Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Europe: could “Super League” proposals be a danger to football?

Posted in European Football, North and Central American Football, UK Football by peterbein on April 4, 2013

Could Celtic and Rangers meet again in the English Premier League, thus creating a British super league?

There was a report in the British press earlier this week in which the UK prime minister David Cameron is said to have expressed his desire for the Glasgow “Old Firm” of Celtic Football Club and Rangers Football Club to join the English Premier League (EPL). One may question Cameron’s political motives behind the proposal as he seeks to influence the vote north of the border in the oncoming referendum on Scottish independence to be held in September 2014 but the idea is far from new. In the Former Soviet Union (FSU), momentum has also gathered pace as a number of owners from top clubs in Russia and Ukraine seek to form a breakaway championship run along the same lines as the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) which has been a major success since its inception in 2008. In the United States three Canadian clubs feature alongside their American counterparts showing that cross-border championships do happen in soccer as well as in other sports such as ice hockey, basketball and baseball. If the ideas proposed in the UK and the Former Soviet Union are eventually given the green light in the future will the leagues be as super as they look on paper or will it destroy the essence of the game?

As the Scottish Premier League has diminished in strength over the last 25 years it was always going to result in calls for the big two of the Scottish game to apply to join the English league system. Since Aberdeen FC, under the management of Alex Ferguson, became the last team from outside the Old Firm to win the Scottish championship in the 1984-85 season, Rangers and Celtic have completely dominated the league to the point where any potential third force capable of breaking the duopoly seems almost impossible. But where would the Old Firm begin any potential English journey? Some have suggested that they should begin the Conference league (fifth tier), some say in the Championship (second tier) whilst some call for the Old Firm to join the Premier League at the first opportunity in order to increase what is already a substantial TV contract. Were the two Glasgow giants to join the EPL any time soon they see themselves playing against the likes of traditional major English clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea, to name but four, as well as the possibility of facing the two biggest Welsh clubs of Swansea City, who are already in the EPL, and Cardiff City, who look very likely to join them next season, in order to create a truly British super league.

This proposal, although attractive to many, would also see any number of clubs voting themselves out of a certain league in order to accommodate the Old Firm. Therefore the situation would be unlikely as it would be like turkeys voting for Christmas but it seems unlikely that the issue will go away. The alternative for the Old Firm would be to create what has been termed the “Atlantic League” along with the biggest clubs from the likes of Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavia in order to create more meaningful and lucrative opposition. The biggest clubs from those countries, for example FC Porto, Ajax Amsterdam and RSC Anderlecht, continue to dominate leagues in which competition over the years has weakened due to the increasing financial and sporting might of the big leagues. An Atlantic League would, therefore, allow stronger competition outside of officially sanctioned UEFA tournaments such as the Champions League and Europa League.

Could the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk (orange) and Zenit St Petersburg meet in a new super league?

In the case of the Former Soviet Union there will be many who miss football matches of the calibre of Spartak Moscow v Dynamo Kyiv, Zenit Saint Petersburg v Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Shakhtar Donetsk v CSKA Moscow. Owners and sponsors of the some of the biggest football clubs in the region are behind the idea to merge the top leagues of Russia and Ukraine together. Just like with the situation in the UK, there are perhaps political machinations at work in relation to the proposed new set-up here too. Ukraine is a country which is stuck between a rock and a hard place and seems to face a choice as to whether it wishes to become a member state of the European Union or to align itself with its former master of Russia. Whatever the political issues the new money which is prevalent amongst the biggest clubs in both Russia and Ukraine could force the hand of European football’s governing body UEFA who are naturally against such mergers. Increasingly, in the modern game, money talks and one wonders if the status quo will remain in place for much longer especially as the sport of ice hockey in the FSU region provides the footballing hierarchy with a prime example of a trans-national sporting competition which provides ice hockey clubs from Russia the chance to compete in arguably the second best competition in the world (after the National Hockey League in the US and Canada) alongside clubs from Ukraine, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Belraus, Czech Republic and Slovakia.

It is not just in ice hockey where the trans-national approach has been broadly welcomed. Rugby union has embraced such competition in both the northern and southern hemispheres with the Anglo-Welsh Cup, Celtic League (top 14 clubs from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy), Heineken Cup (equivalent to the UEFA Champions League) and the Super 15 (featuring the top 15 provincial teams from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand). The other oval ball code of rugby league also embraces such competition but on a much limited scale with one French club, the Catalan Dragons, playing in the northern hemisphere UK-based “Super League” whilst the New Zealand Warriors feature in Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL). As mentioned at the top of the piece there is currently one example of a football championship which currently uses such a system, namely Major League Soccer. Three of Canada’s top clubs – Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps – play alongside the best 16 American clubs in a league which is run alongside similar lines to the other major leagues of ice hockey (NHL), baseball (MLB) and basketball (NBA).

Could the KHL be an inspiration to trans-national sports competition?

These events have largely come about for two reasons. With travel getting easier and the world becoming smaller thanks to modern technology it is natural that teams and individuals want to constantly challenge themselves against the very best on a regular basis. With the financial rewards that this brings then it is, for better or worse, another natural consequence that such teams and individuals will try to gain those rewards and, if necessary, upset the status quo in order to do so. If UEFA was to allow such cross-border league mergers along the Russia/Ukraine route or allow more of the MLS style leagues to become a reality (for example, a British League as discussed) then this could, and probably would, open up a can of worms for the game’s administrators at both UEFA and at FIFA, world football’s governing body. If such eventualities occur in Europe then how long before mergers become commonplace in South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania? Whereas administrators from other sports have had to think outside the box and have undertaken such measures in order to broaden their appeal, football is the one truly global sport and it seems that whatever the traditions and customs which have made the game great in the past, its future could and probably will take a financially driven path down a whole new route.

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UEFA: United and Rangers write next chapter of “Battle of Britain”

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on September 13, 2010
Old Trafford

Old Trafford plays host to the "Battle of Britain" between Manchester United and Glasgow Rangers on Tuesday

When Manchester United and Glasgow Rangers walk out of the tunnel on to the Old Trafford turf tomorrow night the two giants of British football will write another chapter into what UK-based journalists always refer to as the “Battle of Britain”. There have been many such occasions in UEFA club competition over the years where English and Scottish clubs have been paired against each other and these matches are, more often than not, truly memorable occasions in which passion and emotion run high as clubs from rival nations try to outdo each other with national pride at stake. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks back at some of the famous clashes.

It is very surprising that the European Cup or Champions League has only ever seen seven fixtures of this type in its fifty five year history. More surprising is that there were only two such contests before the competition became rebranded in 1991-92. The first Battle of Britain to grace Europe’s elite competition was a famous two-legged semi-final in the 1969-70 season which saw the great Glasgow Celtic side of Jock Stein overcome Don Revie’s Leeds United. George Connelly’s lone strike for the Bhoys was the decider in the opening leg played in Leeds whilst United’s Billy Bremner opened the scoring in the return leg at Parkhead to restore parity overall in the tie. Celtic, who were in the middle of a nine year reign as Scottish champions, went through with two second leg strikes from John Hughes and Bobby Murdoch to reach their second European Cup final in three years. A little over a decade later in the 1980-81 season saw English champions Liverpool FC easily overcome the challenge of Aberdeen FC winning 5-0 on aggregate in the 2nd round. Terry McDermott scored the only goal in the first leg at Pittodrie whilst goals from Phil Neal, Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen and a Willy Miller own goal completed the rout for the Reds from Anfield. Maybe it was this experience more than any other in his career that made the then-Aberdeen coach Alex Ferguson want to “knock the Scousers of their f***ing perch”…..

Since the UEFA Champions League came into being in the early nineties there have been five such contests in the competition. In 1992-93 there were two knockout rounds before the group stages came into play and it was in the 2nd round that English champions Leeds United met up against another Scottish club who were in the process of a nine-in-a-row title procession, namely Glasgow Rangers. Once again the Yorkshiremen would be on the losing side as the Scottish champions won both legs with a 2-1 scoreline and, thus, 4-2 on aggregate. The first leg at Ibrox Park saw Leeds take the lead through Gary McAllister (it’s ironic that, up until this point, many a Scotsman has featured prominently for the English team in these “Battles”) before a John Lukic own goal and an Ally McCoist goal just before half-time give the Gers the advantage going into the second leg at Elland Road. Any hopes that Leeds had of a glory night at home were dashed when Mark Hateley (for once an Englishman doing the Scots a favour) gave Rangers the lead after two minutes before McCoist would increase the lead further, putting the tie beyond doubt before Eric Cantona scored a consolation for Howard Wilkinson’s men.

In the last decade Manchester United were paired against both of the Old Firm in the Champions League group stages and pretty much enjoyed the lion’s share of success losing just once in six games. In the 2003-04 season the Red Devils made easy work of Glasgow Rangers with a 1-0 win at Ibrox Park complemented by as one-sided a 3-0 win as you’ll ever see in football. The former tie was decided by Phil Neville with a fifth-minute goal whilst the latter tie saw Diego Forlán and Ruud van Nistelrooy (2) and those wins aided United’s progress to the top of their group whilst Rangers finished bottom propping up Panathinaikos and VfB Stuttgart as well as United.

The 2006-07 and 2008-09 seasons saw United take on the other half of the Glasgow with four matches against Celtic. The 2006-07 season saw home success for both teams as United won the first game 3-2 in a topsy-turvy game in which both teams lead at some stage before United sealed the deal. The other game at Parkhead saw a late strike from Shunsuke Nakamura lift the roof of the stadium as Celtic gained revenge for the Old Trafford defeat with a 1-0 victory but, in any case, both teams progressed from the group only to suffer the anguish of elimination by that season’s champions AC Milan. Manchester United would gain four points from six in the 2008-09 group stages against Celtic winning the first game at Old Trafford 3-0 thanks to goals from Dimitar Berbatov (2) and Wayne Rooney whilst in the return leg Ryan Giggs saved United from defeat with a late equalizer six minutes from time having been behind since the 13th minute through Scott McDonald. Celtic would end up bottom of their group with Villarreal and Aalborg also finishing above them whilst United would go on to reach their second consecutive Champions League but were put to the sword after a classic FC Barcelona won a complete set of trophies in that year.

The final contest took place in the Play-Off stage of 2009-10 in what was a return back to two-legged knockout football as Celtic and Arsenal FC met in order to try and qualify for the Champions League proper. The Gunners would eventually see off the Celts with a 5-1 aggregate victory but after winning the first leg 2-0, Arsenal gained the first goal in the return leg in controversial circumstances when Eduardo dived in the box – the resulting penalty would see off the challenge from Celtic much to their fans annoyance.

There have been many more matches between English and Scottish teams in European competition throughout the years. The very first meeting came in the now defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1960-61 season when Glasgow Rangers defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-1 over two legs. Overall there have been 58 matches played between clubs from these two historic rival nations with English clubs enjoying double the number of victories that Scottish clubs have – England has 28 wins compared to Scotland’s 14 with 16 drawn matches – with many memorable games along the way (e.g. 2002-03 Liverpool v Glasgow Celtic in the UEFA Cup) and some not very memorable ones (does anyone out there really have any memories from the 1968-69 Cup Winners Cup quarter-final between Dunfermline FC and West Bromwich Albion?) Nevertheless one can only guess that the match-ups to come in this year’s UEFA Champions League will live up to their billing and will add another glorious chapter to these most fascinating of fixtures.

Scotland: Rangers comfortably win 53rd title

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on April 25, 2010
Rangers FC Champions

Glasgow Rangers coach Walter Smith, seen here celebrating the 2008-09 title, has just taken the club to a record extending 53rd league championship

Glasgow Rangers have secured yet another Scottish Premier League (SPL) title taking their record to an amazing fifty three championships. For Rangers coach Walter Smith it is the 9th league title that he has won in two separate spells at the Ibrox club but his future is now uncertain, especially as he has been working without a contract since January due to the club’s financial worries.

Their neighbours Glasgow Celtic had won earlier in the day away at Dundee United. Diomansy Kamara and Robbie Keane gave the Bhoys a 2-0 victory in a bad tempered match which, at least, gave Celtic the satisfaction of knowing that their arch rivals still had a bit of work to do before they could be crowned champions. Rangers had to win their away match at Hibernian to seal the title today otherwise the trip to Tannadice Park on May 1st against Dundee United would’ve been their next opportunity. Nonetheless the destination of the SPL has been on the cards for some time and it is credit to Walter Smith for having steered his troops comfortably to the trophy in a season when he has had no money to bring in new players.

The only goal of the game was scored by Northern Ireland international Kyle Lafferty whose 17th minute strike proved enough to give Rangers all three points. Sadly for Rangers only 1,500 of their supporters were allowed into Easter Road to watch the game due to the construction work that is taking place on the stadium at the moment. Despite this the club’s players and staff began the party in earnest as soon as the final whistle sounded amongst whom was David Weir, the club captain who is just a couple of weeks off his 40th birthday and has played in every match for Rangers in their successful league campaign this season.

The triumph completes a successful season for the Gers who also won the Scottish League Cup against St Mirren in late March although their ambitions for a treble were thwarted by Dundee United in the Scottish Cup three days after their Hampden Park success. Nonetheless it will be interesting to see what comes about throughout the post season period as Rangers’ thoughts now surely must turn towards winning three-in-a-row next season.

Scotland: Nine-man Rangers secure Scottish League Cup

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on March 21, 2010
Walter Smith

Walter Smith has led Glasgow Rangers to their 26th Scottish League Cup triumph

Glasgow Rangers completed the first leg of a potential treble this afternoon defeating underdogs St. Mirren in the 50th Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Walter Smith’s men rode their luck in the first half and were reduced to nine men in the second half but their quality came through in the end as an 84th minute winner from Kenny Miller secured Rangers a record extending 26th triumph in this competition.

The first half produced little goalmouth action for the first thirty minutes with Rangers’ Steven Whittaker having the first shot on target in the 25th minute but it failed to trouble St. Mirren keeper Paul Gallacher. Kenny Miller also had a chance on 34 minutes but his chance blazed high and wide after making a run through the middle into the penalty area. Saints’ first real chance came after Rangers’ keeper Neil Alexander mis-controlled the ball from a back pass and allowed Jack Ross to put in a sliding tackle but the ‘keeper was adjudged to have been fouled. For the last five minutes of the half Saints upped-the-ante with great chances from Steven Thomson, David Barron (whose long-range effort hit the bar) and Michael Higdon but all were unsuccessful and the Buddies were justifiably disappointed at going in goalless at half-time.

The game became contentious early in the second half with both teams getting physical. Rangers’ Kevin Thomson was the first player sent off after a rash tackle from behind on St. Mirren’s Steven Thomson. Even team coaches Walter Smith and Gus MacPherson were seen arguing on the touchline as both sides became embroiled in a slanging match. St. Mirren tried to take the game to the ten men of Rangers but it was the Scottish Premier League (SPL) leaders who had the next big chance in the 65th minute when a Nacho Novo free kick eventually found Kenny Miller amongst a melee of players in the penalty area but his shot was blocked five yards out by Michael Higdon. Six minutes later the Gers were down to nine men as defender Danny Wilson was shown the red card after a pull of the arm of Saints’ substitute Craig Dargo just outside the penalty area. However this seemed to make Rangers more determined to keep out the challenge from the Paisley side, who are second from bottom in the SPL, and when Steven Naismith came on as a 79th minute substitute for Kris Boyd it eventually proved to be the pivotal moment of the match. Five minutes after coming on Naismith ran with the ball from deep inside his own half leading the way in a three-against-three situation and his cross perfectly found the head of Kenny Miller who headed low into the bottom right corner of the net to give Rangers the lead. Saints pressed forward to get an equalizer but they couldn’t break down a resolute Rangers defence.

The final whistle blew and most of the 44,538 crowd would go home celebrating the first silverware of the season for Rangers with the SPL trophy almost certain to be joining it in the near future. With a Scottish Cup quarter-final replay against Dundee United to come there is still potential for Rangers to win an eighth domestic treble. For St. Mirren a battle against relegation is the basis for the rest of the season but the club can be proud of their efforts in their first domestic cup final since 1987 even if they eventually ended up empty-handed.

Old Firm: Last-gasp Edu winner gives Rangers one hand on the title

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on February 28, 2010
Maurice Edu

Maurice Edu scored the winner in stoppage time as Rangers secured a 1-0 win in the Old Firm derby against Celtic FC

The Old Firm derby took place at Ibrox Park today and the hoardes of Rangers supporters were the ones celebrating at the end of the game as they earned a deserved 1-0 win thanks to Maurice Edu’s dramatic last-gasp winner two minutes into stoppage time. The three points won are another significant step for Rangers in their quest to win a record extending 53rd Scottish league title. The Gers now have a ten point lead and a game in hand over their arch-rivals from Parkhead although Celtic boss Tony Mowbray will feel that the red card shown to his captain Scott Brown in the 65th minute was yet another example of his team receiving no favours from referees this season.

The 50,230 crowd inside Ibrox Park were in fine voice before a ball had been kicked with Rangers fans showing banners with a host of trophies highlighting their domestic dominance whilst the visiting Celtic support threw white, green and orange streamers on to the pitch whilst waving their traditional Irish tricolor flags. However it was sad that a minute’s silence before the game for former Rangers goalkeeper Gerry Neef, who died on Tuesday February 23rd, was interrupted by certain sections of the crowd. This fixture doesn’t exactly need any extra needle but the Rangers fans certainly reacted with their disapproval.

The action on the pitch soon kicked-off and it was after only thirty seconds of the contest when loan signing Robbie Keane had Celtic’s first chance, shooting at Allan McGregor from just inside the box. Three minutes later the Scottish league’s top scorer Kris Boyd had Rangers first good chance of the game when he rounded keeper Artur Boruc only to hit the side netting with his shot. As is so often typical of Old Firm games the contest turned into a midfield scrap but it was the home side who had the best chances with sub Edu, who had come on for Lee McCulloch in the 27th minute after he suffered an ankle injury, having a goal disallowed after Kenny Miller had handled the ball before it fell into Edu’s path. Kenny Miller then went close in the 29th minute but he shot straight at Celtic keeper Artur Boruc after being put through from Kris Boyd. Celtic did have their chances too with Keane volleying an effort at McGregor on 36 minutes and then, close to half-time, Marc-Antoine Fortuné turned both Madjid Bougherra and David Weir on the edge of the Rangers box but turned his shot wide of the right-hand post.

The game was goalless at half-time but the home side came out much the more determined after the break having plenty of possession and territory. In the 50th minute Rangers thought that they should’ve had a penalty kick after Edu appeared to be fouled in the Celtic 18-yard box by Andreas Hinkel but the referee waved away the shouts of the Rangers players. Six minutes later Robbie Keane thought he was fouled just inside Rangers’ half but the referee waved play on and Steven Davis picked up the ball and let fly from just outside Celtic’s box. After Boruc made the save Davis followed up along with a host of other players but the ball didn’t fall to a blue shirt in the box and Celtic were able to clear. It was in the 65th minute that the game’s pivotal moment occurred when Rangers’ Kyle Lafferty and Celtic captain Scott Brown were involved in a tangle after going for the ball. Brown appeared to lean in on Lafferty’s chest with his head and the Rangers player went down to the ground resulting in referee Dougie McDonald showing Brown the red card, much to the dismay of Celtic boss Tony Mowbray who has complained of the quality of refereeing already this season.

Following on from the red card Rangers began to dominate possession as Celtic were forced to put Robbie Keane up front on his own and try to see out the rest of the game to force a draw. Celtic’s loan signing from FC Bayern München Edson Braafheid wasted a great free-kick opportunity on 82 minutes but that was about the only chance they would have of threatening Rangers’ penalty area. Celtic infuriated Rangers one minute from regular time after Diomansy Kamara had been treated for a head injury and then kicked the ball into touch deep into Rangers half. Walter Smith and Ally McCoist were fuming on the sideline as they thought this was a blatant lack of sportsmanship from Kamara. However Rangers got their just reward in the 92nd minute of the game when Boruc dropped a corner in front of Kris Boyd whose attempts at forcing the ball home were stopped by the Celtic keeper before Edu managed to toe poke home from a couple of yards out sending the Rangers fans into raptures of ecstasy.

Poll: who’s the biggest club NEVER to be European champions?

Posted in European Football by peterbein on February 8, 2010
Jens Lehmann

Arsenal FC goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was sent-off in their 2-1 defeat to FC Barcelona in the 2006 UEFA Champions League final.

Who’s the biggest club NEVER to win the Champions League (formerly European Champions Cup)? There are clubs who have a decorated history in the other UEFA club tournaments over the past fifty years but have, sadly for them, failed to lift the greatest prize of all. The UEFA Champions League resumes next week and “Stoppage Time” is conducting a poll with a difference. We have selected six clubs who, we think, could be considered the best of the failures. Do you agree with any of our choices? If so please place your vote otherwise there is a space to choose another team if you so desire:

ARSENAL FC (13x English League, 10x English Cup, 1x Fairs Cup, 1x Cup-Winners’ Cup)

It still irritates the fans of Arsenal that, for all their domestic success, their North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur have won more trophies at European level, winning three to Arsenal’s two. However Arsenal’s success since the formation of the Premier League in 1992-93 has led them to be regular contenders for the UEFA Champions League but, thus far, they’ve failed to deliver the big prize to their loyal fans. The club’s first European final was the 1970 Fairs Cup (now Europa League) where they beat Belgian side RSC Anderlecht 4-3 on aggregate. Ten years later Arsenal would lose their first European final on penalties as they failed to beat Spanish giants Valencia CF in the 1980 Cup-Winners’ Cup. The nineties saw the “Gunners” reach back-to-back Cup-Winners’ Cup finals winning one against Italian team AC Parma (1994) but losing the other to Real Zaragoza (1995), the Spanish team winning in the last minute of extra-time thanks to a former Spurs player’s goal from the halfway line. Two further European defeats in the 2000 UEFA Cup (now Europa League) final to Galatasaray (losing on penalties) and, most painfully, the 2006 Champions League final to FC Barcelona rubbed more salt into Arsenal’s European wounds.

DYNAMO KYIV (13x Ukraine League, 9x Ukraine Cup, 13x USSR League, 2x Cup-Winners’ Cup, 1x European Super Cup)

Dynamo Kyiv are an institution in Ukraine and were very much the flagship club during the heyday of the Soviet era. Dynamo were the most successful team before the USSR broke up in 1991 with 13 domestic championships and, since independence, have continued to dominate the new Ukrainian set-up having won their 13th title in the 2008-09 season. In Europe Dynamo enjoyed Cup-Winners’ Cup success in 1975 defeating Hungarian side Ferencvaros 3-0 (following this up with a win in the European Super Cup against FC Bayern Munich) and in 1986 winning their second CWC against Spanish giants Atletico de Madrid (also 3-0). In terms of the Champions League Dynamo have reached the semi-finals, most notably against FC Bayern in 1999, but sadly the final continues to elude them.

GALATASARAY (17x Turkish League, 14x Turkish Cup, 1 UEFA Cup, 1x European Super Cup)

“Gala” created history when they defeated Arsenal in the 2000 UEFA Cup final to become the first, and so far only, Turkish team to win a European trophy. This was followed up by a 1-0 European Super Cup victory against European champions Real Madrid to create a new chapter in the history of this massive Turkish club. The fans of Galatasaray always provides a hostile welcome to visiting teams, most famously their ‘Welcome to Hell’ episode against Manchester United in 1993-94, but even this doesn’t give Gala an advantage as they have yet to even reach a semi-final of Europe’s elite competition. Despite the regular domestic success and a massive fan base Gala’s record in the Champions League is not worthy of their place amongst Europe’s biggest clubs.

GLASGOW RANGERS (52x Scottish League, 33x Scottish Cup, 1x European Cup-Winners’ Cup)

Despite being the world’s most titled club (over 100 domestic trophies if you include the Scottish League Cup triumphs) the blue side of the “Old Firm” are forever in the shadow of their eternal rivals Glasgow Celtic when it comes to European success. Whilst the Hoops won the 1967 European Champions Cup with the famous Lisbon Lions side, Glasgow Rangers could only muster a solitary European Cup-Winners’ Cup triumph in 1972 when defeating Dinamo Moscow 3-2 in Barcelona. All the other finals that Rangers have participated in have ended in defeats: 1960-61 CWC final against Fiorentina, 1967 CWC final against FC Bayern and, most recently, the 2008 UEFA Cup final against Zenit St. Petersburg. The best that Rangers have done in the elite competition is the semi-final of the 1959-60 tournament where a heavy 12-4 aggregate defeat to German champions Eintracht Frankfurt denied them a ‘home’ final at Hampden Park against the mighty Real Madrid. In the first ever Champions League of 1992-93 Rangers reached the group stage, the winners of which would go on to contest the final, but just didn’t have enough luck as they narrowly failed to top the group losing out to eventual winners Olympique de Marseille.

SPORTING LISBON (18x Portuguese League, 15x Portuguese Cup, 1x European Cup-Winners’ Cup)

Sporting Clube do Portugal, to give their correct name, are very much the third force of Portuguese football having never won the European Champions Cup nor Champions League in contrast to their rivals SL Benfica and FC Porto who have each been European champions on two occasions. Sporting’s only European success came in 1964 after they defeated Hungarian side MTK Budapest in the Cup Winners’ Cup final 1-0 after a replay. They had a great chance in 2005 to add to their honours as they reached the UEFA Cup final which was played at the club’s home stadium. However Russian side CSKA Moscow shocked the expectant ‘home’ support in the stadium by winning the game, therefore adding to Sporting’s European woes.

VALENCIA CF (6x Spanish League, 7x Spanish Cup, 2x Fairs Cup, 1x Cup-Winners’ Cup, 1x UEFA Cup, 2x European Super Cup)

Valencia’s record on the European stage is remarkable and would be truly complete if they could win the Champions League. Valencia’s run of success began when they won two consecutive Fairs Cups against FC Barcelona in 1962 and Dinamo Zagreb in the following year before losing their first final in 1964 against compatriots Real Zaragoza. Their next European success came via a penalty shoot-out against Arsenal FC in the 1980 Cup-Winners’ Cup final following that with a Super Cup win over Nottingham Forest. It would be another two decades before Valencia reached another European final but when they did it was in two consecutive Champions League finals where they lost convincingly to Real Madrid in 2000 and unluckily to FC Bayern on penalties in 2001. In 2004 Valencia won the UEFA Cup beating Olympique de Marseille 1-0 before going on to claim their second Super Cup later that year beating FC Porto 1-0.