Tottenham the latest club to fall victim to Wembley curse… why can't English teams win at Home of Football in the Champions League?


To play at the historic and iconic Wembley Stadium is a dream come true for any player, coach or fan. 

Mysteriously, however, five of the last six times an English side has sparred against Europe’s top elite at the national stadium they have now recorded losses, with Arsenal’s 3-1 win over AIK Solna the most recent victory in 1999.

Wembley has been anything but a fortress for English clubs in Europe as Sportsmail look back at 18 years of misery…

Arsenal 0-1 Lens (November 1998)

Mickael Debeve scores the winner for Lens in a 1-0 win over Arsenal at Wembley in 1998

Mickael Debeve scores the winner for Lens in a 1-0 win over Arsenal at Wembley in 1998

Owing to renovations at Highbury, Arsenal also played home matches at Wembley from 1998-2000 and encountered immediate problems, struggling to overcome the group stages of Europe’s elite competition. 

Losing 1-0 to French side Lens marked a disappointing end to the Gunners’ European hopes, despite creating a wealth of chances.

The larger Wembley pitch was blamed for Arsenal’s exit, as Wenger’s side were used to playing on Highbury’s tighter ground at which they had an excellent home record. 

Lens went on to finish runners-up in the group, falling victim to new UEFA rules that meant only the best two runners-up from the group stage would advance.

Arsenal 2-4 Barcelona (October 1999)

Luis Enrique celebrates after scoring in Barcelona's 4-2 win over Arsenal in October 1999

Luis Enrique celebrates after scoring in Barcelona’s 4-2 win over Arsenal in October 1999

The Gunners’ Wembley fortunes did not improve the following season, as Barcelona orchestrated several mesmerising counter-attacks that sliced through the Arsenal defence and secured a convincing 4-2 victory in the group stage.

Although Marc Overmars found the net on 84 minutes, Arsene Wenger’s side were unable to overturn the goal deficit. 

Nevertheless, losing to Barcelona was by no means an embarrassment. The Catalans went on to reach the semi-finals of the competition, eventually losing to runners-up Valencia.

Arsenal 0-1 Fiorentina (October 1999)

Gabriel Batistuta scored the winning goal for Fiorentina against Arsenal in 1999

Gabriel Batistuta scored the winning goal for Fiorentina against Arsenal in 1999

In the same European campaign, a scrappy match saw Arsenal fail to make the most of their chances before they were punished by a stunning late winner from Argentinian Gabriel Batistuta, the only chance he had been given all night. 

The loss meant the Gunners would crash out of the competition at the first group stage yet again, finishing third behind Barcelona and Fiorentina. 

After the game, Wenger admitted his side’s poor home form was to blame, but refused to use Wembley as an excuse. 

Fiorentina went on to the second group stage but struggled to overcome the giants of their group, Manchester United and Valencia.

Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United (May, 2011) 

Lionel Messi celebrates during Barcelona's 2011 Champions League final win at Wembley

Lionel Messi celebrates during Barcelona’s 2011 Champions League final win at Wembley

Barcelona again defeated English opposition at Wembley, lifting the European Cup for the fourth time in their history after beating Manchester United 3-1 in the 2011 Champions League Final.

In a game dominated by the Spaniards, United were unable to stop the sleek tikka-taka style of Barca despite going into half-time at 1-1 thanks to a Wayne Rooney strike.

Goals from Pedro, Lionel Messi and David Villa saw Pep Guardiola’s outfit lift the trophy over Sir Alex Ferguson’s side for the second time in three years. 

Tottenham 1-2 Monaco (September 2016)

Harry Kane rues another missed opportunity during Tottenham's 2-1 loss to Monaco

Harry Kane rues another missed opportunity during Tottenham’s 2-1 loss to Monaco

On Wednesday night the Wembley Curse continued to plague English teams in Europe as Mauricio Pochettino’s side were beaten 2-1 by Monaco. 

With White Hart Lane currently under development, Tottenham stepped out to Champions League music under the famous arch for their first match of what will be their new home for all of their home fixtures in Europe. 

It was hoped the more expansive Wembley turf would suit Spurs’ counter-attacking style, but they failed to make this advantage count with first-half sloppiness in defence. 

Only time will tell if Daniel Levy’s gamble to use Wembley was worthwhile, but it hasn’t started well for Spurs.

So, maybe there is a Wembley curse, considering the woeful record in Europe for English teams.  As the national stadium, Wembley should feel like a home away from home and a fortress for English football. 

But, perhaps not too much should be made of superstition. It is more likely that it is merely a case of English teams playing on a pitch that they are not used to.

Effectively, they are playing six away games, coupled with the argument that the away side are just as roused to embrace the famous turf as our Premier League players.

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