Klopp reaches Rafa's Reds record, Barca up against it – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk October 26, 2022

Liverpool can seal progression to the Champions League last 16 when they play on Wednesday, but Barcelona could see their exit confirmed from Europe's top competition.

Jurgen Klopp's Reds make the trip to face Ajax in Group A knowing they are guaranteed a spot in the Europa League at the very least – and simply avoiding defeat would guarantee their place in the Champions League knockout stages.

It is a more dicey affair for Xavi's Barca, however, as they welcome Bayern Munich to Camp Nou in Group C knowing a loss would spell the end of their journey. Even a win will not be enough if Inter defeat Viktoria Plzen.

Tottenham will hope to keep their noses in front in Group D, with Marseille and Sporting CP just a point behind, while Atletico Madrid have work to do in Group B.

Stats Perform previews Wednesday's eight matches by picking through the Opta data.

Ajax v Liverpool

Ajax have made for generous opponents for Liverpool of late, losing their last three against the Reds in the Champions League. Only Juventus (four, 1997-2004) and Real Madrid (seven, 2010-2019) have previously won four in a row against Ajax in the European Cup or Champions League.

Yet Ajax remain the last Dutch side to achieve a home win against Liverpool, albeit that was back in 1966, with the Premier League side unbeaten in seven subsequent trips to the Netherlands.

Liverpool's countrymen have also made hay, as Ajax have won just one of their last eight home European matches against English teams, beating Manchester City in October 2012.

With or without another strong result, this will be an historic occasion for Liverpool and Klopp, who will match Rafael Benitez's 62 Champions League matches in charge of the Reds, who bring up 150 games in the competition.

Barcelona v Bayern Munich

Needing a win, Barca might have hoped to face any team but Bayern, who have a record three Champions League away wins at the Blaugrana. Along with Juventus and Real Madrid, they are one of three teams to have won more matches at Barca than they have lost.

Home and away, Barca have lost nine of their 12 Champions League matches against Bayern, including the past five in a row.

In fact, if Bayern win again, they will match Madrid's record of 10 wins against a single opponent in the competition – Madrid's dominance coming against Bayern.

Although Bayern are already through, they are seeking a fourth home-and-away double against Barca in a Champions League season (also 1998-99, 2012-13 and 2021-22). Dynamo Kyiv (in 1997-98) are the only other team to beat Barca twice in the same campaign even once.

Tottenham Hotspur v Sporting CP

Sporting won 2-0 against Tottenham in Portugal in what was the sides' first meeting, but they have a dismal record in England, with two victories in 15 attempts away to English sides.

Spurs have won six of their seven home European matches against Portuguese opposition, only losing to Benfica in the 2013-14 Europa League.

Both of Tottenham's wins in this campaign have come at home, where Antonio Conte is bidding to become just the second Spurs coach to win each of his first three at home in the Champions League – after Harry Redknapp.

He and Tottenham will know they must keep their focus early and late; Sporting's last three Champions League goals have come in either the first or last minutes of the match, netting twice in second-half stoppage time in the reverse fixture.

Atletico Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen

Atletico have not lost at home to Leverkusen in their prior four such matches, winning two and drawing two, but the Bundesliga team have started to turn the tide, winning two in a row against them in the Champions League.

That strong home record applies whenever Atletico face German opposition, though, as Borussia Dortmund were the last Bundesliga visitors to win there in 1996. Atleti are unbeaten in 11 since.

Diego Simeone needs his team to rediscover their scoring touch, having gone three without a goal in the Champions League.

That is their worst run under Simeone. Only once in the competition have Atletico gone four without netting, back in 2009 under Abel Resino.

Other fixtures:

Club Brugge v Porto

21 – Club Brugge goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has saved all 21 of the shots on target he has faced in the Champions League this season. He has prevented a competition-leading 4.9 goals, according to expected goals on target data.

4 – Four of Porto's last seven Champions League goals have come from the penalty spot.

Inter v Viktoria Plzen

12 – Inter have scored 12 of their last 14 Champions League goals in the second halves of matches. All three against Barca last time out came after the interval – only the third time an away team has netted three second-half goals at Camp Nou in this competition.

28 – Plzen have averaged just 28 per cent of the possession in the Champions League this season, the lowest average by a team in a single season since Opta data collection began in 2003-04.

Napoli v Rangers

4 – Napoli have won all four of their matches in the Champions League this season and could become the first Italian side to win their opening five games in a single campaign since Juventus in 2004-05. 

12 – No goalkeeper has faced more shots on target (29) or conceded more goals (12) than Rangers' Allan McGregor in the Champions League this season. Indeed, he has only kept four clean sheets in 21 appearances in the competition overall.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Marseille

50 – Eintracht Frankfurt's Mario Gotze could make his 50th start in the Champions League in this match. He has been involved in 25 goals in his previous 65 appearances, including 21 in his 49 starts.

3 – Marseille have won their last two games in the Champions League – both against Sporting CP – and will be looking to win three in a row for the first time since October-December 2010, when they won four on the spin under Didier Deschamps.

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  • Virgil van Dijk warns Chelsea not to underestimate Liverpool without stars Virgil van Dijk warns Chelsea not to underestimate Liverpool without stars

    (NB): You can catch the exciting action of the Carabao Cup on Sportsmax.

    Virgil van Dijk has warned Chelsea it would not be wise to underestimate a Liverpool team without Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez.

    Jurgen Klopp’s side proved in midweek, when they came from behind to beat Luton 4-1 with an impressive second-half performance, they are capable of scoring goals without two of their major stars.

    Both face late fitness tests ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final after Salah suffered fatigue in his first match back at Brentford last weekend after a month out with a hamstring injury and Nunez was replaced at half-time in the same game as a precaution.

    With Diogo Jota, their second-highest scorer this season, already ruled out it leaves Liverpool looking less threatening up front even though Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz both have reached double figures.

    But Van Dijk said that did not mean Chelsea should view it as an easier task as they seek to avenge their League Cup final defeat on penalties of two years ago.

    “If they take us lightly then that’s their problem. That fear factor, we don’t have influence on that,” said the Netherlands captain.

    “I think the players coming in then have to step up and show they’re wrong. I think that’s the only way to do it.

    “I think we have enough quality to read the opponents. Players who come in have to show that.

    “Everyone has to step up and the ones that play have to deliver to get results.
    “I think if you play for Liverpool, you’re quite a good player already, so go out there and make everyone proud.”

    Van Dijk assumed the captaincy in the summer after Jordan Henderson’s departure, so this is the first opportunity for him to lift a trophy having watched his predecessor celebrate with the Premier League, Champions League, League and FA Cup and Club World Cup.

    “It’s important, but the most important thing is to try and win the game, and then we’ll see what happens after,” added the Dutchman, who accepts Chelsea are a different prospect from the one beaten 4-1 at Anfield a month ago.

    “I visualise myself leading the boys out, but I don’t think about me lifting anything.

    “I try to lead out the boys as good as possible, on and off the pitch, be their leader and so far, so good.

    “So I’m thinking about a big challenge ahead of us. Hopefully we can make it an amazing afternoon on Sunday.”

    In terms of whether victory at Wembley can provide a springboard for more silverware – Liverpool are still fighting on three other fronts – Van Dijk said: “We’ll focus on trying to win the game and then we’ll see.

    “You know we can’t think about what’s coming next, we have to think about what’s ahead of us and that’s Chelsea at this stage.

    “It’ll be a very difficult game, an interesting game as well. We have to be very good to do that, but let’s go for it.”

  • Mauricio Pochettino believes Chelsea have clicked ahead of Carabao Cup final Mauricio Pochettino believes Chelsea have clicked ahead of Carabao Cup final

    Mauricio Pochettino believes Chelsea are “awake” after recent results that have altered the course of their season ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.

    The meeting with Liverpool at Wembley will be the club’s first final since co-owner Todd Boehly took charge and embarked on a radical overhaul that has so far not brought success.

    It comes after wins away at Aston Villa in the FA Cup and Crystal Palace in the Premier League, which were followed by a fine draw against champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium a week ago.

    Those three performances have significantly changed the perception of Pochettino’s rebuilding of the team, after the last home game – a 4-2 defeat to Wolves at Stamford Bridge early in February – saw Chelsea booed off the pitch by sections of their own support.

    Days earlier they were soundly beaten 4-1 at Anfield by Sunday’s opponents, a disjointed performance in which the team looked to be in disarray and well short of expectations set by the more than £1billion spent by Boehly on recruitment.

    Now the the Argentinian is confident that the last three weeks have brought a significant change in his players’ ability to compete at Wembley with title-chasing Liverpool.

    “We will need to manage some moments during the game,” he said. “But I think in the last few weeks we’ve learned a lot, we’ve stepped up from (the defeat at Anfield). We arrive with very good momentum.

    “After competing against Villa, Palace and Manchester City, it’s provided the team with the confidence and the trust.

    “The team is awake to the competition. There was a click to change in the way we compete, that we were missing in the first half of the season.

    “The circumstances are completely different (now), for us and for (Liverpool).”

    Since the game at Anfield, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has lost a number of key players to injury including Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson Becker, Diogo Jota and Curtis Jones.

    Pochettino has selection worries of his own, with Thiago Silva to be assessed having missed the last three games.

    Goalkeeper Robert Sanchez is available after injury but Djordje Petrovic, who has impressed since coming into the side early in December, could keep his place.

    Klopp has stated he believes his team are not favourites at Wembley, an idea the Chelsea manager rejects.

    “(Klopp) is clever enough,” said Pochettino. “He knows that when you play a final, anything can happen. If they’re not the favourite, then we are not the favourite.

    “For me Liverpool is the favourite. After eight years they have the experience to compete like a team, and be involved in different finals.

    “For our players, it’s new. For some of them it’s maybe their first final. That’s why they are favourites, in my opinion. But he is clever enough to say it’s 50-50.”

    Pochettino added that his team may ultimately be stronger for their chastening night on Merseyside in January.

    “In this type of process, you need that these type of things happen,” he said. “You need to really wake up about the situation.

    “The team needs to learn from the good and the not-so-good experiences. It was positive.

    “After Liverpool, that result was completely unfair. But maybe that was good for us, to feel the pain, the negative situation, to be stronger now, and to find the way to compete better.”

  • David Moyes undecided over West Ham future despite being offered new contract David Moyes undecided over West Ham future despite being offered new contract

    David Moyes has revealed West Ham have offered him a new contract, but he has yet to decide whether to stay at the club.

    The Hammers manager’s current deal ends this summer and there was some doubt he would be offered a new one given their struggles since the turn of the year.

    However, it seems Moyes is in charge of his own destiny in east London, and he could even opt to follow Jurgen Klopp’s lead at Liverpool and walk away at the end of the season.

    Moyes, who is more than four years into his second spell at West Ham, said: “There’s a contract there for me.

    “I’m the one deciding I want to wait until the end of the season, to make sure everything is correct, to concentrate on this season.

    “I’ve really enjoyed my four years. I’ll see my contract out.

    “There are plenty of reasons. I’ve got to make sure it’s the right thing for the club, for me and my family. I’ve spoken to the board. I’ve had a fabulous four years. We’ll sort it out but I’m happy to wait.”

    Moyes guided West Ham to their first trophy in 43 years in last season’s Europa Conference League final, but some supporters have turned on him again after a run of eight matches without a win.

    They have lost their last three in the Premier League, conceding 11 goals and scoring none, and were dumped out of the FA Cup by Bristol City.

    However, much like last season, Europe is Moyes’ saving grace and the Hammers have got a favourable draw against Freiburg in the last 16 of the Europa League.

    West Ham have already beaten the Bundesliga side twice this season after meeting them in the group stages, although their fans were banned from the away fixture due to the trouble at the Conference League final.

    “We’re looking forward to going back and playing them again,” said Moyes.

    “They were the toughest team in the group. We have to go back again and see if we can win for a second time.

    “I don’t think that makes it any easier. The group was tight, the games were close. There’s no big difference.

    “There are some big teams in this competition, the leaders in Germany, the leaders in this country. You’re trying to avoid them as much as you can.

    “But it’s a tough game. They’ve just beaten Lens, who were in Arsenal’s Champions League group, giving you an idea they are a good team.

    “The good thing about it is we knew we’d have European football after Christmas for the third year in a row, we’re really pleased.

    “Once you get this far you want to see if we can get to the next round. We’ve had a few brilliant years in Europe.”

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