Champions League: Biggest shock group stage exits

09 December 2021 07:55:48 GMTPlus10

With Barcelona’s shock exit from the Champions League group stage following their 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich, we’re taking a look at some of the best sides to have fallen at the first hurdle.

While many have bemoaned the lack of competitive edge in the Champions League group stages, we've seen Borussia Dortmund knocked out following a loss to Sporitng CP and back-to-back defeats to Ajax, Sheriff Tiraspol beating Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, Young Boys beating Manchester United, and of course, Barca's premature exit.

It was the first time Los Cules have failed to progress from the group stage since 2000, a shock in its own right, so what better place to start?

Barcelona 2000-01

Champions League semi-finalists a year prior. Spanish champions a year before that. A squad littered with talent: Netherlands stalwarts Michael Reiziger, Frank de Boer and Phillip Cocu joined by summer signing Marc Overmars. A young Xavi began to take the mantle from an ageing Pep Guardiola, while Rivaldo and Patrick Kluivert added the firepower.

A 4-0 thrashing of Leeds United got them off to a perfect start before surprise defeats to Besiktas and Milan left them with work to do.

A Rivaldo hat-trick rescued a point in the San Siro, and a 94th-minute equaliser at Elland Road kept their hopes alive.

The final group game saw them do their bit, beating Besiktas 5-0, but a famous point in Milan was enough to send Leeds through at Barca’s expense.

Juventus 2000-01

A team that should’ve won Serie A the year before with Carlo Ancelotti at the helm and a squad containing no fewer than five players who featured in that summer's Euro 2000 final - Zinedine Zidane, David Trezeguet, Gianluca Pessotto, Alessandro Del Piero and Mark Iuliano (Filippo Inzaghi, Antonio Conte and Ciro Ferrara were unused subs).

The two-time European champions were drawn in a straightforward enough group, featuring Deportivo La Coruna, Panathanaikos and Hamburg.

They opened with a thrilling 4-4 draw in Hamburg (Tony Yeboah opened the scoring for the hosts, by the way) featuring an Inzaghi hat-trick, followed by a 2-1 win against Panathanaikos, but the Old Lady found themselves needing a win in Greece in their final game to qualify.

They lost 3-1, leaving them bottom of the group and out of Europe completely.

Inter 2003-04

Remember when Arsenal went to the San Siro in 2003 – without captain Patrick Vieira no less – and won 5-1? Thierry Henry with THAT goal from his own half?

Well it came against an Inter side with Fabio Cannavaro in defence and Christian Vieri up front. A squad featuring the attacking talents of Alvaro Recoba, Julio Cruz, and the young Adriano and Obafemi Martins.

That 5-1 defeat, and the failure to win home or away against Lokomotiv Moscow, left the Nerazzurri needing a win at Dynamo Kyiv in the final group game. A late equaliser condemned Inter to the UEFA Cup, as Lokomotiv progressed.

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Man Utd 2005-06

Manchester United hadn’t failed to get out of the Champions League group stage since 1994, back when it was two points for a win.

Sir Alex Ferguson could have hardly hoped for an easier draw in Villarreal, Benfica and Lille, but in a group which saw a whopping 12 goals across the 12 matches (United themselves recording three 0-0 draws), the Red Devils needed a result against Benfica to qualify.

Two goals from the Portuguese side cancelled out Paul Scholes’s early opener, and despite fielding a side with Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, with Louis Saha coming off the bench, United couldn’t muster an equaliser, and finished rock bottom.

Chelsea 2012-13

The first holders to be eliminated from the Champions League group stage.

After their miraculous triumph in Munich just six months earlier, Roberto Di Matteo, who’d been given the job on a permanent basis in the summer, took Chelsea to Turin.

Knowing that to have a realistic chance of qualification they’d need a result against Juventus, the Blues lost 3-0, and despite ending the group with a better goal difference than Shakhtar Donetsk, it was the Ukrainian side who went through having scored more away goals in the games between the two sides.

The man who scored those goals? Willian.

Five months after being given the job on a permanent basis, Di Matteo was sacked.

Atletico 2017-18

Saul and Koke in midfield, Diego Godin orchestrating the defence, Jan Oblak behind him, and the world-class Antoine Griezmann up front.

After reaching the final and semi-final in the previous two seasons, many fancied Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid for another run in the Champions League.

And although the group contained Chelsea and Roma, it was Azerbaijani side Qarabag that foiled Atleti.

The Champions League debutants against all odds secured two draws against Simeone’s men, who went on to finish third in the group.


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