So how long since these guys were in Champions League action?
They last played in the competition during the 2017/18 season.
Not too long ago then. And how did that go?
It could have gone better, to be fair: they finished bottom of their group with three points.
But Feyenoord fans will be hopeful of an improved showing this time around: under impressive manager Arne Slot they reached the Europa Conference League final in 2022, then sealed the Eredivisie title last season for the first time in six years – and only the second time this century.
Great, so sights aimed high?
Obviously the ideal would be to emulate the boys of 1970, who beat Celtic 2-1 in the European Cup final.
Obviously. Who’s most likely to help them achieve that aim?
Midfielder Mats Wieffer had an impressive first season at De Kuip: the 23-year-old ran the show in midfield, won his first Netherlands caps and has already been signed up to a contract extension.
Fun fact to finish?
The club had various different names before they settled on their current one in 1973, a more international spelling of Feijenoord, the area of Rotterdam that they are based in.
There was a time when it felt like Arsenal were never not in the Champions League.
Ah yes, the Arsène Wenger years. Under the Frenchman the club qualified for 19 successive seasons, a record that has only been bettered since by Real Madrid (currently on 27). This is the first time since 2016/17 that the Gunners have managed to find their way back.
Why the barren years?
Like Manchester United, the club found it difficult to adjust once their manager of roughly 236 years had left. But there has been a palpable culture shift under Mikel Arteta, to the point that Arsenal came within a longish whisker of winning the Premier League last season.
As close as they came to winning this competition in 2006?
Thought you might mention that. Arsenal fans might prefer you hadn’t: down to ten men after 18 minutes, a goal up 19 minutes later, beaten 2-1 by the time the final whistle blew. The closest they’ve come since then is the semi-finals in 2008/09.
Any members of the current team who seem made for the Champions League stage?
It will be fun to see Bukayo Saka (below right) strutting his stuff. Martin Ødegaard will be keen to make an impression too – especially if he comes up against former club Real Madrid – and Declan Rice will be out to show he can do the business at this level.
We need a fact!
They rival Feyenoord in the name-change stakes: first Dial Square, then Royal Arsenal, then Woolwich Arsenal then The Arsenal, then… just Arsenal. Geography played its part: they moved 12 miles to north London from the south in 1913 to avoid bankruptcy, which is when the ‘Woolwich’ part kind of had to be dropped.
It feels like 10 December 2013 might be a good date to mention here.
OK, it feels like you just looked that up… but yes, that was the last time La Real played a Champions League match. And it was a 1-0 defeat by Bayer Leverkusen. And they finished bottom of their group with one point.
Right, moving on…
Yes, let’s. And yes, they have been: a club that were in Spain’s second division as recently as 2010 managed to finish fourth in La Liga last season, hence why they’re here. If they are looking for inspiration, they are best off digging out the video highlights from 1982/83, when the team narrowly lost out to Hamburg in the semi-finals.
And who was that familiar face in midfield last season – Dave something?
You probably mean Manchester City legend David Silva, no less. The 37-year-old joined in 2020 and helped the club win the 2019/20 Copa del Rey. However, he retired in July following a serious knee injury.
Ah. Anyone else we should keep an eye out for?
Takefusa Kubo. The Japanese winger was in Barcelona’s academy and signed for Real Madrid in 2019, but then ended up going out on perennial loan. Now the 22-year-old has found his feet at Real Sociedad and is coming off the back of a brilliant season.
Fact. Give us a fact.
John Toshack has managed this club not once, not twice but three times. His fellow Welshman Chris Coleman also had a stint here, as did Scot and Europa Conference League winner David Moyes.