No win at halfway? Greatest Champions League group comebacks

The likes of Monaco, Tottenham and Valencia may be winless but other teams have recovered from worse to go through.

Liverpool were winless after three 2007/08 group games but reached the semi-finals
Liverpool were winless after three 2007/08 group games but reached the semi-finals ©Getty Images

The likes of Monaco, Tottenham Hotspur and Valencia may be without a win at the halfway mark of the UEFA Champions League group stage – even so, do not write off their last-16 chances just yet.

Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus will be happy to know that no team with nine points from three matches have been eliminated under the current format introduced in 2003/04. And in all 41 teams have had zero points at the halfway mark: ominously for Lokomotiv and AEK Athens, none advanced. But the season before that (in the days of two group stages), Newcastle United went through after three initial losses.

How many have gone through or out on each points tally since 2003/04?

Points: Through-Out (% through)
0: 0-41 (0%)
1: 7-60 (11%)
2: 4-19 (18%)
3: 18-58 (24%)
4: 32-40 (44%)
5: 18-7 (73%)
6: 62-11 (84%)
7: 52-4 (93%)
9: 47-0 (100%)

2014: City snatch late win against Bayern
2014: City snatch late win against Bayern©Getty Images

Winless after three: did you know?

  • Manchester City, on two points, also suffered defeat on matchday four in 2014/15 but still advanced by beating Bayern München and Roma.
  • Roma won on matchday four in 2015/16 but then lost 6-1 to Barcelona and scraped through with six points.
  • No side winless after three games have picked up more than the ten points mustered by Bayer Leverkusen (2016/17), Gent (2015/16), Galatasaray (2012/13) and Liverpool (2007/08).
  • Liverpool reached the semi-finals in 2007/08, the furthest any team without a win midway through the group stage has gone.

Teams who have made it through after not winning their first three games

Panathinaikos: 2008/09
Following defeats by Internazionale Milano and at Anorthosis Famagusta, a 2-2 home draw with Werder Bremen – caused by a late equaliser – did not bode well for Panathinaikos.

However, they then went to Germany and won 3-0 to move into third, before Josu Sarriegi's goal clinched a 1-0 victory at Inter. That meant Panathinaikos were second and only needed a point versus Anorthosis, something Giorgos Karagounis secured in a 1-0 success that took them above Inter. Villarreal eventually ended Panathinaikos's run in the last 16.

Arsenal: 2003/04
Arsenal began with a loss to Inter, 3-0 at home, and were then held 0-0 at Lokomotiv Moskva and beaten 2-1 at Dynamo Kyiv.

The Gunners were rock bottom, with Inter and Dynamo the top two, but the table would be turned upside down as the Londoners won all three remaining fixtures – including a 5-1 triumph in Milan – to qualify with Lokomotiv. Arsenal then overcame Celta Vigo (another side to have recovered from a winless first three outings) 5-2 on aggregate before a quarter-final exit to Chelsea.

2016/17: Leverkusen make it through
2016/17: Leverkusen make it through

The other teams who have made it through after not winning their first three games ...
Bayer Leverkusen: 2016/17
– 3 points (all draws) after 3 games, 10 points after 6, reached round of 16
Roma: 2015/16
– 2 points after 3 games, 6 points after 6, reached round of 16
Gent: 2015/16 – 1 points after 3 games, 10 points after 6, reached round of 16
Manchester City: 2014/15
–2 points after 3 games, 8 points after 6, reached round of 16
Galatasaray: 2012/13
– 1 point after 3 games, 10 points after 6, reached quarter-finals
Stuttgart: 2009/10 – 2 points after 3 games, 9 points after 6, reached round of 16
Liverpool: 2007/08
– 1 point after 3 games, 10 points after 6, reached semi-finals
Werder Bremen: 2005/06 – 1 point after 3 games, 7 points after 6, reached round of 16
Porto: 2004/05 as holders –1 point after 3 games, 8 points after 6, reached round of 16
Celta Vigo: 2003/04 – 2 points after 3 games, 9 points after 6, reached round of 16

The four teams knocked out despite managing seven points from their first three games ...
Porto: 2015/16 – had ten points after four games, but finished third after back-to-back 2-0 losses to Dynamo Kyiv and Chelsea
Rangers: 2007/08
– started with wins against Stuttgart and Lyon, who beat them in last two games
Marseille: 2007/08
– same group as Liverpool
CSKA Moskva: 2006/07
– did not concede a goal until matchday five

The three teams who finished fourth in their group after two wins in first three games ...
Shakhtar Donetsk: 2007/08
Dynamo Kyiv: 2003/04
– same group as Arsenal
Ajax: 2003/04
same group as Celta

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