Last group stage of UCL: Look back at best group stage matches over the years

The UEFA Champions League format the way we know it will change from next season. That means that this season’s group stage format was the last. From the 2024-25 season, we’ll see a new season known as the “Swiss” system. This is the ideal moment to reminisce on the group stage format by looking at the best matches over the years. Do you have a favorite group stage match that has lingered in your mind over the years? Here is the list of our top four. 

Werder Bremen 5-3 Anderlecht

1993-94 Group Stage

This is perhaps one of the greatest comebacks in UCL history. Bremen was 3-0 down with 24 minutes to play, but manager Otto Rehhagel remained optimistic. What Anderlecht did not know was that Bremen had Wynton Rufer. The New Zealander was not a household name, but his coach believed in his capabilities, so he asked him why he wasn’t playing for Real Madrid.

Rufer repaid his manager’s trust in him by chipping in a 66-th minute goal that gave the Germans hope. Six minutes later, Rune Bratseth scored the second to give Bremen real belief. At this point, Anderlecht started panicking, allowing Rufer to hit the second to compete in ‘The Miracle of the Weser.’

Manchester United 3-3 Barcelona

1998-1999 Group Stage

One thing that might slip many people’s minds is the fact that Manchester United finished second in their Champions League group behind Bayern Munich- the same club they beat in the final.

It was a tough group stage for the fans as United drew four of their six group-stage matches, including a 3-3 draw against Barcelona, twice! However, the draw at The Theatre of Dreams stands out, with the Red Devils taking a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.

Barcelona scored two goals through Anderson and Giovanni before Beckham put United back in front. Luis Enrique scored late to give Barcelona the draw. It would have been a tough match to wager on, right? If you wager on soccer, read how to check a BetKing coupon to enjoy your wagering experience. It’s unfortunate both Barca and United are struggling at the moment.

Inter Milan 1-5 Arsenal

2003-04 Group Stage

Arsenal was on a 10-match winning streak in the EPL but had lost 3-0 to Inter Milan and 2-1 to Dynamo Kyiv. The two losses, coupled with a goalless draw against Lokomotiv Moscow, left the Gunners bottom of their group with four points from four matches.

However, Wenger had a wild card named Thierry Henry. The Frenchman was firing on all cylinders when the two clubs met in Italy in what was dubbed ‘the Italian job’ by Arsenal fans. Henry was a handful to the Nerazzurri defense as he inspired The Gunners to score three goals in the last five minutes.

Liverpool 3-1 Olympiakos

2004-05 Group Stage

Liverpool is perhaps the team that has had the most dramatic matches in the Champions League. The Reds went into the final group-stage match three points behind Olympiakos. They needed a win by two clear goals to qualify for the next round on head-to-head, having lost 1-0 away.

They had an awful start to the match after Rivaldo put the Greeks ahead. However, this was a strange season for the Reds, and Florent Sinama Pongolle and Neil Mellor were the unlikely heroes as they scored for Liverpool. With the match nearing its end, Steven Gerrard, AKA Stevie G, smashed the third goal to send Liverpool to the knockout stage. You can’t make this stuff up! 

Final Score

As the Champions League ushers in a new format, it leaves us treasured memories. All teams have had their moments that will remain etched in UCL history. What’s your favorite UCL group stage match?