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Pushing back the frontier

Thursday’s game against BATE Borisov ensured Belarus become the 30th different country to have hosted a Chelsea match in European competition.

Our first-ever visit to the former Soviet country resulted in a 1-0 victory for the Blues, courtesy of Olivier Giroud’s trademark header early in the second half.

That makes Belarus one of eight nations we have visited just once for a European game, alongside Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Serbia, Scotland and Slovenia, with Hungary set to be added to that list when play our away fixture against Vidi in Budapest in our last game of this season’s Europa League group stage, on 13 December.

As well as the newest member of the club, we have won on our only visits to Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Scotland. The trip to Luxembourg was particularly notable, as the 8-0 win over part-timers Jeunesse Hautcharage in the first round of the 1971/72 Cup Winners’ Cup remains our biggest-ever away win in any competition.

Peter Osgood hit a hat-trick as we raced into a six-goal lead in the first half, but the legendary Blues striker did even better in the second leg when Jeunesse came to Stamford Bridge, scoring five times, Tommy Baldwin getting a hat-trick of his own, as we strolled to a 13-0 victory. The 21-0 aggregate result remains the biggest winning margin over two legs that any team has managed in any UEFA competition.

Unfortunately, our defence of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1971/72 was ended by a shock result in the next round, as we drew 0-0 at Swedish side Atvidabergs before a 1-1 draw at home saw us eliminated on away goals, with John Hollins hitting the post with a penalty when we were a goal ahead in the second leg proving to be a turning point.

Our longest-running 100 per cent record in any one country is in Denmark, where we have won all four of our away matches, including our first-ever match in European competition. That saw us travel to the capital Copenhagen in the Fairs Cup in 1958, where we triumphed 3-1 against Frem to make it a winning start to continental life for the Blues.

It was almost exactly 40 years later we made our next trip to the Scandinavian country, in the second round of the 1998/99 Cup Winners’ Cup, again in the capital. This time it was Copenhagen themselves we faced, and after a 1-1 draw in London we did the work over there, local hero Brian Laudrup’s only goal in a Chelsea shirt knocking his former team out of the competition and putting us into the quarter-finals.

We also did most of our work in the away leg when we returned to face Copenhagen in the 2010 Champions League last 16, Nicolas Anelka’s brace at Parken giving us a 2-0 win before we finished the job with a 0-0 draw in the second leg.

Parken was again the setting when we were drawn with Nordsjaelland in the 2012/13 Champions League group stage, and we record a comprehensive 4-0 victory there through two goals by Juan Mata and one each from David Luiz and Ramires. We followed that with an even bigger win at the Bridge, but still exited the competition at that stage following away defeats to Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk.

By far our most common destination has been sunny Spain, having played there 19 times, in addition to our three matches against Spanish opposition at a neutral venue – a win over Real Madrid and two defeats to their neighbours Atletico all in the UEFA Super Cup, one of each in Monaco and the most recent loss in the Czech Republic’s capital Prague.

That Spanish figure includes no less than nine matches at the Nou Camp, home of Barcelona, our most frequent European opponent from any country, between 1965 and 2018. In fact, we played there twice in that first year, after both teams won their home leg 2-0 in the semi-finals of the Fairs Cup and a coin toss determined we would be away again in a decisive replay, which ended in a humbling 5-0 defeat for a young Blues side in only the club’s second-ever European campaign.

Of course, the Nou Camp was also the scene for one of our greatest away days of all time, when Ramires’ outrageous lob and Fernando Torres’ late breakaway goal sealed our progress to the 2012 Champions League final, where we emerged victorious against Bayern Munich in their own stadium to lift the continent’s most prestigious club trophy for the first time.

The next closest is Italy, where we have played 13 times, including another double away-day replay in the 1965 Fairs Cup. This time it was against AC Milan in the last 16 and, bizarrely, after even the third game ended in a draw, in the days before penalty shoot-outs, the winner was eventually decided by the toss of a coin, with skipper Ron Harris getting the call right on this occasion.

Our other visit to the San Siro to play the Rossoneri was pretty memorable too, with a song about Dennis Wise’s equalising goal in the 1-1 draw still regularly heard at Stamford Bridge today. However, it is actually another of our 1965 Fairs Cup opponents, Roma, who we have played most in Italy, visiting them three times.

Germany are only narrowly behind with 11 visits and have provided two of our opponents for European finals, the aforementioned 2012 Champions League final in Germany itself, and our 1998 Cup Winners’ Cup triumph over Stuttgart in the Stockholm, Sweden.

Then it is France on nine, followed strangely by our own homeland, England. Despite many draws keeping teams from the same country apart, we have played a European away game on domestic soil eight times, plus facing Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League final, which was played in the Russian capital Moscow.

As well as the Red Devils, we have also met Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool in Europe, the last of those accounting for five of the matches on their own, all in consecutive seasons between 2004/05 and 2008/09 and in the Champions League.

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