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No win at halfway? Greatest Champions League group comebacks

The likes of Celtic, Sevilla and Copenhagen may be winless, but teams have recovered from worse to go through.

Atalanta celebrate after completing their 2019/20 Lazarus act
Atalanta celebrate after completing their 2019/20 Lazarus act AFP via Getty Images

The likes of Celtic, Sevilla and Copenhagen may be without a win at the halfway mark of the UEFA Champions League group stage, but do not write off their last-16 chances just yet.

Tottenham had a solitary point from their first three games in 2018/19 and went on to reach the final. Debutants Atalanta left themselves with even more to do the following season after losing their first three, only to surge down the home straight and take second spot in their group.

We look back at every season under the current format introduced in 2003/04 and see what history tells us about teams' last-16 ambitions.

Points after Matchday 3ThroughEliminated% Through

Looking up: Why all is not lost

Atalanta are the beacon of hope for clubs still seeking to get off the mark at the halfway stage. Before this season, 51 teams have found themselves in that unenviable position: only the Italian side have managed to scramble out of it.

Atalanta went on to reach the quarter-finals in 2019/20, but two teams have gone further after failing to pick up a win in their first three games. Liverpool advanced to the semi-finals in 2007/08 while Tottenham went one better in 2018/19, going all the way before losing to the Reds in Madrid.

Teams who have made it through after failing to win any of their first three games 
0 points
: Atalanta (2019/20)
1 point: Tottenham (2018/19), Gent (2015/16), Galatasaray (2012/13), Panathinaikos (2008/09), Liverpool (2007/08), Bremen (2005/06), Porto (2004/05), Arsenal (2003/04)
2 points: LOSC Lille (2021/22), Roma (2015/16), Man City (2014/15), Stuttgart (2009/10), Celta Vigo (2003/04)
3 points: Leverkusen (2016/17)

Atalanta 2019/20 Champions League goals

Looking over your shoulders: (Almost) no room for complacency

OK, first things first: 61 sides have had a 100% record after Matchday 3, and all 61 ultimately finished in the top two.

Not far behind, though, seven points is no guarantee. Four teams have reached the halfway stage with seven points since 2003/04 and failed to reach the knockout rounds: Porto (2015/16), Rangers (2007/08), Marseille (2007/08) and CSKA Mosva (2006/07). That Porto side even won their fourth game before falling away with the end in sight.

It ain't over till it's over.