Barca no stranger to Cup’s final act

Barcelona’s continental pedigree is beyond dispute with its tally of 16 finals matching that of record nine-time European champion and rival Real Madrid.

The Spanish team won the inaugural Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1958, clinched another two titles before 1967, and lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup a record four times – twice as many as any other club.

But Europe’s powerhouses are measured mostly by their record in the elite European Cup and its modern guise as the Champions League. The following is a look at Barcelona’s previous appearances in European Cup/Champions League finals:

1961 – European Cup, Runner-up

Barcelona had beaten Real Madrid in the second round to end its rival’s chances of a sixth straight title before meeting Benfica in the final in Bern, Switzerland. Hungary great Sandor Kocsis headed Barcelona into the lead in the 20th minute but Jose Aguas equalized just 10 minutes later. Veteran goalkeeper Antoni Ramallets, a key figure in Barcelona’s six Spanish titles between 1948-60, fumbled a high ball onto the post and over the line two minutes later for an own-goal and Mario Coluna extended Benfica’s advantage in the 55th. Barcelona hit the post three times but Zoltan Czibor’s 75th-minute shot into the top corner was only a consolation for Barcelona, which would have to wait 25 years for its next final.

1986 – European Cup, Runner-up

Back in the competition as Spanish champions after an 11-year absence, Barcelona was favored after knocking out defending champion Juventus on its way to a final against Steaua Bucharest. But the quarterfinals was the only round from which Barcelona advanced without needing a shootout or away goals and its luck finally ran out in Seville against the Romanian side. With Bernd Schuster and Steve Archibald struggling with injury, Barcelona was comprehensively stifled by Steaua and the teams drew 0-0 after extra time. Jose Ramon Alexanko, Angel Pedraza, Pichi Alonso and Marcos Alonso Pena all missed in the shootout as Steaua goalkeeper Helmuth Duckadam saved all four of Barcelona’s kicks to take the trophy behind the Iron Curtain for the first time.

1992 – European Cup, Champion

With Real Madrid having won the title six times, Barcelona finally clinched the trophy it desperately craved with a 1-0 win over Sampdoria. Barcelona had beaten the same opponent three years earlier to win the third of its four Cup Winners’ Cup titles, but Johan Cruyff’s ”Dream Team” of Michael Laudrup, Hristo Stoichkov, Ronald Koeman and current Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola had to wait until the 21st minute of extra time at Wembley Stadium for the goal that would end the 31-year wait. Koeman had already had one of his trademark free kicks saved when he lined up a 25-meter (yard) shot just right of center. But the Netherlands sweeper coolly curled a low left-foot shot around the defensive wall and in at the far post.

1994 – Champions League, Runner-up

With the European Cup in its second year as the Champions League, Barcelona survived a first-round scare against Dynamo Kiev and emerged unbeaten from a group including Monaco before beating FC Porto in a one-sided semifinal to establish itself as favorite for a final against AC Milan. But a star-studded lineup – built on the ’92 side and bolstered by the addition of Brazil striker Romario – was undone in Athens by what is widely seen as the greatest performance ever in a European Cup final. Despite losing Marco van Basten, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta, Brian Laudrup and Jean-Pierre Papin to injury, suspension or ineligibility, Milan’s free-flowing football comprehensively dismantled Barcelona 4-0.

2006 – Champions League, Champion

A multinational Barcelona team containing Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o and Deco had already clinched the Spanish title and was firm favorite to beat first-time finalist Arsenal, but the Gunners overcame goalkeeper Jens Lehmann’s early red card to go 1-0 up in the 37th minute. With time running out and chances sparse, coach Frank Rijkaard introduced Henrik Larsson off the bench for the last 29 minutes and the veteran Sweden striker set up Eto’o for a 76th-minute equalizer. Barcelona’s winning goal arrived five minutes later from the unlikely source of substitute fullback Juliano Belletti, who ran onto a pass from Larsson and shot through the replacement goalkeeper’s legs.

2009 – Champions League, Champion

Manchester United was seeking to become the first team in 19 years to retain the title but could not contend with a Barcelona side now coached by Pep Guardiola and characterized by the midfield artistry of Spanish trio Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. Samuel Eto’o cut inside to put Barcelona ahead with a low shot in the 10th minute and United, despite the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez, never looked like recovering. Barcelona had more chances before the diminutive Lionel Messi jumped to head a deep cross by man-of-the-match Xavi over the goalkeeper and in at the far post.