Manchester City’s dramatic date with Real Madrid tonight will spark the revival of a great tradition of games between English and Spanish clubs in European competition.
It’s City’s first time in the Champions League’s last four, and the blue half of Manchester is buzzing with excitement. City are second-favourites tonight and in the tie overall – 15/8 to win at the Etihad and the same odds to qualify.
So, as we look back on five fantastic clashes between the biggest and brightest of English and Spanish football, we’ll start with a certain former Atletico Madrid star whose semi-final path Sergio Aguero will be looking to follow.
Newcastle United 3-2 Barcelona (September 17 1997)
It’s easy to forget what a force the Magpies were during the latter half of the 1990s. Following two second-placed Premier League finishes in the previous two seasons, the Tynesiders recorded their most impressive result in the Champions League group stage, besting Barcelona 3-2.
Enigmatic Colombian forward Faustino Asprilla netted a superb hat-trick – a coolly taken penalty and two bullet headers – before Barca made it nervy with goals from current Blaugrana boss Luis Enrique and Luis Figo producing a tense climax. Kenny Dalglish’s men held on though, and despite an eventual group-stage exit, this remains one of the most memorable nights in St James’ Park history.
Liverpool 5-4 Deportivo Alaves (May 16 2001)
Ask any English football fan what they remember about the UEFA Cup, and you’re likely to get this game as an answer. Liverpool may have knocked out Barcelona in the semi-finals, but their final victory against Basque club Alaves was the most memorable night of the Reds’ treble-winning campaign.
Anfield legends Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler scored during a breathless 87 minutes in which Liverpool looked to have snatched a 4-3 victory. But former Manchester United man Jordi Cruyff headed home to take this unbelievable game into extra time.
Liverpool’s winner came via the unlikely source of Alaves defender Delfi Geli, who made it 5-4 to the Merseysiders with an own-goal. A fittingly crazy end to an utterly incredible game.
Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal (May 17 2006)
Having defeated Real Madrid with an especially tight 1-0 aggregate win, before brushing aside Juventus and Villarreal without conceding, it appeared that Arsene Wenger’s men were impossible to score against.
Even after losing ‘keeper Jens Lehmann to a reckless red card in the early stages, the Gunners held firm, and the ever-reliable Sol Campbell opened the scoring for the 10 men with a sensational header.
The north London club held onto their lead until the latter stages, before Samuel Eto’o equalised and Juliano Belletti picked the perfect time to score the only goal of his three-year spell at Barca. His next move after leaving the Nou Camp? To Chelsea, of course – just in case you thought Gunners fans had forgiven him.
Real Madrid 6-5 Manchester United (April 2003)
While non-football fans were playing Snake on their Nokia 3310 and getting Avril Lavigne to the top of the charts, there was only one thing captivating those who followed the beautiful game in April 2003 as two huge powers clashed.
Los Blancos won an entertaining first leg 3-1 at the Bernabeu, with Sir Alex Ferguson in unforgiving mood for the United players he felt had “conceded bad goals” in the Spanish capital. And his charges were certainly fired up for the return leg, backed by a cauldron of noise within Old Trafford.
Brazilian legend Ronaldo swung the tie for the 12-time European Cup winners, with his hat-trick at Old Trafford cancelling out United’s four goals on the night – from Ruud van Nistelrooy, a David Beckham double and a generous own-goal from Ivan Helguera. What Louis van Gaal wouldn’t give for another huge European tie at Old Trafford.
Chelsea 3-2 Barcelona (April 2012)
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Fernando Torres during his four-year stint at Stamford Bridge, but the rangy Spaniard endeared himself to the Blues faithful with the crucial Nou Camp strike which took the west Londoners a step closer to winning their first ever Champions League crown.
Didier Drogba scored the only goal in a tense, chess-like tactical battle at Stamford Bridge, but it was Barca who looked like hot favourites by the time Andres Iniesta made it 2-0 on the night in the reverse fixture.
Ramires’ fine lob made it 2-2 on aggregate though, and Torres’ fine individual goal capped an incredible comeback from the Blues. The Stamford Bridge club famously went on to win the final against Bayern Munich.
Could Manchester City be doing that exact thing in Milan on May 28?
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.