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The Struggle Of Premier League Clubs Retaining Their Champions League Crowns

Colman Stanley
By Colman Stanley
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Tonight, Champions League holders Chelsea face off against Lille as they continue their quest to defend their European crown.

However, if history is anything to go by, the odds are against them retaining the trophy. Since the Champions League began in in the 1992/93 season, only one team has managed to retain their crown.

Real Madrid managed this during their three-peat from 2015-2018. Such is the level competition in the Champions League, it is rare achievement to go back-to-back. Not even Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona could manage it.

Even winning just once has become a near impossible task from some clubs, as Manchester City, Juventus, and Atletico Madrid have found out in recent years.

We have taken a look back at how the Premier League’s Champions League winners have fared in their attempts to win two in a row.


Chelsea secured their first Champions League in 2012 in sensational fashion under the guidance of caretake manager Roberto Di Matteo. Di Matteo had only been in the job just over two months when Chelsea upset the odds and took down Bayern Munich in the final.

The game will go down in history as one of the most exciting Champions League finals of all time with Chelsea winning on penalties after Drogba had equalised in the 88th minute of normal time, and Robben had missed a penalty during extra-time.


Chelsea only managed qualify for the 2012/13 Champions League because they were champions, having only finished sixth in the Premier League.

They were drawn in a group with Juventus, Shaktar Donetsk, and Nordsjaelland. Despite Donetsk’s habit of being a tricky team to play against in the competition, Chelsea would have expected to qualify.

But Donetsk’s trickiness proved enough for the Ukrainian side as they edged out Chelsea on  head-to-head away goals. Both sides had lost and drawn to Juventus, beaten Nordsjaelland twice, and taken three points off each other.


Manchester United

United’s first Champions League win came of course during their treble winning season of 1998/99.

They went into the next season just as strong, and finished top of the Premier League, 18 points ahead of Arsenal.


They topped their 1st stage Champions League group, and their 2nd stage group ahead of eventual finalists Valencia.


However, they were undone in the quarter-finals by eventual winners Real Madrid, after losing 3-2 in the Bernabeu following a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford.

Fergie again managed to steer his side to another Champions League trophy, when his team defeated Chelsea on penalties in the 2008 final.

Again, they were beaten by the winners of the competition, but this time in the final by Pep’s Barcelona.

United had scraped past Barcelona en route to their 2008 win, but in 2009 Messi was another year older and his side more experienced, and it proved too much as they downed United 2-0.


United can be proud of their attempts to retain their crown, but as was the case during many seasons under Fergie, they were within touching distance but couldn’t finish the job.


Unlike Manchester United, Liverpool’s attempts at retaining their Champions League crowns have been disappointingly poor.

Not much more can be said about their comeback win against AC Milan in 2005, except that they went into next season’s campaign with a lot of expectation.


And while they topped their group ahead of Chelsea, they were knocked out by an aggregate score of 3-0 against Benfica in the round of 16.

However, they made up for this in 2007 by reaching another final against AC Milan.

Klopp’s Liverpool managed to secure their second Champions League crown, in 2019, after the heartbreak of their defeat to Real Madrid in the 2018 final.

However, after defeating Spurs 2-0 to win it in 2019, their defence the following season disappointed much like in 2006.

Once more they topped their group, ahead of Napoli, but again they were undone in the round of 16, this time by Atletico Madrid.

Atletico frustrated Liverpool away from home and took a 1-0 lead to Anfield, leaving the Reds needing a goal. Although they got the goal they needed, Atletico defeated them 3-2 after extra-time with Diego Simeone’s side putting on a counter attacking masterclass.

See Also: Champions League Form Guide: Tuesday's Last-16 Ties

Champions League last 16


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