Tuchel eyeing record win in 50th Champions League game, Villarreal target Juve upset – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk March 16, 2022

Thomas Tuchel will expect Chelsea to mark his 50th Champions League game as a boss with a win at Lille and Juve will be favourites to knock Villarreal out on Wednesday.

There is huge uncertainty at Stamford Bridge after Roman Abramovich put the club up for sale before having his assets frozen by the United Kingdom government, but the London club have won four consecutive games.

The holders travel to Lille for the second leg of the round-of-16 tie with a 2-0 lead courtesy of goals from the in-form Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic.

Juve and Villarreal will start their showdown at the Allianz Stadium locked at 1-1 after Dani Parejo equalised following Dusan Vlahovic's early strike.

Stats Perform picks out the standout Opta data ahead of the two games.

 

Lille v Chelsea

Havertz has become the Blues' main man, scoring four goals in his past three matches and six in seven.

Chelsea head coach Tuchel has won 31 of his 49 matches and can set a record for the most victories in his first 50 games as a boss in the competition with another success in Lille, as he is currently level with Zinedine Zidane's tally.

Lille's chances of forcing their way back into the tie appear to be slim, as not only do they trail by two goals, they have lost their past three Champions League games against the Premier League club.

They have also been eliminated from each of their three previous European knockout ties after losing the first leg.

The last side to progress against Champions League holders after failing to score in the opening leg was Arsenal versus Milan in 2007-08, with the first leg a goalless draw.

Each of Chelsea's past 11 wins in the Champions League have come with a clean sheet, 10 of which have come under Tuchel in just 14 matches.

Juventus v Villarreal

January signing Vlahovic set a record for the quickest goal by a Champions League debutant when he was on target after only 32 seconds of the first leg.

Juve are without a win in each of their past seven first-leg games in the Champions League (D3 L4), going on to be eliminated from four of their previous five knockout ties in the competition. 

Villarreal have won their past two away games in the Champions League, the same number of victories as they managed across the 15 such matches beforehand.

Juve have only lost three of their previous 23 Champions League matches at home to Spanish sides in this competition, winning 12 and drawing eight.

This will be Villarreal’s first visit to Juventus in any competition as they scent a place in the quarter-finals.

Juan Cuadrado is in line to make his 50th appearance for Bianconeri in the Champions League. He has provided 11 assists for the Serie A giants in the competition, which is the most by any player in the period since he first joined the club in 2015.

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  • Junior searching for balance and consistency in Brazil's Copa America opener Junior searching for balance and consistency in Brazil's Copa America opener

    Brazil head coach Dorival Junior insists his team is yet to find the right balance and consistency but is hoping to discover the right mix against Costa Rica in their Copa America opener on Monday. 

    The 62-year-old, who succeeded interim boss Fernando Diniz in January, is yet to taste defeat in his four games in charge (W2 D2), identified areas of improvement as they look to claim their 10th tournament success. 

    "I have to find a balance for a team that was put together only three months ago, and after a certain period of 15 or 20 days of work they have to find themselves again," Junior said.

    "In football you don't skip preparation phases in training, but that's why we try to accelerate each one of them to have a consistent and confident squad that can then use the individuality of its players to create opportunities."

    Much of the talk heading into their opener with Costa Rica is the inclusion of 17-year-old Endrick, who officially becomes a Real Madrid player next month. 

    Endrick has scored three goals in his last four international appearances, but Dorival called for patience in rushing him into the starting line-up, revealing he is expected to play his part from the bench. 

    "It's something that will happen naturally. It might not take long because he is extremely skillful. I'm in a hurry to get him on the pitch, but you have to have a certain balance. He has excellent skills and is one of the most promising players."

    For Costa Rica head coach Gustavo Alfaro, he aims to build on his previous success in the Copa America having guided Ecuador to the quarter-finals in 2021. 

    Los Ticos have lost 10 of their 11 meetings against their opponents, with their last victory coming in the Panamerican Championship in March 1960 (3-0). 

    But Alfaro insisted his side would not be intimidated by the challenge awaiting them, saying: "The hierarchy (of Brazil) is respected, but not feared. If you're afraid to play, you don't show up.

    "The difference in hierarchy can be fought, first with order, with a lot of determination and a lot of conceptual clarity about what needs to be done, and basically by running. If there are two Brazilians, there must be three Costa Ricans," he added.

  • Scotland denied '100% penalty' against Hungary, says Clarke Scotland denied '100% penalty' against Hungary, says Clarke

    Scotland head coach Steve Clarke was adamant his side should have been awarded a penalty as their Euro 2024 campaign ended with a 1-0 defeat to Hungary in Stuttgart. 

    Kevin Csoboth scored the winning goal in the 10th minute of injury-time to put Scotland out of another major tournament in the group stages. 

    However, things could have been much different for Clarke's side.

    Stuart Armstrong looked to have skipped beyond Hungary's Willi Orban in the 80th minute, before the RB Leipzig defender grappled across the midfielder, with both tumbling inside the area. 

    Referee Facundo Tello waved away Scotland's appeals, and a subsequent check by VAR deemed the challenge not worthy of awarding a spot-kick. 

    “It was 100% a penalty," Clarke said. "Somebody, somewhere has to explain to me why that's not a penalty. It’s a one goal game, we get the penalty and it could have been a different night.

    “I've got other words, but I'm not going to use them. I don't understand how VAR can look at that and say it's not a penalty.

    “In a European competition, it may have been better to have a European referee but we had European VAR and maybe a referee didn't see the challenge clearly on the pitch, so what's the purpose of VAR if they are not going to come in on something like that. It was a penalty.”

    Having qualified for successive European Championships, this was Scotland’s 12th major tournament group stage, and in 50% of those they have failed to win a single match – at the 1954, 1958, 1986, and 1998 World Cups and EURO 2020 and 2024.

    “We gave everything, there’s nothing you can fault there. It was a very tough game against a good opponent," said Clarke. "A very close game that was always going to be decided by the first goal. You could tell that after half an hour.

    “Unfortunately for us when we opened up towards the end of the game to try and chase the winner, that we felt we needed to get to the next stage, we got caught on the counter.”

  • United States 2-0 Bolivia: Pulisic powers hosts to convincing win in Copa America opener United States 2-0 Bolivia: Pulisic powers hosts to convincing win in Copa America opener

    Christian Pulisic stole the show with an eye-catching strike and another assist as the United States opened their Copa America campaign with a 2-0 triumph over Bolivia on Sunday.

    Gregg Berhalter's side never appeared troubled in a routine victory at AT&T Stadium in Texas, thanks to the solo endeavours of captain Pulisic in their Group C opener.

    The Milan forward needed just three minutes to curl in a sublime opener before teeing up Folarin Balogun – who another strike ruled out after the interval – just moments before the break in a one-sided first half.

    Bolivia rarely seemed likely to forge a comeback as the USA managed a winning start to a Copa campaign for the first time since the 1995 edition when they defeated Chile 2-1 in Uruguay.

    Antonio Carlos Zago's side did not heed an early warning when goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra was forced to rush out and clear in front of Balogun.

    Bolivia were caught napping just minutes later as Timothy Weah worked a short corner with Pulisic, who coasted inside before curling into the top-right corner from an acute angle on the left-hand side of the area.

    Weah – son of legendary forward George – was denied from point-blank range as the USA almost doubled their lead immediately.

    Yet Berhalter's host nation would soon add to their advantage in Arlington.

    Pulisic was afforded the freedom of midfield yet again, dropping into space before offloading for Balogun to cannon a left-footed drive into the bottom-right corner.

    That smart 44th-minute finish marked Balogun's first-ever goal at this tournament and the Monaco striker found the back of the net for a second time after the interval, only for his celebrations to be cut short.

    His routine tap-in from inside the six-yard area was ruled out for offside as Weah had rushed forward to capitalise on Weston McKennie's pass before sliding across for his attacking partner.

    Viscarra was equal to Pulisic's effort before the hour as the forward attempt to recreate his early heroics, while substitute Ricardo Pepi prodded wide from Antonee Robinson's pinpoint left-wing delivery.

    Pepi was denied by fine Viscarra reflexes late on as the USA coasted to an opening victory before their next meeting with Panama on Thursday, a day before Bolivia face Uruguay.

    Pulisic stars in rare USA win

    Pulisic was tipped by many as the USA player to keep an eye on at the Copa America, and the Milan man delivered in emphatic fashion in this opener.

    Fresh off the back of scoring 15 goals across all competitions for the Serie A giants, Pulisic's opening strike had an expected goals (xG) tally of just 0.037 – yet that was no problem for the USA captain.

    His headline-worthy effort halted a woeful run for the USA against CONMEBOL sides at this tournament as well given Berhalter's side had previously lost eight of 10 such games.

    Victory also marked the USA's first Copa triumph over Bolivia in just their second attempt, avenging for a 1-0 defeat way back in 1995 when Marco Etcheverry scored the winner.

    Bolivia wait goes on

    Bolivia were seeking a win against a CONCACAF opponent in Copa action for the first time since the 1997 edition.

    They defeated Mexico 3-1 in the semi-finals of the tournament they hosted 27 years ago, though a wait for another such victory must continue after a drab showing in Texas.

    Carlos Zago won this competition as a player with Brazil in 1999 but his side have a long way to go if they are to even escape their group in the USA.

    Bolivia have now lost their last four international outings by a concerning margin of 9-1, having suffered defeats against Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and the USA.

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