The quality of the teams we see fight it out in the Champions League’s latter stages seems to get better every year. And yet while the competition frequently brings us some undeniably beautiful football and stunning moments, top quality doesn’t always guarantee top football matches.
If there’s one fixture which is a surefire barnstormer though, it’s Chelsea Vs. Barcelona. For whatever reason, when these two sides meet in Europe, there’s never a dull moment. Their modern Champions League rivalry is a fascinating one. Full of wonder goals, incidents and end-to-end action, Chelsea more than hold their own against the Spanish giants. In fact, of the 13 times they’ve met in the last two decades there have been six draws, three wins for Barca and four for The Blues.
Wednesday evening sees the second leg of their latest clash, to determine who goes through to the Quarter Finals of this year’s competition. We know it’s going to be another classic (surely). But before we enjoy the latest scrap, we thought we’d take a stroll down Memory Lane and pick out our five favourite moments from the tie down the years…
Comeback Kings (2000)
18 years ago saw the first of many crunch CL ties between the West Londoners and their glamorous Catalan foes. It was to be the start of a special rivalry. The first leg at Stamford Bridge saw the hosts sail into a early 3-0 lead through a sexy Zola free kick and a brace from the much-loved lankiness that was Tore Andre Flo. The game ended 3-1. Barca had a lot to do in the return leg…
Norwegian Flo netted in the second game, but then so too did Rivaldo, Figo and Garcia Daniel Dani. The second 90 minutes finished 3-1. So extra time was needed. Barcelona had the momentum and a Rivaldo penalty and Patrick Kluivert goal saw the game end 5-1 And 6-4 on aggregate.
Toe-Poking Fun (2005)
We enter The Mourinho Years now and the Portuguese manager was – at this time – still quite annoyed by his perceived bad treatment by Barcelona from earlier in his career. So he was motivated to beat them back in 2005. And his charges were seemingly only too pleased to oblige him, with goals flying in everywhere in this second leg game (Barca won the first leg at the Nou Camp 2-1). Chelsea would emerge 4-2 winners in the second match and progress.
Yet despite these five Chelsea goals across the two games, it was a piece of sublime brilliance from the ever-mercurial Ronaldinho that sticks in the mind. Digging the ball out from beneath his feet, the Brazilian somehow managed to clip a toe poke past Petr Cech and the entire Chelsea back line. From 20 yards.
Frank ‘Angles’ Lampard (2007)
Determined not to be outdone by Ronaldinho, Frank Lampard decided to bide his time and get in on the action some 18 months later. The two sides had been drawn in the same group and Didier Drogba’s lone goal won the Londoners the first tie at Stamford Bridge.
The second game would end 2-2, the peach of the four goals being this awesomely audacious effort from the England international. How Lampard manages to beat Valdes at that angle is anyone’s guess.
Last Minute Heartbreak (2009)
This semi-final second leg still grates most Blues supporters. After 90 minutes of really quite woeful refereeing where the man in charge seemingly refused to give Chelsea anything, injury time was all that stood in Chelsea’s way…
Cue – at the very last second – Andres Iniesta. A shot in the dying moments of the game from 20 yards out sailed past Cech and into the net. It was 1-1. And Barca progressed to the final on the good ol’ away goal rule.
Comeback Kings 2: Chelsea’s Revenge
12 years on from Barcelona’s stunning comeback against them – and three years on from that Iniesta goal – Chelsea finally got their revenge. And in the most dramatic way imaginable. The two teams met in the Semi-Final. Chelsea won the home leg 1-0. But with Busquets and that man Iniesta again putting the Spaniards 2-0 up in the second leg, things looked tough. They were made even tougher when John Terry was sent off.
And then, against the run of play, Ramires scored a delightful chip and the tie was 2-2, with Chelsea having the away goal advantage. The drama was nowhere near finished, though. Barcelona got a penalty. Messi stepped up. Messi missed. Moments later, the most famous modern-day counter-attack goal ever scored. Torres rounds the ‘keeper. Chelsea progress.
Chelsea would go on to beat Bayern Munich in the final.
Will Wednesday’s match produce a piece of classic Champions League action to rival any of these? We’re hopeful.
If you fancy catching the action on a big screen and with some decent atmosphere, why not head down to your local Rileys for it, eh…?