We love watching big teams play big games in the biggest club competitions of the world. So what big matches do fans hope to watch and enjoy in this European campaign? Here’s a look at five such games.
Juventus vs. Liverpool
This does not qualify as a Champions League game this season, nonetheless, it’s one which fans would love to feast their eyes on. There’s a dark history surrounding this fixture. The 1985 Champions League final was a stage set for a grand match between these two successful European giants. But, a tragedy occurred before the game – several fans (mostly Juventus fans) died in the Heysel Stadium disaster when a masonry wall collapsed under the pressure of escaping fans. To this date, it remains the darkest hour in all UEFA competitions. The game, however, was played and Michel Platini won it for Juventus, after scoring from the spot . It was after that day that UEFA handed all English clubs an indefinite ban from European competitions, which was later lifted in 1991. These two pillars of club football once again clashed against each other 20 years later. The first leg was played at Anfield resulting in a 2-1 victory for Liverpool courtesy of Hyppia and Luis Garcia. The second leg ended 0-0 and Liverpool had taken revenge for the 1985 game. It would be an irony if these two clash after 25 years of the Heysel Stadium disaster. There’s plenty of history attached to this fixture, and the fans would hope they meet in the Europa League final.
Inter Milan vs. AC Milan
Few rivalries can be as full blooded as this one. Inter and AC, two teams that share the same stadium, are one of the top 10 rivals in world football. In Europe, they have a petite record facing each other. Only twice have they faced each other. Back in 2002-2003, in the Champions League semifinal, these two faced each other in what was a highly anticipated game. Milan were held to a 0-0 draw in their home game. But in the away leg, Milan came good as Shevchenko gave them the lead. Inter were only able to draw the game with Martins scoring a late equalizer, but it went in vain. They again met in the 2005 Champions League quarterfinal. Milan won the first leg sweeping Inter apart with goals from Japp Stam and Shevchenko. The away leg generated controversy. Inter knew they had to turn the 2-0 deficit around, but instead conceded a 30th minute goal. The Inter fans who were obviously furious, started throwing fireworks, plastic bottles, flares and umbrellas onto the pitch after the 75th minute. The referee then decided to forfeit the game and awarded a 3-0 victory to Milan. But, these days Inter are the one that has been dominant among the two. The current holders will look to get one over their rivals. And the stage can’t get any bigger than this year’s Champions League. AC Milan are the ones to beat in this fixture, but Inter are the ones to beat in Europe. So this makes for one spicy and tasty affair.
Chelsea vs. Barcelona
There are very few games that can match the intensity of the games between the Londoners and the Catalans. The first time these two teams met was in the quarterfinals of the Champions League in 1999-2000 when Barca came out victorious. Mourinho was the “traductor” at Barcelona then. But five years later, he ironically found himself as the head coach of Chelsea. Chelsea and Barca were tied against each other and this fixture turned out to be one of the most memorable and controversial ones. Having taken the advantage from home, Barcelona found themselves trailing 3-0 at the Bridge. But Ronaldinho produced one of the greatest goals in Champions League history to reduce the deficit. Controversy ignited as John Terry headed home from a set-piece, leaving the Catalans fuming. Revenge was not too late for Barca as they defeated Chelsea at Bridge in the first knockout round the following year after a controversial decision saw Asier Del Horno sent off.
In the second leg, Barca completed the business and won the tie. Recently, these two met in the semifinals of the 2008-2009 Champions League. After playing out a boring 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou, the stage was set for a firecracker at the Bridge. Michael Essien gave Chelsea the lead with a spectacular volley early on. Barca’s misery heightened, as Abidal was controversially sent off after he had supposedly stopped Anelka from behind. But it was not until the 90th minute did the drama hit the pinnacle. Chelsea looked comfortable until Iniesta popped up and scored the equalizer in stoppage time to send the away fans on frenzy. After that, from a corner, the ball hit Eto’o’s hand inside the penalty area but referee Ovrebo shockingly neglected the Chelsea players’ appeals leaving them enraged. There’s so much drama attached to this fixture that the fans would love to see a repeat. A possible quarterfinal or a semifinal clash between these two would be an absolute mouthwatering prospect.
Manchester United vs. Real Madrid
This is an epic fixture, filled with quality, glitz, glamour, and passion. When the two most popular football clubs play each other, the world comes to a standstill and expectations scale is sky-high. These two played in the 1950s and 1960s, each sharing the spoils. Then, in the first leg of the 1999-2000 seasons, they played at the Bernabeu to a dreary 0-0 draw. But the game at Old Trafford was a completely different tale and both teams looked to unlock the other’s defence. However, it was Real that took the lead through an unfortunate own goal by Roy Keane. They then doubled their lead in the second half when Raul scored a beauty. The game was all over when Fernando Redondo produced a piece of magic to set up Raul to score into an empty net. Man Utd got back to make it 2-3, but it was too late for a victory.
They met again in 2003 in the quarterfinals, a fixture remembered by some as the greatest game in football. The first leg, played at the Bernabeu saw Real turn on the heat and produce a masterful attacking performance to lead 3-0, with a goal from Figo and a brace from Raul. United managed to take home a solo away goal from Van Nistelrooy. In the second leg, we witnessed one of the greatest games in Champions League history. Having taken a healthy lead from the first leg, Real looked to finish business and took the lead twice before Man Utd equalized twice. It was 3-5 on aggregate and the crowd panted for more and got exactly that, as Ronaldo completed his hat trick with an astounding long ranger getting a standing ovation from the Old Trafford faithful. There were more twists to this already sensational match as United scored two late equalizers from Beckham and made the aggregate an incomparable 5-6. The fans had witnessed one of the most entertaining games ever. This fixture is long due and the fans would give anything to watch these two teams clash this season in the Champions League, either in a semifinal or a final.
Real Madrid vs. Barcelona
No one would not want to see an El Gran Classico in a Champions League final. Whenever Real Madrid and Barcelona, two of the most successful clubs in football history, play against each other, the stakes are raised to infinite levels. The first European El Classico in 1959-1960 was won by Real 6-2 on aggregate. The following year, they met once again in the first round, this time Barcelona triumphed in contentious circumstances. The first leg ended level at 2-2. Barcelona won the second leg 2-1 after English referee Reg Leafe had disallowed three legitimate Real Madrid goals.
After that, fans and players had to wait 42 more years to witness this fixture. In 2002, Real Madrid’s Galacticos were at the peak of their game. Both made it to the semifinals that year and Barca had plans of slashing Real’s centenary year celebrations. The first leg was again played at the Bernabeu which ended in a stalemate 1-1 draw, a goal from Raul and an own goal from Helguera. The second leg saw Zidane demonstrate his artistry to win it 2-0 as Real Madrid rolled past Barcelona and win the Champions League in their centenary year, beating Leverkusen in the final when Zidane scored that goal. This year, Real Madrid and Barcelona are equal in terms of players’ potential, at least on paper. So, we could probably see one of the best games, if these two teams clash in the Champions League.
Two key figures if we witness a Classico in Europe!
We think these are the games fans would love to watch this season, in Europe. What matches would you love to watch? Share that in our comments section.