Manchester City will face Chelsea in the Champions League final on May 29th after the Londoners beat Real Madrid 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. But for the blues, it is a golden opportunity to exorcise the ghosts of facing English sides in European competition.
City have never beaten another English side in any European competition, and it was Chelsea who were the first English side to beat the blues, when they knocked City out of the European Cup Winners Cup in 1971.
The London blues beat City 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, then repeated the scoreline at Maine Road, before going on to win the trophy, beating Real Madrid in the final. City have not been to another European final since and have been knocked out by both Liverpool and Spurs in recent Champions League campaigns.
But City have been exorcising a few ghosts over the last few years as they established themselves as one of the top teams in the country, and are now committed to becoming the best in Europe.
Arsenal is a good example of how City have turned around their fortunes. Visiting North London usually ended in defeat, and having played 28 league games without a win between 1975 and 2013, City now go to Arsenal with renewed confidence. From those 28 matches, City lost 20 but in the last few years, the blues have gone to Arsenal and won convincingly.
City won for the first time at the Emirates Stadium in January 2013 have have now lost just once in ten visits, while winning the last five in all competitions. This has included the 4-1 hammering the blues inflicted on the Gunners in their League Cup clash in December.
Old Trafford is another place the blues struggled to make an impact. After Denis Law scored the goal that compounded United’s relegation to the second division, City failed to win at the home of the Stretford Rangers for 34 years. In that time, the blues stepped out of Manchester on 27 occasions in all competitions, losing 16 and drawing 11.
City won 2-1 at Old Trafford in February 2008, lost the next four, but then thrashed the reds 6-1 in their own back garden to firmly lay that ghost to rest, and the dreaded trip across town now doesn’t seem as daunting.
But it was Anfield that seemed to pose the biggest barrier. It wasn’t like City wen to pieces every time the stepped onto the pitch (well sometimes they did), and it seemed more psychological than anything. When Nicolas Anelka scored the winner in 2003, the faithful must have thought that was it, the curse is broken. After all, the had played 13 games since their last victory in 1981, and had lost 9 of those games.
However, City went on another barren run, playing 19 further matches and losing 13, before thrashing the reds 4-1 at Anfield in February.
And now the Champions League final presents the blues with a glorious opportunity to not only lay one but two ghosts to rest, and it seems only fitting that City should face the first English side ever to knock them out.
In 1968, City coach Malcolm Allison said that the blues will terrify Europe. 53 years later, the outspoken man’s words may finally ring true.