Chelsea can join an elite club should they win in Amsterdam, completing an odyssey which began with a nine-hour drinking session by an Athens hotel pool 42 years ago. The London club will become only the fourth team to win all three Uefa trophies: the European Cup/Champions League, the European Cup-Winners' Cup, and the Uefa Cup/Europa League. Only Juventus, Ajax and Bayern Munich, three of the Continent's most garlanded clubs, have previously achieved the feat and such stellar teams as Real Madrid, Internazionale and Liverpool never will.
That is because one of the trophies, the Cup-Winners' Cup, was discontinued in 1999. Like Liverpool, who lost to Borussia Dortmund in 1966, Real have reached the final, but lost to Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen in 1983 and to Chelsea in 1971.
In a golden era for English football in Europe, it was victory over the holders Manchester City in the semi-finals which took Chelsea back to Greece, where their campaign had begun against Aris Salonika. They faced a tougher proposition in the Athenian port of Piraeus. Opponents Real boasted six members of the 1966 European Cup-winning side, including legendary winger Gento and midfield maestro Pirri, but Chelsea should have won outright in 90 minutes. However, having led through Peter Osgood's 56th-minute strike, they conceded in injury time following a miscued clearance by John Dempsey. Real were the better side in extra time but Chelsea hung on.
In those days a drawn match meant a replay, not a penalty shoot-out. This was arranged for the same ground 48 hours later, a Friday night. Chelsea had been billeted out of town as manager Dave Sexton did not want his team, which had already acquired a reputation for living life to the full, succumbing to temptation. But after the final Sexton told them they could spend the "rest day" doing whatever they liked, explaining "they had performed terrifically for me over a long, hard season". Osgood, Charlie Cooke and Tommy Baldwin headed for the Athens Hilton, where the club's directors were staying. Beers were ordered, and cocktails, then more beers, and more cocktails.
"We were a bit pissed when we got back to the hotel," admitted Baldwin to author Clive Batty in Kings of the King's Road (Vision Sports Publishing). Baldwin insisted he only drank beer but Osgood said: "Me and Charlie were definitely on the cocktails. I had quite a few. I remember Alan Hudson coming past and saying, 'Come on, lads', and I said, 'Look, son, don't worry about us, we're on the top of our form, just worry about your own game'." Hudson himself recalled to Batty: "Ossie [Osgood] said to me, 'You go home and have an early night because you've got to do my running for me tomorrow'. They were already pretty pissed."
After eight hours' drinking they headed back to the hotel, arriving too late for the 7pm dinner. Sexton told Baldwin, who had been a late substitute in the first match, he was fined – and he was playing. If he had known, said Baldwin, who was nicknamed The Sponge for his capacity to soak up alcohol, "I'd probably have gone out anyway".
The following night, with Baldwin in for the injured John Hollins, Osgood playing only after his second cortisone injection in three days (which would be frowned upon today), and Hudson carrying a dead leg, Chelsea went two up by half-time. Dempsey volleyed in from a Cooke corner, Osgood added an equally well-hit second following Baldwin's pass. Real, themselves hindered by an injury to Pirri, pulled a goal back with 15 minutes left but were this time unable to force extra time. The Chelsea players celebrated in style, that night, on the plane home and then on an open-top bus which collected them at Heathrow on the Saturday morning and took them to Stamford Bridge.
That team broke up under the weight of its own indiscipline and it was another 27 years before Chelsea beat VfB Stuttgart, managed by current Germany manager Joachim Löw, in the same competition. Gianluca Vialli was Chelsea's player-manager, having unexpectedly taken over from Ruud Gullit three months earlier. A groin injury confined Gianfranco Zola to the bench but he came on to score with virtually his first touch. Though Dan Petrescu was dismissed with five minutes remaining, Chelsea held on.
Since then the quest has been to win the Champions League, an aim finally achieved, famously and improbably, in Bavaria last May. Chelsea hoped to be defending that trophy this month, but victory in the junior competition will give them a very rare treble.
Up for the Cups: European multiple winners
The first club to win the triple crown, lifting all three in a heady eight-year period under current Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni. A 1977 Uefa Cup triumph was followed by the Cup-Winners' Cup in 1984 and the European Cup against Liverpool a year later in a final marred by the Heysel tragedy.
Inspired by Johan Cruyff to a trio of European Cups in the early 1970s, Ajax added the Cup-Winners' Cup in 1987 before the 1992 Uefa Cup completed the set.
Bayern won the Cup-Winners' Cup in 1967, defeating Rangers in Nuremberg, and added a trio of European Cups in the 1970s. It was not until 1996 they achieved the treble with the Uefa Cup.
Two managers, Trapattoni and Udo Lattek (Bayern, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Barcelona), have won them all. Arsène Wenger has lost the finals of all of them (with Monaco and Arsenal).
Nine players have lifted all three trophies, including Arnold Muhren, with Ajax and Ipswich, and Gianluca Vialli, who had already done the treble with Juventus and Sampdoria when he won the Cup-Winners' Cup again with Chelsea in 1998.
Close but no cigar
Barcelona won the Inter-Cities' Fairs Cup, the forerunner of the Uefa Cup, as well as the Champions League and Cup-Winners' Cups. However, Uefa does not recognise the Fairs' Cup, primarily as the organisation did not run it but also as it had odd qualification criteria (in Barca's first final they beat a London XI).
European Cup-Winners' Cup 1971
Chelsea 1 (Osgood 56), Real Madrid 1 (Zoco 90) aet
Replay: Chelsea 2 (Osgood 33, Dempsey 39), Real Madrid 1 (Fleitas 75)
European Cup-Winners' Cup 1998
Chelsea 1 (Zola 71), Stuttgart 0
Champions League 2012
Chelsea 1 (Drogba 88), Bayern Munich 1 (Müller 83) Chelsea won 4-3 on penalties
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