The biggest Champions League Finals that weren’t.

With Barcelona securing their place in the 2015 UEFA Champions League Final on Tuesday night, Real Madrid last night had the chance to set up a fixture involving the two clubs that arguably make up the biggest rivalry in football.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s first half penalty put Carlo Ancelotti’s men en route to overturning their first leg deficit against Juventus, but it was cancelled out on the night by Alvaro Morata, whose goal was decisive in winning the tie for the Italian Champions.

Not only did it end Real Madrid’s hopes of being the first team to successfully defend the trophy in the era of the Champions League, but it denied football fans a chance to witness a mouth-watering ‘El Clasico’ in the season’s finale in Berlin next month.

It’s not the first time that the two bitter rivals have missed out on facing each other in the final. Here are five other occasions that have almost led to some of European football’s biggest rivalries in the Champions League final.

2000 Real Madrid v Barcelona

When Real Madrid completed an aggregate win over Bayern Munich in their semi final, attention turned to the second leg of Barcelona v Valencia. It was already guaranteed to be an all-Spanish fixture in Paris, but Barcelona had to overcome a 4-1 first leg hammering.

At the Camp Nou, there was little sign that there would be a successful comeback, and Gaizka Mendieta’s second half opener for Valencia virtually killed off any Barcelona dreams of a miracle.

The Catalans did manage to turn the game around on the night, but were soundly beaten over the two legs.

2007 Liverpool v Man United

Man United had demolished Roma in the quarter final, and were paired with another team from Serie A in the last four: AC Milan.

Inconsistent in the Italian league, where they were struggling to secure a place in the following season’s Champions League, and not much more convincing in Europe, Milan were considered underdogs against a Man United team on the verge of claiming the Premier League title.

A 3-2 win for Man United in the first leg was a result that flattered a Milan side heavily reliant on the brilliance of Kaka. And after Liverpool had overturned a first leg defeat to knock out Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, it looked likely that an Athens final against Man United would be on the cards.

But Milan had other ideas, and after scoring early in the game to lead on aggregate, eventually ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.

2008 Man United v Liverpool

For the third time in four years, Liverpool and Chelsea met in a semi final of the Champions League. And, as English sides continued to dominate the latter stages, Man United made up the same English trio as in the last four only a year earlier.

Completing the semi-final lineup was Barcelona, and despite the attacking talent on display from both teams, it was a single second leg goal by Paul Scholes that settled the tie and took United to Moscow.

The other tie was even closer still.

Liverpool were denied a first leg win when a 94th minute own goal by John Arne Riise gifted Chelsea a 1-1 draw at Anfield.

The goal proved costly, and after Liverpool earned a draw after a closely-fought 90 minutes in the return leg, the Reds trailed 3-1 by half time in extra time. A late Ryan Babel goal put Liverpool within a goal of winning the tie on away goals, but Chelsea held on to deny a Champions League final showdown between England’s two most successful teams.

2012 Real Madrid v Barcelona

Having met each other in the 2010/11 semi final in Jose Mourinho’s first season, Barcelona and Real Madrid were kept apart in the draw twelve months later, with both teams considered strong favourites to win their respective ties.

Single-goal first leg defeats for both teams weren’t considered to be too damaging to the prospect of Spain’s top two contesting the final, with each club playing their away fixtures first.

However, the second legs were disastrous for anyone hoping to see the famous El Clasico fixture played out in a Munich final.

Barcelona appeared certain to send Chelsea crashing out after earning a 2-0 lead – and a one-man advantage following John Terry’s dismissal. But after an inspired performance from Chelsea ‘keeper Petr Cech and a penalty miss by Lionel Messi, it was Fernando Torres who had the final say on the match – netting from a counter attack in injury time as Barcelona desperately sought the goal needed.

After Chelsea had scuppered the prospect of a Barcelona v Real Madrid final, Bayern Munich went on to ruin Jose Mourinho’s hopes of leading Real Madrid to a final against his former team, with victory in a penalty shootout in Madrid.

2013 Real Madrid v Barcelona

The two teams were at it yet again, in the pursuit of a place in the 2013 final at Wembley. Barcelona faced Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid were paired with Borussia Dortmund at the semi final stage.

After overturning a 2-0 deficit to thrash Milan in the last sixteen, and then knocking out Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter finals, there was no sign that Barcelona were heading for a crushing defeat at the hands of Bayern. A 4-0 loss in the first leg effectively ended any hopes of reaching the final though, and another potential final against Real Madrid had slipped away.

But only 24 hours later, even Barcelona’s result was overshadowed by Real Madrid’s 4-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund. Four goals from Robert Lewandowski left Jose Mourinho facing a third successive year as a semi final loser, at a club where he was appointed specifically for the task of winning the Champions League.

Madrid did put up some resistance in the return fixture, winning 2-0 – though both goals came in the final seven minutes, and Dortmund held on for a surprise overall win.

Barcelona’s chances of recovery were much slimmer, and against even more formidable opposition. They were beaten 7-0 on aggregate, the most emphatic loss suffered by any team at the last four stage in the Champions League, and instead of two Spanish giants competing Wembley, it was Germany who provided both finalists.

Leave a Reply