The European football’s top club tournament has seen several upsets over the years where the defending champions have fallen to early exits.
The UEFA Champions League has proven to be the most fickle of mistresses over the years, with several sides succumbing to complacency in the seasons following their success in the competition. The latest victim of the ever-competitive league is Real Madrid who saw their era of dominance in the competition come to an end against Ajax.
We at Khel Now take a look at the worst UEFA Champions league defences in history.
5. Liverpool 2005-2006:
The season following the unlikely victory of the Champions League by Rafa Benitez’s men in Istanbul in the 2004-2005 season was always going to be a hard one. Liverpool only qualified for the Champions League that season as they were the defending champions. However, their stint in the competition was short lived as they drew Benfica in the round of 16. The Portuguese side beat the Britishers both home and away to bring their Champions League dreams to a premature end.
4. AC Milan 2003-2004:
In the early 2000’s, AC Milan boasted one of the most legendary squads of all time that boasted the likes of Kaka, Seedorf, Maldini and Gattuso just to name a few. They romped their way to the Champions league title in the 2002-2003 season and were favourites to do the same again considering the dominance that Carlo Ancelotti’s men showed in Italy.
The Italians were handed a relatively simple tie in the quarter finals where they would face Deportivo La Coruna. The home leg went as per the plan with the Milan side winning 4-1. However, nobody could have predicted what happened in the second leg where the Spanish side came out as 4-0 winners, condemning the defending champions to elimination and writing Champions League history in the process.
3. Porto 2004-2005:
Porto’s victory of the Champions league in the 2003-2004 season will forever be considered as on of the greatest footballing stories of all time. A young, disruptive manager named Jose Mourinho took charge of a swashbuckling Porto side that blew past anything that was put in front of them.
However, as is football, the following season saw the departure of the manager and several key players to the biggest clubs across the continent. The new signings failed to live up to their reputations and Porto suffered a miserable season. The Portuguese side were knocked out in the round of 16 by Inter Milan, losing the away leg by three goals to one.
2. Chelsea 2012-2013:
Yet another story of unlikely winners of the Champions League struggling in the following year. Chelsea were languishing in the Premier League and had just brought in Roberto Di Mateo to see them through the rest of the season with minimal damage. The Italian did so much more, delivering the Champions League to Stamford Bridge in quite dramatic fashion.
However, the elation did not last long. In the following season, Chelsea were pipped to second spot in their group by Shakhtar Donetsk behind Juventus due to the head to head away goals rule as both sides finished the group stages with identical stats. Chelsea were condemned to participating in the Europa League for the rest of the season.
1. Real Madrid 2018-2019:
There seemed to be an air of finality about Real Madrid’s Champions League victory in the 2017-2018 season. Despite the elation of lifting the trophy, you could not shake the feeling that you were witnessing the end of an era at the Bernabeau. And sure enough, in the months following the victory, both Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane announced their departures from the club. Madrid failed to replace their talismanic striker and suffered the consequences in the following season.
The Madrid side have already been knocked out of the Copa Del Rey and are struggling in La Liga. The last nail in their coffin came when an Ajax side that played beautify expansive football overturned a 2-1 deficit to knock the defending champions out of the competition rather unceremoniously.