Spanish clubs have a great record against English sides in European competitions, having triumphed in 23 of the last 27 knockout ties between the two countries as of May 2018.
For some reason, the Spanish method always seems to outsmart the English grit, whether it be the panache of Barcelona, the guile of Real Madrid or even a so-called underdog such as Sevilla.
English clubs have no luck whatsoever, registering just the odd win here or there, which is what makes one night in 1975 even more remarkable. Back then, current Championship side Derby County were reigning Champions of England, but they drew the mighty Madrid in the third round.
The competition was a straight knockout back then and only open to the Champions in each country, so for the English side to meet Real Madrid so early on would deprive the competition of a big club.
Madrid were the overwhelming favourites, even with the first round being at the Baseball Ground. Then, as for the last few years, they were tipped to lift the trophy. In the current Champions League odds, they’re sixth-favourites at 11/1, but Derby County aren’t even sixth-favourites in the English second tier.
On October 22nd, 1975, the Rams faced up against Real Madrid in front of 34,839 supporters. The Baseball Ground was a tight old venue, a typical English stadium that suffocated the opponent, and, on a bitterly cold night, Madrid were stunned.
Madrid had the likes of the German Paul Breitner and the legendary Vicente del Bosque. Derby, a team of honest grafters under the watchful eye of Dave Mackay, had Kevin Hector and Charlie George. On a night that saw European royalty land in the East Midlands, it was George who stole the show.
He gave the Rams a surprise ninth-minute lead with a smartly taken volley from an Archie Gemmill cross, before rocking them six minutes later by bagging from the spot after Francis Lee was pushed by Camacho.
Jose Pirri looked to get his side back into the game by 25 minutes, but by the time half-time arrived, Derby appeared to be out of sight. David Nish had a long-range effort squirm under the keeper before the break to make it 3-1 to the Rams.
The atmosphere was phenomenal as they came out and controlled the second half, appearing resolute and commanding. George scored a late penalty to secure a 4-1 victory for the Rams and almost certain passage to the last eight.
Sadly, for English football, the curse of the Spanish side struck again. In front of 120,000 at the Bernabéu, The Rams collapsed. They conceded two early goals, went 3-0 down to level the tie, but pulled one back through Charlie George. That appeared to send them through, but a late leveller sent the game to extra time, during which Madrid pulled off a wonderful come back to win 5-1 on the night, 6-5 on aggregate.
That was the last time Derby appeared in the European Cup or the Champions League, and, aside from the UEFA Cup the following year, it was their last foray into Europe.
They’ll be hoping that new manager Frank Lampard can change all that, as long as they don’t come up against a Spanish