Messi and Mbappe ready for Real Madrid, Mahrez could dominate – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk February 14, 2022

The Champions League returns on Tuesday as the round of 16 gets underway, and what a way to kick things off.

Paris Saint-Germain host Real Madrid in what is widely considered to be the tie of the round, with particular interest in PSG duo Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe for differing reasons.

Sporting CP welcome Manchester City to the Estadio Jose Alvalade in the other first-leg encounter, with Ruben Amorim's men hoping to spring a surprise against the champions of England.

What do the numbers say about the opening games of the Champions League knockout stage, though? Stats Perform takes a look to decipher who is likeliest to come out on top.

Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid

Real Madrid have a slight edge over PSG in their 10 previous meetings in European competition, having won four and lost three. The French side lead 2-1 in the head-to-head in the knockout stages, eliminating Madrid from the 1992-93 UEFA Cup quarter-final and the 1993-94 Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final.

The last meeting between the two came in the group stage of the 2019-20 Champions League, a 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu. PSG won the previous game at Parc des Princes 3-0, and ultimately finished five points ahead of Madrid in Group A.

Los Blancos did win their last Champions League knockout game in Paris, beating PSG 2-1 in the round-of-16 second leg in 2017-18.

PSG will hope to improve their home record, having won just one of their past six such Champions League knockout games, a run including four defeats.

Since the start of the 2020-21 campaign, Mbappe – who is being linked with a move to Madrid when his contract expires at the end of the season – has been involved in more open-play sequences ending in goals (17) than any other player in the Champions League. He also has the highest expected goals sequence involvement of any player in this period (16.4).

Mbappe's France team-mate Karim Benzema, who is battling to be fit for the game, has found the net in each of his past four outings in the Champions League. Should he do so again on Tuesday, he will become just the third player to score in five consecutive appearances for Madrid in the competition, after Cristiano Ronaldo (four times, between 2013 and 2018) and Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2007.

The Spanish giants won all three of their away games in the group stage without conceding a goal. The only previous Champions League campaign in which they won their first four away games was in 2014-15, during Carlo Ancelotti’s first spell in charge.

 

Sporting CP v Manchester City

Sporting and City have only ever faced each other twice in European competition, which was their two legs in the round of 16 in the 2011-12 Europa League, with the Portuguese side going through on away goals.

City have only won once in their past six matches in Portugal (D2 L3), including their 1-0 defeat in last year's Champions League final to Chelsea in Porto.

This will be just the second time Sporting have played in the Champions League round of 16, with the previous occasion seeing them lose 12-1 on aggregate to Bayern Munich in 2008-09, the largest aggregate defeat in the competition's history.

City have kept just one clean sheet in their previous 11 matches in the Champions League and conceded at least once in all six group games this season. Still, should they win this game, Pep Guardiola's team will be the first in Champions League history to win five consecutive away games in the knockout stages.

Sporting boss Amorim, at 37 years and 19 days old, will be the second-youngest Portuguese coach to take charge of a Champions League knockout-stage tie after Andre Villas-Boas (34 years and 127 days) with Chelsea against Napoli in 2011-12. Villas-Boas was sacked prior to the second leg.

Among Portuguese players, only Ronaldo (six goals) has been directly involved in more Champions League goals this season than Sporting’s Pedro Goncalves (five – four scored, one assisted) and Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo (five – two scored, three assisted).

Saturday's 4-0 win at Norwich City was the first time Riyad Mahrez has failed to score for City since early December. The first of his seven-game scoring run was the final Champions League group clash, a 2-1 defeat at RB Leipzig.

Mahrez has also scored nine goals in his past 10 appearances in the Champions League and has been directly involved in six goals in his most recent six games in the knockout rounds (four scored, two assisted). Since the start of last season, Mahrez has scored at least four goals more in the competition than any other City player (Gabriel Jesus is next with five).

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    Haaland has scored 30 goals for City this term but only one in his last five. After Roy Keane last week claimed the Norway international was comparable to a League Two player in his general play, Jamie Carragher this week described him as “the ultimate luxury footballer” and said he was not world class.

    But asked if he was happy with Haaland’s all-round contribution, Guardiola said: “A lot. He helps us to make more spaces in the areas and his contribution has been exceptional since the day he arrived last season.”

    Guardiola said pundits “can do whatever they want”, but insisted he was only interested in the performance of his team, who are still in contention to repeat last season’s treble after drawing the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie against Real Madrid 3-3 on Tuesday night.

    City can go top of the Premier League for 24 hours at least if they beat Luton on Saturday, and face an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea next weekend.

    “We are quite similar to last season,” Guardiola said. “We scored four goals, four goals, three goals in the last three games, 11 goals in three games.

    “And (Haaland) helped us score some of them (by) creating lots of spaces for the other ones to score the goals. I saw in his face, in what he said after the game, in the locker room, he was extremely happy (in Madrid).

    “It was a good result, let’s see what happens next Wednesday. Now the target is Luton.”

    Bidding to win the Premier League for a fourth straight season, City remain locked in a tight race at the top. They start the weekend a point behind both Arsenal and Liverpool, with their rivals not in action until Sunday.

    City have twice won the title on the final day of the season under Guardiola, but this is the first time they have faced a three-way title race so late in the campaign.

    “We know what we have to do,” Guardiola said. “We’ve done it. The people say, ‘you’ve done it, so you’re going to win’. No, it’s not about that. But we have done it and know exactly what we have to do.

    “The players will be ready. There is no doubt about that. We know what we are playing for.”

    Although a treble repeat is still possible, there is a sense City have not been at the same standards this term, with injuries taking a toll.

    “(The players) know how tough it has been this season for many reasons, maybe one of the toughest seasons we have faced for sure,” Guardiola added.

    “We know exactly internally how difficult it has been in many, many moments this season and we were still there, we were there. I know the players will be ready.”

    After Tuesday’s match in Madrid, Rodri had said he was in need of a rest after his 41st appearance of the season. Guardiola indicated any player who wanted a breather need only ask, but that he expects the 27-year-old Spain midfielder to be available to face Luton.

    “It is normal,” Guardiola said. “If one player feels that, what is the problem? All the teams who play in the latter stages of all competitions, Champions League, Europa League, fighting for qualifications, or against relegation, all have the same problem with the amount of games…

    “I’m pretty sure Rodri will be ready. I know him. After the game he was tired because it was tough, the game against Real Madrid. He came from Crystal Palace and it was really tough as well.

    “But I know him. He will arrive and say, ‘I’m fine, I’m ready’.”

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    The new administration to be led by either Kieron Edwards of ‘Team Progressive’ or Colin Wharfe of ‘Team Transformation’ unit, will mark first self-governed TTFA in more than four years. This as William Wallace's administration was removed months after he was elected in November 2019, as FIFA intervened and installed its Normalisation Committee in March 2020, citing financial concerns.

    That Normalisation Committee remained in charge until late last month when it made way for the TTFA to elect a new administration. For Browne, who withdrew from the presidential race, football is the catalyst for re-engineering the national socio-structure and delivering economic benefits by creating jobs in sport throughout all communities, with the establishment of a sport industry, both in T&T and the wider Caribbean.

    He recalled that Trinidad and Tobago is one of four Caribbean countries to have participated in the FIFA World Cup Finals competition, the other three being Cuba in 1938, Haiti in 1974, and Jamaica in 1998. T&T participated in 2006 and it is Browne's hope that they will make the next global showpiece in 2026.

    "It is my view this election is two years later than the ideal time required to successfully prepare for the largest football competition, the FIFA World Cup 2026, to be hosted in the CONCACAF for the first time since 1994. The TTFA election will determine the Executive to restructure and develop football in Trinidad and Tobago, while urgently redoubling much required initiatives to ensure qualification for the 2026 World Cup," Browne said in an opinion piece recently published in the T&T Express.

    "Restructuring by a new TTFA is needed in order to develop the best possible product on the football field, creating wider participation, training and development, from grassroots upwards. Highly competitive community leagues, strong well-structured and supported community league teams competing within the zonal level are also necessary so as to provide attractive inter-zonal competitions, all providing the base for the establishment of a privately-owned Trinidad and Tobago national professional league at the top of the football pyramid," he added.

    That said, Browne pointed out two critical recommendations for the new TTFA executive, the first being the appointment of an independent Constitution Committee to review the Articles forwarded by the TTFA Constitution Committee, while the other involves hosting a member and stakeholder consultation to review and contribute to the further development of the strategic plan.

    "For those of us committed to the development of football in Trinidad and Tobago, we fully understand the need to secure the unequivocal support of the unified TTFA membership to achieve the desired goal. For while the goal is quite easily outlined, there is no short cut, quick fix, or magic wand. Only dedicated can address the large task to be undertaken, which will demand all hands-on-deck in the new TTFA," Browne stated.

  • EFL says Leicester will not face points deduction over PSR charge this season EFL says Leicester will not face points deduction over PSR charge this season

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    The EFL said its rules as currently written do not give it the power to apply any points penalty that may be ordered by an independent commission formed under Premier League auspices.

    Leicester, who are involved in a three-way automatic promotion battle with Leeds and Ipswich, had sought an interim injunction to prevent any sporting sanction such as a points deduction being applied this season, but that application has been dismissed after the EFL’s confirmation it had no power to apply the penalty in any event.

    A legal decision related to the injunction application published on Friday evening shows the Premier League initially sought an expedited process, and that its lawyers wrote to the chair of its independent judicial panel to say it was imperative the whole case – including any appeal – was concluded before the end of the Championship regular season on May 4.

    The Premier League letter to its judicial panel came after a letter from EFL chief executive Trevor Birch to his Premier League counterpart Richard Masters, prior to the charge being issued, saying the EFL would “seek to respect” any decision ordering a points penalty and apply it to the Championship standings.

    According to the written decision, in the same letter Birch urged the Premier League that, in the event it sought a points deduction in the current season, it should do so urgently to ensure it could be applied before the end of the Championship regular season on May 4.

    The legal decision states that the Premier League wrote to the club’s lawyers on March 26 to say it would no longer seek to expedite the proceedings, because the EFL no longer maintained its position that it would seek to apply any points deduction in the Championship.

    That means the case is extremely unlikely to be concluded until next season, and that any points penalty will only apply immediately if, by the point the hearing concludes, Leicester are a Premier League club again.

    The decision reveals that Leicester had accused the EFL of “conspiring with the Premier League to use unlawful means and to procure or induce a breach of contract by the Premier League”.

    The club are understood to remain extremely disappointed with the way they feel the EFL has acted.

    The Foxes were charged with breaching the top flight’s profitability and sustainability rules (PSR) on March 21 in relation to the assessment period ending with the 2022-23 season, when they were still a Premier League club.

    The club issued “urgent legal proceedings” on March 22 against that charge, and against an EFL transfer embargo.

    Earlier this month, Leicester announced a loss of £89.7million for the 2022-23 season.

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