You’ve put in all the hard yards, grafted an entire domestic season, won those tricky away matches and finished in your league’s European spots against all odds. Now, you can savour the ultimate reward – a Champions League matchup against one of world football’s true heavyweights.
The floodlights are glaring, the famous anthem is playing, the fans (pre-2020) are roaring – does it get any better than this? 90 minutes later and seven goals conceded to a Juventus side playing in second gear for most of the evening, you conclude that yes, it probably does.
For all the times the modern Champions League has thrown up epic face-offs between Europe’s best and brightest, it has also produced some horrendous mismatches and scorelines which, quite frankly, shame the competition.
So without further ado, let’s put the glitz and glamour of the greatest cup competition in the world to one side for a second, and look at 30 occasions in which Champions League football produced some absolute beatdowns…
No, not the game with that Mesut Ozil goal in it, but still a pretty good night for the German playmaker, who bagged a rare hat trick to send Arsenal top of their Champions League group – who from Bulgaria hurt this man?!
Truth be told, Champions League football has not been kind to the 15-time Belarusian Premier League winners, who have not yet found a way to crack the competition’s group stage.
This evening was no different, in a game where Yacine Brahimi was so good he capped off his hat trick with a free kick.
Considering that this is the only Champions League group stage fixture that City ever seem to play, you’d back them to make a game of it eventually.
Gabriel Jesus scored a hat trick, which is nice.
Davide Zappacosta scored one of the weirdest goals of all-time in what was Qarabag’s first ever Champions League game – you’d describe it as both an amazing solo effort and a flukey cross.
Highlights also include a rare goal for Tiémoué Bakayoko.
So for our younger readers, the first ever installation of the Champions League was a little topsy-turvy, seeing a series of qualifying matches culminating in an eight-team group stage which stretched until April and decided which two teams would play in the final.
Confused? Not as much as CSKA Moscow’s players evidently were when they let eventual winners Marseille stick six past them in March.
Definitely not the first team we’ll see a certain club (no, not Genk) feature in this list, the scoring in this match was opened by an own goal from none other than former Spurs cult hero Didier Zokora.
Exciting stuff – it’s our first away win on this list!
Legia Warsaw is known for being a tricky place to go, lots of flares, tifos, vocal supporters, etc, etc. Ousmane Dembele and a 17-year-old Christian Pulisic were undeterred, however, on a huge night for Die Borussen. Weirdly enough, the return fixture was an 8-4 thriller in Dortmund’s favour – you don’t see that scoreline enough these days!
Behold, the most recent addition to the list!
Shakhtar beat Real Madrid who then scored a late equaliser against Monchengladbach who themselves went on to destroy Shakhtar away from home via an Alassane Plea hat trick.
All of which means (by our calculations) that Cadiz would be the best team in the Champions League?
It feels like if you look away for five seconds these days, Real Madrid have purchased another ten superstar Brazilian teenagers – we get it, you were upset about missing out on Neymar!
Rodrygo is one such teenager and became the second-youngest player to score a CL hat trick, making it a perfect one for good measure against the Turkish side.
Only a fool would reduce themselves to nine men playing against a European juggernaut such as Dynamo Kyiv, but that is sadly exactly the mistake that Besiktas made in 2016.
A bad night in Europe for the Black Eagles, but they can’t possibly appear on this list twice…right?
There’s one man that this match will mainly be remembered for – clue: it wasn’t Football Manager 2010 legend Eren Derdiyok.
Lionel Messi comprehensively demolished the German side with a five-goal salvo, and from his first beautifully-weighted chip to his final curled effort, was more or less doing what he wanted to out there.
Not many teams are as brutal as Bayern when it comes to swiftly dismissing an inferior team in the Champions League knockout stage.
Lucas Podolski was dominant, scoring an early-doors overhead kick to set the tone, although Joao Moutinho, who seems to have been present for every footballing event of the last 40 years, managed to add a consolation goal.
There have been some pretty famous European nights in Celtic’s recent history, nights where they’ve stood their ground against some of the greatest teams of the modern era, nights where heroes have been made, nights where they’ve demonstrated grit, courage, determination and a wee bit of luck.
This…was not one of them, although to be fair for eight minutes the Bhoys were in fact in the lead after Moussa Dembele’s early goal.
Quite easily the most controversial of any one of these results.
You might be wondering, what could possibly be so contentious about a 7-1 win? Surely that’s about as decisive as it gets?
Well, Lyon needed a seven-goal swing to qualify for the knockout rounds ahead of Ajax. Ajax lost their game to Real Madrid 3-0 in rather controversial circumstances, but with Lyon going into their game with Zagreb 1-1 at half-time things looked pretty safe for the Dutch side.
Then, Lyon scored six, Bafetimbi Gomis scored the fastest hat trick in Champions League history, and Zagreb defender Domagoj Vida appeared to wink at the striker after one of his goals.
Ajax boss Frank de Boer demanded an investigation, it fell on deaf ears, and we might never know exactly what happened that strange evening.
Ashley Cole probably hasn’t experienced the feeling of holding seven all that often in his career, but even at his peak he might have found prime Arjen Robben under Pep Guardiola a bit of a handful.
While Pep’s Bayern side never tasted European glory, they definitely made life as torrid as possible for as many teams as they could, with Xherdan Shaqiri even getting in on the act as they ran riot in the Eternal City.
Roma, Roma, Roma. Such a classy institution, a club forever associated with Francesco Totti, Daniele de Rossi, Cafu, Bruno Conti…and conceding seven goals in European football.
Michael Carrick scored. Twice.
A result which sent shockwaves through European football, signalling the beginning of a possible new dynasty in Bayern Munich and the sad end of Barcelona’s period as an elite side.
When Alaba actually laughed off an early own goal, you knew the Catalan side were in trouble…
It’s easy to forget that before an ill-fated spell at Spurs, Roberto Soldado was an absolute powerhouse, a fact which Gent found out to their cost at the Mestalla in 2011.
Indeed, it was basically a battle of the Spanish cult heroes, with Aritz Aduriz and Pablo Hernandez joining the fun.
A humbling 6-0 loss to Porto in Europe would surely be one of the most chastening defeats in your club’s history, right? Pfft, it wasn’t even the worst in BATE’s season.
Almost a month after Brahimi and co. ran them riot in Portugal, Shakhtar took them to the cleaners on their own turf.
Did any players from Brazil score? You would be bang on the money, with all seven goals scored by a Brazilian, including five from Luiz Adriano.
Marseille enjoyed something of a golden generation around the turn of the last decade, lining up with the likes of Steve Mandanda, Loic Remy, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Mathieu Valbuena, Lucho Gonzalez and the Ayew brothers.
It was all a little too much for then-Slovakian Champions Zilina, who left the group stages with a whimper after failing to win a single point.
From Slovakia to Slovenia, and a loss which firmly established Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side as something to fuss over in the realm of Champions League football.
It also created a very nifty bit of history as the Reds notched the highest-ever away win by an English team in European Cup history.
Shakhtar and Bayern, eh? Whether scoring them or conceding them, the one thing you’d say about these guys is that they love appearing on the list of Biggest Ever Champions League Wins.
The Ukrainian side got a taste of their own medicine in the knockout rounds after their evening of fun against BATE, with Olexandr Kucher the culprit after receiving the earliest red card in the history of the Champions League – probably a bad decision against Robben, Franck Ribery and Robert Lewandowski.
When late 2000s Wenger sides got firing, it was the footballing equivalent of a Mozart sonata, and this was one of those nights where all of his most inconsistent players were firing on all cylinders.
Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner and a transcendent Alex Hleb were at the centre of the action, and at the end of it Arsenal had their biggest ever Champions League victory.
Social media users may well recall that Schalke’s Twitter admin had all sorts of cutesy gifs up their sleeve in response to one of the darkest days in their club’s European history – not an awful lot of consolation for their fans, you would’ve thought.
One of about a million occasions where Pep’s City have looked good enough to win the CL, before a subsequent embarrassing exit to none other than serial bottlers Tottenham Hotspur.
Them again! It’s getting a bit boring now lads, how about cutting these minnows some slack in the knockout rounds?
As responses to a first leg loss go, this one was pretty much ideal – after taking all of 11 minutes to level things up, Bayern put the tie to bed, and then some, with Mario Gomez helping himself to four goals.
This campaign might have ended with Sergio Ramos treating Mohamed Salah like a human rag doll, but Liverpool sure did have some fun along the way there with their second seven-goal margin of victory.
Philippe Coutinho scored a hat trick, the entirety of Liverpool’s world-famous forward line scored, and James Milner racked up a hat trick of assists. Did the best side win the competition that season? Most probably not.
When it comes to showing zero mercy to minnows in the Champions League, Juventus are the trailblazers, with their 2003 victory over Olympiacos setting the record goalscoring margin before others followed.
Nostalgia lovers will be all over the list of goalscorers, from Alessandro Del Piero, to David Trezeguet, Marco Di Vaio, Fabrizio Miccoli and Marcelo Zalayeta. Olympiacos might not have appreciated it at the time, but it makes for a lovely trip down memory lane.
In perhaps the quintessential group of death, featuring Barcelona, Manchester City and Gladbach, Celtic did about as well as you could’ve hoped (they didn’t lose every single game).
There were to Tony Watt-based heroics from the Hoops as Messi scored a hat trick and Luis Suarez added a brace of his own. But they at least did draw against City home and away.
In news that probably bodes well for the competitive spirit of Champions League football, there has not yet been an 8-0 deficit in the knockout rounds, but there have been a grand total of two in the group stages.
The first of these features a Champions League hat trick for Yossi Benayoun, so it’s arguably already more exciting than the other, and that’s before we even touch on a bit of stat-padding from Peter Crouch and Ryan Babel as Liverpool swept Besiktas aside with an eight-goal display.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be delighted to know that his best effort in Europe comes 19 places above Messi’s five-goal explosion, with Karim Benzema also adding a hat trick.
You could go all day without guessing who the other goalscorer was, but I’ll put you out of your misery – it was none other than Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic.