While we are, for now, a guide to soccer in England, we do have our eyes on Europe and future groundhopping adventures. And one way to do that is to look at whom English teams are playing in the Champions League and Europa League.
This time around, we are briefly visiting the opponents of Manchester City and Chelsea; that would be, in order, Borussia Monchengladbach and Atletico Madrid.
First, a quick reminder that the Champions League, as well as the Europa League, are available for streaming in the US on Paramount+, which used to be called CBS All Access. Disclaimer:These are affiliate links, meaning Groundhopper Guides may receive some compensation if you make a purchase after clicking one of these links.
Manchester City vs Borussia Monchengladbach
Tuesday, March 16, 4 p.m. Eastern. City lead, 2-0, after the first leg.
M-Bach, as they are abbreviated, will almost certainly be done here very soon, but they are an interesting team in a maybe-not-so-interesting city.
Let’s start with those two names. Borussia comes from an old Latin word for Prussia, a kingdom which included pieces of today’s Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Russia. So it’s a kind of patriotic thing to use this name, which M-Bach shares with Dortmund and some smaller German clubs.
As for the city, it started out as Gladbach, but in 1888 changed to Munchen Gladbach because there were other Gladbachs in Germany. But in the 20th century people started thinking the city was in Munich (Munchen), which it isn’t. So in 1960 it was changed to Monchengladbach. The city is, in fact, in far western Germany, much closer to Holland and Belgium than the rest of Germany.
The club was founded in 1900 and had some glory days in the 1970s, with five league titles, two UEFA Cups (now basically the Europa League), and a final of the European Cup.
They went through some tougher times in the 2000s, with two brief relegations, but in the last several years have become regulars towards the top of the Bundesliga table and, therefore, in European competitions.
Last year, they went out of the Europa League in the group stage, and this year, they finished second behind Real Madrid in a Champions League group that also included Inter Milan and Shaktar Donetsk.
M-Bach shares a friendship with Liverpool, going back to many games they played in the 70s, and each club’s fans are known to visit the other.
Their stadium, Borussia-Park, seats 54,000 for league games and 46,000 for internationals, when the terracing is covered with temporary seating. It opened in 2004 and averages 95% capacity, impressive for the fairly small size of the city.
A population of 261,000, built up in the 19th century by the textiles industry, trying to diversify economically since World War II, just outside a bigger and better-known city, with an over-achieving and well-supported football club … I think Monchengladbach might be the German Burnley!
A quick check of the “tourist sights” in town pretty well confirms it: the top sites listed are six museums and a 1909 water tower, which I have to admit looks pretty damn cool.
Chelsea vs Atletico Madrid
Wednesday, March 17, 4 p.m. Eastern. Chelsea lead, 1-0, after the first leg.
Atletico, or just Atleti, are pretty much Club #3 in Spain, which I think of as being #1 in the world of mortals. Nobody can compete with Real Madrid or Barcelona, so for Atletico to have 10 league wins, 10 cups and even a double in the 1995-96 season makes them a legit leading Spanish club.
Atletico Madrid were founded in 1911, have worn red and white stripes for their entire history, and have also gotten into the international game as co-owners of Atletico San Luis in Mexico and Atletico Ottawa of Canada.
They’ve also been specialists of sorts in Europe, winning the Europa League in 2010, 2012 and 2018. They famously made two Champions League Finals, as well, but both ended in heartbreak — and both to Real Madrid, of all clubs.
In 2014 they led, 1-0, into injury time, when Madrid equalized. Deflated, Atletico gave up three in extra time to lose, 4-1. In 2018, the matchup was repeated, and Real won in penalty kicks.
In this year’s Champions League, Atletico got the unenviable draw of a group with Bayern Munich, the defending champions. They finished second in the group despite losing, 4-0, away to Bayern. Also in the group were Red Bull Salzburg and Locomotiv Moscow.
All this has been under the current manager, Diego Simeone, a club legend who played on that double-winning 95-96 team and has managed them since 2011. He was also, as you might remember, the Argentine international kicked by David Beckham in the 1998 World Cup — an incident which resulted in Beckham being sent off and then excoriated by Brits after England lost. Simeone later admitted he pretty much faked the injury to get Beckham a red card.
Atletico Madrid’s Stadium is practically brand new, having been renovated in 2017. It was inaugurated in 1994, when Madrid was shooting to host the World Championships in Athletics. That bid failed, so the stadium was used by the city for various sporting events. After multiple unsuccessful bids to host the Olympics and subsequent renovations, the stadium reopened as the official property of Atletico Madrid with the current capacity of almost 69,000.
Obviously, Madrid is a super-established tourist destination, with the Prado Museum, Picasso’s Guernica, the National Palace, countless squares, flamenco dancers, evening strolls, the whole thing.
For groundhoppers, though, you might know that the La Liga Getafe is also in town, and just for reference, Seville is three hours by train, Valencia just over two, and Barcelona about three and a half hours. And with a London-to-Madrid roundtrip airfare under $200, one can easily begin to imagine a lovely groundhopping tour from England — especially with March and April highs there averaging 60 and above.
So, yeah … see you in Spain!