For European soccer clubs, there is no greater glory. Soon the UEFA Champion’s League will enter the knockout stages, and the remaining teams will battle it out to determine which two sides will enter the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon, Portgual on May 24th as the finalists. Only on side will leave with the trophy, but there’s much work to be done until they can even think about that day. All the teams still left in the tournament as the knockout rounds begin have survived the group stage that played out during the fall. Some emerged unscathed after a series of dominant performances, others barely scraped through. Fortunately for the ones that barely survived, their performance in the tournament up until now is essentially irrelevant. They can start anew with a clean slate, since the only thing that matters now is having a higher aggregate score over two fixtures against their scheduled opponents.
Advancement through the tournament during the knockout stages is a relatively straightforward system. Two teams play each other over two games, with each team allowed one game in their home stadium in front of their fans. The team that’s chosen to advance is the team with the higher aggregate score; in other words, the team who scores more goals over two games. Winning the first leg 1-0 is meaningless if you lose the second game 2-0, since the aggregate score is 2-1 in favor of the opposition. This format continues during the round 16, quarterfinals, and semifinals, and the final in Lisbon will be a single game. Although the tournament is now called the UEFA Champions League, prior to 1992 it was simply known as the European Cup. Today we’ll examine the teams who have won the most European championships since the inception of the European cup in 1955.
10 Juventus – 2 Championships
9 Benfica – 2 Championships
8 Inter Milan – 3 Championships
7 Manchester United – 3 Championships
6 AFC Ajax – 4 Championships
5 Barcelona – 4 Championships
4 Liverpool – 5 Championships
3 Bayern Munich – 5 Championships
2 AC Milan – 7 Championships
1 Real Madrid – 9 Championships
Real Madrid is the most successful European club in European Cup/Champions League competition by a fairly large margin. They won the first five European Cups in 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, and 1960. They later added to their record five consecutive victories in 1966, 1998, 2000, and 2002. They were also runners-up in 1962, 1964, and 1981. Since 2002 they have been hunting ‘La Decima’, the Champions League title that would make Real Madrid the first club to take their total to double-digit figures. After three consecutive seasons of being eliminated in the semi-finals, Real appear determined to make 2014 the year they usurp Bayern Munich as European champions and accomplish their long-awaited goal.
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