Many philosophers and political thinkers have stated that history repeats itself (including Karl Marx). Whilst they meant in terms of life in general, we do not learn from our mistakes, this can be applied to the Champions League. If a certain thing (such as no team has ever overturned a five-goal deficit in the Champions League) then there may be a reason for it.
By looking at the history of the Champions League, particularly since 1992 (when it changed from the 16 team European Cup) I will look at certain facts that may make positive reading for fans of the four semi-finalists in the Champions League, in an effort to add some past context to the rarity of certain events happening.
Cool fact: In the twelve ties leading up to the semi-final, six have been won by the side that have played at home in the second leg and six have been won by the team that is away in the second leg.
Semi Final 1 – Real Madrid vs Manchester City
The first semi-final will take place between the 13 times winners Real Madrid and Manchester City, one of the sides yet to win the Champions League. The first leg will take place on Tuesday 26th April at the Etihad, with the return leg on Wednesday 4th May at the Bernabeu.
Before going into each side’s own facts, it is important to look at their head to head record to gauge the relative success of each side against the other in the past.
Their head to head record is identical:
2 Wins each and 2 draws.
To add to Manchester City’s claim they knocked out Real Madrid with their two victories in 2019/2020 last 16, on route to losing to FC Porto in the quarter-finals. Both matches finished 2-1.
Real Madrid does have a history of beating Manchester City in the semi-final of the Champions League with a 1-0 win in the 2nd leg of this stage in the 2015/2016 competition, this was Manuel Pellegrini’s last season at the club.
Their other two matches came in Manchester City’s ill-fated debut campaign in which in part of losing to Real Madrid (Away) 3-2, a last-minute Cristiano Ronaldo goal sealing the three points, and a 1-1 draw at home, they finished 4th.
*What is key to note is that Pep’s Manchester City have only ever beaten Real Madrid, which will be a boost to the Citizens.
Manchester City (3rd UEFA Champions League Semi-Final)Embed from Getty Images
The Blue half of Manchester survived a bruising contest with Atletico Madrid to reach their second consecutive Champions league semi-final
What facts will provide Manchester City fans with hope of winning their first ever Champions League?
- Real Madrid’s semi final record in the Champions League is average
Since 1994/1995, Real Madrid have made 14 Champions League, winning seven of them and losing the other seven. They are not completely formidable at this stage in the competition and lost their previous semi-final, against the side they beat to make this year’s semi-final, Chelsea.
Manchester City will take some comfort that despite Real Madrid making eight consecutive semi-finals between 2011/2012 and 2017/2018, they only made four finals in that time.
2. This is the only knock-out stage of the competition Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side have never lost at
Much has been made about Pep’s failure to win the Champions League with Manchester City, despite winning three Premier League titles and amassing (198 points in 2017/2018 and 2018/2019) he is yet to bring the trophy the City fans crave the most.
He has fallen at pretty much every hurdle, 2016-2017 (his first season) his expensive Manchester City side fell in the last sixteen to an AS Monaco side that boasted the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Fabinho and Radamel Falcao. Despite two of these players becoming two of the top players in their position (no prizes for guessing which two I am referring to), his side should have comfortably dispatched of the French side, after beating them 5-3 at home before suffering a 3-1 defeat with their two previously mentioned Mbappe and Fabinho scoring and failed Chelsea signing Bakayoko sealing the away goals win for AS Monaco.
In their 100 point season, 2017-2018, they fell to another one of this year’s Champions League semi-finalists, Liverpool. Despite thumping them 5-0 at the Etihad in September, the side who had lost 4-3 at Anfield to end their unbeaten season, who defeated in the quarter-finals over two legs, being stunned 3-0 at Anfield before a 2-1 reverse at the Etihad (5-1 agg).
The next season their hopes were dashed by Tottenham of all sides, as the North London side won 1-0 at their new stadium before a dramatic Raheem Sterling goal was disallowed for Sergio Aguero being offside in the build-up, Tottenham went through on away goals as a 4-3 defeat was enough to see them through.
Quarter-finals once again stopped Pep and Man City in the one-legged match due to the pandemic, losing to Lyon 3-1, with a Moussa Dembele brace once agin meaning they fell short of the semi-finals.
Last season they finally made the final, after defeating German sides Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund in the last 16 and quarter-finals (4-0 and 4-2) before a 4-1 aggregate win over PSG. Their defeat in the final to Chelsea mark some progress as in Pep’s reign they have never lost at an earlier stage of the competition.
Under Pep, their progress have never regressed, so if this pattern continues then they should at least make the final.
3. The last side to make a final after losing the previous one, triumphed
Whilst this fact relies on Manchester City overcoming Real Madrid, they can take comfort from Liverpool’s run in the 2018-2019 season.
After a crushing defeat in which Liverpool saw their chances of a sixth title taken away by Real Madrid (3-1) in Kyiv, the Redmen once again made the final and defeated Tottenham 2-0 in the final in Madrid.
Should Manchester City overcome a Karim Benzema inspired Real Madrid then the history in that case is on their side with Bayern Munich doing the same in 2013 after losing to Chelsea in the Allianz Arena, in what has been called the Didier Drogba final, in 2012 before overcoming Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund at Wembley thanks to a late Arjen Robben winner (this was more poignant as Robben had an extra-time penalty saved by Petr Cech in that 2012 final.)
Only twice in the history of the European Cup has a side lost two consecutive finals in two years (with Juventus doing so in 1996-1997 to Dortmund and 1997-1998 to Real Madrid and Valencia in 1999-2000 and 2000-2001).
In contrast, Liverpool (2018 to 2019, Bayern Munich 2012 to 2013, Milan 1993 to 1994) with teams such as Juventus winning their next final after losing in 1983, Chelsea in 2009 and AC Milan in 2005.
4. Pep has an excellent head to head record against Carlo Ancelotti
Pep has won 4 matches out of six against the Italian manager, with his only defeats coming to the all-conquering Real Madrid side of 2013-2014 when they lost 5-0 on aggregate. In essence, Carlo has never beaten Pep with Cristiano Ronaldo and despite Benzema’s purple patch, he is not prime Cristiano Ronaldo.
5. Manchester City’s record in Spain is impressiveEmbed from Getty Images
Manchester City has not lost in Spain since 2016, in a humbling return to the Camp Nou for Pep Guardiola, the match finished 4-0 as Bravo was sent off for handling the ball outside the area, whilst they have not played many they have beaten Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16 at the Bernabeu in 2020 and were really determined not to lose to Atletico Madrid.
Their 0-0 draw saw them through and if they can do the same in Madrid, they will be through to their second Champions League final.
Real Madrid (15th Champions League Semi-Final, 31st European Cup Semi Final)Embed from Getty Images
- Pep Guardiola has lost three out of his last four Champions League Semi-Finals
With the success over PSG last season, Pep Guardiola overcame his run of three semi-final exits in a row. The former Bayern Munich manager fell at this hurdle in all of his three seasons with the Bavarian side.
To add to this he lost to Spanish opposition every time, with a 5-0 aggregate loss to Real Madrid in 2013-2014, losing to former side Barcelona 5-2 on aggregate in 2014-2015 and on away goals (2-2) in the 2015-2016 season to Atletico Madrid.
Further adding to this, is that on two of these occasions the side they lost to won the final (Real Madrid and Barcelona) with the other time being the second famous Madrid Champions League derby in 2015-2016, decided by Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty in the shoot-out.
All in all as far as history goes beating Pep in a semi-final has led to success in the final and his record in semi-finals is 3-5, with his success at Barcelona both being at the expense of Manchester United.
2. Pep Guardiola has never won back to back Champions League semi-finalsEmbed from Getty Images
Another Pep related fact, the Manchester City manager has never made two Champions League finals in a row, making one every other year at Barcelona and not making a final at Bayern Munich.
With his success last season against Paris Saint-Germain, he would have to break a pattern that has dogged him for the last 14 years in management and finally make a consecutive final appearance.
3. Real Madrid’s Champions League Final Record is impressive
Should Real Madrid beat Manchester City, they can take comfort from the fact they have not lost a Champions League Final. You would have to go back to the 1980/1981 season to their last European cup final defeat when Alan Kennedy of Liverpool scored the only goal of the game to give the Mersey-siders their third European Cup.
Since the European Cup was formed in 1955, they have a 14-3 record in the final of the competition, winning the first five finals and only losing in 1961/1962, 1963/1964 and the aforementioned 1980/1981 final (Inter Milan, Benfica and Liverpool).
4. In each of Real Madrid’s last four Champions League Winning Seasons they have had the top scorerEmbed from Getty Images
Whilst for Liverpool and Chelsea (2019 and 2021), having the top scorer was not imperative to winning the Champions League with Erling Haaland being top scorer in 2021 and Lionel Messi being top scorer in 2019, the side with the top scorer in all the other finals since 2013-2014 have played for the winning side.
You could make a case for this being that they played more games than any other side but both finalists play the same amount of matches and yet for Bayern Munich in 2020 (Robert Lewandowski with 15 goals) and Cristiano Ronaldo for every Champions League win for Real (2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018) with only one occasion in 2017, in which he was top scorer before the final began, scoring twice to overtake Lionel Messi.
Messi was the top scorer in 2015 for Barcelona when they beat Juventus 3-1 in the final and so in six of the last eight seasons, the top scorer has won the Champions League.
With Karim Benzema on fire with 7 goals in his last three Champions League matches and just one behind the knocked out Lewandowski and 4 clear of Mohamed Salah, it looks very likely that Benzema may win the Golden boot.
This just provides more historical evidence that Real Madrid may claim their 14th Champions League trophy.
*When Liverpool won the UCL in 2018/2019 their players scored less goals than in their final loss to Real Madrid (Salah was the top scorer with 5, despite Firmino, Mane and Salah scoring 10 in the previous season.
5. Should Liverpool and Real Madrid go through it will be a repeat of the 2005-2006 situation
A point that will also apply to Villareal (see point 4 on Villarreal), the only time Villarreal have made the semi-final of the Champions League they lost to an English side, Arsenal, that English side then lost to an established power in Spain (Barcelona) in a final that took place in France.
Now this may seem like a stretch but should Liverpool and Real Madrid win, the repeat of a Anglo-Spanish final in France would occur and in that case, Real would be favourites based on history.
It is also important to note that only once has an English side beaten a Spanish side in a European Cup final (1981: Liverpool beat Real Madrid) with English teams losing four times (Arsenal in 2006, Manchester United in 2009 and 2011 to Barcelona and Liverpool in 2018).
Furthermore, Real Madrid has never lost an all-Spanish final (beating Valencia in 2000 and Atletico Madrid in 2014 and 2016), which further supports their historical claim for the trophy as to lose to Villarreal would be history in the making.
Liverpool vs Villarreal (Semi-Final 2)
With Villareal’s shock win against Bayern Munich, and Liverpool surviving a scare to overcome Benfica 6-4 on aggregate. This is a repeat of the 2015-2016 Europa League semi-final, Klopp’s first European semi-final for the Reds.
Liverpool won that semi-final. despite a 1-0 first leg loss in Spain as a 3-0 win at Anfield in May saw the Reds through to the final, which they ultimately lost 3-1 to Unai Emery’s Sevilla.
The head to head record between the two sides is just that with the Europa League Semi-Final being the only games they have played against each other.
With that being said, I will now refer to facts that will be a boost to both sides and their fans as they look to reach the Champions League Final in Paris on Saturday 28th May.
Liverpool (6th Champions League Semi-Final, 12th European Cup Semi-Final)
- Liverpool’s semi-final record is fantastic
In comparison, to Real Madrid, Liverpool do not lose many European Cup semi-finals they have a 9-2 record in the competition with only two defeats (1964/1965 to Inter Milan and 2007/2008 to Chelsea), this also means they have not lost to a Spanish side in the European Cup semi-finals, beating Barcelona 4-3 in the famous 2018/2019 semi-final on route to winning the competition, another boost, as the last time they faced a Spanish side in the semi-finals resulted in their sixth title.
They also defeated the Catalan giants in 2000/2001 on route to the UEFA Cup in their famous ‘treble’ winning season (League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup) and in the 1975/1976 UEFA Cup semi-final before defeating Club Brugge.
*Liverpool have never beaten a Spanish side in a semi-final before going on to lose the final
A drawback is their 2010/2011 Europa League semi-final loss at the hands of Atletico Madrid (who beat Fulham in the final).
2. No side has ever won the Europa League and then the Champions League
Whilst Liverpool themselves won the old UEFA Cup and then the European Cup in 1976 and then 1977, no side has won the UEFA Cup and then then Champions League.
Chelsea did the reverse in 2013 by beating Benfica in the final, 12 months on from beating Bayern at the Allianz arena, but no side has done it the other way around.
The Blues were actually the closest making the semi-finals in 2014 before losing to Real Madrid, so not only has no team ever won Europa League then Champions League, no team has ever reached the final of the Champions League, the season after winning the Europa League, which is a good omen for Liverpool fans.
3. The last time Liverpool were a point behind Manchester City, they won old big earsEmbed from Getty Images
Liverpool are currently just a point behind their rivals Manchester City (a rivalry that I believe is a strong one due to the strength of both sides), when Liverpool got 97 points in the 2018-2019 season, they finished one point short of the 98 points gained from Manchester City but on the 2nd June 2019, all that pain was wiped away with a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Many predicting, Liverpool and Manchester City to repeat the form of that season, with Man City not dropping a single point in the league since their 2-1 defeat to Newcastle on the 29th January, which left the Reds seven points clear (meaning they won their last 14 on the bounce) with Liverpool winning their last nine after a 0-0 draw at Everton put them 1 point behind City.
If this pattern is followed then Manchester City will once again win the title by one point, but the last time that happened Liverpool won number six, so anything is possible.
4. Liverpool have already won the European Cup in Paris
This seems like a niche stat and one that I remember from Liverpool’s Allez Allez Allez chant ‘from Paris down to Turkey’
The aforementioned win was actually against Real Madrid in 1981 with Alan Kennedy scoring the winner in the second half.
I don’t know if I believe in fate but the chances of a repeat of that final in the same city and same stadium just seems to strike me as a boost for Liverpool’s chances.
5. Liverpool’s away record in the Champions league this season has been phenomenal
Liverpool have failed to win two games in the Champions League this season, a 2-1 defeat to Inter Milan and a 3-3 draw to Benfica, but both games have been played at Anfield.
In their away games, they have scored 15 goals in 5 matches (average of three) whilst only conceding 5 (1 a game) this is important as the second leg is away from home and whilst the common perception is that the Kop always roars the Scousers home in big European nights (with 1977 against St Etienne, 2005 against Olympiakos and Chelsea, 2016 versus Dortmund and 2019 against Barcelona).
The fact that Liverpool have shown their greater capabilities away from home, with them struggling in their two previous final runs (draws with Sevilla away and losses to Barcelona, PSG, Napoli and the shock defeat to Red Star Belgrade). Liverpool have shown on big nights away at Bayern Munich 3-1 and Porto (4-1) that they have capable over previous seasons but the consistency has been there this season.
They will fancy their chances should they get past Villarreal as they have not lost an away knockout game (other than in Spain, since their loss in Kiev, four years ago.)
VillarrealEmbed from Getty Images
- Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have only been knocked out by Spanish sides in Europe
Despite, Liverpool’s excellent form of beating Spanish sides in semi-finals, they will be wary that they have been knocked by Spanish sides in all of their failed campaigns in Europe.
They lost the Europa League final in 2016 to Sevilla, the 2018 Champions Final to Real Madrid both ending 3-1. This was before losing in the controversial Covid-spreading second leg to Atletico Madrid.
Liverpool had been on a poor run of form losing to Watford 3-0 on the 29th February to end their unbeaten run in the Premier League before suffering two losses in a week (1-0 to Atletico and 2-0 to Chelsea in the FA Cup) the home leg was marred by the after-effects with it being blamed for the spread of Covid-19 in the area.
Liverpool took the lead through a Gini Wijnaldum header, to take the match into extra-time, Firmino’s extra-time goal was cancelled out by Adrian’s mistakes allowing for a Marcos Llorente brace and an Alvaro Morata sealer to send the Champions out.
Last season, despite a poor run in the league which saw the Reds drop from top at Christmas to 8th by March, the Redmen were through to the quarter-finals after dispatching of RB Leipzig 4-0 in the last 16. They faced a Real Madrid side at the Spaniards training ground (due to Bernabeu upgrades.
The game will be remembered for a Trent Alexander-Arnold mistake which let Vinicius Junior score one of his two goals as the match finished 3-1, despite a brave effort at Anfield, the 0-0 draw saw them out.
With the chances of a repeat of the 2018 final even if they get past Villarreal, the ‘Spanish curse’ on Liverpool may make for good reading for Villarreal fans.
2. Unai Emery has experience in winning European titlesEmbed from Getty Images
Despite the quality of managers left in the competition, Carlo Ancelotti, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, Unai Emery has won the most European titles, as a manager out of the lot of them.
Unai Emery has four Europa League titles, three with Sevilla (2014,2015,2016) and one with Villarreal (2021).
This is compared to Carlo Ancelotti’s three Champions Leagues (AC Milan: 2002-2003, 2006-2007 and Real Madrid: 2013-2014), Pep Guardiola’s two Champions League triumphs with Barcelona (2009 and 2011) and Jurgen Klopp’s solitary UCL win with Liverpool in 2019.
Emery has won his trophies more recently than the other managers and is turning into a real force as a manager, despite his previous failings at Arsenal, most notably he has won three titles in a row which no other manager in the competition can boast.
Whilst you may point out this is the Europa League, the quality of his teams have been far less than the teams he had beaten along the way beating Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in 2016, and defeating Arsenal and Manchester United in 2021 on route to his victory in the Europa League last season.
The win against Bayern Munich just goes to show that these successes are not flukes are Unai Emery and his Villarreal side are a force to be taken very seriously.
3. Unai Emery has the best Major European final record out of the managers
Once again the pedigree of Unai Emery provides hope to Villarreal fans, he has only ever lost one European final, to Chelsea 4-1 during his ill-fated time at Arsenal. On the flip side, he has won four finals.
In contrast, Pep has only won two finals, losing last season’s Champions League final to Tuchel’s Chelsea, Klopp has lost three major finals, one to Emery and Sevilla, one to Zidane and Real Madrid and the 2012-2013 Champions League Final with Dortmund against Bayern Munich at Wembley.
Ancelotti has lost the 2005 final Champions League final to Liverpool and the 2002/2003 final to AC Milan (while at Juventus).
*Emery has never won the Super Cup as a manager losing to Real Madrid in 2014 and Barcelona in 2015 before a loss to Chelsea in 2021.
4. The last two Champions League finals held in France have been won by Spanish sides
While Liverpool may have won the last Paris final, Spanish sides have won the two finals in France since with Real Madrid (1999-2000) and Barcelona (2005-2006).
In addition to this fact, is that the first final was an all-Spanish affair as Real Madrid beat Valencia in 2000 and the second was a Spanish beating an English side who have not won the trophy.
Barcelona defeated Arsenal, it is probably a coincidence but should a English side (Man City) beat the Spanish side (Real Madrid) which is what happened in 2006 (Arsenal beat Villarreal) then it would be a Spanish side, should Villarreal make it past Liverpool against an English side who have won zero European Cups (with the final in France)
Like the 1981 final comparisons this does strike me as a coincidence but the pieces are there for history to repeat itself.
5. They have never lost a Champions League FinalEmbed from Getty Images
Centre-back Pau Torres, 25, pictured with the Europa League trophy
While this is not a solid argument as the last three new teams to make finals, Tottenham, PSG and Manchester City all lost, the point still stands.
They are no to this and they have no fear as anything they get now is a bonus, whilst the rest of the teams are expected to make the final now, Villarreal are the dark horse, the only side with nothing to lose.
The side has already knocked out Juventus and Bayern Munich and the confidence from this is immense, the last side to knock both these teams out were Real Madrid who beat Juventus in the quarters, thanks to three goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, including a last minute penalty (4-3 agg).
They then knocked out Bayern (4-3 agg) in the semi-final on route to beating Liverpool 3-1 in the 2018 final.
This is a good omen for the Spanish side and whilst it may turn out to be a coincidence, the history once again supports their claim for Champions League glory.
Thank you for reading this very long article, if anything I hope you picked up that whilst stats and history do matter in Football, due to the contradicting events in Football you can make a claim for any of these teams winning the Champions League.
I will not make a prediction, based on having a horse in this particular race, but the semi-finals promise to bring as much excitement as the quarter-finals that came before them.
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