London For The Cup?

By londonist_alex2 Last edited 220 months ago

Last Updated 07 March 2006

London For The Cup?

Let battle re-commence. It is half-time for Chelsea and Arsenal, London's representatives in this season's Champions League, and the two sides have tasks of differing shape and complexity to complete if they are to progress and allow this fine city to be able to call that famous trophy its own for the very first time.

First up is Chelsea, the champions of England who face the champions of Spain tonight in the white heat of a Camp Nou burning with hate and indignation. Barca fans do spite very well, just ask Luis Figo, so Jose could well be dodging car batteries and pig heads this evening. But Mourinho, like Figo, is self-possessed enough to be able to soak up the vitirol and glide right on, which could be of great benefit to his team. They will need all the help they can get. Chelsea are a team that is perfectly equipped to compress space, hang on to a clean sheet and claim an away goal on the break, but unfortunately they need to score twice, not once, and the extra reach that this will require must inevitably lead to the kind of openings that Barcelona love to exploit. We're hoping for a classic away performance from Chelsea, but we fear that the Catalans will have their revenge.

We shall have a closer look at Arsenal tomorrow, but it is clear that they face a simpler task, but certainly no foregone conclusion. The Gunners should dispose of Real, which would be an outstanding achievement, but one suspects that not many of the teams that remain in the tournament will give them the kind of space and time that they enjoyed at the Bernabeu. The likes of Juventus and Milan are not inclined to sit back and watch Thierry and friends construct pass and run, and would opt instead for the kind of brutal oppression that has seen opponents knock Arsenal off course in the Premiership.

London for the European Cup? It is a big ask. Does it matter? Yes, it most certainly does. The failure of our top clubs to have landed the big prize allows others to pour scorn on our claims that this city is one of the footballing capitals of not just Europe, but the world. It is a failure that prevents our clubs from laying a claim to true greatness and it allows the giants of the North to look down on us. Ask Chelsea if it matters. Last season's semi-finals saw Liverpool play the heritage trump-card to great effect, beating the Blues round the head with the cold hard fact of the four European Cups that were already gleaming away in the Anfield tropy room. Were the Chelsea players distracted by the presence of the Cups? Doubtful. But the Kop was inspired by them, delighted in the knowledge that Roman, for all his roubles, cannot buy the glory of those European nights. The Liverpool fans were fired up by their heritage and helped inspire their team to great heights that night, and it made the difference.

History matters. If Chelsea and Arsenal are going to realise their dreams of becoming part of the European elite, they need to start creating it, rather than be over-awed by it.

Nearly men. Five London sides that might have won the European Cup....

Chelsea 2005/06

Lost to Liverpool in the semi-finals due to a goal that wasn't, with the absence of Robben and Duff proving instrumental.

Arsenal 2003/04

Arsene's best chance of winning the Champions League was blown when the Invincibles played the second leg of their quarter-final against Chelsea straight after an FA Cup semi-final loss to Manchester United. They lost 2-1 at home with Wayne Bridge scoring the winner.

Arsenal 1991/92

The Gunners lost to Benfica in the second round, drawing one all at the Stadium of Light before being hammered 3-1 at home. Subsequent Cup Winner's Cup campaigns proved that George Graham had the tactical nous to cut it in Europe, but by then he had a midfield of workhorses rather than throroughbreds, and was denied another attempt at the main event.

Arsenal 1971/72

Bertie Mee's Double winners lost to Ajax in the third round, with the Dutch club going on to beat Internazionale 2-0 in the final to win their second European Cup.

Tottenham Hostpur 1961/62

The team captained by Danny Blanchflower and managed by Bill Nicholson made solid progress in the tournament before losing out to Benfica in the semi-finals. Eusebio's boys then went on to beat Real Madrid in the final.