The Best Derbies in the UEFA Champions League Knockout Stages

With the Derby della Madonnina taking place in this year’s UEFA Champions League semifinals, we take a look back at other fierce rivalry matches in the tournament’s knockout rounds. 

Marco Materazzi stands with one arm on Rui Costa’s shoulder, and both take in the chaos descending from the crowds at the Giuseppe Meazza. Red flames and smoke from the flares thrown onto the pitch can be seen taking over. The game has stopped, and players watch on.

This was the last time the two Milan teams faced each other in a Champions League knockout tie in 2005. In an already hotly anticipated match, things turned sour after Andriy Shevchenko put Milan 1-0 up and then Esteban Cambiasso had an equalizer ruled offside. Inter fans were outraged and turned irritable. They threw flares onto the pitch, halting the game.

After 10 minutes, the referee tried to restart the fixture but to no avail, as Inter fans were still incensed and chaos continued. This dissent turned out to be decisive. The game was cancelled and Milan handed a 3-0 win, which saw them win 5-0 on aggregate, with Inter being fined heavily. Milan then eventually reached the final in Istanbul, and I’m sure we’re all aware of how that turned out.

We’ve welcomed Derby della Madonnina back to the Champions League semifinal, with the two facing up in this year’s tournament. A refreshing tie, indeed, after not seeing the two play each other on the knockout stage for 18 years. Let’s not stop here, however. What are some of the other best derbies to happen in a Champions League knockout stage?

FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, 2010-11 Semifinal

This game came at the height of El Clasico, when Pep Guardiola was revolutionizing football and Lionel Messi was striding towards cementing his place as the greatest player of all time. The first leg saw Barcelona come out on top, with two goals from Messi in the final 15 minutes to silence the Santiago Bernebeu.

The first came from a flash across the front post, with the little Argentine poking the ball through Iker Casillas’ legs. The second? Well, that’s the reason this tie makes it to this list. Sergio Busquets nonchalantly stops the ball in its tracks for Messi to run onto, and he dances through the Real Madrid defense before slotting it past Casillas in the net. Guardiola walks away, cooly sipping his water. Madrid? Stunned. In the second leg, Barcelona put the tie to bed with a goal from Pedro, before Madrid secured a consolation from Marcelo. A breeze for the eventual title winners, FC Barcelona.

Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund, 2012-13 Final

Borussia Dortmund was seeing a massive hipster surge during this time, with the tactical nerds and culture aficionados swooning over the club. And you can’t blame them, as the Yellow Wall became famous and the team had the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus, and Robert Lewandowski. It was the hipster underdog against the inevitable Goliaths, which is what made this final even more interesting. Bayern’s Mario Mandzukic scored first before Gundogan equalized from the spot, setting up a thrilling closing half hour at Wembley. Arjen Robben then sent a dagger deep into the heart of Dortmund with an 89th-minute winner. A heartbreaking day for the Borussia Dortmund faithful, but a jubilant one for those in Munich.

Chelsea vs. Liverpool, 2007-08 Semifinals

An all-English tie came up in the semifinal this year, with Chelsea facing a Liverpool side who’d just defeated Arsenal in another all-English quarterfinal. In what turned out to be an instant classic of a second leg, Chelsea would hold off Liverpool in a tense extra time that saw three total goals scored, including a 98th-minute penalty from Frank Lampard and a 105th-minute strike from Didier Drogba which secured his double.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea, 2007-08 Final

As if Chelsea’s semifinal match wasn’t dramatic enough, they’d face even more theatrics in what was the first ever all-English Champions League final. The game was cagey, with Chelsea on the hunt for their first-ever Champions League trophy and Manchester United for their first since the iconic treble of ‘99. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring before an equalizer from Lampard.

The game then went the distance and entered a penalty shootout, which saw Chelsea legend John Terry lose his footing on a very wet pitch and miss his penalty. Nicolas Anelka then had his penalty saved by Edwin Van Der Sar after Ryan Giggs scored his spot kick to make it 6-5 in favor of the Red Devils.

Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid, 2014 Final

The Madrid derby came to Lisbon for the 2014 final and the start couldn’t have been worse for Atleti, with Diego Costa going off injured in the early minutes. They still managed to take the lead however, and kept hold of it until the dying embers. Sergio Ramos dampened their spirits with a late goal and took the game to extra time, which was where Atleti crumbled. Real Madrid, who seem to be made for the Champions League, dismantled them with Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Ronaldo all scoring in extra time to give the club their 10th title.

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