Chelsea take to the field tonight with a flawless record of holding on to a first-leg away lead in European competition, having won all 14 such past occasions on a run spanning over 60 years...
Goals from Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell have placed the Blues in a commanding position in our quarter-final tie against Porto ahead of tonight's 'home' second leg in Seville.
The England duo's away goals mean Thomas Tuchel's side have a 2-0 advantage. There is still much work to be done of course and no room for complacency, but the omens from our European past look good in that regard because Chelsea have never been eliminated in a two-legged European knockout tie after winning the first leg away from home, having progressed from all 14 previous occasions.
From the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in the late 1950s through to our triumphant Cup Winners' Cup campaigns in 1971 and 1998 and, of course, that gloriously unpredictable journey to Munich in 2012, a first-leg win on the road usually spells trouble for our opponents. Here, we take a closer look at our brilliant record of pressing home an away advantage...
First-leg leads were established in two knockout rounds in the 2003/04 Champions League as Claudio Ranieri took the Blues all the way to the semi-finals that season.
We actually started in the third qualifying round against MSK Zilina, where Eidur Gudjohnsen helped us to a 2-0 first-leg victory in Slovakia before three more goals without reply at Stamford Bridge sealed our place in the group stage for only the second time. Glen Johnson was on the scoresheet in SW6, netting the first and only Champions League goal of his career.
After finishing top of our group, we were handed a trip to Stuttgart in the Round of 16, a significant outpost of previous European adventures. An own goal from Fernando Meira settled the tie as a 1-0 win in Germany was followed by a goalless draw at home.
Five years later and still searching for that elusive European title, we faced Liverpool for the fifth year in succession, this time in the quarter-finals. The first leg at Anfield banished some of our past heartbreak on Merseyside as 'two-goal' Branislav Ivanovic enjoyed one of his most memorable nights in a Chelsea shirt, helping overturn Fernando Torres's opener to establish a 3-1 lead for Guus Hiddink's men.
The return was even more raucous and tinged with emotion as Frank Lampard, days after losing his mother, scored twice in a 4-4 draw that sent us through.
Another brace on the road, this time from Nicolas Anelka in Denmark, gave Carlo Ancelotti's men a useful cushion and there were no issues back in west London as a 0-0 draw did the job against Copenhagen.
Unfortunately, our journey ended in the following round as defeats at home and away to Manchester United knocked us out.
Nothing ever felt measured or comfortable the following season, particularly after the rollercoaster Round of 16 tie against Napoli, but our quarter-final victory over Benfica was actually quite routine. Salomon Kalou's late goal in Lisbon was vital in giving us a 1-0 away win and then Lampard's penalty in the return made life even more difficult for the Portuguese visitors.
True to form, it ended up being a nervy final five minutes after Javi Garcia had scored for Benfica, which meant a second away goal would have knocked Robbie Di Matteo's side out, but up stepped Raul Meireles with a stoppage-time thunderbolt to keep Blues fans dreaming. The rest, as they say, is history.
The most recent example of this encouraging trend came in the last round of the current campaign as Thomas Tuchel's Blues won home and away against Diego Simeone's Atleti. With the Spaniards ceding home advantage due to Covid-19 restrictions, Olivier Giroud's spectacular overhead kick settled the first leg in Romania by a 1-0 scoreline.
With plenty still to play for, it was a professional second-leg performance back at the Bridge as Hakim Ziyech and Emerson Palmieri finished the job and booked our place in the last eight.
Both our Europa League-winning campaigns featured first-leg away wins successfully converted into progress, starting with the Round of 32 tie against Sparta Prague on Valentine's Day 2013. In the Czech capital, it was Oscar's goal eight minutes from time that settled a tight contest 1-0, though extra-time was on the cards for a while in the return before Eden Hazard saved the day in stoppage time, sending us through 2-1 on aggregate.
Later, in the semi-finals, FC Basel were defeated both home and away, a 2-1 victory in Switzerland followed by a 3-1 win at the Bridge. Victor Moses and David Luiz netted in both legs as we booked our ticket to the Amsterdam final.
Under Maurizio Sarri's guidance, we had comfortably navigated the group stage, dropping just two points before a trip to Malmo in the first leg of the Round of 32 tie. Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud were the both-leg scorers in this one as we comfortably progressed 5-1 on aggregate.
Two rounds later in the quarter-final, Marcos Alonso netted late on in Prague to give us an important 1-0 lead against Slavia and it proved a crucial goal as a topsy-turvy second leg at the Bridge followed. Pedro, Giroud and soon-to-be West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek all found the back of the net but the Blues eventually ran out 4-3 winners on the night.
European Cup Winners' Cup
By virtue of our maiden FA Cup triumph in 1970, Chelsea ventured into the Cup Winners' Cup for the very first time and the appetite for adventures far from home was certainly sated, with ties in Greece and Belgium en route to our ultimate triumph against Real Madrid.
Yet it was a second round trip beyond the Iron Curtain for the very first time that proved our most intriguing as the Blues were paired with CSKA Sofia. Tommy Baldwin headed in the only goal from a Keith Weller cross, condemning CSKA to their maiden European defeat on home soil. In the return, David Webb added to our advantage and sent Dave Sexton's boys marching on.
Perhaps the greatest mismatch in our European history saw the 'Kings from the Kings Road' take on Luxembourg minnows Jeunesse Hautcharage in a first round tie. The Blues were Cup Winners' Cup holders at the time, while our opponents were a club from a village with just 704 inhabitants who had stunned everyone by winning the Luxembourg Cup as a third-division team. The local brewery had celebrated by offering free beer to the village for three days and three nights.
Needless to say, the gulf in class was evident throughout the three hours of action between the sides. Following an 8-0 win away, we racked up our biggest win in a game in any competition in the return with a 13-0 victory, with Peter Osgood helping himself to five. Chelsea's outright European victory margin record lasted just a season but we still hold that joint record to this day.
Chelsea beat Real Betis 5-2 on aggregate during our victorious Cup Winners’ Cup campaign in 1998, aided by two early Tore Andre Flo goals in Seville in a 2-1 win. That handed Gianluca Vialli's side the perfect start in the quarter-finals and the job was completed in the second leg as Frank Sinclair, Gianfranco Zola and Di Matteo all found the back of the net.
Inter-Cities Fairs Cup
The very first chapter of our storied European journey came in Scandinavia when we played our maiden continental fixture, an Inter-Cities Fairs Cup tie against BK Frem Copenhagen in 1958. Chelsea had been invited to take the place of a Blues-led London XI in a competition which had many representative sides involved, though manager Ted Drake politely declined the opportunity to use three guest players from other teams in the capital.
It proved to be a sensible decision as Mike Harrison gave us the lead in the away leg in front of almost 20,000 fans. Despite the fact the home side equalised within two minutes, goals from the outstanding Jimmy Greaves and Tony Nicholas put us in the ascendancy ahead of the return. Back at the Bridge, Greaves shone once more, netting a brace in a 4-1 victory.
Drawing similarities with the quirks of European football in 2021, that first leg was also played on neutral territory given the fact Frem were a composite XI and therefore had no real 'home' ground. So there's certainly plenty of history on our side tonight as we go in search of getting the job done once again and progressing to a 15th European semi-final.