The 2012-13 UEFA Champions League will have three clubs making their first ever appearance in the competition – can these minnows make an impact?
Montpellier of Ligue 1, Malaga from La Liga in Spain and FC Nordsjaelland of the Danish Superliga will all be taking their baby steps in Europe’s most prestigious club competition.
Most of the best players in world football ply their trade in the Champions League and so it is always going to be difficult for these sides with miniscule budgets, coverage and experience compared to giants such as Barcelona and Real Madrid, to make any real impact.
All is not lost however, as there are precedents for smaller sides upsetting more glamorous opponents, proving the old adage that anything can happen when you get 22 players and a ball on the pitch.
GMF gave it some thought and picked out our favourites…
Barcelona 1-2 Rubin Kazan, 2009
The Russian side went to Camp Nou as relative unknowns, but left with the Blaugranas knowing exactly who they were. The game had barely got going when Aleksandr Ryazantsev intercepted a Rafael Marquez pass and hammered a 30-yard shot into the top corner of Victor Valdes’ goal.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic pulled back an equaliser in the second half and the home side were expected to step up a gear to brush aside the men in green, but once again Rubin failed to follow the assumed order of things. Karadeniz Gokdeniz popped up with a quarter of an hour to go and slammed home the winner.
Watch the amazing opener below...
Newcastle United 3-2 Barcelona, 1997
This game was all about Faustino Asprilla and the Colombian electrified St James’ Park with a virtuoso hat-trick to stun European giants Barcelona in their first Champions League group game.
The Toon were doing it in style as well, as Asprilla scored a first half penalty and two second half headers to give the home side a 3-0 lead. A nervy finish to the game ensued, however, when Luis Enrique and Luis Figo struck late to leave Newcastle hanging on for dear life.
Leeds United 1-0 AC Milan, 2000
The Yorkshire club would come to regret the excesses that originally took them into the Champions League, but their first group game at Elland Road was one of their greatest nights.
Dominic Matteo made his Leeds debut in the game and was one of the most impressive performers on a night when defending was high on the Premier League side’s agenda against a side containing Andrey Shevchenko in his prime.
The game looked destined to be goalless – a satisfactory result for Leeds after they were batter 4-0 by Barcelona in the first group game – but Lee Bowyers speculative effort in the dying seconds was bundled into his own goal by Milan’s Brazilian ‘keeper Dida. It was a horrendous error, but it meant Leeds’ fans could home happy on a cold and wet evening.
FC Basel 2-1 Manchester United, 2011
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were stunned in Switzerland and knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage for only the third time in 17 years. The Old Trafford side went to Basel confident they could get the point they needed to progress.
However, their European campaign up to then had been beset by moments of complacency and Basel had already capitalised on this in the tie at Old Trafford, coming from behind to nearly scrape a win but for a late Ashley Young equaliser.
They did not heed this warning and looked shell-shocked when Alexander Frei headed in with five minutes to go, doubling the lead after Marco Streller’s opener inside the first five minutes. United had created plenty of chance throughout the game but were profligate in the extreme, so it was too little too late when Phil Jones halved the deficit in the 89th minute – United were sent crashing out.
What do you think is the biggest upset seen in the Champions League? Leave a comment below to let us know…