Best European Cup English club debutants
As Leicester City ready themselves for a Champions League quarter-final tie with Spanish giants Atletico Madrid, FootyOn writers go through the other best European Cup English club debutants.
Since the competition’s inception in 1955/56, five teams from England have won it – a combined total of 12 times.
But how did they fare at the first attempt?
This season, shock Premier League winners Leicester (4/1 with Sky Bet to knock out Atleti) are the last remaining English club in the Champions League after beating Sevilla to reach the last eight.
They are not the first team to have got to that stage in their maiden campaign among Europe’s elite, though.
Read on to find out how they rank alongside others, as we go through the best European Cup English club debutants…
Nottingham Forest – Champions (1978/79)
Forest’s astonishing story during 1970s is perhaps the only footballing fairytale to top Leicester’s.
The Foxes may have won the English top flight two seasons after being promoted, but Brian Clough’s men did it the following campaign.
If that wasn’t enough, East Midlands rivals Forest successfully defended the European Cup the following season.
Their first taste to life in the tournament was against then-champions Liverpool, before eventually beating Malmo in the final.
Aston Villa – Champions (1981/82)
It’s fair to say that the mid-1970s until the mid-1980s belonged to English clubs in Europe.
Liverpool, Forest and Villa won seven out of the eight campaigns from 1976/77 – 1983/84.
The Villans’ came in 1982 after they edged Bayern Munich, who were three-time champions at that stage, 1-0 in the final.
Liverpool-born striker Peter Withe got the sole goal in the second-half.
Derby County – Semi-finals (1972/73)
What is it with Midlands clubs and maiden magical runs in the European Cup?
No English outfit have fared better in this competition at the first attempt than current Championship trio Forest, Villa and Derby.
Again managed by the iconic Clough, the Rams managed to upset the odds and get to the final four.
A Juventus team consisting of Fabio Capello, Jose Altafini and goalkeeping great Dino Zoff beat them in the semis.
Manchester United – Semi-finals (1956/57)
While Scottish team Hibernian were the first-ever British representative’s in 1955/56, Man Utd became England’s first the following season.
Just a year before the tragic Munich Air Disaster, the Red Devils had their first taste of continental competition.
Their opening opponents were Anderleht – incidentally the team they face next in the Europa league – who they thrashed 12-0 on aggregate. Man Utd are 23/10 with BetVictor to beat them to nil in Belgium.
Further victories against Borussia Dortmund and Athletic Bilbao set them up for a tie with inaugural champions Real Madrid.
But Matt Busby’s men went down 5-3 on aggregate to a side that boasted Alfredo di Stefano.
Tottenham – Semi-finals (1961/62)
Spurs followed United’s lead a few seasons later as defending English league champions.
Unlucky for them, they were drawn with European Cup title holders Benfica in the semis.
They narrowly lost 4-3 on aggregate, but at least prevented a young Eusebio from scoring.
Portuguese outfit Benfica went on the lift the trophy that season again.
Liverpool – Semi-finals (1964/65)
The Reds are still the most successful English club in the European Cup, having won five times.
They were not too far away from claiming their the title a decade before their first, though, as they too lost to the defending and eventual champions 4-3 in the semis.
Inter Milan were the victors on that occasion.
Leeds United – Semi-finals (1969/70)
Fallen giants Leeds are gradually beginning to wake up after a number of years out of the Premier League.
But they were once a titanic force, and in similar vein to bitter rivals in their maiden European Cup campaign, thrashed their first opponents.
The Whites smashed Norwegian team Lyn 16-0 on aggregate, but lost out to Celtic – Britain’s first winners in 1966/67 – in the semis.
This was during the hugely successful Don Revie era at Elland Road.
Chelsea – Quarter-finals (1999/00)
Besides Leicester, Chelsea are the only team on this list whose first European Cup campaign came in the Champions League era.
They would’ve actually qualified for the first-ever tournament in 1955/56 as English champions, but the FA banned their teams from entering.
But they eventually took part over 40 years later, and got as far as the quarters, in the re-vamped tournament.
Chelsea took Barcelona to extra-time in the second leg, but goals from Rivaldo and Patrick Kluivert ensured a 6-4 triumph for the Catalans.
Burnley – Quarter-finals (1960/61)
It might be a surprise to see Burnley on this list, although it was during an era with far fewer European Cup matches to play.
Receiving a bye past the preliminary round, which featured the likes of now multiple European Cup champions Barcelona, Juventus, Ajax and Benfica, the Clarets only had to beat Stade Reims to reach the quarters.
They did so 4-3, but then succumbed to Hamburg 5-4.
Arsenal – Quarter-finals (1971/72)
The Gunners’ first season among Europe’s elite came in the 1971/72 campaign.
Some 45 years on, they’re still trying for the top honour.
But they came close in 2005/06 when they reached the final.
Ajax where their conquerors in 1972, though, as they lost both legs (3-1 on aggregate).