With all but the last Champions League place decided before this weekend, we look back at the games when two clubs went head-to-head on the last day: winner (or occasionally draw-er) takes all…
Chelsea vs Liverpool (2002/03)
The build-up to this final-day fixture at Stamford Bridge had it referred to as ‘the £20m match’, with the victors sealing a place in the lucrative Champions League. In hindsight, this tag hugely downplayed the financial importance: Chelsea were in financial trouble, with players likely to be sold to balance the books if they lost.
Liverpool, behind Chelsea on goal difference, knew that only a win at Stamford Bridge would do. When Sami Hyypia scored with a deftly flicked header in the 11th minute, it looked like they might get just that.
Marcel Desailly equalised almost immediately, however, before Jesper Gronkjaer became Chelsea’s hero with a curling effort into the bottom corner.
The sting in the tail came just a few weeks later with the news that Roman Abramovich, who rather fancied owning a Champions League football club, had decided to buy Chelsea. Rather than having to sell to survive, they instead bought all of the players for all of the money, while Liverpool signed Anthony Le Tallec and Carl Medjani as the Houllier era stumbled into its final season.
Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid (2013/14)
Atletico, seeking their first La Liga title in 18 years, found themselves head-to-head on the final day with the only side that could deny them. Barcelona were three points behind Diego Simeone’s side, and knew that a win at the Camp Nou would do the trick.
For a while, it looked like they would get just that; Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring with a quite ludicrous strike from an acute angle. But Simeone had fashioned an obdurate, mentally strong side – and in the 49th minute, Diego Godin’s header drew them level.
Cue 40-plus minutes of resolute Atletico defending, the requisite keeper (Jose Manuel Pinto) coming up for a corner in a desperate attempt to win the game – and Atletico getting the result they required to become the first side in a decade to break the Real Madrid and Barcelona duopoly.