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Greatest Champions League Comeback of All Time

The Champions League round of 16 resumes this week. Two of the marquee ties of the round – Barcelona vs. Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal – look all but decided. Barça were pasted 4-0 in the first leg at the Parc des Princes last month, while Arsenal suffered a humiliating 5-1 defeat at the Allianz Arena.

It looks like mission impossible for the Gunners and Barcelona. And while a comeback from either side would be the greatest in the history of the competition, there is a precedent for teams making unexpected comeback in the second leg after losing heavily in the first. Here are six of the greatest Champions League comebacks.

Chelsea vs. Barcelona – 1999-00 Quarterfinals At the turn of the Millennium, Chelsea were nothing like the force in European football they are today. Nonetheless, Gianluca Vialli’s men managed to hand Louis van Gaal’s Barcelona an unexpected 3-1 loss in a quarterfinal at Stamford Bridge.But the Catalan side rallied back on their home ground, winning 5-1 and coasting through on a 6-4 aggregate scoreline.

AC Milan vs. RC Deportivo La Coruna – 2003-04 Quarterfinals AC Milan were still among the top sides in the world when they dismantled Deportivo 4-1 at the San Siro in spring of 2004. Kaka, who was possibly the best player on the planet at the time, scored two of the goals himself. But back in Spain, Javier Irureta’s Depo side went up 3-0 by halftime on goals from Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron and Alberto Luque. Fran Gonzalez added a fourth in the second half and with that, Milan were out and Deportivo were in the final four.

Real Madrid vs. AS Monaco – 2003-04 Quarterfinals Monaco were hardly any kind of European power when they reached a quarterfinals date with Real Madrid in the 2003-04 season. A 4-2 defeat in the first leg at the Bernabeu seemed like a respectable enough exit. But Monaco boss Didier Deschamps had other ideas. Monaco gave up the first goal in the second leg but leveled seconds before halftime on a goal from Ludovic Giuly. Morientes gave Monaco the lead in the second half before Giuly made it 3-1. Monaco were through on away goals and the then nine-time European champs Real Madrid, were out.

Chelsea vs. Napoli – 2011-12 Quarterfinals Chelsea won the club’s historic first and only Champions League title in 2012. But they came very close to being eliminated in the quarterfinals when Andre Villas-Boas team were handed a 3-1 loss away to Napoli. At the close of the match, Villas-Boas clung to the hope that the away goal just might provide a lifeline in the second leg.

However, by the time that second leg arrived, the Portuguese had been sacked. With Roberto Di Matteo in charge, Chelsea rallied back on goals from Didier Drogba, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Branislav Ivanovic. Napoli were ousted, Chelsea were through to the final four and would eventually go all the way.

Manchester United vs. Olympiacos – 2013-14 Round of 16 Manchester United have become something of a rare commodity in the Champions League over recent seasons. However, in season immediately following Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, the Red Devils were alive and well in Europe until handed an unexpected 2-0 loss by Olympiacos in the round of 16.

But at the second leg at Old Trafford, United rallied back in vintage style. Robin van Persie, still in his pomp, scored a hat-trick. With the Greek side unable to find the back of the net, they were out and United were through to the quarters.

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Chelsea – 2013-14 Quarterfinals Jose Mourinho was in his second stint as Chelsea manager when the Blues were handed a 3-1 defeat from PSG at the Parc des Princes in Paris. Eden Hazard’s away goal however, did its job, providing Chelsea an all-important lifeline for the second leg. Back in London, substitute Andre Schurrle put Chelsea ahead in the first half, followed by a late Demba Ba strike that sealed the deal with Chelsea squeaking by on the away goals rule in a 3-3 aggregate tie.

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