Guardiola's City eye European history, Madrid set for Stamford Bridge blues? - Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk May 04, 2021

An all-English Champions League final could be in the offing as Manchester City and Chelsea look to progress from the last four.

The two Premier League sides each have the edge going into the second leg of their respective semi-final ties with Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.

And history is in their favour as they set their sights on the final in Istanbul on May 29.

Here we preview the two second legs using Opta numbers.

Manchester City v Paris-Saint Germain: Guardiola's men eye European history

It is advantage City after a dramatic first leg at the Parc des Princes, a second-half fightback and 2-1 win meaning PSG will have to score at least twice to progress.

Should Pep Guardiola's men knock out last season's finalists, they will reach their first UEFA European final for 51 years, since winning the 1970 Cup Winners' Cup final against Gornik Zabrze.

This would break the record for the longest gap between appearances in UEFA European finals, held by Sporting CP (41 years between 1964 Cup Winners' Cup final and 2005 UEFA Cup final).

City have won their previous six Champions League matches and another win at the Etihad Stadium would also see them break the record for the longest winning run by an English team in European Cup/Champions League history. Three other sides have won six in a row: Manchester United (1965-66), Leeds United (1969-70) and Arsenal (2005).

They will be the favourites having gone unbeaten in each of their four previous meetings with PSG (W2, D2), with the Ligue 1 club only facing Milan more often in the Champions League (four times) without winning than City (three times).

There have been 47 previous instances in the European Cup/Champions League of an English side winning the first leg of a two-legged knockout tie away from home, and on all 47 occasions the English team has progressed.

Recent history suggests City should be wary of a PSG turnaround, though, Les Parisiens having completed a comeback the last time they lost the first leg of a Champions League tie 2-1, beating Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16 last season.

Yet they have never progressed from a European tie after losing the first leg at home, meaning Guardiola could have plenty to celebrate as he breaks Carlo Ancelotti's record for most Champions League knockout games coached by taking charge of his 63rd.

Chelsea v Real Madrid: Omens point to Blues ending Zidane streak

Chelsea have a slight edge going into the return leg after a 1-1 draw in Spain, Christian Pulisic having scored a superb away goal.

The Blues were frustrated not to add to that opener and were pegged back by Karim Benzema, who could overtake Raul and become the outright fourth top scorer in the Champions League if he nets his 72nd at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

But Chelsea are unbeaten in their four previous matches in European competition against Madrid, who are winless in their past four away games against English sides in the Champions League (D2 L2), scoring only two goals across the four games.

And the Blues have progressed from five of their last seven knockout ties in the Champions League when avoiding defeat away from home in the first leg, meaning the omens are against Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane emulating three managerial greats.

Zidane is looking to secure his fourth progression in four Champions League semi-final ties, which would equal the record for most semi-final tie progressions by a coach in competition history (four - along with Alex Ferguson, Carlo Ancelotti and Marcello Lippi).

In his way is a coach who has proven formidable in home games in this tournament.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, who guided PSG to last year's final, has only lost four of his 18 home games as a manager in the Champions League (W12 D2), with his sides scoring 48 goals across these fixtures - an average of 2.7 per game.

If Madrid are to defeat the odds that are seemingly stacked against them, then midfielder Toni Kroos is likely to play a key role.

Kroos has been involved in 59 shot-ending sequences in the Champions League this season; the most of any midfielder in the competition, and second only to PSG's Kylian Mbappe (60) among players for teams remaining in the competition.

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  • Simeone not plotting Atletico Madrid exit despite Copa del Rey collapse Simeone not plotting Atletico Madrid exit despite Copa del Rey collapse

    Diego Simeone has reiterated his happiness with Atletico Madrid despite the club looking set for another season without a trophy.

    The Argentine saw his side let a one-goal lead slip in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals to rivals Real Madrid, who won 3-1 after extra-time at Santiago Bernabeu.

    Atletico's exit effectively signals the end of any silverware prospects for the season, with the club currently fourth in LaLiga, 13 points behind leaders Barcelona, and also out of Europe.

    But Simeone reaffirmed his commitment to the Rojiblancos in his post-match comments, insisting he will not walk away of his own accord yet.

    "I am enormously happy to be at Atletico," he said. "[I have been] from the day I arrived. I am going to give everything I have until I leave.

    "I will give myself a thousand per cent with this team and with the club. Now, I only have [it] in my head to work with joy and enthusiasm.

    "I have done that from the day I arrived [and I will do so] until the day [that] I have to go. That will come some day [but not now]."

    Atletico ended the match with 10 men, having seen Stefan Savic dismissed in extra-time with the score at 1-1 for back-to-back bookings.

    Frustrations from Atleti players over Dani Ceballos avoiding a second yellow for a foul earlier in the match boiled over after the final whistle.

    Goalkeeper Jan Oblak suggested that his team get unfair treatment from match officials when playing their rivals, and said they should be accustomed to such difficulties.

    "If it is a red for us, it should be a red for them too," he added. "I think they should have had their second yellow card.

    "It's been decided that way and we're used to it by now. Even so, we've fought to the end against everyone."

  • Ajax sack Schreuder after going seven Eredivisie games without a win Ajax sack Schreuder after going seven Eredivisie games without a win

    Ajax have sacked head coach Alfred Schreuder after a poor run of results.

    Schreuder replaced Erik ten Hag after his move to Manchester United at the end of last season, and initially seemed to be a good fit in Amsterdam, winning his first six league games and thrashing Rangers 4-0 in Ajax's first Champions League game of the season.

    However, elimination from the Champions League group stage also led to form dipping drastically in the Eredivisie, having not won a league game since October, although that gap included a break for the 2022 World Cup. 

    Following Thursday's 1-1 home draw with strugglers Volendam, the club decided to act after failing to win any of their past seven games in the Eredivisie (D6 L1), leaving them fifth in the table, seven points behind leaders Feyenoord.

    It is Ajax's joint-longest winless run in Eredivisie history (also seven in 1962, 1964 and 1965).

    A statement from the Dutch giants read: "The many points lost and the team's lack of development are the main reasons for this decision. 

    "The club management no longer has confidence in further cooperation."

    Ajax confirmed that assistant coach Matthias Kaltenbach had also been dismissed.

    The club's chief executive Edwin van der Sar added: "It is a painful decision, but also a necessary one.

    "After a good start to the season, we then lost an unnecessary number of points... In recent weeks it became increasingly clear that [Schreuder] could not turn the tide, while we believe that despite the many transfers he had a strong and championship worthy squad at his disposal.

    "We have also lost a lot of points in recent weeks and unfortunately we did not see any progress."

  • 'We don't like to suffer' – Benzema relieved for extra-time success in Copa del Rey 'We don't like to suffer' – Benzema relieved for extra-time success in Copa del Rey

    Karim Benzema suggests Real Madrid must find earlier goals in games if they do not wish to suffer after their 3-1 Copa del Rey comeback against Atletico Madrid.

    Los Blancos failed to find the net until the final quarter-hour of regular time at the Santiago Bernabeu, when Rodrygo cancelled out Alvaro Morata's opener.

    His superb solo finish forced extra-time in Thursday's quarter-final tie, with further goals for Benzema and Vinicius Junior cementing the turnaround for the hosts.

    The reigning winner of the Ballon d'Or acknowledged his side made themselves work for their spot in the last four with their performance at points, but stresses they always had the quality to respond.

    "It was a very difficult and complicated game," the France international reflected afterwards. "But with the players and talent we have, we knew we could make a comeback of it.

    "Perhaps we need to score goals sooner, because we don't like to suffer. Atletico positioned themselves well, got in behind, and that cost us. Rodrygo's response was a great goal."

    For Vinicius, his goal ensured a bright finish to a difficult day in which an effigy of the Brazilian winger was hung from a bridge near Madrid's training ground ahead of the derby.

    Coach Carlo Ancelotti praised the 22-year-old in his post-match comments, adding there was never any doubt he would miss the match despite the incident.

    "Vinicius has always wanted to play and was very focused on the game," he said. "He played a great game. What happened elsewhere today has been very regrettable."

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