Tonight, West Ham face Astra Giurgiu in the first playoff round of the Europa League.
The East Londoners are one of the few clubs in England who will be familiar with the Romanian outfit, having faced them in the same competition, albeit one round earlier, last season.
It wasn’t a happy occasion for the Hammers, losing the double-legger with an aggregate scoreline of 4-3.
And having also struggled to see off fellow European minnows Domzale in the previous round this season, losing the first leg 2-1 before dominating the second with a 3-0 win, there might be a somewhat tetchy atmosphere at Stadionul Marin Anastasovici this evening.
West Ham could roll over Astra in retaliation for last season or end up the victims of another impressive giant killing by the Romanians.
With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at five of the biggest giant killings and five of the biggest thumpings in recent European football history. Will West Ham make their way onto our list this evening?
Alongside Real Madrid, Liverpool boast the biggest win in the Champions League’s current format after the preliminary rounds, battering Besiktas 8-0 at Anfield back in 2007. In a merciless performance from the Reds, midfielder Yossi Benayoun bagged a 25-minute hat-trick. Ryan Babel and Peter Crouch braces and a goal from Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard heaped on the misery for the Turkish side.
Celtic may not be the big draw of yesteryear, but when they were tied against Lincoln Red Imps in Champions League qualifying earlier this summer – Brendan Rodgers’ first game in charge – everybody expected a whitewash. But the Gibraltar champions dug deep on a very questionable 4G pitch and eventually came away with a 1-0 win. Celtic beat them 3-0 in the reverse leg at Celtic Park, but some dubbed it a bigger humiliation than England’s Euro 2016 defeat to Iceland.
Sharing that aforementioned honour with Liverpool are Real Madrid, who trounced Malmo 8-0 in the Group Stages of the Champions League last season. The Swedish side couldn’t hold Los Blancos’ expensively assembled team of superstars at bay, as Cristiano Ronaldo netted four, Benzema bagged a hat-trick and midfielder Mateo Kovacic also chipped in. In fairness to Malmo, however, Real Madrid went on to win the Champions League title last season.
When Deportivo suffered a 4-1 defeat to reigning European Champions AC Milan in 2004, many expected the worst. But that was during the La Liga outfit’s hayday and to much dismay, they had cancelled out AC Milan’s lead by half time in the second leg. Substitute Gonzalez Fran came on to bag the winner and knock out Rossoneri during a Champions League season that will be remembered as the year of the underdog, epitomised by Jose Mourinho eventually lifting the title with FC Porto.
After winning the Welsh Premier League title in 2011, Bangor City met their Finnish counterparts, HJK Helsinki, in the third qualifying round of the Champions League. But it was a bitter experience for the Citizens who, after losing the first leg 3-0, found themselves on the end of a seven-goal battering at the Sonera Stadium in Helsinki.
You might be familiar with APOEL as the Cypriot side who always seem to be involved in the early rounds of the Champions League but never get much further. Back in 2012, however, that wasn’t the case; they fought back from a 1-0 deficit against French giants Lyon – whose squad at the time included Hugo Lloris, Dejan Lovren, Kim Kallstrom, Maxime Gonalons, Bafetimbi Gomis, Jeremy Briand and John Mensah to mention some of their bigger names – to draw level at the end of the second leg. The Round of 16 tie went to penalties and looked upon favourably by the footballing gods, APOEL booked their place in the quarter-finals.
Feyenoord and Luxembourg outfit Rumelang have only met once in Europe, back during the 1972/73 season, which can only be good news for the latter club. Feyenoord not only came away from the first leg of their UEFA Cup clash with a 9-0 win, but further expanded their winning margin by an incredible twelve goals during the second leg.
Back in 2009, Barcelona were firmly amid their peak. The Pep Guardiola revolution was in full swing and the Catalans had waltzed their way to the Champions League title the year previous – before bolstering their squad with a swoop for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. So few gave Rubin Kazan a chance when they rocked up at the Nou Camp in the Group Stages but miraculously, the Russian outfit came away with a 2-1 win – scoring twice from just three efforts at goal throughout the entire ninety minutes.
Benfica are the tenth-most successful team in the history of the Champions League, reaching seven finals and winning two titles in the 1960s. Not long after their peak, the Portuguese giants took on Stade Dudelange, a Luxembourg outfit that disbanded in 1991. Needless to say, the game was a complete mismatch, leading Benfica to record the greatest winning margin over two legs the Champions League has ever seen – a staggering 18-0.
Celtic are the only club to find themselves mentioned twice on this list and with good reason. Back in July, the Scottish outfit faced European minnows Artmedia Bratislava in Gordan Strachan’s first game in charge and unexpectedly found themselves on the receiving end of a 5-0 hammering. Celtic improved in the second leg, claiming a 4-0 win, but the damage was already done. Just to put the difference between these two clubs into context, Artmedia plied their trade in the fifth tier of Slovakian football last season.