The history of all-English meetings in the UCL

All English UEFA Champions League ties always offer tense and dramatic affairs with club rivalries clashing on the European stage. Two English teams have contested the final on more than one occasion. In terms of the recent history of the competition, Manchester City are a club that have been present in all-English affairs, but in the early 2000s, the former ‘big four’ of Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal played out some fascinating fixtures.

There have been high-scoring knockout ties, last-minute drama and Video Assistant Referee controversies. But which were the landmark all-English Champions League meetings throughout the history of the competition?

Manchester City’s shortcomings

City have faced English sides in the UCL on three different occasions as favourites but faced defeat in all of the encounters. The final against Chelsea in Porto of 2021/22 was the closest that Manchester City have come to achieving a UCL triumph up to now. But perhaps that could change this season, Pep Guardiola’s side will first face RB Leipzig in the round of 16 and they will be heavy favourites, but Leipzig’s UCL fixtures often tend to be full of goals. While City are expected to achieve victory in both legs by the bookmakers, Caesars Sportsbook offers the best odds for both teams to score on the day of the first leg at 4/7 for the tie that will be played in Leipzig. City have suffered away defeats many teams in the UCL and have had to chase the tie at the Etihad and they will hope to avoid that this time around, but Leipzig are a clear threat in front of goal, as highlighted by the betting markets.

It is a real possibility that there could be an all-English affair in the UCL this season if the likes of City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea progress to the last eight as they would make up half of the pot for the quarter-final stage.

Pep vs Klopp

City’s first UCL tie against English opposition came against Liverpool. Guardiola’s side were huge favourites as they were the runaway Premier League leaders facing Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side battling for a top-four finish. However, City’s domestic dominance did not translate to European competition. In the first leg at Anfield, City were damaged by an early onslaught aided by the raucous home crowd as Liverpool raced to a three-goal lead within half an hour. Mohamed Salah opened the scoring from a counterattack, followed by an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain long-range effort which Ederson Moraes did not have a chance of saving. Sadio Mane ended the scoring in the 31st minute of the contest.

In the return leg at the Etihad, City started brightly with an early Gabriel Jesus goal and they mounted more and more pressure on a defensive-focused Liverpool side up until the break. Liverpool then came out rejuvenated and managed to not only secure their progress through to the semi-final but also achieved victory on the night. Salah and Roberto Firmino got the goals that awarded Liverpool a 5-1 victory on aggregate, which is the biggest deficit ever recorded in an all-English UCL tie.

City vs Spurs

In the following season, City was again drawn to play an English team in the quarter-final of the competition. Tottenham Hotspur provided the opposition this time and again City would have to play away first. Sergio Aguero missed a vital penalty at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which was a huge opportunity to get his side a crucial away goal. Heung-min Son went on to score the only goal and Spurs took a narrow lead to the Etihad.

The second leg of the contest arguably takes the crown for the most exciting individual all-English fixture in the history of European football. Within 21 minutes at the Etihad, five goals had been scored with both sides having led on the night at one stage. Raheem Sterling and Son both had a brace and Bernardo Silva also found the net. At half-time, the sides were tied at 3-3 on aggregate with Spurs’ away goals set to send them through. Aguero did eventually have his say in the tie when he found the net just shy of the hour mark and with the home crowd behind them, City swiftly changed the tempo and control of the tie. Spurs continued to fight back and with Fernando Llorente on the pitch, they were a huge threat from set pieces. Spurs got their reward when the Basque striker found the net from a corner with less than 20 minutes to play. 

A resilient Spurs low block restricted City to few chances in the closing stages and they looked set to secure their passage to the semi-final stage but the tie still had more drama remaining. Raheem Sterling thought he had sent his side through after beating Hugo Lloris from close range in the final moments. Following a lengthy VAR review, the goal was judged to have been offside and subsequently ruled out, and City bowed out of the competition in the cruelest way imaginable.

City’s sole UCL final appearance against Chelsea had very little drama compared to their other encounters with English opposition. They were tactically outdone by Thomas Tuchel’s defensive setup as they were beaten on the counter-attack by a Kai Havertz finish which was the only goal in the game that made Chelsea two-time champions of Europe.

The Moscow final

Chelsea and Manchester United have met twice in European meetings, but the most significant came in the UCL final in Moscow in 2008. It was the first time that two English teams had met in the final and the quality of the occasion itself did not disappoint. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring early on before Frank Lampard struck his side level shortly before the break. A goalless remainder of the game followed right up until penalties despite the encounter being a feisty, end-to-end contest played at an incredibly high intensity. Didier Drogba was sent off a matter of minutes before penalties and this arguably cost Chelsea greatly. 

The London side had a chance to win the shootout when John Terry stepped up to take the fifth Chelsea penalty after Ronaldo missed for United. But the English international lost his footing and hit the post. Sudden death followed and remarkably United claimed victory as Ryan Giggs scored and Nicolas Anelka missed.

Chelsea has also had many high-scoring ties with Liverpool in the competition including the 7-5 aggregate victory in the following season of 2008/09. The second leg of the occasion included a couple of iconic free kicks both coming from Brazilians. Fabio Aurelio caught out Petr Cech at the near post and Alex’s long-range effort had power and placement which gave Pepe Reina no chance.

Historically Chelsea has had the most European rivalries with fellow Premier League teams as they have faced Liverpool, United and even city rivals Arsenal in the 2003/04 Champions League. In modern times City has begun to take over the trend of most commonly facing English sides in the UCL, but with a lack of success in contrast. In Istanbul this year, City could finally overcome their Champions League woes, or perhaps Liverpool or Chelsea could add to their tallies of European triumphs.

Read – Six Premier League players in the form of their life right now

Read Also – Gunmen! The top scorers from each of Europe’s top five leagues

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