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2010/11: Barcelona back on top of Europe's elite

The 2010/11 UEFA Champions League season ended as the 2006 and 2009 campaigns had, with FC Barcelona celebrating after a final win against English opposition.

2010/11: Barcelona back on top of Europe's elite
2010/11: Barcelona back on top of Europe's elite ©UEFA.com

FC Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United FC
(Pedro Rodríguez 27, Messi 54, Villa 69; Rooney 34)
Wembley Stadium, London

The 2010/11 UEFA Champions League season ended in similar fashion to two of the previous five campaigns, with FC Barcelona holding the trophy aloft after a final victory against English opposition.

As they had in Rome two years earlier, Josep Guardiola's side came out on top against Manchester United FC with a 3-1 win at Wembley, the scene of both sides' first European Champion Clubs' Cup triumph. It was Barça's fourth European title, one more than their final opponents, while Lionel Messi's 12 goals – including Barcelona's second in the final – matched Ruud van Nistelrooy's mark for a UEFA Champions League season, set in 2002/03.

The group stage had featured six debutants: Tottenham Hotspur FC, SC Braga, Bursaspor, FC Twente, Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC and MŠK Žilina. Tottenham went on to reach the quarter-finals and Braga and Twente the UEFA Europa League (Braga ending as runners-up), but Žilina's 7-0 home reverse against Olympique de Marseille on Matchday 4 was the biggest away win in the competition.

FC Shakhtar Donetsk and FC København also made the round of 16 for the first time and, while the latter came up short against Chelsea FC, the other two newcomers took the knockout experience in their stride. Peter Crouch scored the only goal as Tottenham eliminated seven-time winners AC Milan, while Shakhtar swept AS Roma aside 6-2 on aggregate.

The eventual winners scored twice in the last 21 minutes of their second leg against Arsenal FC to go through while Real Madrid CF negotiated the last 16 for the first time since 2003/04, overcoming Olympique Lyonnais. Holders FC Internazionale Milano became only the second team in UEFA Champions League history – and the first for 15 years – to recover from a home first-leg defeat, overturning a 1-0 loss to FC Bayern München with a 3-2 success in Germany in a repeat of the 2010 final.

Inter were unable to produce the trick again in the quarter-finals, a remarkable 5-2 reverse against FC Schalke 04 setting up their exit from the competition and taking the German team into the last four for the first time, while Manchester United won both legs of their 2008 final rematch against Chelsea FC. Madrid made light work of Tottenham thanks mainly to a 4-0 first-leg win and Barcelona brought Shakhtar's memorable run to an end.

That set up a semi-final between the old rivals and once more Messi was the pivotal figure, scoring twice in an ill-tempered first leg at the Santiago Bernabéu as Barcelona ran out 3-1 aggregate winners. A 2-0 away win also paved United’s path to the final, Sir Alex Ferguson's side recording a 4-1 second-leg triumph.

United started strongly in the final too and responded positively to Pedro Rodríguez's 27th-minute opener, Wayne Rooney levelling within seven minutes. They had no answer when Messi restored the Barcelona lead early in the second period, however, and David Villa added a clinching third to ensure the Azulgrana – for whom Éric Abidal, recently recovered from a liver tumour, collected the trophy – ruled Europe again.