Football

Five of the Best: Champions League underdog stories

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Poor old Arsenal. They go into their Champions League last-16 tie against Bayern Munich tonight not so much as underdogs as lambs to the slaughter if most punters are to be believed.

Knocked out by Bradofrd and Blackburn in cup competitions this season, Arsene Wenger's weary men have the small task of becoming only the second team to beat Bayern this season.

If that doesn't make the Gunners task seem hard enough then contemplate this; Bayern have conceded just seven league goals all season and have won every single game they have played in 2013 so far.

So, if you're an Arsenal fan in search of solace then come here and gather round, because GMF have cobbled together these five inspiring tales of underdogs springing Champions League shocks. Arsene can but dream…

AS Monaco v Real Madrid, 2004

2004 may be remembered as the year the 'Special One' announced himself to the world, but it was also the year that little, tiny provincial Monaco defied the odds to make it all the way to the final only to fall to Jose Mourinho's Porto.

The most remarkable result of their run undoubtedly came against Real Madrid. 4-2 down from the first leg against a Madrid side in the throes of Galactico excess - Ronaldo, Figo and Zideane were among the scorers at the Bernabeu - Monaco fought back in the second tie to claim a historic 3-2 win that put them through.

After repeating the trick against Chelsea in the semis, Monaco finally succumbed to Porto in the final. Watch here.

AC Milan v Tottenham, 2011

Tottenham were on a roller coaster ride in 2011 with Harry Redknapp as the jolly, bedraggled conductor (roller coasters don't have conductors, I know, but you get what I mean) and good old jolly easy-on-the-eye Spurs were handed a glamour ties after making it past the group stages.

AC Milan were their opponents and although the Italians were a little past their best they were expected to deal with Spurs fairly comfortably.

A scrap between Joe Jordan and Gennaro Gattuso and a sensational 1-0 win at the San Siro later followed by a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane, and Spurs were on their way to securing a date with Real Madrid in the quarters. Not bad for a club who almost mucked it up making it past the qualifying rounds - undoubtedly their most famous result for at least 20 years. Watch here.

Deportivo la Coruña v AC Milan, 2004

One of the most dramatic turnarounds in Champions League history. Deportivo la Coruña were dead and buried after the first leg of their quarter final against AC Milan, a 4-1 defeat at the San Siro.

The 2nd leg at the Estadio Riazor should have been a formality for the Italians - but an early goal from Walter Pandiani set the tone for the game before Valeron, Albert Luque and Fran rounded off a sensational comeback when almost everyone had written them off. Watch here.

Liverpool v AC Milan, 2005

We all know the story by now but it doesn't make it any less remarkable. 3-0 down at half-time, Liverpool somehow summoned the strength in the Champions League final in Istanbul to fight back against AC Milan (detecting a theme here?) by scoring three times to take the game to extra-time and penalties.

The details are well known but the story behind the game is no less fascinating. Didi Hamann's introduction, Steve Finnan's unexpected withdrawal at half-time, Rafa Benitez's "give yourself the chance to be heroes" team-talk.

From Rafa Benitez's "Champions League Dreams" book: "All of our hopes rested on the players believing that we had a plan, trusting us to turn things around.

"They stood up and started to filter towards the door, towards the tunnel, towards the pitch. Towards history." Stirring stuff. Watch here.

Apoel Nicosia v Lyon, 2012

How many teams from Cyprus can you name? I'd hazard a guess at none unless you're part of the burgeoning football hipster movement, while most would have though Nicosia was a brand of anti-smoking chewing gum.

Anyway, enough patronising, It was around a year ago that Apeol Nicosia made history by making it through to the quarter finals of the Champions League.

Having unexpectedly made it out of their group, most expected the minnows to perish at the hands of mighty Lyon, but Keeper Dionisios Chiotis clearly hadn't read the script as he helped knock the Ligue 1 side out on penalties with the score across both legs at 1-1. Watch here.

And one for the road....

Chelsea v Barcelona, 2012

Chelsea's run to the final last season is perhaps the greatest underdog story of them all. 

Without a manager after their 3-1 defeat against Napoli in their 1st leg last-16 clash, Roberto Di Matteo's arrivial as boss galvanised a spirit within the club, driving them forward all the way to a heroic final win against Bayern Munihc.

Before that though they had to overcome Barcelona in the semis. A Didier Drogba goal in the first leg gave Chelsea a narrow advantage ahead of the second tie at the Camp Nou - but their European dreams appeared to be over after John Terry was sent off and Barca took a 2-0 lead. Lionel Messi even missed a penalty.

Dead and buried without a hope in the world, Chelsea scored twice through Ramires and Fernando Torres to pull off one of the greatest combacks, against one of the greatest teams, of all time. Watch here.

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