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Skysports.com counts down ten memorable campaigns from Champions League debutants
Tottenham enter uncharted territory next week with their first appearance in the UEFA Champions League group phase, having finished fourth in the Premier League last season and then negotiated a play-off tie against Young Boys that was made harder than it was expected to be after conceding three early goals in Switzerland. Whether Spurs can mix it with the continent's elite after being pitted in Group A alongside Inter Milan, Werder Bremen and FC Twente remains to be seen, but it promises to be a captivating journey. Some clubs emerge as surprise packages when they first take part in Europe's premier competition, while many others flop dramatically. Here, skysports.com counts down ten memorable campaigns from Champions League debutants, some good, others bad.
Everton - 2005/6
Tottenham have already surpassed Everton by making it through to the competition proper, after all the Toffees' hard work in breaking into the top four was undone by a play-off round defeat to Villarreal. David Moyes' side lost both legs 2-1 to the Spanish side, although they could have taken the tie into extra-time but for a controversial decision by legendary referee Pierluigi Collina, who ruled out a Duncan Ferguson header before Diego Forlan made the result safe in stoppage-time.
Leeds - 2000/1
Spurs will be hoping to emulate the success of Leeds a decade ago, when David O'Leary's men enjoyed a spectacular run to the semi-finals. The Yorkshire club finished above Barcelona and hammered Turkish side Besiktas 6-0 in the first group phase, before a victory away to Lazio helped them cruise through the next stage. Leeds also knocked out Deportivo La Coruna en route to the last four, where they were eventually toppled by Valencia.
CFR Cluj - 2008/9
Romanian minnows Cluj were written off ahead of their debut campaign but caused a major upset in their opening game by defeating Roma, with Emmanuel Culio earning hero status thanks to two fine goals. Cluj also held Chelsea to a creditable goalless draw before fading away somewhat, but their performance in the Italian capital remains the stuff of dreams for smaller teams and Roma will certainly not be complacent when the sides meet again in this season's competition.
Unirea Urziceni - 2009/10
Having replaced Cluj as domestic champions, Unirea carried the torch forward into Europe and acquitted themselves well. They managed a notable scalp of their own with a 1-0 victory against Sevilla, while the other main highlight was a 4-1 victory over Rangers at Ibrox. Unirea just failed to qualify for the next stage and dropped into the Europa League, where they were disposed of by Liverpool.
MFK Kosice - 1997/8
The first Slovakian team to advance to the group stage of the Champions League, Kosice wrote their name into the history books for all the wrong reasons by losing all six of their group games. Manchester United inflicted some of the damage with 3-0 successes at home and away, while Juventus and Feyenoord were also ruthless in taking advantage of limited opponents, who achieved the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first team to finish without a single point.
Sevilla - 2007/8
Sevilla came into the Champions League as novices despite winning the Uefa Cup in each of the two previous seasons under Juande Ramos. There was never really any doubt that they belonged at this level but Sevilla still caught the eye by collecting an impressive 15 points in a group that also contained Arsenal, Sparta Prague and Steaua Bucharest. The Spaniards were unable to progress much further, however, as they bowed out to Fenerbahce on penalties in the last 16.
Willem II - 1999/00
Dutch runners-up the year before, Willem II struggled to live with the continent's elite as they managed just two draws in six games. It was hardly the toughest group either, with Spartak Moscow and Sparta Prague recording emphatic victories over Willem II and Bordeaux also proving too strong for them. Willem II have been in gradual decline ever since and finished 17th in the Eredivisie last term.
AIK Stockholm - 1999/00
AIK Stockholm fared even worse than Willem II as they lost five matches in an admittedly tricky group, going down to Fiorentina, Barcelona and Arsenal but holding the Italians at home. Expectations had been high among Swedish supporters but AIK were never really competitive as they conceded 16 goals.
FC Zurich - 2009/10
The unheralded Swiss outfit did not make much of an impact in their first appearance in the group stage but claimed the notable scalp of AC Milan to spring one of the greatest shocks in the competition's history. Hannu Tihinen grabbed the crucial goal with a cheeky back-heel after just ten minutes and Milan were unable to find an equaliser as the pressure mounted on manager Leonardo.
Another campaign to forget for an English side, as Premier League champions Blackburn crashed out at the group stage with just four points. Spartak Moscow topped the group with six wins out of six and Legia Warsaw also made it through, while Rovers' only success was a 4-1 win over Rosenborg in their final game. The clash with Rosenborg did, however, feature a remarkable nine-minute hat-trick from Mike Newell.
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