Three Champions League underdog stories to inspire Leicester City
They’re the greatest underdog story in the history of professional football, but even so, Leicester City might just need a little extra spirit when they take on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.
Handily, we’ve dug out three perfect examples.
The Champions League isn’t all about your Barcelonas, your Bayern Munichs and your Real Madrids.
Here’s three occasions when the big boys were royally upstaged…
Dortmund – 1996-1997 (Champions)
The original Champions League underdog heroes. They may have been Bundesliga champions in both 1995 and 1996, but nobody really fancied Borussia Dortmund to offer much on the continent 20 seasons ago.
Four years earlier BvB had reached the UEFA Cup final, only to be downed by a Roberto and Dino Baggio inspired Juventus over two legs.
Fate decried they would meet again here. The German outfit came second in their group, then defeated Auxerre and Manchester United in the knockout stages.
Juve were still Europe’s top dogs however, and were reigning European champions to boot.
In Alessandro del Piero they had found Roberto Baggio’s natural heir, while they also boasted Zinedine Zidane, Christian Vieri and Didier Deschamps to name but a few.
They also waltzed to that season’s Serie A title, conceding just 24 times while in Europe they had let in just four goals in their run to the final.
All of this just made Dortmund’s 3-1 victory even more of a shock. Karl-Heinze Riedle netted twice in five first-half minutes, while super-sub Lars Ricken quickly cancelled out Del Piero’s second-half reply.
Zidane? He was marked out of the game by Paul Lambert as Dortmund defied the odds.
Dynamo Kiev – 1998-1999 (Semi-finalists)
While everyone remembers this season as *that* final between Manchester United and Bayern Munich in Barcelona, Dynamo Kiev enjoyed their own piece of history in the same campaign.
The Ukrainian champions had reached the quarter-finals in the prior season, but stepped it up a notch here.
Faced with a tricky group featuring Arsenal, Lille and Panathinaikos, Kiev topped them all, as the world comprehensively found out about Andriy Shevchenko, and, to a lesser extent, Sergie Rebrov.
At least one of the pair scored in all six group games, including Rebrov’s 92nd-minute equaliser against Arsenal at Wembley.
Boosted by the experiences of the year before, Kiev then confidently defeated Real Madrid in the last eight where that man Shevchenko netted them all in a 3-1 aggregate win.
And so they went into the semi-finals, where for a while they had a real shot at it versus Bayern.
The future AC Milan and Chelsea striker was again in unstoppable form, helping Kiev go 2-0 and 3-1 up in the first-leg.
But the German giants bagged twice in the final 15 minutes to level it all at 3-3, before a 1-0 home win ensured it was they who would face Man United in the Nou Camp. Nevertheless, Kiev had firmly put themselves – and Shevchenko – on the map.
Monaco – 2003-2004 (Finalists)
This season was one of opportunity, and Monaco struck. Arsenal were invincible in England but couldn’t cut it in Europe, Manchester United were in a period of transition having just signed a teenage Cristiano Ronaldo, while Chelsea were finding their feet following Roman Abramovic’s takeover.
There were similar periods of change at Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus.
This Monaco team had only avoided relegation by six points two seasons earlier, but now they boasted the attacking talents of Fernando Morientes, Ludovic Giuly and future Rangers legend Dado Prso.
A young Patrice Evra was also making sure the French side kept things tight at the back.
Topping a competitive group by scoring more goals than anyone else – thanks to an 8-3 hammering of Deportivo, Monaco then saw off Lokomotiv Moscow to reach the quarter-finals.
Up next was Real Madrid, and this was no ordinary Madrid side, remember. This was the Galacticos, featuring Zidane, Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo, David Beckham and the original Ronaldo.
Amazingly, the Spanish outfit were beaten as Monaco came through on away goals. Sebastian Squilacci (remember him, Arsenal fans?) and Morientes netted in a 4-2 defeat at the Bernabeu before the Spaniard and Giuly did the business in the second leg 3-1.
That done, Monaco then saw off Claudio Ranieri’s Chelsea 5-3, Morientes again netting in both legs.
But after firing in 12 goals in the knockout stages, Les Monagasques came unstuck in the final, losing 3-0 to Jose Mourinho’s Porto.
It does however, remain the only time a French side has reached the Champions League final in the last 23 years.
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