Football Features

What happened next? The seven ‘perfect’ teams in Champions League group-stage history

By Harry Edwards

Published: 9:00, 7 December 2021

There are still three teams chasing a perfect record going into the final matchweek of the 2021/22 Champions League group stage.

Ajax, Bayern Munich and Liverpool have won each of their opening five games in the Champions League group stage this season and will be looking to join a relatively small list of teams to win all six.

Despite there still being three teams in pursuit after five matches this year, not many manage to go the full six-game group stage without dropping a single point. Sometimes form slips in the final match when qualification and top spot are secured as teams field weakened teams looking to avoid any unnecessary injuries, especially as December often throws up busy fixture schedules.

In the 30 completed Champions League seasons since the group stage was first implemented in the 1991/92 campaign (the final year of the European Cup), just seven teams have finished the first round-robin perfect with six wins from six.

However, as some clubs have found the hard way, a perfect group stage has no correlation on how a team will fare in the knockout rounds.

Champions League 2021/22 winner odds with William Hill

  • Man City (3/1)
  • Bayern Munich (4/1)
  • Liverpool (11/2)
  • PSG (6/1)
  • Chelsea (6/1)

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1. AC Milan (1992/93)

  • Record: 6/0/0
  • Points: 12
  • Goals/conceded: 11/1
  • Opposition: IFK Goteborg, Porto, PSV Eindhoven
  • Finish: Runners-up

The first group stage under the Champions League ‘brand’ was a bit different to the format we have grown used to. It was essentially the last round before the final. To reach the group stage, AC Milan had to beat Olimpija Ljubljana and Slovan Bratislava, before going perfect against IFK Goteborg, Porto and PSV Eindhoven, with two points awarded per win.

Their reward for this was a final showdown with the other group winners Marseille, but they lost the showpiece 1-0 in Munich thanks to Basile Boli’s goal just before half time.

2. Paris Saint-Germain (1994/95)

  • Record: 6/0/0
  • Points: 12
  • Goals/conceded: 12/3
  • Opposition: Bayern Munich, Spartak Moscow, Dynamo Kyiv
  • Finish: Semi-finals

This is the kind of group stage we’re more used to. PSG were unbeatable in six games against Bayern Munich, Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Kyiv to earn their spot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League (only 16 teams entered the group stage).

In the quarter-finals, PSG were drawn against Group A runners-up Barcelona and after a 1-1 draw in the first leg at the Nou Camp, Rai and Vincent Guerin scored to help the French side come from behind to reach the semi-finals.

But that would be where their journey ended, as AC Milan comfortably beat PSG 3-0 over two legs to set up their final with Ajax.

3. Spartak Moscow (1995/96)

  • Record: 6/0/0
  • Points: 18
  • Goals/conceded: 15/4
  • Opposition: Legia Warsaw, Rosenborg, Blackburn Rovers
  • Finish: Quarter-finals

The Russian champions absolutely steamrolled their way through Group B in the 1995/96 Champions League, finishing 11 points clear of second-placed Legia Warsaw (the first time three points were awarded for a win).

But their perfect run would end in their very next match as they lost 2-0 to Nantes in the first leg of their quarter-final matchup en route to a 4-2 aggregate defeat. Nicolas Ouedec was the bane of Spartak across those two games, scoring three times including twice in the second leg after the Russian side had tied things up at 2-2 on aggregate.

4. Barcelona (2002/03)

  • Record: 6/0/0
  • Points: 18
  • Goals/conceded: 13/4
  • Opposition: Lokomotiv Moscow, Club Brugge, Galatasaray
  • Finish: Quarter-finals

Ah, the good old days of the double group stage. Barcelona’s perfect record came in the first group stage, where they finished 11 points clear at the top of Group H, beating Lokomotiv Moscow, Club Brugge and Galatasaray with relative ease.

Barcelona’s perfect run continued for another three matches in the second group stage, too, until Inter Milan held them to a goalless draw. That would be the only occasion on which they dropped points, topping their group ahead of Inter, Newcastle and Bayer Leverkusen to move to the quarter-finals.

But they fell to another Italian team, drawing 1-1 with Juventus in the first leg before losing 2-1 after extra-time in the second thanks to Marcelo Zalayeta’s 114th-minute winner.

5. Real Madrid (2011/12)

  • Record: 6/0/0
  • Points: 18
  • Goals/conceded: 19/2
  • Opposition: Lyon, Ajax, Dinamo Zagreb
  • Finish: Semi-finals

After years in search of La Decima, Real Madrid were starting to become a force in football around the 2011/12 season and it started with a routine group stage journey. Los Blancos went perfect against Lyon, Ajax and Dinamo Zagreb, conceding just two goals and keeping five clean sheets to set up a favourable route.

As a reward for winning their group, Real Madrid were drawn against CSKA Moscow in the last 16 and, despite a 1-1 draw in the first leg (ending the perfect record), cruised through with a 5-2 victory. They recorded a similarly emphatic win in the quarter-finals, this time 8-2 on aggregate against APOEL with Karim Benzema, Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo all scoring across the two legs.

But their campaign came to an end in the semi-finals, where they lost to Bayern Munich on penalties after the two sides traded 2-1 home wins. Ronaldo, Kaka and Sergio Ramos all missed their spot-kicks on the night for Real.

6. Real Madrid (2014/15)

  • Record: 6/0/0
  • Points: 18
  • Goals/conceded: 16/2
  • Opposition: Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets
  • Finish: Semi-finals

Real Madrid entered this group stage as defending champions after finally securing La Decima in 2013/14. La Undecima looked on the cards the following season, going by their group stage performance; they cruised to the last-16 ahead of Basel, Liverpool and Ludogorets, barely being tested.

In the last 16, Real Madrid were drawn against Schalke and despite a 2-0 away win in the first leg they were made to sweat for their spot in the quarter-finals, losing the second leg 4-3 (just one goal away from going out). A repeat of the 2013/14 final followed, and Real Madrid edged a derby with rivals Atletico Madrid thanks to Javier Hernandez’s 88th-minute goal in the second leg.

However, a perfect group stage would be coupled with a semi-final exit once again for Real Madrid as they were beaten 3-2 on aggregate by Juventus, with two goals from former striker Alvaro Morata proving vital.

7. Bayern Munich (2019/20)

  • Record: 6/0/0
  • Points: 18
  • Goals/conceded: 24/5
  • Opposition: Tottenham Hotspur, Olympiacos, Red Star Belgrade
  • Finish: Winners

The most recent team to go perfect in the group, Bayern Munich really dominated the Champions League in 2019/20, winning all six matches against Olympiacos, Red Star Belgrade and Tottenham including that 7-2 thrashing of the latter at Wembley.

As group winners, Bayern were drawn against Chelsea in the last 16 and absolutely thrashed the Blues, winning 3-0 at Stamford Bridge and 4-1 in the return leg while Robert Lewandowski scored three times across the two ties. Then came that quarter-final.

A single-legged affair, Bayern humiliated Barcelona 8-2 in Lisbon with Thomas Muller and Philippe Coutinho both bagging braces alongside goals from Ivan Perisic, Serge Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich and Lewandowski. They even scored one for Barcelona to level things early on. The semi-final was also relatively straightforward, a 3-0 win over Lyon in which Gnabry and Lewandowski starred again.

Then the final, as Bayern looked to do what AC Milan couldn’t by winning the Champions League after a perfect group stage. As we all remember, they did so, thanks to Kingsley Coman’s second-half goal. This historic goal made Bayern the first team to win the Champions League by winning every single game along the way. No points dropped, no draws. This treble-winning team was on another level.