Teams often reach the halfway mark of the UEFA Champions League group stage without a win but do not write off their last-16 chances.
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. A warning, though, the Italian’s side’s turnaround is an outlier when the statistics are broken down.
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 3||Through||Eliminated||% 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, 54 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 to the final 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)
Looking over your shoulders: (Almost) no room for complacency
OK, first things first: 66 sides have had a 100% record after Matchday 3, and all 66 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 Moskva (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.
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