Top 10 Worst Ever UEFA Champions League Campaigns By a Club

Tags: #UEFAChampionsLeague ,   #Football ,   #Soccer ,   #ChampionsLeague ,   #ManchesterCity

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2023-05-13 06:00:06

Many will agree that the Champions League is the top association football competition, more enjoyable than the World Cup. However, every year we are forced to watch some rather horrible teams that would struggle even in Europa League or Conference League. While you'll find top ten list ranking the worst teams in Champions League history, they are all unfair. This is because they arrange them based purely on statistics, not considering the club's strength. For example, while winning 50% of the points in the group stage is an embarrassment for Real Madrid, the same would be a massive achievement for a team from Ireland, Romania, or even Switzerland. Also, we won't consider qualification rounds, but only the final tournament, beginning with the group stage.

10. 2012-13 Manchester City

The sixth round defeat against Borussia ended the worst Manchester City Champions League campaign

In 2012, Manchester City won its first Premier League title and became the English league winner after 44 years! This made the team one of the favorites to win the 2012-13 Champions League, the trophy they sorely missed. Yet, City was unlucky to be in a group of death with Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, and Ajax. Despite this, everyone believed that the team would be at least second.

Nonetheless, they lost all three away games while unable to defeat a single opponent at home. With only three points, they were dead last in the group! What's even more baffling is that City had another strong Premier League season, as they were second only behind Manchester United. No other English champion had such a horrific Champions League season!

9. 2009-10 Atlético Madrid

Atlético at least won the premier edition of Europa League the same season

Atletico Madrid was a dark horse in the 2009-10 Champions League, as they qualified after easily beating Panathinaikos. Furthermore, they were in the group with solid but unspectacular Chelsea and Porto, with APOEL as the weakest opponent. That's why everyone felt that Atletico would be in the race for second place until the last round. However, by then, the club was already eliminated!

The home draw against APOEL was a sign of things to come, as they suffered two losses in a row, including 4-0 to Chelsea. Only in the fourth game, they scored their first goal, three in their six games! Despite winning only three points with three draws and a 3:12 goal difference, Atlético Madrid finished third, thanks to a better score against APOEL. Amazingly, they were doing much better in the Europa League, even winning it in the end. That was the saving grace for them, as in La Liga, they were only ninth.

8. 2004-05 Deportivo La Coruña 

Deportivo was one of the best Spanish clubs at the beginning of the 21st century, almost winning multiple league titles. They were also pretty successful in the Champions League, barely losing the semifinals against future champions Porto in 2004. However, in 2004-05 all went wrong on all fronts. In La Liga, Deportivo was only eight, while they were eliminated in the round of 32 in Copa del Rey. However, they were especially embarrassing in the Champions League group stage.

Facing Monaco, Liverpool, and Olympiacos, Deportivo ended on rock bottom, eight points behind third-placed Greeks. However, what is astonishing is that they didn't score in any of their six games! Of the nine goals they allowed, five came in a home game against Monaco, while they managed only two goalless draws. After this, Deportivo went into a massive decline.

7. 2017-18 Borussia Dortmund 

Borussia looked desperate against Real Madrid

Former Champions League winners Borussia Dortmund entered the 2017-18 edition of the competition from the group stages. While Real Madrid was a hot favorite, the Germans should have easily overcome APOEL from Cyprus and fight for second place with Tottenham Hotspur.

Yet, after only a couple of games, they were out of the competition. The agony continued as Real and Tottenham beat them the second time, with Borussia unable to defeat APOEL. Incredibly, they ended up third in the group with pathetic two points, leading them to Europa League. However, they quickly went out in the round of 16. 

6. 2004-05 Roma 

At least Roma didn't suffer a catastrophe in Madrid

The Italian vice-champion Roma began the 2004-05 Champions League from the group stage, facing Real Madrid and very beatable Bayer Leverkusen and Dynamo Kyiv. Again, it was another case of a team that looked like it may even win the first place. However, after selling some key players, Roma struggled in Serie A for the whole season, and it was even worse in Europe.

Even when considering that, no one could predict that Roma will be the second-worst team in the Champions League that season. Yet, the team was pretty much out when someone hit the referee during the first game in the Italian capital city. Roma not only lost this contest by default, but they had to play the rest of their home games without the crowd. Losses kept coming, with the Italian side managing a single draw at home against Bayer. In the end, they were last, nine points behind the third-place team.

5. 2013-14 Olympique de Marseille

Marseille was in the lead only in a single Champions League game in the 2013/14 season

It's not uncommon for a side to end their Champions League appearance without a single point, suffering six defeats. Yet, it's another thing when that happens to former European champions, Olympique de Marseille. After qualifying directly in the group stage, no one was happy with the draw, as they faced Borussia, Arsenal, and Napoli. Yet, Olympique should have been able to overcome anyone and fight until the end.

Instead, the club set an unbeatable Champions League record! It's not only that they've lost all their games, but the third-place Napoli was a massive 12 points ahead! The best thing that can be said about the French is that they only had one tough loss (0-3 against Borussia), and they even led in Naples. This whole season was tragic for Marseille, as they managed only sixth place in Ligue 1, leaving them out of European competitions.

4. 2002-03 Spartak Moscow

Michael Owen magic against Spartak in Moscow

In 2001, Spartak Moscow won their sixth Russian league title in a row, the last for the next 15 years! This qualified them for the 2002-03 Champions League group stage with beatable opponents, including Valencia, Basel, and very shaky Liverpool. That gave Spartak hope that they could ruffle a few feathers and at least take third place, which would transfer them to the UEFA Cup. 

However, they were already out after three games, with zero points, zero goals scored, and ten allowed. Their best moment that season came against Liverpool, as they took the early lead. Nevertheless, Michael Owen ensured the triumph for the English side with a hat-trick. With six defeats and only one goal scored against 18, Spartak Moscow was the worst team that season. 

3. 2017-18 Benfica 

The match that still haunts Benfica

Benfica had an impressive 2016-17 league season, winning the Portuguese championship with only two defeats. They continued playing magnificently the following season, so the fans hoped that their team would impact the Champions League. Heck, some even thought it was the time to end the European Curse! Benfica was a clear favorite for second place in a group with Manchester United, Basel, and CSKA Moscow, and saying otherwise was pure madness. However, what happened was a meltdown.

An opening home loss to CSKA Moscow had a devastating effect, and a following 5-0 catastrophe against Basel sealed the deal. In the last four games, Benfica was trashed by everyone and was unable to score. In the end, the Portuguese champion was left humiliated, without a point, and with a single goal scored against 14. And yes, they were the worst team in the Champions League that season.

2. 2016-17 Dinamo Zagreb 

And to think that Dinamo was leading until the end of the first half!

Dinamo Zagreb has reached the Champions League more times than any other Balkans club. In the 1998/99 season, they even secured second place in the group stage, almost reaching the quarterfinals. Dinamo also had a few notable wins against Ajax, Olympiacos, and Arsenal, proving that they can play against the best occasionally. However, most of their performances are record-breaking, but in a negative way.

The best Croatian team has tons of unsuccessful Champions League campaigns, but the most famous one came in the 2011-12 season. While Dinamo couldn't hope for much in the group with Real Madrid, Ajax, and Lyon, they surely didn't expect such trashing. It's not only that the team lost all their six games, but they also allowed a record-breaking 22 goals! This includes a 1-7 loss at home against Lyon or 6-2 in Madrid. We also have to mention their 2016-17 Champions League season, as they didn't even score that time!

1. 2002-03 Bayern Munich

The first game in the group was a sign of things to come for Bayern

The 2002-03 Bundesliga was magical for Bayern Munich and Oliver Kahn as they easily won the cup and the title, beating VfB Stuttgart by 15 points. Because they were dominant since the beginning of the season, they were expected to do very well in the Champions League. After they easily dispatched Partizan Belgrade in the qualifications, the German giant was in a group with Milan, Deportivo de La Coruña, and Lens. This made them favorites to go through with ease, but something went horribly wrong.

After a shock loss at home against Deportivo, Bayern was only getting worse and was out of the competition after round four! In the end, they were last in the group, with only two points! Only Spartak Moscow did worse that season! In their defense, they lost every match by a single goal, but that can't be an excuse for such a team.

While reaching the Champions League is already a massive success for many clubs, it's a nightmare when your team serves as cannon fodder while the whole world is watching. While we're opening some old wounds with this top ten, no club is safe from suffering the same fate.

What is the worst Champions League team you've ever watched? Do you like the current format of this competition?

Cover photo: FrodeCJ/Pixabay



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Bryan W Says:

I totally forgot about that Manchester City campaign, that was a disaster.

March 16 at 12:43:41 PM

Xs Says:

I'm glad that Dinamo Zagreb somewhat improved recently, they are doing decent in 2022/23 season.

October 14 at 03:20:46 PM

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