By David Owen
August 17 – In six and a half decades, RB Leipzig, who take on one of the Middle East-backed super-clubs, Paris Saint-Germain, in Lisbon on Tuesday night, will be the first team from eastern Germany to appear in a Champions League/European Cup semi-final.
It is a remarkable statistic when you consider that the region includes the cities of Berlin and Dresden, as well as Leipzig. Still more when you take account of how the Communist regime that ruled East Germany when it was an independent state notoriously masterminded the achievement of international dominance in a number of other sports.
By contrast, clubs from the single city of Madrid have reached the semi-final stage no fewer than 35 times since the competition made its bow in the 1955-56 season.
While it is fair to say that Europe’s premier club competition has always been dominated by clubs from the big four leagues in Spain, Italy, England and (West) Germany, several of the other former eastern bloc states, which existed to a greater or lesser extent under Soviet hegemony, have seen the occasional representative reach the Last Four or beyond.
The Belgrade clubs, Red Star and Partizan, have so far managed four semi-final appearances between them. So have the Bucharest pair, Dinamo and Steaua. Red Star and Steaua actually went all the way and lifted the trophy, the Romanians in 1986; Red Star five years later.
Hungary, probably the leading football power in the world in the early 1950s, just before the tournament’s establishment, have had clubs in the semi-finals three times. Polish sides have made it twice, as have clubs from the former Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria’s CSKA. Ukraine’s Dynamo Kiev have made it three times and Moscow’s Spartak once.
Bayern Munich’s astonishing 8-2 trouncing of Barcelona last Friday sees the side from Bavaria take their place in the semi-finals for the 20th time – second only to Real Madrid (see table).
Though absent this year, Spain has still produced more semi-finalists – 57 – than any other country. Next come England with 42, Italy (37) and (West) Germany (34).
In spite of having two representatives in the current Last Four, France is well behind this leading quartet in fifth place with 17 semi-finalists, ahead of the Netherlands (14), Portugal (11) and Scotland (8).
MOST APPEARANCES IN EUROPEAN CUP/CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINALS – TOP 12 CLUBS
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