Some of the teams have been punching above their weight in the competition this season.
The UEFA Champions League pits the best teams of Europe against each other. It has been a competition where players have become heroes and a select few have been immortalized in the sport owing to their exploits in the competition.
The UEFA Champions League is undoubtedly the biggest prize in club football. Therefore, it is contested heavily by the biggest clubs and the players. But there have also been a few teams, who have had their own share of success in this competition when they weren’t expected to.
Even in the current season, a few teams have been exceeding expectations. These teams have given the bigger sides a run for their money and have all eyes on them at the moment. So let’s take a look at the five underdog teams, who are playing well in the Champions League this season.
Benfica won two consecutive continental titles when they won the European Cup in 1960-61 and 1961-62 led by legendary striker Eusebio. Since then, the club have had their bright moments in the competition but those have been few and far between.
Currently, Benfica sit at the third spot with four points, two behind Barcelona who occupy the second qualifying spot. They dismantled the Blaugrana 3-0 in their first meeting and have the return fixture to play along with a home game against Dynamo Kyiv. Therefore, should they win their remaining games, Benfica could very well dump the four-time European Champions out of the competition. This would be a massive scalp for them in this season’s Champions League.
The defending Europa League champions are currently second in Group F comprising Manchester United, Atalanta and Young Boys. Villarreal came close to getting a point at Old Trafford until Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the final minutes to cause heartbreak.
But the Yellow Submarine seems to be sailing smooth. They do have crucial games coming up against Manchester United and Atalanta. A win in either of the games could see them virtually dumping the other out of the competition.
After their dream run to the 2018-19 Champions League semifinals, Ajax are once again taking Europe by storm. They are one of only four clubs that have won all four of their group games so far.
Ajax have conceded only twice in the group stage thus far and have scored 14. Hence their goal difference of +12 is only behind Bayern Munich’s +15. This season, they disposed of group competitors Borussia Dortmund with 4-0 and 3-1 wins.
The team comprises plenty of all-round talent including Ryan Gravenberch, Edson Alvarez, Antony, Sebastian Haller and many more. Therefore, under Erik ten Hag‘s fearless brand of football, the Amsterdam club are once again the toast of Europe.
2. FC Porto
FC Porto got slotted in what many termed as the ‘Group of Death‘ this season. They had the formidable challenge of overcoming Liverpool and AC Milan who have 13 European titles between them and three-time runners up Atletico Madrid.
But the Portuguese club have shown determination in overcoming the challenges. Porto drew a 0-0 stalemate against Los Rojiblancos at the Wanda Metropolitano and won against Milan before drawing against them as well at the San Siro.
It keeps them on five points and in second place in the group. They still have massively difficult games against Liverpool and Atletico to follow. But the side led by Sergio Conceicao are a team that has a history of springing major surprises. They can take heart from their defeat of Juventus in the Champions League Round of 16 last season as well as their miraculous title win under Jose Mourinho in 2004.
1. Sheriff Tiraspol
Undoubtedly the biggest underdog team in the UEFA Champions League this season, Sheriff are the first Moldovan team to ever qualify for the main draw of the Champions League.
But the side have taken to the competition like a duck to water. If their win against Shakhtar Donetsk in their first-ever Champions League game wasn’t miraculous, Sheriff went one better.
They produced arguably the biggest upset in the competition’s history by defeating the record champions Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. In front of a packed crowd, Sheriff snatched a historic 2-1 win against Los Blancos. They currently are in the third spot with six points behind Real Madrid (9) and Inter Milan (7), who defeated them at home and away.
While the challenges still remain potentially insurmountable, Sheriff have given themselves a fighting chance of making it to the knockout stages. They’ve shown they are capable of competing with Europe’s biggest teams. Their historic win against Real Madrid is a testament to that.