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Top Tenner: Teams fighting back from the Champions League abyss

Tottenham have a chance to make it through their Champions League group despite only managing a point from their first three games. It's not an unprecedented feat, though: Here are some others who made it through despite terrible starts to their groups.

10. AC Milan 1994-95

Milan's defence of the Champions League in 1994 didn't actually start that badly: Despite losing the opener to Ajax, they beat Casino Salzburg, but that wasn't the whole story. During the latter match, some Milan fans got a little boisterous and began pelting the pitch with bottles, one of which hit Salzburg goalkeeper Otto Konrad, which lead to a rapid two-point deduction and their chances of qualifying almost up in smoke. But despite another defeat to Ajax (they would go on to lose to them in the final, too) they squeezed through to the second phase thanks to a Daniel Massaro strike in Salzburg.

9. Arsenal 2003-04

Arsenal fans are rightly proud of The Invincibles season, but it's often glossed over that those "invincibles" lost a fair few games in that campaign: Two of their first three Champions League group ties for starters, going down 3-0 at home to Inter and 2-0 at Dynamo Kiev. With two minutes remaining of their next game, at home to the Ukrainians, they were all-but out, only for Ashley Cole to arrive with the latest of winners. Even then, they had to beat an Inter team featuring Javier Zanetti, Christian Vieri and Fabio Cannavaro in Milan, but it proved to not be a problem. The 5-1 win will be remembered for as long as any league game that season, helping them ultimately finish top of the group.

8. Manchester City 2014-15

You could argue that Manchester City still haven't quite got the hang of the Champions League, but they certainly hadn't in 2014, when the best they could muster was a pair of draws from their first four group games, and they were heading out when Bayern lead them 2-1 in the second-half of their fifth. Then Mehdi Benatia was sent off, Sergio Aguero scored twice in the last five minutes and it set up a chance to squeeze through, which they took by defeating Roma 2-0.

7. Porto 2004-05

Plenty changed between Porto winning the Champions League in 2004 and kicking their campaign off again the following season: Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira followed Jose Mourinho to Chelsea, and it was perhaps inevitable that those old friends would meet again in Group H. Porto failed to win any of their first four games, including a 3-1 loss to Chelsea, but thanks to a late, late Benni McCarthy goal in the return, they slipped past CSKA Moscow and into the second round. They probably shouldn't have bothered: Inter beat them in the first knockout round, and one of the more feeble Champions League title defences was over.

6. Liverpool, 2004-05

The first three games weren't calamitous for Liverpool in 2004-05: Won one, lost one, drew one, but it was the one they lost -- 1-0 to Olympiakos -- that set up the group's dramatic denouement. They had to beat the Greeks by two clear goals at Anfield, so when the Olympiakos scored through Rivaldo, things looked grim. With 10 minutes left their prospects remained poor, only managing to summon a Florent Sinama-Pongolle goal for all their efforts. But, in the closing minutes, Neil Mellor and then his lookalike Steven Gerrard grabbed the two goals they needed, beginning perhaps the most remarkable story in modern Champions League history. Had Gerrard not caught that shot just so, there would have been no miracle in Istanbul, no Gerrard-inspired comeback, no Jerzy Dudek wobbly legs...

Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard found the net against Olympiakos to keep Liverpool's Champions League hopes ailve.

5. Werder Bremen 2005-06

The Champions League is supposed to represent the elite, the best of the best who sit astride the continent, looking down on those below. But occasionally some rather more ... average qualifiers make it through. Werder Bremen were looking down and out after only managing to collect a point against Barcelona, Panathinaikos and Udinese, and compounded the misery further by throwing away a 3-0 lead in the fourth game, against the Italians. But Johan Micoud popped up with a winner, then they hammered Panathinaikos 5-1 on the last day to squeak through, with only seven points.

4. Roma 2015-16

Still, that isn't the lowest points total (with three points for a win) to make it through to the second phase. A few have managed it with only six from their six games, but Roma managed to snatch mediocrity from the jaws of defeat in 2015. They had already lost to BATE Borisov before a ludicrous 4-4 draw with Bayer Leverkusen but, crucially, they then beat the Germans 3-2 in Rome, rendering their subsequent 6-1 thrashing to Barcelona and further draw with BATE, essentially irrelevant. That victory over Bayer meant they finished just ahead of the Germans on goal difference, slinking through having achieved the bare minimum.

3. Liverpool 2007-08

No team has ever reached the final after failing to win their first three group games, but Liverpool nearly did. Things looked grim from the off in 2007-08, the previous season's runners-up drawing with Porto but then losing to Marseille and Besiktas. But in one of the Champions League's more screeching turnarounds, they beat Besiktas 8-0 at Anfield, thrashed Porto 4-1 and bagged another four in Marseille to saunter through. They beat Arsenal in a madcap quarterfinal, but were eventually edged out by Chelsea in the semis, denying the world the delicious/horrendous possibility of a final against Manchester United.

2. Bayern Munich 2009-10

Bayern actually got their 2009-10 campaign off to a solid start, beating Maccabi Haifa 3-0, but things started to go south from there: A draw with Juventus was followed by back-to-back defeats against Bordeaux, leaving them in a tough spot, qualifying-wise. A single Ivica Olic goal against Haifa kept them interested, but they had to win in Turin to go through. Not only did they beat Juve, but they won 4-1, having the added pleasure of knocking out the Italians as Bayern eased through in second place.

1. Newcastle 2002-03

It was a group of nightmares, Bobby Robson's Newcastle drawn with Juventus, Feyenoord and Dynamo Kiev, and for the first three games those nightmares were made flesh. Newcastle not only didn't win a point from that trio but couldn't even manage a goal, and alternative plans could be made for midweeks from then on. But a revival began from an unlikely source, Andy Griffin scoring the only goal against Juventus before a win over Kiev set up a final day trip to the Netherlands. It was 2-2 against Feyenoord as the clock ticked over to injury time, Newcastle having thrown away a 2-0 lead, but Craig Bellamy arrived at the last to slam home a winner and complete an extraordinary revival.

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