The Manchester City-Chelsea that will decide the winner of this Champions League is not, by any means, one of the great historical classics of English football, but it keeps alive the rivalry between two centuries-old clubs (the citizen were born in 1880 and blue, in 1905) who always have some pending account and the chronic antagonism between the clubs in the north of the country, pioneers in the founding of the domestic championship in 1888, and those in London, who did not win the first league title until the conquest of Arsenal in 1930.
What does exist between the two finalists of the Champions 20-21 is a long-lived dispute born on December 7, 1907, when they met for the first time in League One (2-2). Since then they have met 168 times in all competitions, with 70 wins for Chelsea, 59 for City and 39 draws. They have played four finals between them. Three modern: one from the League Cup (2019) and two from the Community Shield (2012 and 2018), all won by City. And an almost unknown one, a competition that the English Federation invented when its clubs were sanctioned by UEFA for not participating in European competitions after the Heysel tragedy (39 deaths) and that was called the Full Members Cup. In its first edition, In the 85-86 campaign, Chelsea beat City (5-4). This tournament continued until 1992 with the arrival of the Premier League as such.
Special attention deserves the double history in the form of precedent that occurred between both clubs in two consecutive years almost five decades ago. In the 1960s, Tottenham (1963) and West Ham (1965) had won the Recopa as a prelude to the first European Cup won by an English club, Manchester United in 1968. In 1970 it was Manchester City’s turn. On April 29, 1970 he was proclaimed champion of the Recopa against the Polish Gornik Zabrze (2-1) in Vienna. His first and only international title so far.
But his success was completely obscured because that same day his rival in Porto, Chelsea, faced Leeds in the English Cup final at Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United. It was the first time that the oldest competition in football history had been decided in a tiebreaker match, after the 2-2 match at Wembley.
Few fans in the UK were aware of City’s European adventure. The game was not even televised live. All the attention was focused on the final of the Cup, which had a television audience of 28.5 million viewers, the second best all-time record after the final of the World Cup 66 between England and Germany (4-3). That double final finally won by Chelsea is remembered for the violence with which its protagonists behaved in both games. At the time it was even written: “Mister Jennings (the referee) would only have whistled a foul if the death certificate was presented”.
It was not well digested in the surroundings of City, already then in the shadow of United, that its continental success would have had so little importance at the national level and in the following season (1970-71) it suffered another blow in the semifinals of the competition in which he defended the title, the Recopa. In the semifinals, he faced Chelsea, one of the culprits of his anonymity from the previous year, and was eliminated. Those from Stamford Bridge won both games (1-0 and 0-1) and qualified for the final. In it, in Athens, they beat Real Madrid after a tiebreaker match (1-1 and 2-1). It was the Chelsea of Peter Bonetti, McCreadie, Houseman and Osgood… The famous match in which Pirri played with a broken clavicle and his arm in a sling.