the Saturday before a 1-0 win against Arsenal took them up to fourth, level on points with Tottenham, who were top, but with an inferior goal difference.

The third round of games came in the following midweek. Chelsea, who played on Wednesday, again kicked off after many other teams, and dropped to fifth on Tuesday night. When Mourinho's team beat West Brom 4-0 on the Wednesday, they went top. It was August 24 and from then on, they remained in front until the campaign concluded on May 7. So while Chelsea were briefly behind others, they never trailed anyone who had played the same number of games except on goal fifference.

In the old Division One, by the way, Tottenham's Double winners of 1960-61 were top after they had played each of their 42 league games. However, unlike Mourinho's Chelsea, their early season fixtures were before those of some of their rivals and so, when Sheffield Wednesday won their second game, they displaced Spurs at the top on goal average. To confuse matters, however, had goal difference been the deciding factor when teams were level on points, as it now is, Tottenham would have remained in first place.

There are five clubs in the Champions League with Fly Emirates on their shirts: Real Madrid, Benfica, PSG, Arsenal and AC Milan. What were the chances that four of these clubs would be drawn into one group? Pallak from India asked.

It was impossible, simply because of the seeding system. Real Madrid, Benfica and Arsenal were in the top pool of seeds, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain were in the second, while none of them were in the third or fourth group. So the maximum number that could have been drawn together was two. As it was, Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica were paired in Group C.


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