Ronaldo poised for record as Chelsea prepare for king-slayers Juventus – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk September 29, 2021

Manchester United need points to get their Champions League campaign going, and doing so by getting revenge for their Europa League final shoot-out loss to Villarreal would be a moment to enjoy for the Old Trafford fans.

When it comes to established elite needing results, United are not alone. Barcelona head to Benfica looking to banish thoughts of that humbling home loss to Bayern Munich on matchday one, while Massimiliano Allegri could use a strong performance against strong opposition when Chelsea visit Juventus.

Bayern themselves host Dynamo Kiev, as Mircea Lucescu looks to fare a little better than the last time he took a team to the Allianz Arena.

Read on for more as Stats Perform looks at the key Opta facts ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action.

 

Benfica v Barcelona: Can Memphis Depay breathe life back into Catalans?

Barcelona's 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich on matchday one was the first time in at least 186 Champions League matches in which they did not attempt a single shot on target.

Memphis Depay did not manage a shot of any kind, something he had never before experienced when starting a game in this competition. However, with two goals in his previous two games against Benfica, he could be the man to get Barca firing in Lisbon.

Benfica have not beaten Barcelona since the European Cup final in 1961, but if they do manage to pile more pressure on Ronald Koeman with a victory, it will mark the first time the Blaugrana have lost their opening two games of the season in Europe since 1972-73, when they lost twice to Porto.

Bayern Munich v Dynamo Kiev: More unhappy memories beckon for Lucescu

The Allianz Arena was the scene of Lucescu's heaviest Champions League defeat: his Shakhtar Donetsk side lost 7-0 to Bayern Munich in March 2015.

Having failed to score in seven of their previous 11 games in this competition, it is hard to expect Dynamo to stop Bayern from claiming what would be a 33rd home win out of their most recent 35 in the group stages.

In fact, across the past three seasons, Bayern have won the most games (20) and scored the most goals (73) of any team in the tournament. In 14 of their 22 games in that time, they have netted at least three goals.

 

Juventus v Chelsea: Bianconeri out to keep up king-slayer tradition

Juventus have won seven matches against the holders in this competition's history, a figure only Real Madrid can beat (11 wins). They also beat Chelsea 3-0 in their previous meeting back in the 2012-13 group stage.

Still, Chelsea have only lost three of their past 32 group games and none of their most recent 12. Thomas Tuchel's 68 per cent win ratio is bettered by only two men among managers to take charge of 20 or more group games: Pep Guardiola (71 per cent) and Jupp Heynckes (73 per cent).

The last time Juve hosted an English team in the Champions League, Jose Mourinho's Manchester United snatched a 2-1 win in November 2018. Massimiliano Allegri's side have never lost consecutive home games to English opponents.

 

Manchester United v Villarreal: Goals at last in Europa League final repeat?

All five previous European meetings between Manchester United and Villarreal have ended in draws. The first four did not even see a goal scored – it's the most played Champions League match never to see a goal – while the Europa League final last season finished 1-1, with the LaLiga side winning 11-10 on penalties.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the only manager to take charge of 10 or more Champions League matches at an English club and lose more than half of them (he's lost seven out of 11). Should they suffer defeat at Old Trafford, it will mark the first time in history they have ever lost their first two European games of a season.

If he plays, Cristiano Ronaldo will break Iker Casillas' record of 177 Champions League appearances. However, he has failed to score in four games against Villarreal in the competition – only against Lille and Benfica has he played as many times without finding the net.

Other fixtures:

Atalanta v Young Boys

30 – Atalanta's 30 Champions League goals have all been scored by non-Italians. They have netted more goals without any coming from a player of the nationality of the club he's representing in Champions League history. Young Boys have scored six times in the competition, but none has come from a Swiss player.

17 – David Wagner's side had 17 more shots than Manchester United in their opening-round win (19 vs 2). The last time a coach saw his team have that many more attempts than their opponents in his first game in charge was when Hansi Flick's Bayern Munich had 27 shots to Olympiacos' three in November 2019.

Zenit v Malmo

1 – Zenit have only taken one point from their previous eight group-stage matches and have lost four of their past seven home games in European competition.

8 – No team faced more shots on target than Malmo on matchday one of this campaign (eight against Juventus), while their xG against total of 3.5 was the most of any team in the opening round.

Salzburg v Lille

40 – This will be Lille's 40th Champions League match. They only won six of their first 39 - only Dinamo Zagreb (five) and FCSB (four) have ever won fewer than eight of their first 40 games in the competition.

35 – Although 10 of Salzburg's starting XI against Sevilla last time out were aged 24 or younger, they also included 35-year-old Andreas Ulmer, who was two years and 158 days older than his coach, Matthias Jaissle. It's the first time a player has been over two years older than their manager in a Champions League match since Naldo for Schalke in December 2018 under Domenico Tedesco (three years and two days older).

Wolfsburg v Sevilla

3.7 – Wolfsburg's previous six games against Spanish opponents in European competition have seen a total of 22 goals scored (11 for, 11 against), at an average of 3.7 per game.

7 – Sevilla are unbeaten in their past seven away games in this competition (W3 D4), their longest ever unbeaten run away from home in the European Cup/Champions League. They last suffered defeat on the road in October 2017, losing 5-1 away to Spartak Moscow.

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    The 26-year-old England international has faced questions this season for issues both on and off the field.

    Last month Rashford was under the spotlight after reportedly being seen in a Belfast nightclub before missing the following day’s training due to illness and he subsequently missed United’s FA Cup tie against Newport.

    However, in a piece for the Players’ Tribune website, Rashford has responded to his critics, asking them to show “a bit more humanity”.

    “When I make a mistake, I’ll be the first one to put my hand up and say that I need to do better,” he wrote.

    “But if you ever question my commitment to Man United, that’s when I have to speak up. It’s like somebody questioning my entire identity, and everything I stand for as a man.

    “I grew up here. I have played for this club since I was a boy. My family turned down life-changing money when I was a kid so I could wear this badge.

    “I can take any criticism. I can take any headline. From podcasts, social media and the papers. I can take it.

    “But if you start questioning my commitment to this club and my love for football and bringing my family into it, then I’d simply ask you to have a bit more humanity.”

    Rashford came under scrutiny in October last year after attending a nightclub party following United’s 3-0 home derby defeat to Manchester City.

    He has also faced criticism for performances on the pitch having scored only five goals in 32 appearances across all competitions this season.

    The forward suggested there is a “tone” to media coverage surrounding him, which he believes may stem from his campaigning for free school meals during the pandemic in which he was made an MBE.

    Rashford added: “I’m not trying to have a go at the media. I understand the game, you know what I mean? They’re not really writing about me. It’s like they’re writing about this character, ‘Marcus Rashford.’

    “It can’t just be about me as a 26-year-old lad on a night out, or a lad getting a parking ticket. It’s got to be about how much my car costs, guessing my weekly salary, my jewellery or even my tattoos.

    “It’s got to be about my body language, and questioning my morals, and speculating about my family, and my football future.

    “There’s a tone to it that you don’t get with all footballers. Let’s just leave it at that.

    “I think some of it goes back to the pandemic. I was just trying to use my voice to make sure that kids weren’t going hungry, because I know exactly how it feels.

    “For some reason, that seemed to rub certain people the wrong way. It seems like they’ve been waiting for me to have a human moment so they can point the finger and say, ‘See? See who he really is?’.”

  • Stefano Pioli urging Milan to be more ruthless as they chase second-placed Juve Stefano Pioli urging Milan to be more ruthless as they chase second-placed Juve

    Stefano Pioli called for his AC Milan side to be more “cynical” in front of goal ahead of their Serie A trip to Lazio as they look to turn the heat up on second-placed Juventus.

    Milan were held to a 1-1 home draw by Atalanta in their last fixture – having lost to Monza and Rennes in their previous two matches – leaving them four points behind Juve in the Serie A standings and just five ahead of in-form Bologna in fourth pace.

    The Rossoneri will now be eager to get back to winning ways against Lazio on Friday and coach Pioli wants his side’s performance to be consistent, calling for additional cutting edge up front.

    “We want to produce the same performance as last week whilst aiming for a different result,” Pioli said on his club’s website.

    “We analysed the positives after Atalanta but also tried to understand why we couldn’t score one more than them because we had the chance to. We need to be more cynical”.

    Lazio have lost three of their last five Serie A matches, winning the other two, and will also be keen to get back on track after surrendering a half-time lead to lose 2-1 at Fiorentina last time out.

    That was the second time in three matches Lazio have ended up empty-handing after taking the lead, and left them eighth in the table, eight points off the top four.

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    Pioli also ruled out resting any of his players ahead of next week’s Europa League last-16 first leg at home to Sparta Prague.

    “They (Lazio) are a team with great quality that comes off the back of an unsatisfactory performance,” said Pioli.

    “They will be motivated but can also be thrown off by playing with intensity. The game against Slavia Prague will be very important, we are studying them but are fully focused on Lazio.

    “Then we will have an almost full week, there won’t be changes in Rome in order to rest players. I believe that both sides will try to play with different ideas. The midfield battles will be very important”.

    While Milan will still hold hope of overhauling Juve in second spot, Pioli concedes that city rivals Inter are unlikely to be caught by any team.

    Runaway leaders Inter sit 12 points at the top of the table having won 22 of their 26 matches this season, losing just once and conceding only 12 goals.

    Pioli said: “I think that the top spot in the league is decided, Inter are recording incredible numbers as Napoli did last year.

    “April 21 (Milan derby) is too far away. We have a big game ahead of us and there are various goals to meet before we think about the derby.”

  • Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag demands apology from Fulham over Bruno Fernandes post Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag demands apology from Fulham over Bruno Fernandes post

    Erik ten Hag has called on Fulham to apologise for appearing to mock Bruno Fernandes.

    Manchester United boss Ten Hag hit out at criticism implying his captain feigned injury after Wednesday’s FA Cup victory over Nottingham Forest.

    Ahead of Sunday’s clash with Manchester City, Ten Hag was asked about a TikTok post from Fulham showing Fernandes going down during last Saturday’s Premier League contest and accompanied by the caption: “So glad he’s ok…”

    The Dutchman reacted angrily, saying: “I didn’t know this, but if they did it I would say it is not right. It is absolutely not right that a club makes such a statement, because it is totally out of order and they were wrong so they should apologise for this.”

    Ten Hag believes Forest were targeting Fernandes and he added: “He is a very passionate football player and he’s a very creative one, he has created the most chances in the Premier League.

    “You see opponents are targeting him and especially after Saturday when he had the knock and they see it, and then I feel the referee should protect him there. They had to change at the start of the game because it was so obvious they were looking for him.”

    Ten Hag expects Fernandes and Raphael Varane, who was also a doubt for Wednesday, to be fit for the derby, but the likes of Harry Maguire and Rasmus Hojlund are likely to stay on United’s lengthy injury list.

    United go into the clash 15 points behind their neighbours and are currently eight adrift of a Champions League qualifying spot.

    City have not lost since early December, winning 16 of their last 18 games, while Ten Hag has been beaten in three of his four games against Pep Guardiola’s men.

    Last season’s trip to the Etihad ended in a 6-3 defeat for United, but Ten Hag believes his team can take confidence from their form, saying: “We are also in a good run and the spirit is very good, we are united, we have the togetherness to make a good game plan.

    “We have done it before against City, lately also against Liverpool. The players are ready for it, the players are looking forward to it, I can smell it when I am around here, when I speak with the players. We’re excited.

    “They have a good team but there are more good teams. They have won in the last season everything so we know that that’s the challenge, but also Liverpool have a very good team and there are more. We like such challenges.”

    New investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe stated his aim last week for United to knock City and Liverpool off their perch within three years.

    “You always want to play against the best so most of the times we feel and you can also see it that the opposition get their best outputs against Manchester United, and maybe this game is the other way around,” said Ten Hag.

    “We know we have to give everything and show really a team performance if you want to get a result. If you do it, it is possible.

    “From all the games we look back, we had the opportunity to win and we won one time but you need a great day. That is also what we know so the players have to give the best performances.”

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