Chelsea beat Slavia Prague 5-3 over two legs in this season’s Europa League quarter-finals, meaning we maintained our 100 per cent record in the last eight of that competition and its predecessors, and it wasn’t the first high-scoring tie either.
The second match against Slavia at Stamford Bridge saw Pedro hit a brace alongside Olivier Giroud’s strike and a Simon Deli own goal, adding to the 1-0 lead Marcos Alonso had given us in the Czech Republic to secure a semi-final with Eintracht Frankfurt.
This is only our second-ever Europa League campaign, since the competition was renamed with a fresh format in 2009. The other occasion we took part in the tournament, in 2012/13, also gave us a quarter-final victory to celebrate, that time against Russian opposition in the form of Rubin Kazan, en route to winning the title.
Again, we scored five times across the two matches, but they were more evenly shared between the games. It was also another example of a first-leg win setting us on our way, as Fernando Torres’ brace either side of a Victor Moses goal gave us a 3-1 win.
However, Rubin’s away goal from the penalty spot gave them hope for the second game in Moscow, and they kept pushing despite us twice taking the lead through John Terry and Moses, with the home side winning 3-2 on the night. But it was Chelsea who progressed by a 5-4 aggregate scoreline.
We never reached the last eight of the UEFA Cup, but we did triumph in the quarter-finals of its sister competition the Cup Winners’ Cup on no less than four occasions, lifting the trophy on two of them, including on our tournament debut in 1970/71.
We famously defeated Real Madrid in a replayed final in Athens to lift our maiden continental trophy, but before that we met Belgian side Club Brugge, then known as RFC Brugeois, in the quarters.
That tie was a very different story, though, as we suffered a 2-0 defeat in the away leg after conceding twice in the first half. However, manager Dave Sexton was in defiant mood after the match, insisting his team would turn things around at the Bridge to go through.
That was exactly what happened, although we required extra time to complete the job. The Blues bombarded the Belgian penalty area for the whole match and levelled things up through goals by Peter Houseman and Peter Osgood, the latter making his return after two months out injured.
With six minutes left of the additional 30, the scores were still tied, but then, as he so often did in the big moments, up popped Osgood again to put us ahead, before Tommy Baldwin put the icing on the cake in the closing stages of a 4-2 aggregate win.
Our next European quarter-final was against the same opposition in the same competition, albeit 24 years later in 1994/95. Again we suffered defeat in Belgium in the first leg, but just by the one late goal, despite an inspired performance from goalkeeper Kevin Hitchcock.
Chelsea’s Nineties vintage wasted no time turning things around at the Bridge, though, with strikers Mark Stein and Paul Furlong combining twice in the first half to give us a 2-0 win. First Furlong headed down Craig Burley’s free-kick for Stein to score, before the South African-born forward returned the favour, when his deflected low cross allowed Furlong to tap in.
We didn’t get our hands on the trophy that season, losing out to Real Zaragoza in the semis, but we put that right three years later when we beat Stuttgart in Stockholm in the 1998 final, having exorcised a few demons by eliminating another Spanish side Real Betis in the last eight.
In truth, much of the hard work had been done by the end of the first leg in Seville, as we came flying out of the blocks largely thanks to the form of Tore Andre Flo, who scored two very well taken goals early on, both coming in the space of five frantic minutes which left Betis rocking.
There was brief concern at the Bridge as Finidi George took advantage of our nervous start, and a slip by the usually sure-footed Frank Leboeuf, to level the scores, even if the away goals rule still hung the balance in our favour.
But we soon recovered our composure. Frank Sinclair headed in Gianfranco Zola’s free-kick, Roberto Di Matteo completed an impressive solo effort and then Zola fired in Chelsea’s 100th European goal to see us through 5-2 on aggregate, as England’s last remaining representatives in continental football.
We had one further Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final the next season, and it was arguably our most straight-forward victory in the last eight, as we comfortably dismissed Norwegians Valerenga 6-2 over the two legs. Unfortunately the ghosts of 1995 came back to haunt us as we were again beaten in the next round by Spaniards, this time 2-1 against Real Mallorca.
Our 100 per cent quarter-final record can go back even further than the Cup Winners’ Cup, though, to one of the Europa League’s early ancestors, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. Our 1965/66 campaign in that competition included some famous epics against Roma, AC Milan and Barcelona, but in the last eight it was German side 1860 Munich who were our opponents.
These days, 1860 may play second fiddle to their city neighbours Bayern, having fallen into the third division, but when we faced them back in 1966 they were well on their way to being crowned that year’s Bundesliga champions and represented a formidable obstacle for Tommy Docherty’s Blues.
A tough visit to Bavaria in the first game left things finely balanced as Bobby Tambling’s brace gave us a 2-2 draw, but with no away goals rule in those days there was still plenty of work to do in west London. Thankfully, and not for the last time, we had Osgood to be grateful to as he grabbed the only goal of the game 10 minutes from the end, booking a first-ever European semi-final appearance for the Blues.