The 7 fiercest club rivalries to be created in the Champions League
1. Barcelona vs Chelsea
This is most likely the most passionate and intense rivalry between clubs from different countries, which has developed into a sort of derby over the years.
It all started in 2005, when the Blues overcame Barca in an extremely dramatic last-16 battle. The Catalans came from behind to win 2-1 at the Camp Nou in the first leg, and staged an impressive comeback after going 3-0 down very early at Stamford Bridge. An immaculate Ronaldinho effort will forever be remembered as one of the most majestic goals scored in the competition, but that was all for nothing. John Terry popped up to net a late winner as Chelsea prevailed 4-2 in Jose Mourinho's first season.
A year passed, and Barcelona took sweet revenge at the same stage, as their 2-1 win in London featured not only two own goals but also an extremely controversial sending off for Asier del Horno for a foul on Leo Messi. From there on, the two sides became enemies, but it was impossible to predict that rivalry would reach an entirely new level in 2009.
Barcelona were everyone's darling at the time with some phenomenal football in Pep Guardiola's first season in charge, but Guus Hiddink's Chelsea managed to keep a clean sheet in a goalless draw at Camp Nou in the semi-finals first leg, then took a deserved lead at Stamford Bridge thanks to a wonderful Michael Essien strike.
The Blues then had four penalty shouts turned down (of varying degrees of legitimacy) by the Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo. Then, three minutes into injury time, Andres Iniesta netted the crucial equaliser and broke the Londoners' hearts.
Now it was Chelsea's time to take revenge, and they waited impatiently for three years, before ruining Guardiola's farewell season at Barcelona at the same stage. Chelsea were clear underdogs, even after winning the first leg 1-0, but their defensive organisation and resilience under Roberto Di Matteo were extraordinary.
Barca went 2-0 up and Terry was sent off, but Ramires scored the most important goal of his career in the dying moments of the first half. Messi missed a penalty, then Fernando Torres – the Catalans' nemesis in his Atletico Madrid days – secured the ticket to the final. Roman Abramovich would finally fulfil his dream in the unlikeliest circumstances.
It's somewhat unfortunate that Barca were not drawn against Chelsea in the MSN era, but now – six years on – they resume their rivalry, and it is expected to be as fierce as they come.
2. Liverpool vs Chelsea
Chelsea and Liverpool had never been particularly serious rivals in the Premier League, before frequent meetings in Europe changed their relationship forever. In fact, the Reds are single-handedly responsible for ruining Jose Mourinho's dream of winning the Champions League with the Blues, and Rafa Benitez is especially proud of that.
For starters, he threw Chelsea out of the competition in the semi-finals in 2005, when Luis Garcia broke the deadlock of the tie with a goal that may or may not have crossed the line. Then, two years later, the rivals met again at the same stage, exchanged 1-0 home wins – and Liverpool prevailed on penalties.
Luck changed only after the Special One was fired. Avram Grant, who has always enjoyed good slices of fortune, benefited from an incredible injury time own goal by John Arne Riise in the quarter-final first leg in 2008 to beat Liverpool in extra time at Stamford Bridge and put the curse to rest.
Then, a year later, the teams were involved in two nailbiting spectacles, with Chelsea winning 3-1 at Anfield thanks to a brace by Branislav Ivanovic, and Liverpool almost staging an incredible comeback in a 4-4 draw in London. It's a great shame they haven't met again in Europe since Benitez's departure, but it should happen again one day.
3. Manchester United vs Juventus
Ever since 2003, the football world has been waiting for Manchester United to face Juventus again, because the battles between Alex Ferguson and Marcello Lippi in the 1990s were sensational. In 1996, the Old Lady won twice at the group stage to gain the upper hand. Both teams took three points on home soil a year later, but that was all irrelevant because both qualified for the knockout stage anyway.
The most important fixtures – and arguably one of the most famous results in the Red Devils' history – took place in the semi-finals in 1999.
Juventus were hot favourites after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, even after Ryan Giggs managed to score an injury time equaliser. In the second leg, Pippo Inzaghi duly scored twice in the first 11 minutes at Stadio delle Alpi. That was probably too early for the Italians, because they lost concentration and allowed their rivals to stage a historic comeback. Roy Keane, Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole scored in the 3-2 win, and United eventually lifted the trophy in even more dramatic circumstances.
Juventus are still waiting for revenge, because they lost twice at the second group stage in 2002-03 (even though Juve eventually reached the final that season). We eagerly await the next meeting.