The European Cup was reformed into the UEFA Champions League in the year 1992 and since then, it’s been the biggest Cup competition in European club football. The group stage features 32 teams who form 8 groups of four teams each and the top two sides from each group make it to the knock-out stages or the round of 16. From there the sides play two-legged ties until the final.
From the 2017-18 season, the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga will be represented by four sides in the Champions League. Prior to the changed allotments, only the Premier, Bundesliga and the La Liga were allotted four slots.
The Spanish sides have dominated the European competition historically and in recent seasons. Real Madrid, who have won the last two editions, have won the European Cup and the Champions League a combined 12 times and have been the runners-up three times.
Real Madrid’s arch-rivals Barcelona have won it five times and were the last side to win it before Real Madrid. Italian side AC Milan are the second most successful side in the competition’s history with seven titles.
Germany and England are represented are Bayern Munich and Liverpool respectively and the two sides are tied on five titles.
In the last decade or so, we’ve seen quite a few rivalries on the European stage as well. Here are a few of them…
Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid – The two La Liga giants have faced each other twice in the last four years and both times in the final. Being local rivals makes the game a pretty big deal but the past Champions league fixtures have added more drama to the tie. Real Madrid came out on top on both occasions.
Barcelona vs Manchester United – They two faced each other twice in the Champions League final – 2009 and 2011 – where Barcelona came out on top. Before that, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United had beaten Barcelona in the semi-finals of the 2007 season on their way to lifting the title which also happens to be their last Champions League title.
Liverpool vs Chelsea – The two English sides have shared some tantalising encounters in the knock-out stages of the Champions League. The first time they faced off was in the 2004-05 semi-final when a Luis Garcia ghost-goal turned out to be the difference. Liverpool then relied on penalties to beat Chelsea in the 2006-07 Champions League season. Chelsea finally managed to break the jinx when they knocked out the Merseyside outfit in the 2007-08 season on their way to losing to Manchester United in the final.
As revealed earlier, Real Madrid have won the last two editions and though they haven’t been doing well in the La Liga, they’ve done well in the Champions League. Barcelona are on the up and along with Bayern Munich, they’ll be the biggest challengers to the Madrid side. The English sides have done fairly well as well as the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur could make the latter stages of the competition.