With FC Barcelona being one of the biggest clubs not only in Spain but also in Europe, it should come as little surprise that they’ve faced some of the best teams across the continent. The many years that the Champions League has been running means that a variety of teams have tried to beat the Spanish giants with some of them being English – here are some of the most intriguing ties between them.
One of the first games that springs to mind is the infamous 2010/11 knockout round clash between Arsenal and Barcelona – a game that will probably go down as the Emirates Stadium’s best moment in its fifteen year history thus far. While Arsenal would end up going out narrowly via a 4-3 aggregate scoreline, the home leg is the game where the Gunners ran out 2-1 winners against arguably one of the best sides in history. With the iconic midfield trio of Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi, as well as a prime Lionel Messi, lining up against an Arsenal side with the likes of Johan Djourou and Andrey Arshavin, on paper, Arsenal should have been trounced.
However, the actual outcome was rather different. David Villa would open the scoring for Barca on 26 minutes, and the Spaniards looked to be cruising. However, a spell of wasteful chances including a notable miss from Messi allowed Arsenal to creep in and launch a spirited comeback kickstarted by a Van Persie near-post tap in. The best was yet to come for the Gunners as a few minutes from time, a vicious counter-attack was launched that culminated in a curled effort from Arshavin from the edge of the area that found its way int the back of the net. Barcelona’s reaction to that goal will forever be characterised by goalkeeper Victor Valdes’ slow falling over as the ball went over the line.
FC Barcelona have notably met an English side in the final of the Champions League multiple times. In that same year as the Arsenal clash, 2011, Manchester United stood in the way. Unlike the Arsenal away tie that was closely fought, Barcelona looked in control as they brushed aside United in a 3-1 victory. It would be the Catalan side who scored first through Lionel Messi and them who would have 68% of the ball and have nearly 6 times as many shots as the Red Devils. The 2011 Champions League final was interestingly a repeat of the 2009 edition where Barcelona had met Manchester United before and ran out winners there once again via a two-goal margin, although they did manage to keep a clean sheet in the process.
Unfortunately, after the departure of Pep Guardiola in 2012, Barcelona have struggled in the Champions League with a solitary title in 2015 since then. This year looks little different as they have a 4-1 deficit to overcome in a visit to the French capital. Guardiola, on the other hand, is in charge of a Man City side who are the favourites across all four competitions they are still in, including the league where they have odds of 1.005 in the Premier League betting due to the large gap they have created between them and the rest.
In previous years, FC Barcelona have been an unstoppable force in the Champions League, not least against English teams. That could be all about to change, though, with Messi nearing retirement and English teams such as Manchester City having a long-term aim to become one of Europe’s best, it may not be long before a changing in the European football guard is seen.