Is England Or Spain Better In Champions League Football?

Champions League matchups between England and Spain have a decided slant toward one league historically, especially in knockout competition. Can Premier Clubs turn the tide this year?

For at least a decade or two, England and Spain have been home to the two best soccer leagues in the world. La Liga and Premier League clubs have consistently been the two most competitive in the Champions League since the rebranding of the tournament for the 1992-93 season. So what happens when we get an England vs Spain Champions League matchup? Historically, one league has won a lot more often: La Liga.

Lately, however, it has been a more competitive affair with the Premier League holding its own – and even going undefeated against Spanish clubs in the Champions League this season (as of this writing).

Let's break down the history of this rivalry.

Dating back to the 1992-93 Champions League season — the first since the name was changed from European Cup — English and Spanish sides have face off in the Champions League 133 times. When it comes to head-to-head competition for England vs Spain Champions League battles, La Liga is the clear winner.

La Liga teams have won 50 times against Premier League squads compared to 39 for EPL teams. There have been 44 draws. But that only tells part of the story. When you delve deeper, you realize Spanish clubs have dominated English sides in the last 25 years. 

While La Liga has a slight edge in head-to-head battles, winning 38 percent of the time (compared to 29 percent for Premier League), Spanish clubs hold a massive advantage in England vs Spain Champions League matches played in the knockout rounds. The leagues have met 33 times in knockout competition, with Spanish clubs moving on 21 times, 64 percent of the time. 

Barcelona alone has beaten Premier League clubs three times in Champions League finals (Arsenal once, Manchester United twice). 

England vs Spain Champions League

Barcelona defeated Manchester United 3-1 in the 2011 Champions League final. Photo: @GolesTOP | Twitter

Total championships also give La Liga a sizable advantage. Between Real Madrid and Barcelona, the league has won 10 UCL trophies compared to four for England (two Manchester United, one Liverpool and one Chelsea). Italy, which has had 10 fewer entrants than England over the years, has won five Champions League crowns.

That said, the Premier League has held its own since the end of the 2003 season. From 1994 to 2003, Spanish sides won 24 of 44 matches, with 12 draws. From the 2003-04 season to 2010-11, England won 20 times to 14 Spain wins, with 21 draws — the Premier League’s best period against La Liga. (It’s been nearly even since, with England winning 11, Spain 12 and 11 draws.)

However, even that is a bit misleading. The span from 2003-2011 saw the leagues match up 18 times in the knockout rounds — both leagues won nine of those. While that’s pretty good for the Premier League compared to the other eras (7-1 La Liga before; 5-2 La Liga after), it’s important to remember three of those losses came to Barcelona in the championship game, the most important match of all. 

This season, there were a record five Premier League clubs in the competition and they have faced off with La Liga clubs six times. So far, England is undefeated against Spain with two wins and four draws in the group stage, putting an impressive five teams in the knockout rounds. 

England vs Spain Champions League

This year, the England vs Spain Champions League head-to-head matchups have favored the Premier League. Photo: @mbertoncello_ | Twitter

There are two England vs Spain Champions League Round of 16 matchups this season. Barcelona and Chelsea renew their rivalry on Tuesday at 2:45pm ET (you can catch the action online free for the next week with FOX Soccer Match Pass) while Manchester United takes on Sevilla on Wednesday, also at 2:45pm ET. 

It seems likely, given the number and caliber of teams still in the competition, that the Premier League and La Liga will match up further down the road in the Champions League in 2018. That will give English clubs a chance to make some headway into the rivalry between the two best soccer leagues in the world, but it will take some doing for the Premier League to catch up with La Liga in head-to-head competition.

For the data nerds out there, here's a look at head-to-head matchups between La Liga and Premier League in UEFA Champions League.

England vs Spain Champions League Head-To-Head Matches

  • 94/95 GS: Man U 2-2 Barcelona
  • 94/95 GS: Barcelona 4-0 Man U
  • 97/98 GS: Newcastle 3-2 Barcelona
  • 97/98 GS: Barcelona 1-0 Newcastle
  • 98/99 GS: Man U 3-3 Barcelona
  • 98/99 GS: Barcelona 3-3 Man U
  • 99/00 GS1: Barcelona 1-1 Arsenal
  • 99/00 GS1: Arsenal 2-4 Barcelona
  • 99/00 GS2: Man U 3-0 Valencia
  • 99/00 GS2: Valencia 0-0 Man U
  • 99/00 QF: Real Madrid 0-0 Man U
  • 99/00 QF: Chelsea 3-1 Barcelona
  • 99/00 QF: Barcelona 5-1 Chelsea (Barca advances 6-4)
  • 99/00 QF: Man U 2-3 Real Madrid (RM advances 3-2)
  • 00/01 GS1: Barcelona 4-0 Leeds U
  • 00/01 GS1: Leeds U 1-1 Barcelona
  • 00/01 GS2: Leeds U 0-2 Real Madrid
  • 00/01 GS2: Valencia 0-0 Man U
  • 00/01 GS2: Man U 1-1 Valencia
  • 00/01 GS2: Real Madrid 3-2 Leeds U
  • 00/01 QF: Leeds U 3-0 Deportivo La Coruna
  • 00/01 QF: Arsenal 2-1 Valencia
  • 00/01 QF: Deportivo 2-0 Leeds U (Leeds U advances 3-2)
  • 00/01 QF: Valencia 1-0 Arsenal (Valencia advances 2-2 on away goals)
  • 00/01 SF: Leeds U 0-0 Valencia
  • 00/01 SF: Valencia 3-0 Leeds U (Valencia advances 3-0)
  • 01/02 GS1: Mallorca 1-0 Arsenal
  • 01/02 GS1: Deportivo 2-1 Man U
  • 01/02 GS1: Man U 2-3 Deportivo 
  • 01/02 GS1: Arsenal 3-1 Mallorca
  • 01/02 GS2: Liverpool 1-3 Barcelona
  • 01/02 GS2: Deportivo 2-0 Arsenal
  • 01/02 GS2: Arsenal 0-2 Deportivo (Deportivo advances 4-0)
  • 01/02 GS2: Barcelona 0-0 Liverpool (Barca advances 3-1)
  • 02/03 GS1: Valencia 2-0 Liverpool
  • 02/03 GS1: Liverpool 0-1 Valencia
  • 02/03 GS2: Arsenal 0-0 Valencia
  • 02/03 GS2: Barcelona 3-1 Newcastle
  • 02/03 GS2: Man U 2-0 Deportivo
  • 02/03 GS2: Deportivo 2-0 Man U
  • 02/03 GS2: Newcastle 0-2 Barcelona
  • 02/03 GS2: Valencia 2-1 Arsenal
  • 02/03 QF: Real Madrid 3-1 Man U
  • 02/03 QF: Man U 4-3 Real Madrid (RM advances 6-5)
  • 03/04 R16: Celta de Vigo 2-3 Arsenal
  • 03/04 R16: Arsenal 2-0 Celta de Vigo (Arsenal advances 5-2)
  • 04/05 GS: Liverpool 0-0 Deportivo
  • 04/05 GS: Deportivo 0-1 Liverpool
  • 04/05 R16: Barcelona 2-1 Chelsea
  • 04/05 R16: Chelsea 4-2 Barcelona (Chelsea advances 5-4)
  • 05/06 TQR: Everton 1-2 Villarreal
  • 05/06 TQF: Villarreal 2-1 Everton (Villarreal advances 4-2)
  • 05/06 GS: Real Betis 1-2 Liverpool
  • 05/06 GS: Villarreal 0-0 Man U
  • 05/06 GS: Chelsea 4-0 Real Betis
  • 05/06 GS: Real Betis 1-0 Chelsea
  • 05/06 GS: Man U 0-0 Villarreal
  • 05/06 GS: Liverpool 0-0 Real Betis
  • 05/06 R16: Real Madrid 0-1 Arsenal
  • 05/06 R16: Chelsea 1-2 Barcelona
  • 05/06 R16: Barcelona 1-1 Chelsea (Barca advances 3-2)
  • 05/06 R16: Arsenal 0-0 Real Madrid (Arsenal advances 1-0)
  • 05/06 SF: Arsenal 1-0 Villarreal
  • 05/06 SF: Villarreal 0-0 Arsenal (Arsenal advances 1-0)
  • 05/06 F: Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal
  • 06/07 GS: Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona
  • 06/07 GS: Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea
  • 06/07 R16: Barcelona 1-2 Liverpool
  • 06/07 R16: Liverpool 0-1 Barcelona (Liverpool advances 2-2 on away goals)
  • 06/07 QF: Chelsea 1-1 Valencia
  • 06/07 QF: Valencia 1-2 Chelsea (Chelsea advances 3-2)
  • 07/08 GS: Arsenal 3-0 Sevilla
  • 07/08 GS: Valencia 1-2 Chelsea
  • 07/08 GS: Sevilla 3-1 Arsenal
  • 07/08 GS: Chelsea 0-0 Valencia
  • 07/08 SF: Barcelona 0-0 Man U
  • 07/08 SF: Man U 1-0 Barcelona (Man U advances 1-0)
  • 08/09 GS: Man U 0-0 Villarreal
  • 08/09 GS: Atletico Madrid 1-1 Liverpool
  • 08/09 GS: Liverpool 1-1 Atletico
  • 08/09 GS: Villarreal 0-0 Man U
  • 08/09 R16: Real Madrid 0-1 Liverpool
  • 08/09 R16: Liverpool 4-0 Real Madrid (Liverpool advances 5-0)
  • 08/09 QF: Villarreal 1-1 Arsenal
  • 08/09 QF: Arsenal 3-0 Villarreal (Arsenal advances 4-1)
  • 08/09 SF: Barcelona 0-0 Chelsea
  • 08/09 SF: Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona (Barcelona advances 1-1 on away goals)
  • 08/09 F: Barcelona 2-0 Man U
  • 09/10 GS: Chelsea 4-0 Atletico
  • 09/10 GS: Atletico 2-2 Chelsea
  • 09/10 QF: Arsenal 2-2 Barcelona
  • 09/10 QF: Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal (Barca advances 6-3)
  • 10/11 GS: Valencia 0-1 Man U
  • 10/11 GS: Man U 1-1 Valencia
  • 10/11 R16: Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona
  • 10/11 R16: Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal (Barca advances 4-3)
  • 10/11 QF: Real Madrid 4-0 Tottenham
  • 10/11 QF: Tottenham 0-1 Real Madrid (RM advances 5-0)
  • 10/11 F: Barcelona 3-1 Man U
  • 11/12 GS: Valencia 1-1 Chelsea
  • 11/12 GS: Man City 2-1 Villarreal
  • 11/12 GS: Villarreal 0-3 Man City
  • 11/12 GS: Chelsea 3-0 Valencia
  • 11/12 SF: Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona
  • 11/12 SF: Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (Chelsea advances 3-2)
  • 12/13 GS: Real Madrid 3-2 Man City
  • 12/13 GS: Man City 1-1 Real Madrid
  • 12/13 R16: Real Madrid 1-1 Man U
  • 12/13 R16: Man U 1-2 Real Madrid (RM advances 3-2)
  • 13/14 GS: Man U 1-0 Real Sociedad
  • 13/14 GS: Real Sociedad 0-0 Man U
  • 14/15 GS: Liverpool 0-3 Real Madrid
  • 14/15 GS: Real Madrid 1-0 Liverpool
  • 14/15 R16: Man City 1-2 Barcelona
  • 14/15 R16: Barcelona 1-0 Man City (Barca advances 3-1)
  • 15/16 GS: Sevilla 1-3 Man City
  • 15/16 GS: Man City 2-1 Sevilla
  • 15/16 GS: Arsenal 0-2 Barcelona
  • 15/16 GS: Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal (Barca advances 5-1)
  • 15/16 SF: Man City 0-0 Real Madrid
  • 15/16 SF: Real Madrid 1-0 Man City (RM advances 1-0)
  • 16/17 GS: Man City 3-1 Barcelona
  • 16/17 GS: Barcelona 4-0 Man City
  • 16/17 R16: Sevilla 2-1 Leicester City
  • 16/17 R16: Leicester City 2-0 Sevilla (Leicester advances 3-2)
  • 16/17 QF: Atletico Madrid 1-0 Leicester
  • 16/17 QF: Leicester 1-1 Atletico (Atletico advances 2-1)
  • 17/18 GS: Chelsea 3-3 Atletico Madrid
  • 17/18 GS: Atletico 1-2 Chelsea
  • 17/18 GS: Liverpool 2-2 Sevilla
  • 17/18 GS: Sevilla 3-3 Liverpool
  • 17/18 GS: Real Madrid 1-1 Tottenham
  • 17/18 GS: Tottenham 3-1 Real Madrid

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