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Champions League Build Up: How Have Manchester City Fared Previously In Europe?

A Look At The History Of The Blues Ventures Into European Competition

Soccer - European Cup Winners Cup - Final - Manchester City v Gornik Zabrze
Tony Book Receives the Cup Winners Cup in 1970
Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images

It’s not really a secret that Manchester City’s success is somewhat limited. The blues only trophy came in the 1970 European Cup Winners Cup final, when the blues beat Polish side Gornik Zabrze (no that’s not a green alien from Star Trek).

So Saturday’s Champions League Final is an opportunity for the blues to put behind the failures of the past, and take the crown that eluded them so miserably 52 years ago. Let’s take a look at previous European campaigns before the blues qualified for the Champions League (we really don’t want to re-live that).

In 1966, Joe Mercer took the blues from 2nd Division obscurity to the first division, and just two years later, the blues were crowned First Division champions. Their debut season in Europe didn’t go so well.

In those days, it was a straight draw from the hat and for their first ever European adventure, City fans were off to Turkey to face Fenerbahce. The first leg would be held at Maine Road and more than 38,000 were present to watch as City took on the continent. The blues drew 0-0, then lost the away leg 2-1 to bring their journey to an abrupt halt.

Of course, with this team there would be other chances, and after winning the FA Cup against Leicester in 1969, the blues entered the European Cup Winners Cup, and this time, City would fare much better.

A thrilling 3-3 draw at Atletico Bilbao was followed up with a 3-0 win at Maine Road. In November, City travelled to Belgium to face Lierse SK and brought a 3-0 lea home for the second leg, before finishing the task with a 5-0 victory at Maine Road.

In the next round, the blues were again drawn away for the first leg, this time to Academica Coimbra. A 0-0 draw in Portugal, together with a 1-0 home win saw City progress further. In April, the blues tasted defeat at the hands of Schalke 04, going down 1-0 in Germany, before thumping the Germans 5-1 at Maine Road to progress to the final, winning 2-1 in Vienna.

That success saw City qualify again as holders, which was needed as City had finished 10th in the league and went out of the FA Cup to United, and he following season, City came agonisingly close to retaining the trophy, if it wasn’t for a certain outfit from London.

City needed the away goals rule to scrape past Linford. A 1-0 home win was followed by a 2-1 away defeat, but City progressed and faced Honved. Winning the away leg 1-0, they secured progression with a 2-0 home win. As fate would have it, the blues faced Gornik again, and both teams recorded 2-0 home victories, meaning a 2-2 aggregate scoreline. The two would face each other again in Idraettsparken, Norway for a one-off match, which City won 3-1.

City faced fellow Division One side Chelsea in the semi-final and hopes were high despite losing the first leg 1-0. Sadly, the bleus lost the home leg by the same scoreline and they exited the competition.

Two years later, City were back in Europe, drawing 2-2 at home to Valencia in the UEFA Cup, but the Spanish side beat the blues 2-1 in the return leg. City qualified for the 1976/77 UEFA Cup and faced Juventus in the first round. They won the home leg 1-0, but lost the away leg 2-0 as City’s miserable run in Europe continued.

The following season saw them back in UEFA Cup action, and exiting once again in the first round, this time on away goals to Widzew Lodz. In the 1978/79 season, the blues would get one more crack at Europe before the boomerang years of the 80’s. After defeating FC Twente 3-2 on aggregate, the blues went to the San Siro in Milan to face the might AC. After ging 2 goals up, City were pegged back at 2-2, coming within one goal of being the first English team to win at Milan. The return leg saw City romp home 3-0 winners.

City were drawn against German side Monchengladbach in the next round, winning the home leg 2-1 but losing the second leg 3-1 in Germany.

The blues didn’t play again in Europe until Kevin Keegan got us there in the 2003/4 season, courtesy of the Fair Play Award. With passports at the ready, City fans first trip was to Wales, beating Total Network Solutions 7-0 on aggregate, then defeating Lokeren 4-2 over the two legs. But another Polish side came to haunt us in the form of Groclin Grodzisk, who beat City 1-0 in Manchester and kept the blues out in the away leg as City laboured to a 0-0 draw.

Five years later, City were back in the UEFA Cup, courtesy of Sven Goran Erikssen. However the Swede didn’t last long enough in the hot seat as he lost his job to Mark Hughes, and the Welshman almost took us to the final.

City started in the qualifying rounds, beating EB Streymur 4-0 on aggregate. A scare against FC Midtjylland saw City needing to win their away leg after they lost the home leg 1-0. A last minute own goal drew City level, and the blues held their nerve in the penalty shoot out to win 4-2.

The blues then dispatched Omonia Nicosia 4-2, winning both legs 2-1 and entered a league format. City played two home and two away games, winning their first two at home to Twente Enschede (3-2) and away to Schalke (2-0), before drawing 0-0 at home to PSG and losing 3-1 at Racing Santander. The blues still qualified, and knocked out FC Copenhagen 4-3, before facing another Danish side in he form of Aab Aalborg. Both team won their home legs 2-0 and it went down to penalties in Denmark. Once again, City held their nerve and won 4-3.

Martin Jol’s Hamburger SV were City’s opponents in the quarter final, and the blues lost the first leg 3-1. In the second leg, City were 2-1 up and came close on several occasions to levelling up the tie. They couldn’t do it and the fell at the last eight stage.

After a year out, City again qualified for the UEFA Europa League. Beating Romanian side Timisoara, the blues entered the league format and beat Red Bull Salzburg twice (2-0 and 3-0), drew with Juventus twice (both 1-1) and beat and lost to Lech Poznan (strangely enough, both matches ending 3-1 to the home side).

Securing a 0-0 draw at Aris Salonika, the blues thumped the Greek side 3-0 at home to set up a tie with Dynamo Kiev. This time, City last the away leg 2-0 and won the home leg 1-0. Just as it was two seasons earlier, the blues just couldn’t get another goal to level the tie.

That was City’s last foray in the Europa League / UEFA Cup, although they did enter the knockout stage in the 2011/12 season after finishing 3rd in their debut Champions League season. The blues faced Porto and won the first leg 2-1 in Portugal (an omen?), before finishing the job 4-0 at home. But another Portuguese side would be once again a step too far for City.

Sporting Lisbon won the first leg 1-0, then took a 2-0 half time lead in Manchester. A goal from Mario Balotelli was sandwiched between to Sergio Aguero strikes to put City in front on the night, but those two away goals sealed City’s fate.