Champions League final: five of the greatest upsets in competition’s history - from Nottingham Forest to Porto

Inter Milan are chasing their first Champions League title since 2010
Champions League final upsets. (Getty Images/ YouTube)Champions League final upsets. (Getty Images/ YouTube)
Champions League final upsets. (Getty Images/ YouTube)

Inter Milan have been the dark horses of this season’s Champions League and the Italian side are just one win away from glory as they prepare to face Manchester City.

Simone Inzaghi’s side have enjoyed a memorable run in Europe this year and they have beaten the likes of Viktoria Plzen, Barcelona, FC Porto, Benfica and city rivals AC Milan on their route to the final.

However, Inter remain clear underdogs heading into this year’s final and they have been paired against a formidable Manchester City side who are targeting a domestic treble under the guidance of serial winner Pep Guardiola.

Man City have an array of talent at their disposal including Premier League golden boot winner Erling Haaland and two time Player of the Season winner Kevin De Bruyne.

The Citizens are the clear favourites to triumph in this final and some bookmakers are even offering odds as low as 1/5 for them to lift the historic trophy.

Inter head into the game with odds as high as 10/3 for them to win this year’s Champions League and they will hope to follow in the footsteps of underdogs from previous years such as Chelsea, FC Porto and Nottingham Forest who all defied the odds to lift the historic trophy.

With that in mind we have taken a look at five of the greatest shock results in the final of the Champions League.

Champions League final: five of the greatest upsets

Nottingham Forest - 1979

Brian Clough and Peter Taylor enjoyed great success with Nottingham Forest. (Getty Images)Brian Clough and Peter Taylor enjoyed great success with Nottingham Forest. (Getty Images)
Brian Clough and Peter Taylor enjoyed great success with Nottingham Forest. (Getty Images)

Nottingham Forest spent 23 years outside of the top-flight until their recent promotion in 2022. But there was once a time where the Reds were viewed as the dominant force in European football.

The East Midlands club enjoyed a remarkable rise up the Football League under the guidance of Brian Clough, who took them from the bottom of the second tier in 1975 to the First Division title in a period of just three and half years.

Clough’s team won a place in the European Cup after their title triumph in 1978 but they entered the competition as underdogs after a shaky start in the league which saw them draw six of their opening seven games.

To make matters worse Nottingham Forest began their European cup journey with a clash against a dominant Liverpool side who had won the European Cup in both of the previous two seasons.

Forest defeated the holders 2-0 across two legs with Garry Birtles scoring in just his third career appearance. Clough’s side followed that up with victories over AEK Athens, Grasshopper and FC Koln, before triumphing over Malmo in the final.

Clough’s Forest team defended their European Cup title the following season in 1980 when they defeated a Hamburger side containing Kevin Keegan.

Aston Villa (1982)

Aston Villa were crowned European champions in 1982. (Getty Images)Aston Villa were crowned European champions in 1982. (Getty Images)
Aston Villa were crowned European champions in 1982. (Getty Images)

Aston Villa are returning to Europe next season after a seventh place finish with Unai Emery and they have fond memories of their Europe thanks to their memorable run in 1982.

The Villain's qualified for the competition in 1980/1981 by securing their first league title in 71 years.The team that won the title was a very small squad and they struggled to hit the same standards in the league and they slipped down to 11th in the league table in 1981/82.

Aston Villa enjoyed greater success in Europe, despite their poor league form and they beat the likes of Valur and BFC Dynamo to reach the quarter-finals.

The West Midland’s club suffered the setback of losing their title winning manager Rob Saunders mid-way through the campaign but assistant manager Tony Barton continued their success in Europe with victories over Dynamo Kiev and Anderlecht.

Aston Villa secured their first and only European Cup title by beating Bayern Munich 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Peter Withe.

The match is best remembered for the heroics of stand-in goalkeeper Nigel Spink who was subbed onto the field after an injury for first choice shot-stopper Jimmy Rimmer.

FC Porto (2004)

Jose Mourinho guided FC Porto to European glory in 2004. (Getty Images)Jose Mourinho guided FC Porto to European glory in 2004. (Getty Images)
Jose Mourinho guided FC Porto to European glory in 2004. (Getty Images)

Jose Mourinho rose to prominence in 2004 when he guided Porto to an unlikely Champions League triumph.

The young manager had built a winning mentality at the club the previous season by lifting the UEFA Cup and the Portuguese title, but very few expected them to go far in Europe’s elite competition.

Porto defied expectations and progressed through the Champions League group stage and followed that up with impressive victories over Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, French champions Lyon and Deportivo La Coruna.

Porto were paired with French side AS Monaco in the final and they recorded an impressive 3-0 victory thanks to goals from Carlos Alberto, Dmitri Alencichev and man of the match Deco.

Mourinho went on to join Premier League giants Chelsea just weeks after the triumph.

Liverpool (2005)

Liverpool's comeback against AC Milan is viewed as one of the greatest in Champions League final history. (Getty ImagesLiverpool's comeback against AC Milan is viewed as one of the greatest in Champions League final history. (Getty Images
Liverpool's comeback against AC Milan is viewed as one of the greatest in Champions League final history. (Getty Images

Liverpool are the joint third most successful team in Champions League history with six titles and they have been graced with some tremendous teams throughout their history.

However, the Liverpool team which won the Champions League under Rafa Benitez was not viewed as one of the favourites for the competition.

The Reds lost star man Michael Owen during the summer transfer window and they struggled for form in the Premier League in 2004/05, finishing fifth behind city rivals Everton.

Liverpool’s only route back into the Champions League was winning the competition but they started their campaign poorly with defeats to Austrian side Grazer AK and Greek giants Olympiakos.

Benitez’s team scraped through the group on goal difference and began to build momentum in the knockout rounds with victories over Bayern Leverkusen, Juventus and league leaders Chelsea.

This earned Liverpool a tie against 2003 winners AC Milan who were blessed with a star-studded team featuring Kaka, Clarence Seedorf and Paulo Maldini.

Milan stormed into a 3-0 lead and the tie looked to be dead and buried but goals from Gerrard, Smicer and Alonso forced the game to extra-time and Liverpool were ultimately triumphant on penalties.

Chelsea (2012)

Roberto Di Matteo guided Chelsea to an unlikely Champions League triumph. (Getty Images)Roberto Di Matteo guided Chelsea to an unlikely Champions League triumph. (Getty Images)
Roberto Di Matteo guided Chelsea to an unlikely Champions League triumph. (Getty Images)

The 2011/12 season began in chaotic fashion for Chelsea who sacked manager Andre Villas-Boas in March with the club 5th in the league table.

The young Portuguese manager had navigated his way through the group stage of the Champions League with the Blues but they looked destined for an early exit after a 3-1 defeat to Napoli in the first leg of the round of 16.

Former Chelsea player Roberto Di Matteo was assigned the task of being interim manager until the end of the season.

The Italian was viewed as an underwhelming appointment after his departure from West Brom - despite being a popular figure in his playing days.

Di Matteo began life at Stamford Bridge in strong fashion and he remarkably kept The Blues in the Champions League with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Napoli in the second leg. He followed this up with a victory over Benfica before stunning the holders Barcelona in the semi-final.

The London club faced German giants Bayern Munich in the final and they were missing a number of key players including Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and captain John Terry.

Bayern Munich were filled with talent and 10 players from their matchday squad had featured in the Champions League final two years earlier in 2010.

The German side were dominant for large periods of the game and they scored the opening goal in the last ten minutes through Thomas Muller but a late Didier Drogba header took the game to extra time.

Chelsea ultimately prevailed from the final on penalties with Drogba ending his first Chelsea spell with the match winning penalty.

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