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The Champions League 2016/17

 
champions-league

More than any other football competition, the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 competition is no doubt the highlight of any football club’s calendar. Football fans from across the UK and the world have been keen to see their teams represented in this glorious competition. On Thursday, August 25 2016, all the teams that had qualified for the event were drawn into their respective Champions League tables and we’ve taken the liberty to break the teams down according to their performance in the past as well as give you a brief history of the competition.

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History of Champions League Football

 
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Probably the highest point of European football, the Champions League 2016/17 competition is the dream competition for all the major football clubs in across Europe with all the clubs wanting to be part of the competition and players playing hard to register their names in the winning teams. However, very few of the players get the opportunity to lift the coveted trophy leave alone participating in it.

Previously known as the European Cup, Champions League competition started in the year 1955 with only 16 teams limited to take part in it. Since that year, the competition has surpassed the founder’s expectations and with the competition being rebranded to the Champions League Competition in 1991, it has become the largest and best-paying football competition across the world.

Looking back in the earlier days of the Champions League competition, one thing stands out for sure – the total tally of goals scored in the competition were mind-blowing. This was probably because the players back then received very little pressure in the earlier days of the competition, and consequently absurd Champion League scores of 7-3, 6-0 and 5-4 were seen as a norm – even in the Champions League final matches. What’s probably more familiar with most people is that, just as it is today, FC Real Madrid were topping the Champions League competition and fans made millions of money from the team.

Captained by the renowned forward, Alfredo Di Stefano, Real Madrid FC won a total of five European Cups between the years 1956 and 1960, and consequently set a record that still stands to date. Although Real Madrid has failed to repeat the same feat, they have continued to be the main candidates in the Champions League odds having won this coveted title a record ten times since 1991 with their most recent win coming in the 2015/2016 Champions League season.
 

Starting to Swing

 
With the European Cup competition starting to embellish in the mid-1960s, the cup started circulating in Europe a little more with the Portuguese giants, Benfica enjoying successive victories, followed by the two Milan giants, Inter Milan and AC Milan, lifting the cup in sequential seasons. After missing out narrowly on a few occasions, UK clubs started tasting the success of winning the CL trophy with Celtic’s Lisbon Lions beating Inter Milan in the entertaining 1967 Champions League final.

One year later, Bobby Charlton scored the two all-important goals to help Manchester United secured a 4-1 victory over Benfica at the Wembley stadium. This put Manchester United in the Champions League records book as the first team from England to lift the Champions League trophy. What’s interesting is the fact that this was the 2nd final that was played in this famous stadium, even though it wasn’t the last one as the stadium now vaunts a record of already hosting seven finals in total, with the most current one being the 2012/2013 Champions League final in which Bayern Munich won.
 

The Decades of Reigns

 
The 1970s period emerged to be one of the best decades for the Champions League punters are there were different teams that successfully defended the Champions League trophy. After Feyenoord had won their first Champions League final, their Dutch counterparts, Ajax achieved the feat of winning the Champions League trophy thrice in a row, with the legendary Johan Cruyff being their source of inspiration in their incredible run. Ajax’s fascinating feat was immediately replicated with Bayern Munich, under the leadership of Franz Beckenbauer. The club won the European Cup thrice in a row from 1974 up to 1976.

Soon after these finals, English teams took the domination with Leeds United becoming the 2nd English team to secure a spot in the European League competition finals. Even though they didn’t succeed to win the final match, they did motivate other English teams to six successive seasons which span from between the 1976/1977 season and the 1981/1982 season. During this time, Aston Villa FC won the Champions League Cup once, Nottingham Forest won the trophy twice, and Liverpool FC won it thrice. Unfortunately, the English Clubs didn’t have an opportunity of continuing their dominance in the competition after the events that happened at the Heysel Stadium during the 1985 Champions League Final.

The Beginning of a New Era

As the 1990s approached, European Football started taking a new path towards football, with the sports becoming popular worldwide. Consequently, UEFA decided to rebrand the European Cup competition’s name to UEFA Champions League and welcoming the new football era, which propelled the Champions League competition to include other teams besides the champions in the competition.

The change in name came in the year 1992 with the first Champions League winners being Marseille, who were the first and only team from Ligue 1 to win the much-coveted trophy up to now. On their way to victory, they beat AC Milan 1-0 in an enthralling match that took place in Munich. Interesting enough, this final was just the beginning in which the top Italian teams qualified for six consecutive Champions League finals, during which they managed to win two finals. AC Milan contested in three successive finals during which they won two beating FC Barcelona in the 1994 UEFA Champions League final and Ajax in the 1995 UEFA Champions League final. In the following three consecutive seasons, Juventus FC qualified for the final thrice but struggled to overcome the final impediment, winning only once in the 1996 Champions League final against Ajax through a penalty shoot-out.

Since the inception of the Champions League competition in the early 1990’s, the competition was really flourishing, a fact that prompted the UEFA body to expand it in 1997 and include all the teams that had finished second in their respective leagues. This made this competition more popular with worldwide views reaching billions, a factor that also saw the teams participating being increased to four teams from any given top league, in any given season. These changes did not only bring more excitement to the game, but it also made the competition more challenging, making it difficult for teams to repeat the feat that Real Madrid, Bayern and Ajax. In fact, you’ll be surprised to know that there has never been any team that has managed to defend the title successfully after AC Milan won the trophy twice in a row in the 1988/1989 and 1989/1990 seasons.
 

Treble Top

 
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With the Champions League competition becoming more exciting and competitive, the demand for the football players to play in both the Champions League competition and win the domestic competition also increased. It was during the 1998/1999 season when Manchester United pulled a spectacular feat when they secured the historic treble. After winning the FA and the Premier League title, Manchester United headed to Spain hoping that they’d claim the first ever treble in the history of football in addition to becoming the first tea from England to win the CL trophy after 14 years. However, luck seems to have abandoned Manchester UTD as they headed into injury time as they trailed Bayern 1-0. However, in an interesting twist of events, they somehow managed to grab two late goals which helped them secure the famous win.

The Champions League Odds suggested that there was no team that was ever going to repeat Manchester United’s feat, but interesting enough, four different teams have also been able to accomplish the same feat. In 2009, when Pep Guardiola was managing his old team, FC Barcelona, they managed to repeat the same feat and interesting enough, they beat the same team that beat them in the final to win a treble. One year later, Inter Milan also wrote their name in the history books by beating Bayern Munich 2-0 in a dramatic final to win a treble. This was a bad day for Bayern Munich, but they fought their way back to become the fourth team to achieve the treble feat when they beat their arch rivals, Borussia Dortmund in the 2012/2013 Champions League final that was held at Wembley. Barcelona completed their second treble in the 2014/2015 season when their star-embossed forward line of Luis Suarez, Neymar Jr. and Lionel Messi helped the team to claim a 3-1 win over Juventus FC in the most recent CL final.

As things stand, the Champions League competition seems to be advancing in strength, with the top European teams dominating the bookie’s odds and amalgamating their position at the top of European football, thanks to the huge sums of money that they receive for participating in the UEFA Champions League competition. Even though the names that we shall see in the Champions League final may appear to be familiar in the coming years, the Champions League competition remains to be an exciting competition that will always keep football fans from across the world glued to their television sets and able to place their bets with the best Champions League Odds.
 

VIEW YOUR CL ODDS HERE

Champions League 2016/17 Season and Group Stage

 
Once again, the Champions League season is back and promises to thrill and excite us. Defending champions, Real Madrid, are among the pre-tournament favourites to win the trophy, but they will not find things going their way as they find themselves playing against Dortmund, Legia, and Sporting CP in the group stage. Moreover, they face stiff competition from the likes of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal FC, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, who all look very capable of playing in the finals.

Anticipation has already started to build with the Champions League groups being announced, a factor that has got people talking, with some of the huge games being scheduled early on in this competition.

Group A

 
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Consisting of Ludogorets, Basel, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal, Group A is one of the all balanced groups in the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season. Arsenal is expected to continue the good run of qualifying out of the group stage for the 16th straight season, even though Paris Saint-Germain pose a major barrier to the English club which hopes to qualify as the number one. If this happens, chances are Arsenal will meet one of the Big Four teams, which have knocked it out of the competition for the seventh consecutive time.

The Swiss Champions, Basel FC, should not be given a blind eye as they have always been a constant pain in the ass for English teams in the past. Ludogorets, the Bulgarian outfit, have made a comeback to the UEFA Champions League group stage for the second time, after missing out for three successive seasons. Given their recent form and determination, they could upset the Swiss Champions and secure the third position.

PSG Key Facts

  • They are currently ranked at position 7 in the UEFA coefficient ranking
  • They automatically qualified for the Champions League 2016/17 having finished in the first position
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/2016 season when they were eliminated in the Champions League quarterfinals.
  • PSG’s best performance in the Champions League was in the 1994/95 season when they reached the semi-finals.

For more information on Paris Saint-Germain and Champions League Odds, click here.

Arsenal FC Champions League Key Facts

  • They are currently ranked at position 10 in the UEFA coefficient ranking.
  • They automatically qualified for the Champions League 2016/17 campaign having finished 2nd in the EPL competition
  • Currently, have the longest run in Champions League football having featured 18 times
  • Arsenal FC’s last appearance in the Champions League was in the 2015/16 season where they were eliminated in the Champions League round of 16
  • Their best performance in the Champions League competition was in the 2005/06 season when they finished runners-up to the Catalans

Basel FC Champions League Key Facts

  • They are currently ranked at position 19 in the UEFA coefficient ranking
  • They automatically qualified for the Champions League 2016/17 campaign having finished in the first position in the Swiss Super League
  • Their previous group stage campaigns are 6 with the last appearance being in the 2014/2015.
  • Last season, Basel FC failed to qualify for the Champions League competition and instead, played in the UEFA Europa League competition where they were eliminated in the round of 16
  • Their best performance in the Champions League competition was in the 1973/74 season where they reached the quarterfinals

Ludogorets Razgrad Champions League Key Facts

  • They are currently ranked at position 83 in the UEFA coefficient ranking.
  • They qualified for the Champions League 2016/17 season by winning the playoffs after topping the Bulgarian A League.
  • They have only made one group stage campaign, which was in the 2014/2015 season.
  • In the UEFA Champions League 2015/16 campaign, they only managed to reach the second qualifying round
  • Their best performance in the Champions League competition was in the 2014/15 season where they reached the group stage and failed to proceed further

All the matches in Group A kick off at 2045 hrs on 13th September 2016. The first round fixtures are as follows:

  • Basel vs Ludogorets
  • PSG vs Arsenal

 
All these matches are a replay from past European competitions. For instance, Arsenal FC beat Paris Saint Germain 2-1 in their only semi-final campaign in the 1993/94 UEFA Champions League competition. Also, Basel FC beat Ludogorets 4-0 at home during the 2014/2015 Champions League group stage, two weeks after the Bulgarians beat them 1-0 at home. These clubs have also met in the 2013/2014 playoffs in which Basel won by an aggregate score of 6-2.
 

Match to watch: PSG vs. Arsenal

 
Group A kicks off with a familiar trip for Arsenals coach, Arsene Wenger, who started his career in France and has also turned down offers of coaching PSG on several occasions. What is most likely going to be a close contest between these two powerhouses to see who qualifies as number one from the group stage, their second contest will as well prove to be influential once the final draw is made. Both teams will be under intense pressure to deliver a win in this first match, and we can expect the PSG vs. Arsenal to be an entertaining match.

From a punters perspective, the French side will be favoured with the home advantage, but Wenger’s boys are set to take advantage of Luiz’s and Zlatan’s departure and cause an upset to PSG.
 

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Group B

 
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Consisting of Besiktas, Dynamo Kiev, Benfica and Napoli, UEFA Champions League Group B has no doubt teams that are equal in strength. It is the group in which every team strongly believes that they have a shot at progressing to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16. A closer look at each team, it’s evident that Benfica has the best recent European pedigree, having played all the way to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and reaching the UEFA Europa League finals twice in a span of four years. This strong Portuguese side is set to battle it out with Italy’s Napoli, for the second time now for the top slot. However, both teams have lost key players in the past few seasons, and it will be interesting to see how this turns out.

Looking at Napoli, their main challenge will be to qualify for the next round, with their Polish forwards playing a very important role. Having missed out Eliaqui Mangala to Valencia, I’m sure most people are looking forward to how they will perform against Benfica in the first round.

Benfica (Portugal)

  • They are currently ranked at position 6 in the UEFA coefficient ranking
  • They automatically qualified for the Champions League 2016/17 having finished first in the Portuguese Liga
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/2016 season when they were eliminated in the Champions League quarterfinals.
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 11, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • Benfica’s best performance in the Champions League was in the 1960/61 and 1961/62 season when they reached clinched the European Cup

For more information on Benfica and Champions League Odds, click here.

Napoli (Italy

  • They are currently ranked at position 17 in the UEFA coefficient ranking
  • They automatically qualified for the Champions League 2016/17 having finished runners-up in the Serie A league
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2013/2014 season.
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stand at 2, with the last one being in the 2013/14 season.
  • Napoli’s best performance in the Champions League was in the 1990/91 season when they reached the second round and in the 2011/12 season when they were eliminated in the round of 16.

 
Besiktas (Turkey)

  • They are currently ranked at position 62 in the UEFA coefficient ranking
  • They automatically qualified for the Champions League 2016/17 having finished in the first position in the Turkish Süper Lig
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2009/10 season.
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 5, with the last one being in the 2009/10 season.
  • Besiktas best performance in the Champions League was in the 1986/87 season when they reached the European Cup quarter-finals

 
Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine)

  • They are currently ranked at position 26 in the UEFA coefficient ranking
  • They automatically qualified for the Champions League 2016/17 campaign having finished in the first position in the Ukrainian Premier League
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/16 season.
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 14, with the last one being in the 2009/10 season.
  • Kyiv’s best performance in the Champions League was in the 1976/1977, 1986/87 and 1998/1999 seasons when they reached the semi-finals stage

 
Just like the Group A matches, Group B matches kick off at 2045 hrs, 13 September 2016, with the first round fixtures being as follows:

  • Benfica Vs. Besiktas
  • Dynamo Kyiv Vs. Napoli

 
Again, just like the Group A matches, these teams have played each other before. Benfica and Napoli played each other in the first round during the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League competition, with the Eagles losing 3-2 away and finally proceeding further into the competition by beating Napoli 2-0 at home.

Similarly, Besiktas and Dynamo Kyiv have met before in the UEFA Europa League competition in the 2010/11 season and the 2011/12 season. In the first round, Kyiv won 8-1 on aggregate in the round of 32 with both teams trading a 1-0 victory in the second round.

Match to watch: Napoli vs. Benfica

Maurizio has truly worked wonders as the Napoli boss, but how he will cope with the Champions League matches remains an enthralling proposition. The 28 September home match against top seeded Benfica could prove to be a decisive match, and they should have enough to qualify from the group stage.

Group C

 
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Manchester City has a practice of drawing the short straw in their Champions League matches and once again, it’s going to happen in the 2016/17 Champions League group stage. The return of Manchester City’s new goalkeeper as well as the new coach, Pep Guardiola is the headline story. Additionally, The Citizens will be looking forward to overturning their two round of 16 defeats to the Catalans during the last three seasons.

Group C will also be an all-British clash with the Scottish Champions, Celtic, being part of the group. It’s, however, most likely that they are going to struggle to pick points from Manchester City and Barcelona leaving them with only Borussia Monchengladbach as their only option. Some may argue that Celtic FC gave an exemplary performance when they won 2-1 at Nou Camp, a feat that only Arsenal FC have achieved, but may I remind you that this was years ago. The team that Celtic Played against back then is no more with the 2016 Barcelona FC is stronger and more lethal.

The danger for both Barcelona and Manchester City is the German outfit, Borussia Monchengladbach, who could certainly capitalise on any slip-ups. They are a dangerous dark horse having made their way through the group stage by hammering Young Boys 6-0 on aggregate. Last year, they drew Sevilla, Juventus and the Citizens and they are set to pose an immediate threat to the two favourite teams to qualify. In my opinion, Borussia Monchengladbach will be the team that will determine who comes out of the Group C as Champions League winners and runners-up.

Barcelona (Spain)

  • They are currently ranked at position 3 in the UEFA coefficient ranking
  • They automatically qualified for the Champions League 2016/17 having finished first in the Spanish Liga and the Champions League Odds are always good when Barcelona is playing.
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/2016 season when they were eliminated in the Champions League quarterfinals.
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 20, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • It’s no doubt that Barcelona has had some of the best moments in the Champions League competition. They were Champions League winners, starting with the most recent one, in the 2014/15, 2010/11, 2008/09, 2005/06 and 1991/92 season.

 
For more information on Benfica, click here.

Manchester City FC (England)

  • They are currently ranked at position 11 in the UEFA coefficient ranking
  • They qualified for the Champions League 2016/17 season by playing against Romania’s Stewart Bucharest in the playoffs
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/2016 season when they were eliminated in the Champions League semi-finals.
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 5, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • Manchester City’s European success has not been as prolific as its domestic success as their best European Cup performance was in the 2015/2016 season when they reached the semi-finals

 
Borussia Mönchengladbach (Germany)

  • According to the 2015/16 UEFA coefficient ranking, Borussia Mönchengladbach is ranked at position 49
  • They qualified for the Champions League 2016/17 season by playing against Ajax in the playoffs
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/2016 season where they were eliminated at group stage
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 1, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • Borussia Mönchengladbach’s best performance in the European Competition was when they finished second in the 1976/77 European League finals.

 
Celtic FC (Scotland)

  • They are currently ranked at position 54 in the UEFA coefficient ranking
  • They qualified for the Champions League 2016/17 season by playing against Hapoel Beer Sheva in the playoffs. They, however, won the Scottish Premier League to secure the playoffs position
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2013/2014 season when they were eliminated in the group stage
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 8, with the last one being in the 2013/14 season. In the 2015/2016 season, they played in the Europa League where they were eliminated at the group stage
  • Celtic FC’s best performance was when they won the European Cup in the 1966/67 season.

 
For more information on Celtic FC, click here.

Group C matches kick off on 13 September 2016 with Barcelona taking on Celtic FC and Manchester City taking on Borussia Mönchengladbach.

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Key facts on Group C

 
There is a lot of history between the Group C clubs, especially with the players and managers. Manchester City’s new coach, Pep Guardiola will meet his old side for the first time in many years. City has never won a match against FC Barcelona in the Champions League competition, having lost 4-1 and 3-1 in the 2013/14 and 2014/15 round of 16 to the Catalans. Moreover, Yaya Toure and Claudio Bravo have all played for FC Barcelona and FC Barcelona’s Denis Suarez having played for Manchester City from 2013/15.

However, Manchester City has a good record against Borussia Mönchengladbach, having won 4-2 at home and 2-1 in Germany during the group stage games.
Celtic on the other hand famously beat FC Barcelona 2-1 at home in the 2012/2013 group stage, having lost 2-1 to FC Barcelona a fortnight earlier. However, the season that followed saw Barcelona comfortably win against Celtic on a 6-1 aggregate. Hopefully the Champions League Odds will look brighter, than the result at this point.

Match to watch: FC Barcelona vs. Manchester City

This is one of the most anticipated football matches in the Champions League 2016/17 season with the Citizens new goalkeeper making a return to his former team as well as Pep Guardiola. Additionally, some of City’s executives Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano will also be making a return to Nou Camp. Last season, FC Barcelona comfortably beat Manchester City, but the thing that makes this match interesting is the fact that City will be under new leadership. Will they win? Let’s wait and see.

Group D

 
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Group D is set to be interesting with some old grudges set to be renewed once again. The newly appointed Bayern Munich coach, Carlo Ancelotti, has been handed the same team that he beat in the 2014 UEFA Champions League final. Atletico Madrid, under Diego Simeone, lost to the longtime town and arch rivals Real Madrid 4-1 in the final match. However, the good news is that the two teams, Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich are the favourites to qualify from the Group D.

One thing however that Atletico Madrid is well aware of is the fact that they will not underestimate PSV, having only managed to go past the Netherlands Champions after a penalty shoot-out in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League round of 16.

The battle for the third position will also be hotly contested after with both PSV and Rostov – who are the underdogs in this group, hoping to qualify for the UEFA Europa League should they fail to qualify for the UEFA Champions League round of 16. Currently, PSV is the in-form team having won all their league games, a factor that they may hope to carry forward to the champions league and get points. Rostov may also feel cocky enough and put much effort after defeating the Dutch depending Champions Ajax in the qualification stage. This may boost their belief and play without any pressure against another Dutch side.

Bayern München (Germany)

  • They are currently ranked at position 2 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They automatically qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by winning the German Bundesliga competition
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/2016 season when they were eliminated in the Champions League semi-finals.
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 19, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • Bayern München’s success in the Champions League has been as prolific as it has been in the domestic competition. They have won the cup five times, with the most recent one being the 2012/13 treble. Other wins include the 2000/01, 1975/76, 1974/75 and the 1973/74 seasons

 
For more information on Bayern München and their Champions League Odds, please click here.

Atlético Madrid (Spain)

  • They are currently ranked at position 4 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They automatically qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by finishing third in the Spanish Liga
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/2016 season where they were runners-up to Real Madrid
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 6, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • Atlético Madrid’s future seems to have been sealed as they always end up in the UEFA Champions League final but never win. They were runners-up in the 2015/2016, 2013/14 and 1973/74 seasons.

 
PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands)

  • They are currently ranked at position 33 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They automatically qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by winning the Eredivisie League in Netherlands
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/2016 season where they were eliminated in the round of 16.
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 14, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • PSV Eindhoven’s best European performance was when they won the European Cup during the 1987/88 season.

 
Rostov (Russia)

  • They are currently ranked at position 146 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season through playoffs after finishing runners-up to CSKA Moskva in the Russian Premier League
  • Rostov has never played or reached any group stage of European football. This will be their first time ever to play with the big boys.

 

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Group D, Key Facts

 
Atletico Madrid has beaten Bayern Munich twice, with the latest success coming in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals where they won 1-0 at home before losing 2-1 to Bayern. In the same season, Atletico Madrid overcame PSV on a penalty shoot-out in the round of 16 after a goalless draw. They also met in the 2008/09 season in the group stage in which Atletico won 2-1 at home and 3-0 away.

Not Much can be said about Bayern vs. PSV as the last match to be played between these two teams was in the 1989/90 European Cup quarter-finals in which Bayern prevailed with a 2-1 home win and 1-0 away victory.

Match to watch: Bayern Munich vs. Atletico Madrid

Bayern Munich vs. Atletico Madrid match seems to be a 1-1 draw. Given the nature of how Atletico Madrid play their matches, they are expected to score first and pack the bus as they search for the all-important away goal. However, Ancelotti’s style of play will see him ensure that he’s scored against Atletico Madrid at least one goal and hope for a win on the return leg.

Group E

 
group-e-champions-league-2016

This is another interesting group in which all the teams have an equal opportunity of progressing to the round of 16. Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen and Tottenham are no doubt happy to have drawn CSKA Moscow from the top seeding pot, even though none of the aforementioned teams will fancy making a trip to Russian Capital, once winter sets in. Both Spurs and Leverkusen, with talented and gifted youngsters, could prove to be a surprise package in this year’s Champions League competition especially if they manage to juggle the double demands of the Champions League and domestic league.

In the UEFA Champions League 2015/16 season, Bayern Leverkusen put up an exemplary performance, beating Bate 4-1, drawing 4-4 at home against AS Roma and losing on the return leg. They also managed to salvage a draw against FC Barcelona along the way. What you should expect from this team this season is crazed goal matches with a higher probability of the team qualifying. Tottenham Hotspurs, who will be playing all their group matches at Wembley Stadium, also fancy themselves to qualify for the round of 16. On the other hand, Monaco is most likely going to use the group stage to showcase their newly acquired and the futuristic forwards, Kevin Mbappe and Thomas Lemar.

CSKA Moskva (Russia)

  • They are currently ranked at position 41 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They automatically qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by winning the Russian Premier League
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/2016 season where they were eliminated in the group stage level
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 9, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • CSKA Moskva best performance was in 2009/10 season when they reached the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.

 
Bayern Leverkusen (Germany)

  • They are currently ranked at position 18 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They automatically qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by finishing third in the German Bundesliga
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/2016 season where they were eliminated in the group stage level
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 10, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • Bayer Leverkusen best performance was in the 2001/02 season when they were the runners-up in the UEFA Champions league competition.

 
Tottenham Hotspurs (England)

  • They are currently ranked at position 23 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They automatically qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by finishing third in the English Premier League competition.
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2010/11 season where they were eliminated in the group stage level
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 1, with the last one being in the 2010/11 season.
  • Tottenham Hotspurs best European Cup performance came back in the 1961/62 season when they reached the semi-finals of the European Cup competition.

 
For more information and statistics on Tottenham Hotspurs, click here.

Monaco (France)

  • They are currently ranked at position 58 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by winning their playoffs after finishing third in Ligue 1
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2014/15 season where they were eliminated in the group stage level
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 6, with the last one being in the 2014/15 season.
  • Monaco’s best performance was in the 2003/04 season when they finished runners-up.

 

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Group E, Key Facts

 
Just like other UEFA Champions league teams, it’s not going to be a new experience for some of the Group E teams. Tottenham Hotspurs won 1-0 away at Bayer Leverkusen during the UEFA Champions League 2006/07 season with Dimitar Berbatov scoring the only goal. Tottenham has also played Monaco before in the 2015/16 UEFA Europa League competition at White Hart Lane, a game in which Erik Lamela scored a hat-trick to secure spurs a 4-1 victory. They also drew against the team at France.

On the other hand, Monaco has registered two wins against Bayer Leverkusen – the victories came at the UEFA Champions League 2014/15 season in the group stage in which Monaco won 1-0 in both home and away games. They’ve also beat Monaco before in the 1997/98 UEFA Champions League Group stage in which the game ended 4-0 with the return leg ending in a 2-2 draw.

Monaco’s striker, Vanger Love, may face his old team CSKA Moskva for the first time after he spent the better part of his career at the club. He last played for the Army Men in July before joining Monaco on a permanent deal.

Match to watch: Leverkusen vs. Spurs

This is going to be a Roger Schmidt vs. Mauricio Pochettino: the new Ancelotti and Wenger of football. There is a high likelihood that in the coming 5-10 years, these two coaches could be leading Bayern Munich and Barcelona. Their style of play, which demands attacking football and high-tempo could suit the mentioned teams. And on October 18, 2016, these two men will be playing each other in Germany. It’s going to be an entertaining match full of goals, and you wouldn’t want to miss out on the game, not unless you are a defender.

Group F

 
group-f-champions-league-2016

This may not be an easy group for the defending Champions who face a well-organized and highly motivated Borussia Dortmund side who look to make an impact after a year absenteeism from the Champions League competition. Moreover, the Sporting Lisbon side will also prove to be a hard nut to crack with the enigmatic Jorge Jesus at the helm.

For Real Madrid, the 11-time Champions League winners have never failed to qualify from the group but may drop points along the way. As mentioned Borussia Dortmund has an exciting side under Thomas Tuchel and could have a damaging impact on Real Madrid. They also stand a chance of qualifying from the group stage as the #1 winners.

Real Madrid (Spain)

  • Real Madrid is at the helm of the UEFA coefficient ranking as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • Being the Champions League trophy holders, they gained automatic qualification
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/16 season where they were eliminated in the group stage level
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 20, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • Real Madrid is no doubt the most successful club when it comes to the European football. The team has the most decorated trophy shelf both from the European Cup competition and from the UEFA Champions League. Their most recent success was a win over arch rivals, Atletico Madrid in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League final. Other titles in their name include the 2013/14, 2001/02, 1999/2000, 1997/98, 1965/66, 1959/60, 1958/59, 1957/58, 1956/57 and the 1955/56 seasons. No other European Football club has won as many titles as Real Madrid

 
For more information and statistics on Real Madrid, click here.

Borrusia Dortmund (Germany)

  • They are currently ranked at position 8 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by finishing as the runners-up in the German Bundesliga
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2014/15 season where they were eliminated in the group stage level
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 10, with the last one being in the 2014/15 season.
  • Borussia Dortmund has for a long time been in the shadow of Bayern Munich, who have always enjoyed both the domestic and European football success. However, they managed to win the 1996/97 UEFA Champions League trophy and have since then been featuring the competition, though not as frequent as other European teams of its calibre

 
Sporting CP (Portugal)

  • They are currently ranked at position 40 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by finishing as the runners-up in the Portuguese Liga
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2014/15 season where they were eliminated in the group stage level
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 6, with the last one being in the 2014/15 season.
  • Sporting CP, also known as Sporting Lisbon to many football fans, has been known to enjoy domestic football. However, this may not be the same story when it comes to European Football as their best performance was in the 1982/83 season when they reached the quarterfinals.

 
Legia Warszawa (Poland)

  • They are currently ranked at position 74 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by finishing first in the Polish Ekstraklasa and consequently winning their playoffs
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 1995/96 season where they were eliminated in the group stage level
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 1, with the last one being in the 1995/96 season.
  • This is the first time in many years that a Polish team is being represented in the UEFA Champions League competition. Legia Warszawa, who have mostly played in the UEFA Europa League have had their best performance in the UEFA Champions League competition during the 1969/70 season when they reached the cups semi-finals.

 
The UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season matched kick off on 14 September 2016 with Real Madrid taking on Sporting Lisbon at the Bernabeu Stadium and Legia taking on Borussia Dortmund at home.
 

Group F, Key Facts

 
The two big teams in Group F, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, have already met ten times in the Champions League. This includes two semi-finals, with Real Madrid winning the 1997/98 one and Borussia Dortmund winning the 2012/13 one during which Robert Lewandowski scored all the four goals in a thrilling 4-1 match.

Another interesting fact that you should know is that Cristiano Ronaldo’s match at Sporting Lisbon will be his first since moving from the club that he started his football career at. After the draw, CR7 said that the match was going to be a very special one, given that he has never played against the team before.

Match to watch: Sporting Lisbon vs. Real Madrid

This is not the toughest match in the group, but it will be all about the World’s best player. Cristiano Ronaldo will be heading back to his youthful club , where he started his career. When he scores, will he celebrate? Well, we won’t know this until November 22 when the match will be played.

Group G

 
group-g-champions-league-2016

While most fans around the globe would have wished Leicester City to be pooled in a more competitive group, such as that of Real Madrid or Bayern Munich as it makes its first-ever appearance in the top European football competition, the team has been awarded a golden opportunity to make it to the last 16. The 2015/16 EPL Champions drew perhaps the weakest sides from pot 2 and pot 3, and they have the highest chance of qualifying from the last 16.

FC Porto, who thrashed AS Roma 4-0 on their way to the group stage are well familiar with the group stage and have even won the UEFA Champions League trophy on one occasion during the 2003/04 season. They are expected to join Leicester City in the last 16 by topping group G. As for FC Copenhagen and Club Brugge, they have only been able to make it out of the group stage once, and a piece and they shall be fighting it out for the third spot and an opportunity of playing in the UEFA Europa League knockout stage.

Leicester City (England)

  • They are currently ranked at position 120 in the UEFA coefficient ranking. This is, however, the projected figure.
  • They qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by surprisingly winning the English Barclays Premier League in the 2015/16 season
  • Leicester City has never played or reached any group stage of European football. This will be their first time ever to play with the big boys.

 
FC Porto (Portugal)

  • They are currently ranked at position 16 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by finishing third in the Portugal Liga and winning their playoff matches
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/16 season where they were eliminated in the group stage level
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 20, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • Unlike other Portugal teams, FC Porto has had a good run in both the European and domestic competition. They have won the domestic cup severally and also won the UEFA Champions League cup twice in the 1986/87 season as well as the 2003/04 season.

 
For more information on FC Porto, click here.

Club Brugge (Belgium)

  • They are currently ranked at position 47 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by finishing first in the Eerste Klasse.
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2005/06 season where they were eliminated in the group stage level
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 4, with the last one being in the 2005/06 season.
  • Club Brugge has had a consistent performance in their domestic competition but has failed to emulate this success in the European competition. They have always qualified for the UEFA Europa competition regularly but failed to win the trophy as they end up being eliminated at the quarterfinals or semifinals stage. On the Champions League level, Club Brugge’s best performance was in the 1977/78 season when they were the runners up.

 
FC København (Denmark)

  • They are currently ranked at position 86 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by finishing first in the Danish Superliga and winning their playoff matches.
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2013/14 season where they were eliminated in the group stage level
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stand at 3, with the last one being in the 2013/14 season.
  • Popularly referred to as FC Copenhagen, København has a good domestic record, occasionally winning the title. They’ve also have been consistent when it comes to playing in the UEFA Europa League, with the 2015/16 season being their worst when they were eliminated in the third qualifying round. When it comes to Champions League football, their best performance was in the 1993/94 season when they reached the second round and the 2010/11 season when they reached the round of 16.

 
For more information and statistics of FC Copenhagen, click here.

For Group G matches, the English champions will be playing away to Club Brugge with FC Porto welcoming FC Copenhagen on 14 September 2016. All the matches kick off at 2045 hrs
 

Group G Key Facts

 
Only Club Brugge has had an opportunity to play the two teams with the first encounter being against FC Porto in the 1972/73 season where FC Porto was beaten 5-3 on aggregate by the Belgium team. Also, Club Brugge won 4-0 at FC Copenhagen in the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League group stage competition. Lior Refaelov, who scored the hat-trick then has long retired from the club and it would be interesting to see how the match turns out this time round.

Match to watch: Leicester vs. FC Porto

With no top European football club’s name in group G, FC Porto will be the biggest team to visit the King Power Stadium at the group stage level. The normally boisterous stadium will be in full voice for the visiting Portuguese side. The Leicester and English fans may not the results they want, but one thing is certain, Leicester will progress to the last 16.

Group H

 
group-h-champions-league-2016

This is yet another tough group to play in with the likes of Juventus, Sevilla, Lyon and Dinamo Zagreb. All these teams are top class teams with plenty of experience in the UEFA Champions League competition. This is the season in which the five star rated reigning Seria A champions has gone all in to ensure that it gets an opportunity of winning the Champions League. Having sold Paul Pogba for a record transfer fee, it has used the money obtained to sign the likes of Miralem Pjanic and Gonzalo Higuain and ensured that the impenetrable back four of the 2015/16 season still remained on the team.

Juventus’ biggest challenge so far is set to come from the three-time reigning UEFA Europa League champions, Sevilla, who under the command of the ex-Chile boss, Jorge Sampaoli, they hope that they can convert the three successive UEFA Europa League wins into a UEFA Champions League success.

Lyon has managed to retain its star assets during this busy transfer market and could be a real determinant at who will qualify as the #1 and #2 in Group H. Dinamo Zagreb is usually the afterthought, and could find itself playing the role of Group H whipping boy. However, the revenue that they get from qualifying to the group stage can help it maintain its status quo in Croatia and hopefully qualify for the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Juventus FC (Italy)

  • They are currently ranked at position 9 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 season by finishing first in the Serie A competition.
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/16 season where they were eliminated in the UEFA Champions League round of 16
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 16, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • Juventus have enjoyed success in both the domestic and European football having won the domestic cup, three times in a row and winning the UEFA Champions League cup twice in the 1984/85 and 1995/96 seasons. They were also the finalists in the 2014/2015 UEFA Champions League competition, losing to Barcelona.

 
Sevilla FC (Spain)

  • They are currently ranked at position 14 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They gained an automatic UEFA Champions League qualification as the UEFA Europa League 2015/16 champions.
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/16 season where they were eliminated in the UEFA Champions League round of 16
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 3, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • Unlike other Spanish teams that enjoy success in both the domestic and UEFA Champions League competition, Sevilla has failed to emulate the same. Instead, they are known to exhibit an exemplary performance at the UEFA Europa League competition, having won the trophy in three successive times. Last season, they were eliminated at the UEFA Champions League group stage and went ahead to win the UEFA Europa League title.

In the UEFA Champions League competition, their best performance was back in the 1957/58 season when they reached the quarterfinals stage.

Lyon (France)

  • They are currently ranked at position 28 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They gained an automatic UEFA Champions League qualification by finishing in the second position in Ligue 1
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/16 season where they were eliminated in the UEFA Champions League group stage
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 13, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • Lyon, just like other French teams, has not really enjoyed a good run in the European Football, with their best performance being in the 2009/10 season when they reached the semi-finals stage.

 
Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia)

  • They are currently ranked at position 82 in the UEFA coefficient ranking, as at the end of the 2015/16 season
  • They qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 competition by winning their playoff matches after topping the Croatian First League
  • Their last appearance in the Champions League competition was in the 2015/16 season where they were eliminated in the UEFA Champions League group stage
  • Their previous group stage campaigns stands at 5, with the last one being in the 2015/16 season.
  • Dinamo Zagreb is the only prolific Croatian team that has made it to the Champions League competition on several occasions. However, unlike their success in the domestic competition, Dinamo Zagreb has not been able to match up the performance in the UEFA CL competition, with their best performance being the group stage.

 
Group H matches kick off the same day as the Group H matches. Lyon will host Dinamo Zagreb at home while Sevilla will travel to Italy to play Juventus.
 

Group H Key Facts

 
Sevilla and Juventus are meeting at the group stage level for the second successive season. The Spanish side suffered a 2-0 defeat in the first match at Italy but later managed to recoup and win the return leg that was played in Spain. The latter victory helped Sevilla secure a UEFA Europa League spot, which they proceeded to win.

In the 2013/2014 UEFA Europa League competition, Juventus managed to beat Lyon in the quarterfinals before losing to Benfica in the semifinals, who later lost to Sevilla in the finals on penalties after a goalless match.

Lyon thumped Dinamo Zagreb 7-1 at Stadio Maksimir, a game in which Bafétimbi Gomis scored the fastest ever hat-trick in the history of Champions League football. In the return leg, they beat the Croatian side 2-0.
 

Match to watch: Juventus FC vs. Sevilla

 
This will be the real test for Sevilla’s new coach. He will have to come up with an executable strategy to beat one of Europe’s best teams. Sevilla’s individual players are not as strong and experienced as Juventus’s, but one thing is for sure, Sampaoli is an expert at making individuals and teams greater than their individual parts.

Champions League Finals

 
History is going to be made in Cardiff after UEFA ascertained that the Millennium stadium, located in Cardiff is going to host the UEFA 2016/17 Champions League Final. This is the first time ever that the Champions League trophy is going to be presented in Wales. Two European powerhouses, which could be Barcelona, Juventus, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester City or Bayern Munich, will battle it out at the home of the Welsh rugby in front of a 74,500 packed stadium.
 
As mentioned earlier, the UEFA Champions League competition is the largest and most popular football match competition on the planet attracting a billion plus views annually. The final match being hosted at Cardiff is also going to be the first time, since the 2012 Olympics that a football event is going to be held at the stadium. Wales last played England at the Millennium stadium in 2011.
 

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When will the Champions League final be played?

 
The UEFA Champions League is going to be played on June 3, 2017 – just 300 days away. The 2015/16 Champions League final was considered to be a late one, having been played on June 6. Consequently, there may be a few weeks in between the end of the domestic final and the Champions League final.

You might be thinking, “Didn’t this happen last year?” Well, not quiet! Last year, the event that took place was a Spanish invasion of Cardiff as Real Madrid came to see off their compatriots, Sevilla, to win the UEFA Super Cup at the Cardiff City Stadium.Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and CR7 were all in attendance as the world’s focus shifted to Cardiff for the event, but this was a meeting of the UEFA Europa League winners and the UEFA Champions League winners.

Among the avid football fans, the UEFA Champions League final match is viewed as the most prestigious football event, hence the choice for the Millennium Stadium in place of the Bluebirds.
 

How will the tickets be distributed?

 
In the 2015 Champions League final between Juventus and FC Barcelona that was held at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, the tickets went on sale in March, with both teams receiving only 20,000 tickets in a 70,500 capacity arena. This figure is bigger than the 17,500 tickets that Chelsea received for their match that was played in Munich.

The remaining tickets were sold in two lots – six thousand of the tickets were made available to fans from across the world and were snapped up quickly as expected, and the remaining 24,500 were allocated to UEFA’s corporate sponsors and guests.
 

Ticket Price Range

 
One thing that’s absolute is that it will be impossible to tell the price of each ticket this early, but from estimating the past events, the price range was between £50 and £280. These were the same prices that were used to the final between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid that was held in Lisbon. During purchasing of the tickets, fans were only limited to two tickets and not more.
 

Will the Champions League have any implication on Cardiff?

 
Of course, it will. During the event, it’s approximated that thousands of fans from across the world are going to flock the Welsh capital, and even if they fail to secure a ticket, the fan parks are going to be laid on around the city by UEFA in preparation for the Champions League Festival, which will feature music and entertainment.

The trophy tour is set to conclude in Cardiff shortly before the start of the event, giving locals and fans from across the world a chance of interacting with Champion League legends at the autograph and photograph sessions, in addition to laying their hands on the prestigious trophy.
In addition to the Champions League final, there are also going to be other football events which will take place in Wales. This includes the UEFA Young Champions Tournament and the Ultimate Champions match that will see some of the UEFA Champions League legends playing head to head in a five a side match. During the last event, legends such as Edwin van der Sar, Deco and Clarence Seedorf were involved. Moreover, there is going to be a pitch in which the football fans will play on in the build-up. Lastly, there is also going to be the all significant Women’s Champions League Final that will be played at Cardiff on June 1, 2017.

From the above, it’s evident that the UEFA Champions League final will come as a supplement to the businesses in Cardiff, and there will also be an influx of culture in the city.
 

Remarkable facts about the Millennium Stadium

 
millennium-stadium
 
The Millennium Stadium is home to the Welsh national team, and it is the third largest stadium in Britain. The stadium was originally constructed to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup final and replaced Wales’ preceding national stadium, the Cardiff Arms Park. This was because the stadium was ruled as outdated and lacked the infrastructure to host such a prestigious final event.

The Millennium project started in the year 1997 and was completed in the year 1999 at an estimated cost of £114 million. Shortly afterwards, the stadium hosted its first ever event which involved a rugby friendly between the host, Wales and South Africa. The first football match to be hosted at the stadium was a friendly between Wales and Finland in March 2000.
As the Wembley Stadium was being reconstructed, the stadium took over the role of hosting major events such as the League Cup and FA Cup finals. It also hosted the FA Community Shield final.

In the first decade of construction, the Millennium stadium was the designated playing ground for the Welsh national team, but with a decline in the attendance, a smaller and more modern stadium was sought. This lead to choosing the Cardiff City and Liberty Stadium, which hosted the Welsh, team Euro 2012 qualifiers.

Overview of the Champions League 2016/17 Finals Stadium

 

  • Stadium opened in 1999 with its first ever match being between Wales and South Africa which was the home team win 29-19 in front of a 29,000 crowd
  • The construction of the stadium cost the taxpayers £114 million with an estimated 56,000 tonnes of steel and concrete being used in construction
  • Since its official opening in 1999, the stadium has hosted over 350 events
  • The biggest attendance recorded at the Millennium stadium was 74,645, which hosted the ‘Six Nation Decider’ match that was played by Wales against Ireland
  • The Millennium stadium is the 3rd largest stadium in the six nations behind Twickenham and Stade de France stadiums. However, it’s 2nd largest stadium worldwide with a fully retractable roof and the second stadium in Europe to have this astounding feature.
  • It is estimated as of 2014, there were more than 6 million rugby fans who had paid to go cheer Wales in 100 Test matches. During this time, the Welsh national team won four Six Nation titles and three Grand Slams.

 

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