Fiiiiight! The 8 greatest European battles of Britain and Ireland

Edwin van der Sar Moscow 2008

Liverpool and Manchester City will face off in this year's Champions League quarter-finals. Phwoar indeed: history suggests there could be fireworks, as Jon Spurling demonstrates...

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Rangers vs Leeds (1992/93 Champions League second round)

In November 1992, Scottish champions Rangers drew English champions Leeds United in the second round of the rebranded Champions League.

Dubbed the "Battle of Britain", it was a hotly anticipated double-headed clash even commented upon in the House of Commons over possible hooliganism. As it turned out, the clash was rather more error-strewn than toxic.

At Ibrox, Scot Gary McAllister gave his Yorkshire club the lead, before Leeds goalkeeper John Lukic punched the ball into his own net. An Ally McCoist effort gave the Gers a slender 2-1 lead to take to Elland Road.

In the return, Mark Hateley silenced the baying Leeds crowd with a dipping volley in only the second minute, before McCoist netted the killer second goal on the night. Eric Cantona scored late on for Leeds but it was too little too late: Rangers won 4-2 on aggregate and headed into the next round. Cantona headed to Old Trafford.

Arsenal vs Chelsea (2003/04 Champions League quarter-finals)

When Arsenal – on their way to becoming the Invincibles in 2004 – drew Claudio Ranieri's newly moneyed Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-finals, the Gunners were installed as hot favourites. At a feverish Stamford Bridge, Eidur Gudjohnsen capitalised on Jens Lehmann's mistake, before a neat Robert Pires header gave Arsenal an away-goal cushion for the return leg at Highbury.

Gunners midfielder Gilberto likened it to ‘a boxer punching himself out in the latter stages of a fight’

In north London, the Gunners set on Chelsea at an incredible pace, but despite dominating the first half they only had a Jose Antonio Reyes goal to show for their efforts. Remarkably, Arsenal maintained their ferocious assault in the second half but soon ran out of steam; Gunners midfielder Gilberto likened it to "a boxer punching himself out in the latter stages of a fight".

With 20 minutes remaining, a speculative Claude Makelele effort was spilled by Lehmann, and Frank Lampard tapped home the rebound. That squared the tie. Then in the dying moments, Wayne Bridge plundered the winner after a delicious one-two on the edge of the Arsenal box. The Blues had done it. The blue tidal wave had finally overwhelmed Arsenal, and things haven't quite been the same for the Gunners ever since.

Wolves vs Tottenham (1972 UEFA Cup Final)

The first-ever UEFA Cup final was a two-legged affair contested by two heavyweight English outfits in Tottenham and Wolves.

At Molineux in the first leg, the match was tied up at 1-1 until Spurs striker Martin Chivers rifled in an unstoppable late winner for the north London side – his second of the night.

It was the defining moment of a tense tie. A goal to the good – and an away one at that – Bill Nicholson’s men won the trophy in front of an ecstatic 54,303 White Hart Lane crowd, despite a gutsy Wolves side drawing level on the night through David Wagstaffe.

It wasn’t enough, though, and Spurs won 3-2 on aggregate.

Nottingham Forest vs Liverpool (1978/79 European Cup first round)

"If we beat Liverpool in the European Cup," barked Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough, "perhaps people will actually start to take us seriously."

They certainly did after this.

Pumped up by Clough's insistence that his 1978 league champions were better than the European Cup holders, Forest made Liverpool look like European novices at the City Ground in the first round, first-leg clash in September 1978. Goals from Colin Barrett and a young Gary Birtles gave Forest a 2-0 lead to take to Anfield for the second leg.

Despite Liverpool skipper Phil Thompson's insistence that Forest would crumble, the backline held firm with Peter Shilton making several fine stops and skipper John McGovern instilling order. Forest drew 0-0, won the tie and went on to win the European Cup. Clough had proved his point.

Derby vs Finn Harps (1976/77 UEFA Cup first round)

On the eve of their first-round UEFA Cup clash with Derby at the Baseball Ground, Finn Harps’ manager said: “We hope to give a good account of ourselves, and show Irish football in a positive light.”

They were noble sentiments, but sadly for him it all went horribly, horribly wrong. The Harps were 9-0 down by half-time of the first leg, but kept it to 12-0 by full-time. Their beleaguered goalkeeper was helpless to prevent Kevin Hector grabbing five, plus Charlie George and Leighton James netting hat-tricks apiece.

Following their 12-0 home victory, the Rams eased up away at Finn Park, running out 4-1 winners to triumph 16-1 overall. Rams boss Dave Mackay was sacked a few weeks later after a poor start to the season – those Finn Harps matches aside.

Liverpool vs Chelsea (2004/05 Champions League semi-finals)

Despite being a whopping 33 points behind soon-to-be champions Chelsea in the Premier League, and Blues boss Jose Mourinho insisting the pressure was all on Liverpool at Anfield, Rafa Benitez's side stuck manfully to their task in reaching their first European Cup final in 20 years.

Liverpool players – blown away by a spine-tingling version of You'll Never Walk Alone before kick-off – galloped out of the blocks

Following a 0-0 Stamford Bridge snoozefest a week earlier, Liverpool players – blown away by a spine-tingling version of You'll Never Walk Alone before kick-off – galloped out of the blocks and took a third-minute lead through Luis Garcia. Milan Baros, attempting to lift the ball over Petr Cech, was floored by the Czech keeper and, despite Chelsea protests, Garcia's strangled effort was adjudged to have crossed the line.

Liverpool successfully held Mourinho's side at bay, won 1-0, and reached a hugely uneventful Champions League final against Milan. 

Celtic vs Leeds (1970 European Cup semi-finals)

Such was the interest in the tie that Celtic switched the tie from Parkhead (which held 60,000) to Hampden, which held 136,000 fans

"I've played in some incredible atmospheres," explained Leeds skipper Billy Bremner, "but nothing will ever match the ferocity of Hampden Park that night."

Wee Billy was referring to the second leg of the Whites' European Cup semi-final against Celtic in April 1970.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Don Revie's side took an early lead when Bremner's outrageous 30-yard effort swirled home, but the Hampden roar spurred on the Celts, who'd won the European Cup four years earlier.

Such was the interest in the tie that Celtic switched it from Parkhead (which held 60,000) to Hampden, which held 136,000 fans. "I think 135,000 of them wanted Celtic to win," admitted Bremner.

The Hampden hordes got their way. With the superb Jimmy Johnstone pulling strings, Bobby Murdoch and John Hughes scored in the second half to give Jock Stein's side a 3-1 aggregate win. They marched into the final, while Leeds – who ended the season as runners-up in the league and FA Cup – finished the campaign empty-handed.

Manchester United vs Chelsea (2008 Champions League Final)

Late, late into the Moscow night, Manchester United and Chelsea played an epic Champions League final.

Cristiano Ronaldo nodded the Red Devils ahead, before Frank Lampard nipped in to equalise for Chelsea. There were misses galore, from Carlos Tevez and Lampard, who also hit the woodwork with Didier Drogba as the Blues pushed forward for the winner.

But the game went to penalties, where Chelsea skipper John Terry missed the chance to win the cup for his team by hitting the post after slipping. He was in good company; Ronaldo missed for United.

But Nicolas Anelka’s lesser-remembered spot-kick – saved by Edwin van der Sar – meant that United had prevailed in the all-English affair and were crowned European champions for the third time.

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