Ranking the greatest Champions League comebacks
Ranking the greatest Champions League comebacks

Ranking the greatest Champions League comebacks

Liverpool’s 5-2 defeat to Real Madrid at Anfield has left them with the near-impossible task of overturning a three-goal deficit at the Bernabeu.

To assess the Reds’ chances of reaching the quarter-finals, we’ve picked out some key stats and reminisced over the greatest Champions League comebacks in history in terms of second-leg revivals.

How often do teams overturn a deficit?

Since the competition’s first two-legged encounter in 1994-95, there have been 225 ties where one team took a lead into the second leg. Of these, 174 were won by the team ahead from the first leg, compared with just 51 won by the side who trailed.

Worryingly for Liverpool, only five of those 51 deficits were overturned by the away side.

It is equally rare for a team to recover a three-goal margin, with just four teams in Champions League history having done so!

In another bad sign for Jurgen Klopp’s men, all four of these comebacks – including Liverpool’s famous turnaround against Barcelona in 2018-19 – were initiated by the team playing at home.

The largest deficit overturned by an away team is two goals, by Manchester United at PSG earlier in the same season.

Reds’ fans can take some solace from the abolition of the away goals rule before the start of last season, which means any three-goal victory in Madrid will take the tie to extra-time.

The last time that Real lost by three clear goals at home in the Champions League was in 2018-19, when Erik ten Hag’s Ajax bounced back from losing the first leg in Amsterdam by winning 4-1 in the Bernabeu.

What is the greatest second-leg comeback?

We have listed the best second-leg turnarounds in Champions League history, ordered by the size of the first-leg deficit, whether the team was playing at home or away, and the aggregate score.

Our top five greatest Champions League comebacks, counting down, are as follows:

5. PSG 1-3 Manchester United (Round of 16, 2018-19)

Interim United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was soon awarded the job on a permanent basis after overseeing the biggest Champions League comeback by a team playing away from home in the second leg.

United trailed 2-0 from the first leg and were without the suspended Paul Pogba after his late red card at Old Trafford, but a brace from Romelu Lukaku and a late Marcus Rashford penalty saw them through against the odds.

4. Roma 3-0 Barcelona (Quarter-final, 2017-18)

Own goals from Daniele De Rossi and Kostas Manolas left Roma up against it in the first leg and though Edin Dzeko cut their deficit to 3-1, Luis Suarez struck late on to seemingly put the tie to bed.

Not so. Dzeko scored early in the following week’s match before first De Rossi and then Manolas made amends for their first-leg errors.

3. Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona (Semi-final, 2018-19)

Divock Origi enjoys a standing in Liverpool’s recent history disproportionate to his 34 goals in 179 appearances across seven seasons, and this tie is a key reason why.

Liverpool old boy Suarez and a brace from Lionel Messi put Barca three up from the first leg but Origi scored seven minutes into the return and, after Georginio Wijnaldum’s double levelled the tie, the Belgium forward popped up again to sweep home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s brilliant quick corner. Origi scored again in the final as Liverpool won the trophy at Tottenham’s expense.

2. Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 AC Milan (Quarter-final, 2003-04)

When reigning champions Milan scored four goals in eight minutes in the first leg to overhaul Walter Pandiani’s opener for Deportivo, there seemed no prospect of an upset.

The Spanish side had other ideas as Pandiani again scored early and further goals from Juan Carlos Valeron, Albert Luque and substitute Fran made them the first team – and, for a further 13 years, the only team – to overhaul a three-goal first-leg deficit in the Champions League.

1. Barcelona 6-1 PSG (Round of 16, 2016-17)

After Angel Di María’s brace inspired PSG to an emphatic first-leg win, Barca started the return game with the early goal they needed from Suarez, but had to wait until five minutes either side of half-time to make further inroads through Layvin Kurzawa’s own goal and Messi’s penalty.

Cavani looked to have settled the French side’s nerves, but Neymar scored twice in the closing stages to level the tie before Sergi Roberto grabbed a dramatic winner five minutes into added time. The game has gone down in Barca folklore as ‘La Remontada’ (The Comeback).

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