Ronaldo eyes more records, Barcelona seek Bayern revenge – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk September 13, 2021

Barcelona host Bayern Munich as two Champions League heavyweights headline the first round of matchday one fixtures on Tuesday.

Barca will be without Lionel Messi for a European campaign for the first time since 2003-04 as they seek revenge against the Bundesliga outfit.

Manchester United – armed with the competition's all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo – travel to Young Boys while reigning champions Chelsea begin at home to Zenit.

Italian giants Juventus make the trip to Sweden's most successful team Malmo, who are making their first appearance in the group stage since 2015-16 following their title win in 2020.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data ahead of Tuesday's fixtures.

Barcelona v Bayern Munich: Blaugrana out to make amends

Barcelona and Bayern Munich have not met in the group stages since 1998-99, but the Bundesliga side did inflict Barca's heaviest defeat since April 1951 with an 8-2 crushing in 2019-20's quarter-finals.

There are remarkable records at stake for both sides as well, Bayern boasting the longest unbeaten away run in the history of the competition (18), while Barca are unbeaten in their last 22 group-stage openers – stretching back to 1997-98.

However, Julian Nagelsmann's side have won 17 opening games in a row and they also have Robert Lewandowski to call upon, the forward scoring 28 times since the start of 2018-19 – eight more than any other Champions League player.

 

Young Boys v Manchester United: Ronaldo returns for another record

Young Boys have won only one of 13 games against English opponents in European competition as they prepare for Manchester United, who have lost just one of their last 21 openers.

However, United have been beaten in six of their 10 Champions League matches under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – as many as they did in their last 20 under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

Having not appeared for the Red Devils in 12 years and 110 days – the fourth longest gap between appearances for the same club – Cristiano Ronaldo could equal the all-time appearance record in the Champions League, moving level with Iker Casillas on 177.

Chelsea v Zenit: History favours the champions

The reigning Champions League champions have only lost two of 27 games when starting their title defence, with no side ever losing a home game immediately following continental success.

Zenit face an uphill battle, given they are winless in their last seven fixtures, while Chelsea are unbeaten in 11 games in the group stage.

Indeed, the Blues are unbeaten in six matches against Russian teams and, since the start of last season, no team have lost fewer matches (1) or kept more clean sheets (9).

 

Malmo v Juventus: Allegri's away-day specialists

Tuesday will be Malmo head coach Jon Dahl Tomasson's managerial debut in the competition after last appearing as a player for Milan in the 2005 final.

The hosts, though, have scored just three goals across 10 previous appearances, while Juventus have won their last five group stage away games.

The visitors will also have Alvaro Morata available, the forward one of only three Spaniards to score more than 20 Champions League goals after netting six times in eight matches last term.

 

Other fixtures:

Dynamo Kyiv v Benfica

143 – Dynamo Kyiv manager Mircea Lucescu (76) and Benfica's Jorge Jesus' (67) combined age of 143 is the oldest of two managers to face off in the Champions League.

25 – The hosts are one of 25 teams to play 100 or more fixtures in the competition, but they have the third worst loss percentage (49) behind Olympiacos (52) and Galatasaray (51).

Lille v Wolfsburg

1 – Lille have only managed one win against German opposition in nine attempts in European competition, last prevailing in 2002.

5 – Wolfsburg have won five of their last six Champions League games and have scored twice in four of those victories.

Sevilla v Red Bull Salzburg

64 – Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri is averaging a Champions League goal every 64 minutes, recording three braces for his six goals in eight games last campaign.

2 – Red Bull Salzburg have only won two of their last 15 matches in the competition, but both of them have come away from home against Genk and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Villarreal v Atalanta

15 – Villarreal forward Gerard Moreno has 15 Europa League goals but has never played in Europe's premier competition – since 1992-93 only three players have scored more and not played in the Champions League.

5 – Atalanta have won five of their last six away games, only losing against Real Madrid, while they have also progressed from their two previous group stage campaigns.

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    Gary Neville claims Harry Kane is playing as though someone pooped his party after the Tottenham star drew a fifth successive blank in the Premier League.

    The England skipper had not experienced such a league goals drought since August 2016, and his loss of form follows a turbulent period in his career when he looked set to leave Spurs.

    Kane appeared destined for a move to Manchester City, but that transfer did not materialise as the Premier League champions could not prise him from the north London club's clutches.

    He had five goal attempts in Sunday's 3-1 derby defeat to Arsenal but could not find a way past Aaron Ramsdale.

    "He doesn't look happy," Neville said.

    Pointing to Tottenham's 3-0 defeat to Chelsea in their previous game, Neville said: "Last week was a risk, I thought, shoving him out on the left wing. He was out on the left wing last week.

    "Today I thought he did play higher, to be fair, but the balls played up to him were just long punts in the first 20 minutes.

    "Harry doesn't look himself in terms of his body language. He looks like he's still carrying over the situation from over the summer.

    "He could still have had two or three goals today and a penalty, so there's still a contribution, but he's just not himself. Neither is Son [Heung-min].

    "Son and him look like they've had their balloons burst at a party as a kid. That's what it looks like."

    Neville said Spurs have "good senior pros" in their ranks, as he sought an explanation for why their form has nosedived since starting the league campaign with three straight wins.

    Rough losses to Crystal Palace, Chelsea and now Arsenal have seen them plummet from the top of the league and into mid-table.

    Nuno Espirito Santo may have a big job on his hands in turning Spurs back into a winning side, and Neville suspects some players are pining for a coach in the mould of former boss Mauricio Pochettino.

    "Those players to me look like they want a high-pressing, Pochettino-style coach that plays out from the back and gets the centre-backs on the six-yard line, rather than one that sits behind the ball and counter-attacks," former Manchester United captain Neville said on Sky Sports.

    With the derby defeat, Nuno became the first Spurs boss to lose as many as four times in his opening 10 fixtures since Glenn Hoddle in 2001.

    Kane attempted just four passes in the first half at Emirates Stadium and was successful with only five of his 11 passes across the 90 minutes.

    He has also failed to get a goal in back-to-back games against Arsenal for the first time in his Tottenham career.

    Former Spurs captain Ledley King said of his old team-mate: "He cares, but there's no doubt he's out of shape at the moment. He's out of form. He's a big part for the club so when he's not playing well we struggle."

  • Nuno takes responsibility for Tottenham capitulation in north London derby Nuno takes responsibility for Tottenham capitulation in north London derby

    Tottenham head coach Nuno Espirito Santo took responsibility for his side's damaging 3-1 defeat to Arsenal in the north London derby.

    Emile Smith Rowe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka dismantled Spurs in a thrilling first-half display from Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

    Son Heung-min pulled back a late consolation, but Spurs have now lost their last three league games by an aggregate score of 9-1. Tottenham are only the second team in Premier League history to win their first three games of a season and then lose the next three, after Everton in 1993-94, who went on to finish 17th.

    Nuno's team were top of the table at the end of August, but they will head into October below Arsenal in the standings for the first time in almost 12 months.

    "The performance was not good. The game plan was not good. The decisions were not good. So it was not a good day for us. Definitely not a good day," Nuno told Sky Sports.

    "I'm going to be honest. When you have a game plan, you have to make the right decisions in terms of who you want to put on the pitch to develop that game plan.

    "I take responsibility because the decisions were not right according to the game plan. I won't name individuals but the game plan was not right according to the players who were on the pitch.

    "We were not aggressive enough to control the dynamic of Arsenal in midfield. We suffered when we wanted to go in front and we allowed Arsenal to always come to us. By saying that, bad decisions."

    Nuno started with a three in midfield but took Dele Alli off at half-time. Alli completed the five passes he attempted in Arsenal's half, but only managed 24 touches in total as he failed to have a shot or create a chance, while Tanguy Ndombele was similarly ineffective going forward.

    Harry Kane struggled again, though his tally of five attempts more than doubled the total amount he had managed across his other four Premier League appearances so far this season.

    Kane was partly at fault for Arsenal's third goal, conceding possession and then failing to prevent Saka making progress in the area with an attempted slide tackle, though Spurs were aggrieved that referee Craig Pawson did not blow up for a foul on the England captain in the build-up to Aubameyang's strike.

    However, Nuno did not look to make any excuses.

    "I didn't see the images. The referee and VAR are there to judge. My head is more now focused on what I have to do now," the Spurs boss said.

    "We prepared the game, we had a good meeting, but then we were not able to do it. We were not strong enough."

    Asked if a breakdown in communication was the main problem, Nuno said: "That's another issue. I would not say they are not doing what I tell them to do. They were not able to do it. Credit to our opponent, they were better than us."

    Spurs have now conceded three goals in their last three league games for the first time since September 2003.

  • Arteta wants Arsenal consistency after derby day joy Arteta wants Arsenal consistency after derby day joy

    Mikel Arteta revelled in Arsenal's North London derby win over Tottenham but preached the need for consistency following their superb 3-1 victory.

    Goals from Emile Smith Rowe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka put Arsenal in a commanding 3-0 lead at half-time.

    It was a position Tottenham never looked likely to recover from, though Son Heung-min did score a late consolation for Spurs, Arsenal leapfrogging their rivals in the table with a third successive victory having started the season with three straight defeats.

    The Gunners sit above Spurs on goal difference yet, while the manner of the triumph delighted Arteta, he wants to see such performances on a regular basis from a team four points adrift of the top four.

    Asked what he liked most about Arsenal's display, Arteta told Sky Sports: "The determination, the conviction and connection with our people.

    "Today is one example of what we're trying to do, now we have to be consistent."

    On the rapid turnaround in fortunes after conceding nine goals without reply in their opening three defeats, Arteta told his post-match media conference: "That’s the beauty of this game and the danger of this game as well. It changes so quickly at both ends.

    "You always have to be alert and seek improvements which I think we can still do.

    "This is an Arsenal team that they have won a game today and their manager saw a lot of things that he feels very related to. I'm proud of the way we played.

    "It was one of the nicest feelings I've had in this stadium."

    The feel-good factor for Arteta was slightly dented by an injury to Granit Xhaka, who was hurt in the build-up to Son's goal for Tottenham.

    And the early signs point to the Gunners having to cope without the Switzerland midfielder going forward.

    Arteta added: "I'm pretty worried because it doesn't look very positive at the moment."

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