This week sees the Group Stages of the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League kick off, as the best teams from Europe go head to head in the competition sponsored by Heineken. Many people will be watching Tottenham’s trip to Werder Bremen to see how Spurs fare in their first Champions League appearance, but on Tuesday night all eyes will be on Old Trafford where the latest instalment of the Battle of Britain is set to take place. Manchester United will host Rangers as England and Scotland match up once more on the football pitch in an occasion where plenty of passion is sure to be on show. The Battle of Britain has certainly thrown up plenty of tasty encounters before and here are ten of the best…
Rangers v Wolves: 3-1 on aggregate (1961)
The first ‘Battle of Britain’ in European competition saw Rangers and Wolves match up in the 1961 Cup Winners’ Cup semi final. Rangers were always favourites to win after securing a 2-0 first leg win in front of 80,000 fans at Ibrox thanks to goals from Ralph Brand and Alex Scott. They prevailed in this Anglo-Scottish encounter despite a consolation goal from Peter Broadbent for Wolves, but Rangers fell to Fiorentina in the final that followed.
Tottenham v Rangers: 8-4 on aggregate (1962)
This European encounter remains one of the highest scoring ones, with an incredible 12 goals scored, which meant that it lived up to Tottenham manager Bill Nicholson’s billing as ‘the greatest game on earth’. The queue for tickets at White Hart Lane stretched for more than two miles and they wouldn’t have been disappointed as Spurs won 5-2. They followed that up with a 3-2 against Rangers at Ibrox, resulting in an 8-4 aggregate score.
Liverpool 2-0 Celtic (1966)
Two of football’s greatest managers were in the dugout for this game: Jock Stein and Bill Shankly. After losing just 1-0 at Parkhead in a game which Celtic dominated, the second leg of the 1966 Cup Winners’ Cup semi final was a different matter. Goals from Tommy Smith and Geoff Strong were enough for Liverpool to emerge victorious, leaving Celtic fans to go home disappointed, especially after a disallowed goal which prompted them to throw bottles onto the pitch. Liverpool couldn’t go on to win the competition, though, as they were defeated by Borussia Dortmund in the final.
Celtic 2-1 Leeds (1970)
A bumper crowd of 136,505 at Hampden Park (a record for a European club match) saw Jock Stein’s Celtic overcome Don Revie’s Leeds in this 1970 European Cup semi final. Celtic’s hard work in the first leg that secured them a 1-0 victory at Elland Road thanks to a goal from George Connelly looked to have been undone as Billy Bremner drew the scores level at Hampden, thus silencing the crowd. Stein believed that Liverpool were for the taking and his was right, as a Jimmy Johnstone inspired display saw them through to the final, which they lost to Feyenoord.
Liverpool 4-0 Aberdeen (1980)
It is not often that Sir Alex Ferguson comes off second best but this was exactly what happened in 1980 when he matched up against Bob Paisley – the only time he did so in his career. A 1-0 loss at Pittodrie was followed crushing defeat for Aberdeen at Anfield as the Reds netted four times. Before the match Paisley had praised Fergie and Aberdeen star Gordon Strachan, but the Dons were well and truly second best – losing 5-0 on aggregate.
Manchester United v Dundee United: 5-4 on aggregate (1984)
Ron Atkinson’s Manchester United side eventually prevailed in this pulsating two-legged encounter in the 1980s. Dundee United held the Red Devils to a 2-2 at Old Trafford in the first leg, with Bryan Robson and Gordon Strachan on the score sheet for Man Utd. The second leg was just as exciting and a Mark Hughes amongst other helped United to victory, meaning that Paul Hegarty’s goal in each leg was ultimately in vein.
Rangers v Leeds: 4-2 on aggregate (1992)
Rangers became the unofficial Champions of Britain after Howard Wilkinson’s Leeds were beaten by the Gers at Ibrox and Elland Road. Hotshot Ally McCoist netted in both games and ensured Rangers continued their European venture that year, which almost saw them reach the final. Stuart McCall and the rest of the team showcased true Scottish spirit and Rangers went on a 44 match unbeaten run that season, which helped them to the domestic treble. A Leeds team that featured Eric Cantona (who was soon to cross the Pennines) were simply outclassed.
Celtic 2-2 Liverpool (1997)
This first round UEFA Cup encounter deserved to be much later in the competition for the quality of the football on display. Michael Owen gave Liverpool the advantage early on in the first leg at Parkhead, before goals from Jackie McNamara and Simon Donnelly gave Celtic the edge. Then came the moment for which the game will always be remembered – a magnificent solo goal from Steve McManaman. The Liverpool winger picked up the ball in his own half and ghosted past a number of defenders before capping off his 70 yard run with a great finish.
Liverpool v Celtic: 1-3 on aggregate (2003)
Celtic managed to get their revenge against Liverpool a little over five years later, in a UEFA Cup campaign that saw them reach the final and knock out two British teams in the process. Having earlier defeated Blackburn Rovers, Celtic held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park in a match that saw the infamous El Hadji Diouf spitting incident. Celtic went on to record an impressive 2-0 win at Anfield thanks to goals from Alan Thompson and John Hartson.
Manchester United 3-2 Celtic (2006)
A five goal thriller at Old Trafford – something the neutral will be hoping is replicated on Tuesday. Not only were Celtic defeated by Man United, but Gordon Strachan also lost out to his old boss – Sir Alex Ferguson. Goals from the giant that is Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and a stunning free kick from Japanese sensation Shunsuke Nakamura sandwiched a Louis Saha double to make it all square at half time. Then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went on to do what he did dozens of times for the Red Devils – net an invaluable winner.
So will England or Scotland emerge victorious as Manchester United face Rangers and are there any more footballing Battles of Britain you feel deserve a mention here?