Posts Tagged ‘ Champions League ’

Chelsea/FC Barcelona 2005

Football Ramble’s Greatest Games podcast looked back at the dramatic events between Chelsea and FC Barcelona in March 2005.

Barca were up 2-1 from the first leg heading back to Stamford Bridge, and the tie was on the proverbial knife’s edge. After working my shift at the coffee shop, I headed to a friend’s house to watch the game. What I witnessed was incredible. A fast start by the Blues and they were up 3-0 in 20 minutes. Then came the comeback from Barcelona including that goal from Ronaldinho that put the visitors ahead on away goals. The second half went back and forth before Terry’s goal settled matters. I was devastated, but the Blaugrana knocked out Chelsea the following year on their way to winning the European Cup and continue an amazing rivalry of almost twenty years, with matches full of incident and tension and memorable moments.


Juventus Home Shirt 08/09

Juventus’ first season back after the Calciopoli scandal was a relative success, with the Old Lady finishing third and qualifying for the Champions League. The following season, the club improved on their position while giving a good account of themselves in Europe.

The playing staff saw turnover ahead of the 2008/09 campaign with Birindelli leaving the club after a decade of service and almost 300 appearances. Zalayeta also departed, although his career never hit the anticipated heights. To help reinforce the squad, Mellberg, Amauri, and Poulsen were signed and Marchisio and Giovinco returned from loan.

The Bianconeri challenged for the scudetto before falling away in the spring, which eventually cost Ranieri his job. Alessandro Del Piero led the way with 13 league goals, supported by Amauri and Iaquinta, with Trezeguet out for most of the season. In the Coppa Italia, Juventus overcame Catania and Napoli before losing out to Lazio in the Semi-Finals. The Biancocelesti would go on to win their fifth Coppa title.

Juve were back in the Champions League and, after breezing through the Qualifying Round (5-1 over Artmedia Petržalka), the Bianconeri met Real Madrid on Match Days 3 and 4, winning both matches. The Old Lady won the home match 2-1 and then went to the Bernabeu where Alessandro Del Piero turned in a performance for the ages, scoring both goals. The Black and Whites topped the group but fell to Chelsea in the Round of 16.

Juventus 2-1

Real Madrid 0-2 Juventus

Moving on to the kits, Nike took over the contract for the Italian club in 2003 and had it until adidas became the manufacturer in 2015. This one was a solid effort, not the best but far from the worst, with the 06/07 and 14/15 versions the best in my opinion.

Juventus’ traditional black and white stripes were accented by bright yellow accents at the collar, cuffs and bottom hem. Yellow was used instead of the red from the previous season and I preferred this look, so much that I bought a replica version. The cuffs and hem were particularly interesting as the yellow bits were sown on under the main fabric to create a flare effect. There several different iterations of the kit as it was worn with white shorts and socks, white shorts and black socks and black shorts and socks. Have to say I liked this last version the best.

The replica had an embroidered crest with a thick heat transfer of the New Holland logo. There were some additional touches with the word BIANCONERI and two stars on the inside neck tape and JUVENTUS in gold across back neck.

As I was researching I noted that the league version of the shirt had stripes throughout the back of the shirt while the Champions League version had a black box for the name and number set. At first I thought I was imagining things but the Switch Image Project confirmed this slight alteration.

I ordered this shirt with JUNIOR 7 on the back. While I don’t wear it as much as I used to (read why here), it still hangs in my closet and maybe one day I’ll get it framed for the mancave I dream/talk about.




Colours of Football

Switch Image Project


Check out more posts on kits from clubs and countries around the world on the Strip Club page. And yes. It’s safe for work.

Manchester United Change/Third Shirts 2001/02


Manchester United entered the 2001/02 season as the three time defending Premier League Champions but Sir Alex was already in the process of building his next team. The club added Ruud van Nistelrooy, who scored 36 goals in his first season and would go on to even bigger things the following year, Juan Sebastián Verón and Laurent Blanc with Jaap Stam leaving during the summer and Jesper Blomqvist, Denis Irwin, Ronny Johnsen, Raimond van der Gouw, Dwight Yorke, and Andy Cole gone from the club by the following season.


Another league title was not on the cards as poor results in November and December saw the Red Devils in ninth. Results would turn around but Arsenal would eventually win the league and the Double with Manchester United finishing third behind Liverpool.

Bayer Laverkusen's Oliver Neuville

No joy was found in the cups either as Manchester United lost to Arsenal in the Third Round of the League Cup and to Middlesbrough in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup. Bayer Leverkusen knocked out Sir Alex’s men in the Semi-Finals of the Champions League on away goals.

Of note this season were two notable comebacks.

Manchester United overturned a 3-0 deficit away at Spurs in the league.

The Red Devils also rescued a Third Round FA Cup tie at Villa Park with a remarkable three goals in the final 15 minutes to advance 3-2.



The change and third shirts for this season produced an interesting choice from kit manufacturers Umbro. Per Historical Football Kits:

United were one of the leading clubs that attracted considerable criticism for exploiting the replica kit market and in 2001, Umbro came up wih a novel response, creating the first reversible shirt. These were white on one side and metallic gold when turned inside out, so supporters had both away and third shirts in one purchase. The players had separate white and gold sets which were not reversible.


The change shirt saw a white chest with black sleeves and panels down the torso. Narrow white trim accent the sleeve from the armpit to the cuff. The shirt used a V neck with a collar, and gold trim was used on the collar and chest. White shorts and socks were used when needed and kept the design element around the rib cage going down most of the shorts.


Gold had not used for Manchester United’s kits previously and has not used since, with the yellow shirts of the early 70s being the closest in color. The gold change shirt was in essence a reversed out version of the white shirt, with the same collar, a narrow black band on the sleeves going all the way to the collar, and the black shorts and socks were the same as the change strip. This kit was only worn three times during the season, twice at Arsenal and for United’s away game to Olympiakos in the Champions League.

Besides the design, there are also little touches all over the shirt. Let’s start with the badge, with black replacing the red background of the standard badge and gold instead of yellow for the lettering and trim.


Above the badge is the commemorative mark for the 100th anniversary of the name change from Newton Heath to Manchester United.


The inside neck has another mark to celebrate 100 years along with the Umbro wordmark.

centenary-screen-printOn the front of the shirt is hologram which signifies the authenticity of the shirt, while on the back hem of the change shirt is an element that Umbro used during the early 2000s–the kit life span.



(images courtesy of pryoboy blog)

Everything on the white side is embroidered while the gold side uses screen printing.

While the shirt is heavy due to it being reversible, this is one of my favorites, particularly the white change shirt. The celebratory basis for the shirt is significant as well and glad I pulled the trigger on the long sleeve version all those years ago.


Resources for this post:


Check out more posts on kits from clubs and countries around the world on the Strip Club page. And yes. It’s safe for work.

Invincible: Inside Arsenal’s Unbeaten 2003-2004 Season


Invincible: Inside Arsenal’s Unbeaten 2003-2004 Season, Amy Lawrence

The unbeaten league season from Arsenal during the 2003/04 season was a truly remarkable achievement by a remarkable group of players, and Amy Lawrence’s book did an amazing job of capturing that season. She utilized two things that help structure and add depth to the book.

One, she put not only that season but Arsenal Football Club into context. The Gunners were a much different organization in the years following the remarkable league championships of 1989 and 1991 and the transition from George Graham’s 1-0 to the Arsenal to Arsene Wenger’s continental, artistic Arsenal is quite the story. Wenger changed the identity of the club and Lawrence highlighted some of the elements of that change. Plus that season was part of a bigger Arsenal story. The Double of 2002 was followed by a disappointing campaign which left the players, staff and fans unsatisfied and the club looked to push on.

Two, Lawrence used an interesting approach to her book. Rather than a strict pattern of each game and result in chronological order, she identified key attributes of the team and explored the development and impact of leadership, culture, and so on. Players and staff were open with their memories and reflections from that time period and these gave real insight into the mood and environment of a team on a mission. The book ends with an extended one and one interview with Wenger and a recap of what happened to the players in the following ten years. The Wenger interview was particularly compelling due to his philosophy toward management and the game.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read due to the quality of the writing, the insight and the appreciation of the Invincible season. Full access to the team and club gave this book a intimacy that would have been severely lacking had it just been a recap of the 2003/04 season. Worth a read whether you’re a Gunner or not.

ATL Spurs


ATL Spurs podcast

Matt Gragg, Vice President of ATL Spurs, and I talked about Tottenham Hotspur on the latest SoccerNomad podcast. From the formation of the club to the origins of the Supporters Group to the big win against City to kits and the new stadium, we discussed a lot about the Lilywhites. If you have love Spurs or want to experience a great game day atmosphere, join ATL Spurs at Meehan’s Atlantic Station.

Find out more about the group at their website and on twitter (@ATLSpurs). Look them on facebook as well.

My post on the 2000/01 Spurs away kit can be found here on the SoccerNomad blog.tottenham_hotspur_2000-2001-change


Thanks for listening! You can also subscribe via iTunes and please leave a rating and review. Follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

FC Barcelona Home 2007/08


In retrospect, the 2007/08 season was the transition from one era to another. Moving on from the European Double in 2006, the Blaugrana phased out old soldiers (van Bronckhorst, Giuly, Belletti and Thiago Motta) and brought in key players for the upcoming cycle of success (Henry, Yaya Toure, Abidal, Milito, and Pinto).


After losing out to Real Madrid for the La Liga title the previous season on head to head results, Barca started the campaign strongly but too many draws and only four away wins saw the Blaugrana finish third behind Real Madrid and Villarreal. Glory was not to be found in the Copa del Ray either, as Valencia knocked FC Barcelona out in the Semis with a 4-2 aggregate win.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 29: Thierry Henry (R) of Barcelona controls the ball next to Pele of Inter Milan during the Gamper Trophy match between Barcelona and Inter Milan at the Nou Camp Stadium on August 29, 2007 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Thierry Henry;Pele

In Europe, Barca had a comfortable Group Stage and then faced Celtic in the Round of 16. A 3-2 win at Celtic Park saw them progress to the Quarters, where the Blaugrana secured a pair of 1-0 victories over Schalke. The result was a Semi-Final match up against Manchester United, resulting in a tense pair of matches, with Scholes’ worldy at Old Trafford being the difference for the eventual champs.

Trophyless, everything would change that summer as Pep Guardiola was named manager ahead of the 2008/09 season.


(image courtesy of Colours of Football)

The home jersey for the 2007/08 campaign was straightforward, with thick blue and red vertical bands, very reminiscent of the shirt used in the 1980’s except without the collar. Together with blue shorts and hooped socks, this made for a stylish, traditional FCB kit. This was the second season of the club’s association with UNICEF, with the charity across the front of the shirt and a contribution made from the club.


(image courtesy of FC Barcelona)

The highlight of the shirt was a circle of text noting the 50th anniversary of the Camp Nou. Opened in 1957 after three years of construction, it is the largest venue in Europe and has hosted games for the 1982 World Cup and 1992 Olympics and several European Cup Finals, including that magical night in 1999. (For more info on the venue, check out Chris Clements’ post at Estadios de Espana.)

I really like this shirt but rarely wear it. Partly because I don’t want to ruin it and partly because I don’t follow Barca as faithfully anymore. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Read the rest of my Strip Club posts here and follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Top Five Matches

I came across a post on reddit asking Which five matches changed your life?Loved the question and after thinking about it for a bit, here’s what I came up with:

1996       England v Germany Euro 96

download (2)

This game created the template for watching soccer while working. ESPN picked up the rights to this tournament and I fell in love with Croatia, saw Gazza’s wonder goal against Scotland, and the Czech Republic’s heartbreak in the Final against Germany. In the previous round, England played Germany in a rematch of the 1990 World Cup Semi. I was working as a summer intern at the FBI and snuck up to a conference room to watch the second half and penalties. England were so close but after 11 perfect spot kicks, Southgate’s miss condemned the Three Lions to defeat.

1999       Bayern Munich v Manchester United   Champions League Final

99 ucl

As my love for the Red Devils continued to grow, the Treble season reached its dramatic conclusion in Barcelona. With no Keane or Scholes, United was up against it and when Basler scored in the opening minutes, I didn’t believe. Negative by nature I just waited for Bayern to seal the game and accept defeat. But when Sheringham poked home from close range I screamed with excitement. And when Solskjaer put the ball in the Germans net, I ran around the house in sheer joy.

2002       USA v Portugal   World Cup 2002 Group Stage


In the days leading up to the game, I had a dream that the US crushed Portugal like 6-0 but I had missed it by sleeping in. Due to the time difference, the game kicked off at 4am ET. On the morning of the game, I drove frantically to a friend’s house who was hosting people. After the early US blitz I thought maybe I had had some sort of premonition but alas, Portugal fought back and made for a nervous last couple of minutes. That tournament was amazing and I got up at all hours to watch the matches.

2009       Real Madrid v FC Barcelona     La Liga


In the late 90s and early 2000s I start following FC Barcelona and watched a dramatic 2006 Champions League Final against Arsenal. In the years following, that magic team was broken up and rebuilt and taken over by Pep Guardiola who drove the Blaugrana to an unprecedented, at the time, Treble. Real Madrid hunted Barca down in the league and set up a crucial meeting at the Bernabeu, and when Los Merengues scored first, a sick feeling came over me. And then magic happened with Henry and Messi tearing apart the hosts, each scoring twice, and also getting goals from Puyol and Piqué. It was breathtaking and set the stage for Iniesta’s moment of magic at Stamford Bridge and an amazing finish to the season.

2012       Manchester City v QPR     English Premier  League


The dramatic end to the 1988-89 season was before my time, so when United came back from 0-1 against Spurs in the final league game of 1999 to clinch the title, I didn’t think it could get much better than that. I was wrong. A bunch of fellow fans gathered at Buffalo Wild Wings for Fox’s Survival Sunday, with all ten games on an array of channels. With fans from several different teams present, cheers and groans were constant depending on the action. Eventually we started calling out the TV numbers to keep track of the events. United secured victory at Sunderland and with City down 1-2 against QPR, another league title looked secure. But the fickle finger of fate intervened and Dzeko equalized, setting up Aguero’s moment of glory. Stunned I drank several shots as I watched the celebrations at Etihad. Gutted by the result, it was still one of the greatest soccer community events I have ever experienced.

Let me know what games impacted your soccer support in the comments below.


Check out more posts on my trips, research and memories on the MatchDay Memories page.

Manchester United Away 2003-05


LONDON - MAY 1: Ryan Giggs of Manchester United in action during the Barclays Premiership match between Charlton Athletic and Manchester United at The Valley on May 1, 2005 in London. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

(picture courtesy of Metro)

Ahead of the 2003/04 season I was lucky enough to attend some of Manchester United’s preseason tour in the United States. Seeing some of my favorite players (Solskjaer, Giggs, Keane, and van Nistelrooy) and future greats (Fletcher and Rio) was fantastic. However, no Becks, which equaled #sadface.

The 03/04 and 04/05 seasons were part of the transition from Fergie’s second United team marked by the Treble to the third version which culminated with three straight Premier League titles from 2007 to 2009 and a European Cup in 2008.

Entering the 03/04 season, the defending Premier League champions said goodbye to Beckham, Veron and Barthez and the following season moved on Butt, Chadwick and Forlan. In their place came a new crop of players: Bellion, Djemba-Djemba, Howard, Kléberson, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dong Fangzhuo, Alan Smith, Saha, Heinze, Pique, Rossi and Rooney. While Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney would become club icons and Gabriel Heinze would be a good servant, most of this group would be plagued by injuries, poor form and a lack of quality.

Thinking back on the season 03/04 all I could remember was that Arsenal were invincible and Tim Howard made a critical error in the Champions League. Upon further review, United led the league for the first half of the campaign before a wobble handed the momentum to the Gunners, who ran out league winners in similar fashion to the finish of the 1998 season.


(picture courtesy of Soccer Bible)

The following season saw a slow start from the Reds but the squad picked up points and momentum during the middle third of the season, getting all the way to second in the table. Back to back losses in April ended their challenge and United finished third.

The Reds won the 2004 FA Cup Final, stopping Arsenal from winning the Double with a win in the Semi-Finals. The victory over Millwall was their 11th title, the most in the country at the time. Turns out it was their last as they lost the 2005 Final to Arsenal on penalties and have only had a couple of Semi-Final appearances since then.

In Europe, Fergie’s men lost out to eventual champions Porto in 2004 after a disallowed goal and a mistake from American goalkeeper Tim Howard. The following season AC Milan knocked out the Reds in the Round of 16.


(image courtesy of Historical Kits)

United returned to the black strip last used in 98/99. The strip was marked by a couple of design elements: a geometric pattern and a distinctive collar. As the Pride of Manchester Website notes, A ‘watermarked’ flower pattern adds a nice touch to the jersey, but to me it only looked like a bunch of interlocking throwing stars. The pattern was not really visible during the match so no biggie. The collar saw a rounded elastic band around the neck which was squared off at the throat area. In theory I liked this design but it never quite fit right on my neck, with one side flopping around.

Away 03-05

I received this shirt as a gift from the Haslett High School Girls Varsity team. Knowing of my love of United, the ladies presented it to me at a post season banquet as a mark of appreciation. While I think this is the best designed of the United black kits, the shirt I received had several issues. For one it was too big. I’m a large at best and the shirt was an XL which meant it hung on me like a muumuu. And two, Beckham was on the back but unfortunately he wasn’t on the team anymore, he didn’t wear this particular shirt, the name and numbers were stitched on instead of being heat pressed, and the number used was 23, his new number at Real Madrid. As a result I don’t wear it that much and am keeping my eye out for a better fitting version.

Following sources were used in this post:

Read the rest of my Strip Club posts here and follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Champions League Blues



Months on from Barca’s incredible treble treble another Champions League campaign is upon us. In years past I would be following the results of the Final Qualifying Round and the Group Stage draw and planning how to use my time off to watch games, getting hyped for the upcoming competition. But over the summer I had none of the excitement, none of the anticipation for the premier soccer event in the world.

Several reasons for this:

Work. At my old job and I had a generous amount of time off and typically banked my personal days so I could watch either Manchester United or one of big Match Days. After working for a couple of hours, I would head down to the local pub, settle in with a beverage and lunch and get ready for the game. With my new job, I barely have any PPL so saving them for a rainy day really isn’t an option. I have tried to go on media blackout and watch replays but have not had much success with that.

The Group Stage. Big teams almost always make it to the Knockout Round so the tournament can lack drama in the opening stages. By Match Day 5, the top two seeds have booked their place. Occasionally you get the slip ups, like recently when United didn’t make it out of the Group Stage in 11/12 or when defending champs Chelsea took their eyes off the prize and finished third in 12/13 (before going on win the Europa League) or the disaster of Juventus’ campaign in 13/14 or just Manchester City in general.

On top of this there are too many games. Eight matches per match day makes it hard enough to keep up with the highlights much less the narratives, like whether a lesser team can sneak into second place or whether a real minnow can qualify for the Europa League. Rarely do you have a scenario where all teams have a chance to advance and even if you did, I wouldn’t have time to watch it.

Time. One issue I have been dealing with over the last couple of years is Soccer Time Management. I just don’t have the time to watch and read and cover the entire world of soccer. To this end, I have started focusing more on Manchester United and Major League Soccer. With the Red Devils back in the competition, I will watch Champions League games but will prioritize United games over other Champions League matches.

I am debating whether to pony up for FoxSoccer2Go. For $20 a month I can get all of the games and highlights. I think if you time it right, you can subscribe mid-September when the competition starts and quit in mid-December when the competition hibernates for the winter. Spring is a little tougher as the tournament starts earlier and earlier and ends later and later. I can watch the highlights on several sites and I think the money will only be worth it so I can watch United games at night and for the Knockout Stage.

Speaking of the Knockout Stage, UEFA has stretched out the Round of 16, which does alleviate the number of games one has to keep up but this has dulled the momentum of the competition somewhat. Seems like it takes forever for the tournament to get going again come late February or early March. However the Semi Finals over the last couple of years have been tense, action packed affairs with Chelsea’s elimination of Barcelona in 2012, Bayern’s destruction of the Blaugrana in 2013 and Juventus’ heroics against Real Madrid in 2015 to name a few.

19.05.2012. Munich Germany. Champions League Final FC Bayern Munich versus FC Chelsea. Powerfully headed goal in the 88th minute by Didier Drogba equalising the game at 1-1.

The Finals have been decent for the most part. Drama has been high while quality has been hit and miss. With the Final on Saturday rather than Wednesday, I am able to usually get in front of a TV for the event and have attended several watch parties over the last couple of years, which made it all the better.


In the end, I’m going to watch the tournament, especially United’s re-introduction, but have made peace with the fact that I can’t watch every moment of every game. How do you consume the tournament? Is the Champions League still the end all be all? Is the Champions League better than the World Cup? Let me know in the comments below.

Strip Club–High Mileage Edition

I never had a dog in the Old Firm fight and would catch matches and highlights as I could. Players like Henrik Larsson, Stilian Petrov, Neil Lennon and Aiden McGeady stood out for the Hoops, while Barry Ferguson and Jörg Albertz and Claudio Reyna caught my attention when they played for the Rs.

Over the years interest in these teams faded and I was usually only reminded of their existence when they met the big boys or deep runs in European competitions. Hard to forget Celtic’s dramatic UEFA Cup Final against Porto in 2003. Rangers faced off against Manchester United in the Champions League a couple of times and lost to Zenit in the 2008 Europa League Final.

Celtic's gary hooper

For the 12/13 season, with Rangers in crisis and demoted to the lower divisions, the Hoops winning the SPL was a foregone conclusion.  The team that year featured Victor Wanyama, Fraser Forster in goal, the dirty greek Georgios Samaras, Scott Brown, Emilio Izaguirre, Charlie Mulgrew, and the pace and composure of Gary Hooper, who scored 31 goals in all competitions.

Celtic reached the league summit by November and never looked back, but dreams of a domestic treble ended when St. Mirren stunned the Hoops in the Semis of the League Cup.  However, the Bhoys got revenge in the Scottish Cup, knocking out St. Mirren in the Quarters on their way to defeating Hibs 3-0 in the Final.


Celtic’s European campaign began in August when they met HJK Helsinki in the Third Qualifying Round. A 4-1 aggregate win saw them move to the Play-Off Round against Helsingborg. The Bhoys saw off the Swedish champions, and the club was placed in a group with FC Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow. A famous win against the Blaugrana at Celtic Park saw the Hoops through to the Round of 16 where they were swept aside by Juventus.

celtic 125

When the jersey was released I instantly fell in love with it. The cross intrigued me and my research led to a great post from the Celtic wiki that summarizes the evolution of the club crest. I love that the logos of Nike and Tennant’s blend into the shirt and don’t distract from the badge. The club release of the kit noted:

Replicating the uniform worn by Celtic in their very first match against Rangers on May 28, 1888, the 125th anniversary kit features a white shirt with a black collar, backed with green and black shorts and green and black hooped socks.

The very first Celtic cross club crest has been redesigned for the 21st Century but maintains the unbreakable bond with the club’s origins and Irish heritage.

celtic 125 full strip

Don’t know if I will ever purchase the shirt but it’s definitely on the wish list. This is a home run from Nike, with a very classy design imbued with history.


Special thanks to the following sites:

  • Who Ate All the Pies. Their post on the kit has some great close ups.
  • Check out Historical Kits for the full evolution of the club shirt.