Manchester United's pursuit of a late second goal against Arsenal was a good reflection of their attempt to appoint a director of football. You just knew they weren't going to get it.

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United have scored twice or more in just one of their past 15 matches in all competitions, a stat that grows more worrying with every passing minute.

Against Arsenal, the image of Solskjaer berating Andreas Pereira for not sticking to the right flank was a fitting one for his time in charge. Trying to force a limited central midfielder to play as a winger seemed less a square peg in a round hole and more a two-by-four thrust into a dental cavity - and no less painful to experience.

Axel Tuanzebe as de facto left-back was not much better, nor was the persistence with Jesse Lingard as the roving number 10, a man whose Premier League goals and assists columns for 2019 show zero and whose confidence level is even lower.

It's starting to look like Solskjaer, too, is the wrong choice for United manager. The solution? Make him the new Head of Football instead.

For the past year, United have allegedly been drawing up a list of candidates for the director-of-football-type-role and still got nowhere near actually hiring someone. The names linked have ranged from people experienced in the line of work, like Norwich City's Stuart Webber and Paul Mitchell of RB Leipzig, to those with a stronger affinity for United and the brand, such as assistant manager Mike Phelan and former stars Rio Ferdinand and Darren Fletcher.

Still, in a conference call with investors last week – money is still not a concern, as record revenues show – executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward hinted at some progress: the job at least has a name.

"Regarding the speculation around the Head of Football, we are continually reviewing and looking at the potential to evolve our structure on the football side," he said. "Much of the speculation around this type of role revolves around recruitment - an area that we've evolved in recent years.

"As we've already mentioned, we feel the players we've signed in the summer demonstrate this approach is the right one."

So, no nearer an appointment. But, as Woodward intimated, the right man is already at Old Trafford. He's just in the wrong job.

United's three major signings of the window - Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James - were prudent bits of business that improved the squad and pointed to a longer-term vision for recruitment. United have not been able to say all that in the same breath since Alex Ferguson left six years ago.

While the transfer talks were handled by Matt Judge, United's chief negotiator, these were Solskjaer's signings, recommended by Solskjaer, to be implemented into Solskjaer's reconstruction of the first team. Discussions about January incomings are already underway, but nobody will join unless they fit Solskjaer's ethos of what constitutes a Manchester United player.

Solskjaer, in this way, is shaping United transfer policy with greater guile than David Moyes, Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho. Crucially, Woodward is buying into it. The onus is not on quick-fixes or names who carry obvious commercial appeal but on bringing in players to fit a footballing policy and removing those who don't. Solskjaer deserves credit for that. It's what a good director of football does.

Beyond the transfers, Solskjaer is relaying the path from youth ranks to first team. In July, his old team-mate Nicky Butt was moved into a new role, Head of First Team Development, to work specifically with the manager in identifying youngsters ready for first-team exposure and facilitating their move into the senior picture. The academy itself is now run by Nick Cox, formerly of Sheffield United and, interestingly, a graduate of Manchester Metropolitan University's Master of Sport Directorship course.

This reshaping of the academy, which started before Solskjaer's appointment as permanent manager but has been accelerated since, is bearing fruit in Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Brandon Williams, James Garner and Tuanzebe, all of whom are in the squad for Thursday's Europa League trip to AZ. Will they radically change United's fortunes this year? Probably not. But they are United boys, they fit the Solskjaer ethos, and they deserve their chance to try.

Games like the Arsenal draw highlight Solskjaer's managerial shortcomings. He does not look like an elite-level coach who can coax the best from the talent at his disposal or produce tactical masterplans to flummox the finest opposition (which Arsenal are not). United should already be looking to hire someone who can do those things while letting Solskjaer continue the development of the club framework from a position upstairs.

Solskjaer 'gets' United: their history, their expectations, the demand for style and substance and the players needed to fulfil those requirements. He gets the importance of the academy and how to build bridges to the first team. He gets the importance of singlemindedness in the transfer window and has shown he can deliver the right signings. He should get the Head of Football job.

Manchester City again have a headline act in FIFA 20's FUT Team of the Week, with Riyad Mahrez earning himself a spot.

Algeria international Mahrez had a stuttering first season at the Etihad Stadium, but in recent weeks he has found some consistency and played a vital role in Saturday's 3-1 win over Everton, scoring a fine free-kick and generally running the defence ragged.

It meant he took a top rating in the FIFA Ultimate Team, a week after City team-mate Kevin De Bruyne achieved the same feat.

The only other Premier League player in the starting XI is Leicester City's Wilfred Ndidi - the young midfielder putting in a masterclass as Newcastle United were swept aside 5-0 on Sunday.

Bayer Leverkusen's Kai Havertz and Duvan Zapata of Atalanta lead the attack after both got a goal and an assist at the weekend.

Below, we have the full squad of in-form cards now up for grabs.

FUT Team of the Week

GK: Thomas Strakosha (Lazio) - 84

CB: German Pezzella (Fiorentina) - 82

CB: Daley Blind (Ajax) - 85

CB: Salif Sane (Schalke) - 83

RW: Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City) - 86

CM: Aleksandr Golovin (Monaco) - 82

CDM: Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City) - 84

LW: Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad) - 84

CAM: Santi Cazorla (Villarreal) - 84

ST: Duvan Zapata (Atalanta) - 84

CAM: Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen) - 86


GK: Alban Lafont (Nantes) - 82

RWB: Matt Doherty (Wolves) - 82

CM: Grzegorz Krychowiak (Lokomotiv Moscow) - 82

CM: Vladimir Darida (Hertha Berlin) - 81

LW: Alexandru Mitrita (New York City) - 81

ST: Franco Jara (Pachuca) - 81

ST: Islam Slimani (Monaco) - 80


CB: Georg Margreitter (Nurnberg) - 79

CAM: Yeison Guzman (Envigado) - 76

LM: Kenta Nishizawa (Shimizu S-Pulse) - 73

ST: Ollie Watkins (Brentford) - 80

RW: Vladimir Rodic (Hammarby) - 76

Manchester United continue to struggle for form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and their failings are never more obvious than in routinely underwhelming performances in Premier League away games.

A quick glance at the club's top-flight record outside Old Trafford since a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace on February 27 shows four defeats, three draws and zero victories.

Their homesickness would be of less concern were results gained with any ease in Manchester but cannot be overlooked if the top four is to be a realistic aim.

Ahead of Sunday's excursion to struggling Newcastle United, where Solskjaer's men have an ideal opportunity to stop the rot, we analyse the Opta data behind United's wretched run on the road.



United have been involved in seven Premier League away games since that win at Selhurst Park and secured a paltry three points, at an average of 0.43 per game.

For context, that figure is inferior to the 0.50 points embattled Watford have averaged in the same period.

In fact, among the 17 teams to have taken part in the Premier League this season and last, it is better than only Tottenham's woeful return of 0.29 points per game.

Where Spurs and the Red Devils have floundered, rivals Liverpool have excelled.

The Premier League leaders have banked 25 of a possible 27 points on their travels and it is not the only vast statistical gulf between United and the Anfield outfit.


Expertly marshalled by Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool have given up the fewest goals away from home of all Premier League teams throughout United's rough run.

The European champions have conceded six goals from 92 shots faced at a conversion rate of 6.5 per cent.

While at least partly attributable to the quality of chances offered up, United have not enjoyed the same level of charity from their opponents.

The shot conversion rate for teams entertaining Solskjaer's side has risen to a division-high 18.8 per cent since the end of February.

Watford (17.8 per cent), Chelsea (16 per cent) and Everton (15.2 per cent) are next closest to that mark.

Is it a matter of misfortune?

Or should questions be asked of goalkeeper David de Gea, who conceded from a direct free-kick for the 12th time in his Premier League career during the recent 2-0 defeat at West Ham?

Luck might play a part, but United cannot hide from blame for their crippling shortcomings at the other end.


Solskjaer admitted ahead of Monday's home draw against Arsenal that United would seek to a sign a replacement for Romelu Lukaku when the transfer window opens in January.

The Norwegian has invested faith in Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood since selling the centre-forward to Inter but United are in dire need of cutting edge going forward.

The issue surfaced towards the end of last season as two goals were scored across the club's final four Premier League away fixtures and it has become painfully obvious this term.

Draws at Wolves and Southampton, along with the blank at the London Stadium, have seen the club's shot conversion rate in road games plummet to a league-low four per cent during the timeframe in question.

Each of the other 16 sides have managed more goals than United's four and at a sharper rate of conversion.

That simply has to change if the 13-time Premier League champions are to rediscover their aura, home or away.

Champions League holders Liverpool face Salzburg for the first time in their history on Wednesday as Jurgen Klopp aims to extend his unbeaten record at Anfield.

The Reds lost 2-0 to Napoli in their opening group fixture, increasing the importance of a result against a Salzburg side that thrashed Genk 6-2.

Exciting teenager Erling Haaland – son of former Premier League defender Alf-Inge Haaland – scored a first-half hat-trick in that match and should be ready for the trip to Merseyside after battling illness.

Barcelona, meanwhile, could have the fit-again Lionel Messi available for their date with Inter, a chance for the star forward to break his duck against the Serie A side.

Elsewhere, Frank Lampard heads to France in search of his maiden Champions League win in charge of Chelsea, while last season's semi-finalists Ajax visit Valencia.

Here is the pick of the key Opta facts for Wednesday's eight matches.


Genk v Napoli

6 - Napoli are without a win in their past six away games in the Champions League group stage (W0 D2 L4), last prevailing on the road with a 2-1 defeat of Benfica in December 2016.

13 - Genk have won none of their 13 Champions League matches (W0 D7 L6). Only Irish side Shamrock Rovers and Maltese outfit Floriana have played more games without winning (14 each) in the competition's history.


Liverpool v Salzburg

19 - Reds boss Klopp remains unbeaten after 19 matches at Anfield as Liverpool manager (W15 D4 L0). His streak is 10 games shy of Bob Paisley's club record.

2 - Salzburg striker Haaland will attempt to become the second player to score more than once in each of his first two Champions League appearances, Diego Simeone having done so for Atletico Madrid in September 1996.


Slavia Prague v Borussia Dortmund

13 - Czech champions Slavia handed out 13 Champions League debuts in their Group F opener, a 1-1 draw at Inter. The only player to feature who had previously appeared in the competition was Nicolae Stanciu.

68 - Dortmund have scored with just two of their past 68 attempts at goal in the Champions League and have been held goalless in five of their six most recent outings.


Barcelona v Inter

3 - Barca captain Messi has been directly involved in 15 goals in his past 17 games against Italian teams (12 goals, three assists), but has failed to score in any of his three Champions League meetings with Inter.

2003 - Inter boss Antonio Conte was an unused substitute for Juventus the last time an Italian coach won a Champions League match at Camp Nou, a quarter-final clash in 2003. Marcello Lippi was in charge of the visitors.


RB Leipzig v Lyon

5 - Each of Timo Werner's five Champions League goals have been scored away from home. No player has hit more on the road without scoring in their own stadium.

18 - Lyon striker Moussa Dembele is one game away from equalling former AEK Athens midfielder Vassilios Tsiartas' unwanted record for most Champions League appearances without winning, which stands at 18 (set between 1994 and 2003).


Zenit v Benfica

9 - Artem Dzyuba has been involved in nine goals in nine Champions League matches for Zenit, scoring six times and registering three assists, including one for Sardar Azmoun in his side's 1-1 draw against Lyon.

10 - Since the start of the 2017-18 season, Benfica have lost more Champions League group stage games (10) than any other team.


Lille v Chelsea

8 - Ligue 1 side Lille are winless in eight Champions League home matches since a 3-1 victory over AEK in October 2006, having gone undefeated in their first eight at home.

2 - Frank Lampard is in danger of becoming the second Englishman to lose his first two matches as a manager in the Champions League, after Ray Harford with Blackburn Rovers in September 1995.


Valencia v Ajax

2 - Valencia, 1-0 winners at Chelsea in their Group H opener, are looking to start a Champions League campaign with two consecutive victories for the first time since 2006-07, when Quique Sanchez Flores was in charge.

41 - Ajax captain Dusan Tadic has created 41 chances in the Champions League since the start of last season, more than any other player in the same period.

Tottenham secured an unwanted record on Tuesday as they suffered a humiliating home loss at the hands of Bayern Munich in Champions League action.

The 7-2 result was the biggest margin of defeat for an English team at home in any European competition. It also equals the heaviest loss for Mauricio Pochettino as a manager, sitting alongside a 5-0 reverse he suffered against Real Madrid when in charge of Espanyol.

The crushing result leaves Spurs with a solitary point in Group B after two games, though they also made a slow start in the competition in the 2018-19 season but eventually made it all the way to the final.

Still, if they look back at the five worst home losses for English clubs in the Champions League era, at least Tottenham will see neighbours Arsenal included twice.


ARSENAL 0-3 INTER (September 2003)

While setting the pace in the Premier League early in the 2003-04 season, the Gunners suffered a painful experience in Europe at the hands of Inter. Julio Ricardo Cruz, Andy van der Meyde and Obafemi Martins scored the goals for the Serie A side at Highbury, with the hosts also seeing a Thierry Henry penalty saved by visiting goalkeeper Francesco Toldo.

Still, Arsene Wenger's squad ended up topping the group as Inter finished third. While Arsenal saw their run in the competition ended by London rivals Chelsea at the quarter-final stage, they did go on to win the title in England.

LIVERPOOL 0-3 REAL MADRID (October 2014)

The Reds' return to Europe's top table did not go according to plan in the 2014-15 campaign. Brendan Rodgers had seen Liverpool lose away in Basel before Real Madrid arrived on Merseyside. Los Blancos made history by becoming the first visiting team to score three goals in the first half at Anfield in a European game, Cristiano Ronaldo thrashed home a stunning opener before Karim Benzema struck twice before the break.

Liverpool also lost the return fixture the following month at the Santiago Bernabeu as they finished with a disappointing five points from six games, with a third-place finish dropping them into the Europa League.

NEWCASTLE UNITED 1-4 INTER (November 2002)

Having come through a qualifying round, Newcastle lost their first three group matches but still managed to secure qualification for the next round - though in the 2002-03 season that meant another round-robin stage.

However, the second phase of the competition started with a disappointing defeat to Inter, Bobby Robson's team not aided by Craig Bellamy getting sent off after a mere five minutes following a clash with Marco Materazzi. By that stage Domenico Morfeo had already put the Nerazzurri ahead, with Matias Almeyda and Hernan Crespo adding further goals before the break. Nolberto Solano gave Newcastle hope in the second half – only for Alvaro Recoba to kill off any thoughts of a dramatic comeback on Tyneside.


Arsenal were once stuck experiencing the Champions League version of Groundhog Day, with a 2017 exit to Bayern seeing them exit the competition at the last-16 stage for a seventh successive season. Thumped 5-1 in the first leg, they did score first in the return fixture through a superb Theo Walcott goal.

However, Laurent Koscielny was sent off eight minutes into the second half after conceding a penalty, the referee upgrading the defender's punishment having initially shown a yellow card. Robert Lewandowski converted from the spot to equalise and the home team fell apart when down to 10 men. Arjen Robben and Douglas Costa piled on the misery for Arsenal before a late brace from Arturo Vidal saw the result mirror their previous meeting.


Serge Gnabry's four-goal haul saw Tottenham concede seven at home for the first time in a major competition as Pochettino's players crumbled. Spurs had actually taken an early lead through Son Heung-min but trailed at the break after goals from Joshua Kimmich and Robert Lewandowski.

At half-time there were few signs of the humiliation to come, though, as the Bundesliga powerhouses rattled in three goals in the final seven minutes of normal time. Reaching the final of last term's Champions League must suddenly feel a long time ago for Pochettino and his team - and they will have to go to Germany for the return fixture in December, too.

And so, Pep Guardiola is two from two in his latest quest for a fourth Champions League crown, to add to the three he won at Barcelona - one as a player and two as a coach.

Unlike significant sections of the Manchester City faithful, Europe's top competition has no need to seduce Guardiola. He remains enthralled by the big trophy, despite the path towards it seeming to mock him fatalistically over recent years.

The Catalan's contract in Manchester suggest he will get another tilt at continental glory next season – UEFA investigations pending, of course – and the super clubs will never linger far from the door.

For one similarly esteemed performer on the field during City's 2-0 Group C win against Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday, the clock ticks a little louder.

David Silva has seen every act of City's uneven, frustrating, confusing and occasionally enthralling relationship with the Champions League. From the opening-night nerves against Napoli back in 2011, to goals in home and away wins over Bayern Munich and a bitterly timed early injury that robbed a torpid 2016 semi-final against Real Madrid of his beguiling qualities.

In 2010, the Spain playmaker joined a club without a major trophy in 34 years. He was integral to ending the drought, scampering and scheming in that unmistakable style of his in the left channel before Yaya Toure settled the 2011 FA Cup final against Stoke City.

Four Premier Leagues, four EFL Cups and another FA Cup have followed, with Silva claiming showpiece final goals to go with the one he netted to start Spain's demolition of Italy in the Euro 2012 showpiece. That was his second European crown with La Roja and he's also a World Cup winner.

The Champions League is his final frontier and, this being his final campaign at City, Silva looks to have one roll of the dice remaining.

A groin injury to his partner in playmaking perfection, Kevin De Bruyne, left Silva as City's chief creator as Dinamo's massed ranks of day-glo defence set about a lengthy vigil at the Etihad Stadium.

The 33-year-old's precision touches sometimes contrasted to a jarring extent with Benjamin Mendy's trigger-happy crossing bombardment, while namesake Bernardo Silva again strained unsuccessfully for last season's form.

At odds with their change strip, Dinamo's defence looked to submerge Europe's most prolific attack in darkness. Space was at a premium, but for Silva there is always just enough.

Shimmying around that patch of grass between the left-hand edges of penalty and six-yard boxes, where he casts his most convincing spells, City's captain knitted everything together.

A deft pass almost allowed Ilkay Gundogan to open the scoring, as Silva himself should have done from close range. A Mendy missile landed at his feet, bringing a reminder that finishing has never been his strongest suit.

City were held to their first goalless opening 45 minutes of the season and, as game-breaker Raheem Sterling replaced Bernardo Silva, their number 21 was prodding and cajoling with increasing intent.

Shifting closer to his old ally Sergio Aguero, Silva ducked past two challenges to have a 55th-minute shot blocked – one of those half-dribbles where a shift in balance and twist of the hips means little pace is required.

Sterling has the latter quality in abundance and after Silva darted to the byline to prompt a 65th-minute corner, the England winger opened the scoring.

Rodri's slide-rule pass, after Dinamo only partially cleared, found Riyad Mahrez in the inside-left position to cross for Sterling to apply the finish.

Both passes in the build-up were the sort Silva has played countless times in sky blue – it is nice to think of them as his legacy, building the sort of City goals he cutely crafted long after he is gone.

After nearly laying on number two for Aguero, Silva made way to a warm ovation for his presumed heir Phil Foden. The teenager gleefully thrashed in the game-sealing goal. Time waits for no man.

Against Dinamo, like in many other games over the past decade, Silva was City's inspiration. As the club captain who will lift any trophies come May, he should also be his team-mates' motivation to plot a route to Istanbul and that final frontier.

Real Madrid will be looking to kick-start their Champions League campaign against Club Brugge on Tuesday after losing to Paris Saint-Germain on matchday one, while Kylian Mbappe has his eye on a record of Lionel Messi's.

Madrid were crushed 3-0 by PSG last time out, with Thomas Tuchel's men looking extremely comfortable in a match that left Zinedine Zidane under a bit of pressure.

They have since bounced back with two wins and a draw in LaLiga and they will expect to get three points at home to Club Brugge, while PSG travel to Galatasaray.

The French champions will be able to call upon the services of Mbappe this time, having missed the Madrid clash through injury, and he is close to equalling a record set by Messi.

Below, we have highlighted the key data ahead of Tuesday's contests.

Real Madrid v Club Brugge

3 - Madrid are looking to avoid losing three successive Champions League matches for the first time in their history. They have not lost three in a row in European competition since September 1981.

50 - Los Blancos have won all three of their Champions League home matches against Belgian opposition by an aggregate score of 14-2. Their most recent competitive home defeat to a club from Belgium was 50 years ago in December 1969 versus Standard Liege in the European Cup (W4 D1 L0 since).


Galatasaray v Paris Saint-Germain

14 - Mbappe has scored 14 goals in the UEFA Champions League and will be aged 20 years and 284 days on the day of this match. The youngest player to 15 goals in the competition is Messi, who scored his 15th goal aged 21y 289d.

1 - If Galatasaray avoid defeat against PSG, it will be the first time they have remained unbeaten in the opening two games of a Champions League group stage since the format changed in 2003-04.

Red Star Belgrade v Olympiakos

4 - Marko Marin was directly involved in four of Red Star's five goals during the 2018-19 Champions League campaign, including two assists against Liverpool in their only ever victory in the competition.

9 - Olympiakos have lost nine of their past 11 matches away from home in the Champions League (W2), shipping at least two goals in every defeat. Prior to this run, the Greek side had won three of their previous six on the road (D1 L2).


Tottenham v Bayern Munich

39 - Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski has scored in 39 different Champions League matches; only Ruud van Nistelrooy (42), Karim Benzema (45), Raul (56), Lionel Messi (68), Cristiano Ronaldo (82) have scored in more.

2 - Bayern are looking to become the second side after PSG in October 2017 to score two or more goals in six successive Champions League away group matches since the competition changed to its current format in 2003-04.

Atalanta v Shakhtar Donetsk

20 - Shakhtar goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov has failed to keep a clean sheet in any of his past 20 Champions League starts – the only keeper with a longer such run in the history of the competition is Igor Akinfeev (43 starts between 2006 and 2017).

4 - Atalanta's 4-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb on matchday one was the heaviest defeat by a team in their first Champions League match since Qarabag lost 6-0 to Chelsea in September 2017.


Manchester City v Dinamo Zagreb

10 - Against Shakhtar, City's Gabriel Jesus scored his ninth Champions League goal – should he score in this game, he will be the youngest Brazilian (22y 181d) to reach 10 goals in the competition and youngest South American since Lionel Messi (21y 99d) in October 2008.

1 - Mislav Orsic's hat-trick on his Champions League debut for Dinamo against Atalanta was the first treble scored for a Croatian team in the competition. Only two Croatian players have scored in their first two appearances in the competition; Alen Boksic in November 1992 for Marseille and Nikola Vlasic in 2018 for CSKA Moscow.


Lokomotiv Moscow v Atletico Madrid

7 - Kieran Trippier created seven chances in Atletico Madrid's 2-2 draw with Juventus, the most of any player on matchday one this season. Since the start of last season, only Dusan Tadic (41) has created more chances than the England defender in the competition (32).

22 - Lokomotiv Moscow's victory over Bayer Leverkusen last time out was achieved with just 22 per cent possession, the lowest by a winning team in a Champions League match since Celtic had 15 per cent and beat Barcelona 2-1 in November 2012.


Juventus v Bayer Leverkusen

26 - Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 26 goals in 24 appearances against teams from Germany in the Champions League – no player has more against teams from a specific nation (Lionel Messi v English teams, also 26). This will his first appearance against Bayer Leverkusen in the competition.

78 - Leverkusen had 78 per cent possession in their 2-1 defeat to Lokomotiv Moscow, the most by a team in a Champions League match since Bayern Munich had 78.8 per cent against Arsenal in February 2014.

German Esmerado, Omnisport's Latin America Editor, assesses the landscape ahead of a massive semi-final clash between the two biggest clubs in Argentine football.

River Plate and Boca Juniors face each other again in a crucial stage of the Copa Libertadores, but the atmosphere is vastly different from the build-up to the 2018 final.

That historic showpiece, which incredibly ended up being decided in Madrid after the incidents that occurred before the second leg at the Monumental Stadium, is still very present in the minds of both sets of supporters. 

But this time the climate between the fans is calmer. Both sides learned anxiety must be lowered, and the reality is this is, by comparison, a tie of minor importance. A semi-final played just one year after an historic final, inevitably loses some value, although neither team wants to lose it.

There will be more than 2,000 police officers guarding both the streets surrounding the Monumental Stadium and the Boca Juniors bus, the windows of which have been shielded following the events of last year. The rain of stones that ended up injuring players and executives not only took the final to Madrid, but also saw the team's security chief fired amid accusations of negligence.

The authorities do not want a repeat of the scenes of 12 months ago and River fans want to see the game in their stadium, after being denied that chance last year. The fact that it is the first leg decreases the likelihood of unsavoury incidents. 

Beyond the off-field concerns surrounding the Superclasico, there will be a football match played on Tuesday, and it is expected a great tactical battle between two coaches who know how to manage these encounters and who tend to take care of even the smallest details.

A month ago River and Boca contested a prequel in the Superliga, and it produced a pattern of play that will likely be repeated in the first leg. River had the ball for most of the game and Boca sat deep, were well organised and tried to convert on the counter-attack, though they remained primarily focused on defensive duties in a hard-fought goalless draw.

Boca are the Superliga leaders, with a very solid defence protecting a goalkeeper, Esteban Andradra, playing at a high level. However, River are the favourites, not just because of recent history but because of the current makeup of the team.

River's midfield boasts a great blend of experience and youth. When River play well, they are unstoppable, and they proved as much recently in an emphatic 6-1 away victory against reigning Argentine champions Racing.

Coach Marcelo Gallardo has the tendency to spring a surprise but River's approach is clear. The man known as 'El Muneco' has had great success with the 4-4-2 and his team is comfortable playing in that formation.

Enzo Perez is the team's clock, the one that sets the pace and the one that pulls the strings, while Ignacio Fernandez, perhaps the best player in Argentine domestic football, excels at finishing things off. 

The question is whether the Uruguayan Nicolas De la Cruz can perform on this stage. He has earned his place in the team through a string of impressive performances and adds a touch of quality and dynamism to a midfield that also features Exequiel Palacios, one of the top prospects in Argentine football. In the attack, with Lucas Pratto only just returning from an injury, the pairing of Rafael Santos Borre and Matias Suarez are expected to start.

Boca coach Gustavo Alfaro was satisfied with the Superliga stalemate and is likely to implement a similar system, with Ramon 'Wanchope' Abila playing as a lone striker in front of a midfield five, in which Ivan Marcone and Nicolas Capaldo will occupy central positions.

Former Benfica winger Eduardo Salvio's recovery from injury will be key for the Xeneize. He will play on the right if fit, if not, his replacement would be Franco Soldano. Emanuel Reynoso is likely to start on the left wing while Alexis Mac Allister should slot in ahead of Marcone and Capaldo. Mauro Zarate would be the favourite to partner Abila should Alfaro elect to go with two strikers.

One other factor to consider will be the weather. The pitch will be heavy due to the heavy rain and strong winds expected throughout Tuesday, though the field at the Monumental typically holds up well in wet conditions.

October is set to be a month defined by highly charged atmospheres in Argentina. The second leg takes place on October 22, five days before presidential elections that will be held amid severe economic difficulties. The hope is that, after the disappointing events of last year, it can be a month of celebration for football and democracy.

River Plate entertain arch-rivals Boca Juniors in the first leg of their Copa Libertadores semi-final on Tuesday, but the defending champions have hardly set the tournament alight in 2019.

Marcelo Gallardo has already led River to two Libertadores titles - last year's coming after a Superclasico final against Boca - and is hoping to make them the first team to successfully defend their crown since a Boca side inspired by Juan Roman Riquelme in 2001.

However, Los Millonarios have won just three of their 10 matches en route to the final four – the joint-fewest of any semi-finalist to have taken part in the group stage.

With the help of Opta, we look at the teams that reached the penultimate round with the same amount of victories.


Cerro Porteno (1993)

After starting their campaign with back-to-back draws against Paraguayan rivals Olimpia and Newell's Old Boys, Cerro got off the mark with a 2-1 victory over River when Leonardo Astrada put through his own net. Another 2-1 triumph, this time against a Newell's side including Gerardo Martino and Mauricio Pochettino, helped send Cerro through top of their group, though their only other victory before the semi-finals came against Cobreloa in the last 16. They defeated Olimipia on penalties after a pair of draws in the quarter-finals but lost to eventual champions Sao Paulo 1-0 on aggregate in the final four.

Junior (1994)

In the heyday of Colombian football, Junior claimed group-stage wins over Cerro and Independiente Medellin, the former 3-2 after throwing away a two-goal lead in Barranquilla. Despite being reduced to 10 men after a red card for Alexis Mendoza, Junior scored twice in the last 15 minutes to earn a second straight last-16 draw against Colo Colo, who they beat on penalties. Carlos Valderrama notched as Junior booked their final-four spot with a 2-0 victory over Medellin, and although they beat Velez in the first leg of the semi-finals to take their tally of wins for the tournament to four, they were beaten in a shoot-out by the eventual champions.

Emelec (1995)

A single victory over fellow Ecuadorian side El Nacional got Emelec out of Group 4 behind a Palmeiras team boasting Rivaldo and Edmundo and Luiz Felipe Scolari's Gremio. Wins against Cerro in the last 16 and Sporting Cristal sent them into a semi-final clash with Gremio, who advanced 2-0 on aggregate and went on to win the title. It remains Emelec's best run in the competition.

Racing Club (1997)

Just one point from their first four Group 2 games left Racing in a precarious position, but they closed out the stage with 2-0 triumphs over El Nacional and Emelec. Two-time Copa America-winning coach Alfio Basile's side were consequently pitted against River in the last 16 and advanced on penalties after a pair of draws – Enzo Francescoli missing the crucial spot-kick for a Los Millonarios team that included Gallardo as a player. Racing beat Penarol 1-0 in the second leg of the quarter-finals – a game that saw third-minute red cards for Mauro Navas and Gonzalo de los Santos – and again needed a shoot-out to advance. Although they claimed a 3-2 first-leg victory over Cristal in the semis, they lost 6-4 on aggregate.

River Plate (2015)

River kicked off their campaign with a 2-0 loss at altitude against Bolivians San Jose and drew four straight games against UANL Tigres and Juan Aurich before beating San Jose at home. Juan Aurich falling to a 5-4 loss to Tigres in the final Group 6 match sent River through to the last 16 by the skin of their teeth. As the bottom seed they faced the tournament's best team from the group stage: Boca. They won the first leg at El Monumental 1-0 and advanced when the second leg was abandoned after a Boca fan targeted River players with a pepper spray-like substance as they emerged from the tunnel. Their third victory came in the second leg of the quarter-finals to get them past Cruzeiro 3-1 on aggregate and they added two further triumphs against Guarani and Tigres to clinch the title for the first time in 19 years. It remains the joint-fewest wins for a team that have played over seven games en route to glory, with LDU Quito also triumphing on just five occasions in their 2008 success.

Roy Keane's tunnel spat with Patrick Vieira, Ryan Giggs' stunning solo strike, Martin Keown going head-to-head with Ruud van Nistelrooy. For so long, Manchester United versus Arsenal was a highlight of the Premier League season.

It is fair to say those days are over, with Monday's drab 1-1 draw adding further proof, as if it was needed, of just how far these once-mighty sides have fallen.

Scott McTominay's effort lit up a mediocre encounter in which, for long periods in the teeming Manchester rain, the quality on offer proved every bit as abysmal as the weather.

McTominay - helped by an ill-timed duck from Arsenal's newly elected captain Granit Xhaka - punctured the mundanity but United, who have made their worst start to a Premier League season, showed little ability to push on before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck back.

Indeed, Arsenal were no better, but in Aubameyang, who became the first Arsenal player to score seven goals in the first seven league games of a season since Dennis Bergkamp 22 years ago, they at least have the world-class finisher United lack. How is Romelu Lukaku getting on at Inter?

While Arsenal moved into the top four, a fact that reflects poorly on the other would-be Champions League contenders, United remain entrenched in mid-table - it is hard to argue they deserve any better.

Where has it all gone wrong, and did anything from Monday's meeting at least hint of a brighter future on the horizon?


United earned a 3-1 win over Arsenal in the FA Cup in January, when it seemed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could do no wrong after replacing Jose Mourinho. 

But since Solskjaer took permanent charge, United have spiralled back down to the standard of play that cost Mourinho his job. The argument could be made they have been even worse than in the final days of the Portuguese's tenure. With two wins, two defeats and three draws, Solskjaer has managed even fewer points than David Moyes (10) did in his first seven games in charge.

Injuries to Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford - though the latter two did feature on Monday - and the sales of Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, have left the United attack looking threadbare.

Arsenal, meanwhile, appear a side without an identity. Unai Emery wants his side playing out from the back, yet at no time did the Gunners threaten through this approach, relying on an Axel Tuanzebe error, the quick-thinking of Bukayo Saka and the expert finishing of Aubameyang to pull level.


United's three signings have arguably bought Solskjaer more time. The arrivals of Maguire, Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka suggest a plan is in place, though the failures to add a creative midfielder to supplement Pogba and a striker to replace Lukaku are proving more costly by the game.

Nicolas Pepe was Arsenal's record signing, but is still in search of his first goal. The former Lille winger no doubt has quality, but is struggling to find his feet, while David Luiz has so far failed to offer any solidity to Emery's defence.


In a United team crying out for effort and intensity, McTominay has shown the attributes required to, at the very least, get the fans onside.

Arsenal can point to the introduction of Saka who, since capping off an impressive debut with a goal and two assists in the Europa League victory over Eintracht Frankfurt, has been rewarded with a starting berth in the Gunners' last two league matches. 

The 18-year-old made his mark, pouncing on Tuanzebe's error to feed the ever-clinical Aubameyang. Matteo Guendouzi showed the maturity Xhaka lacked in midfield, but more convincing collective performances will be required from both sides if they are to seriously challenge for a return to the Champions League.

Paul Pogba wanted to leave Manchester United before the 2019-20 season, but Opta numbers suggest the midfielder can help turn the Red Devils' poor start around.

Pogba is set to make his 100th Premier League appearance at home to Arsenal on Monday, the France international having missed recent action for club and country with an ankle injury.

The 26-year-old has been a lightning rod for criticism since returning to Old Trafford, becoming the world's most expensive player when he left Juventus in 2016.

Pogba is still United's key man - their sole world-class talent and a performer capable of winning games on his own when operating at the top of his game.

Here, we assess his Premier League career to date, comparing the upcoming landmark with his time at Juve, as well as other Premier League stars in his position.


Pogba hit eight Serie A goals in each of his last two seasons in Turin, but since moving back to United he has improved his record in front of goal.

Aided by the fact he often takes penalties for the Red Devils, Pogba has hit 24 goals in his 99 Premier League appearances to date - which includes three games before he left United as a youngster unable to break into Alex Ferguson's plans.

Pogba's first 100 Serie A appearances saw him score 22 times, so his effectiveness in front of goal has increased slightly, with no midfielder netting more than his 13 Premier League goals last term.

In fact, since Pogba rejoined United, only three midfielders have scored more Premier League goals: Dele Alli (32), Christian Eriksen (27) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (26), all of whom typically play closer to the opposition goal than the World Cup winner.


Pogba is also a creative force, of course, and his 49 goal involvements (goals plus assists) over the same period matches Sigurdsson's combined total.

Opta numbers suggest Pogba has enjoyed significant development in this side of his game in the last three seasons, with 25 assists in his 99 Premier League appearances to date besting the comparatively low 11 he managed in 100 league games for Juve.

Pogba's record in this regard compares favourably with the Premier League's elite again. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne has contributed a peerless 44 assists, with Spurs star Eriksen not too far behind the Belgium international on 38.

David Silva is the only other midfielder to have posted more assists than Pogba in this period, though, indicating his playmaking talents have perhaps gone under the radar. He has created 162 chances in 99 Premier League games, compared to 124 in his first 100 Serie A appearances.


Pogba's all-round talents make him almost one of a kind in the Premier League. No other midfielders can match the combination of playmaking, goalscoring and ball-winning he offers to United when at his best.

Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Pogba has recorded 640 recoveries - a tally that beats of his Premier League contemporaries who offer the same gifts in the final third. This total is more in keeping with a defensive-minded midfielder like Mark Noble, whose recoveries tally stands at 616 in the same period.

Pogba's tackle success rate in the past three campaigns is 70.29 per cent, comparable to Manchester City's energetic midfielder Bernardo Silva (70.79 per cent) and, again, ahead of players such as De Bruyne, Eriksen, Sigurdsson and Alli.

Few midfielders dictate play for their teams to the extent Pogba does for United. Since his return to the club, he has touched the ball 8,190 times in the Premier League - a tally towards the top of the tree for the league and behind only David Silva, Eriksen, Fernandinho and Granit Xhaka.

However, one statistic clearly indicates Pogba is simply playing for a worse team at United than he did when at Juve. His win ratio in 99 Premier League appearances to date is 57 per cent, compared to 71 per cent in his first 100 Serie A games.

As good as Pogba is - at both ends of the pitch - he cannot do it all on his own.

It is not an issue Ferrari could have imagined having to consider a matter of weeks ago.

The Scuderia had not won a single race heading into Formula One's mid-season break, with a variety of woes hampering new man Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel appearing a shadow of his former self.

But despite Mercedes' one-two in Russia on Sunday, both men have hit form and that has given Ferrari a bit of a problem.

For two weeks running, the inexperienced Leclerc has fumed that four-time champion Vettel has found himself in the lead despite lagging in qualifying.

The team's tactics have scarcely come under greater scrutiny, even if Leclerc remains diplomatic in public - seemingly happy to forget his team radio rants the moment he leaves his SF90.

"I think everything was respected," he said in Sochi, wilfully ignoring his earlier complaints that Vettel was taking his time to accommodate a position swap after Leclerc "played the team game".

In Singapore, where Leclerc raged Vettel's undercut was "not fair", the 21-year-old similarly backtracked: "In the car, it's frustrating and then, as soon as I thought a little bit more of the situation after it, you see the things maybe a bit differently."

The Monegasque could pile further pressure on his team by starting to stand by his mid-race thoughts in the hours and days that follow.

So we weigh it up: do Ferrari need to choose between the two drivers?



The radio squabbling might not be a good look, but Ferrari could understandably care little if they continue to perform on the track. There was comparatively little tension between Leclerc and Vettel earlier in the season when neither driver was winning.

Now, the Scuderia have had four straight poles - all for Leclerc - and gone on to win on three of those occasions. Only an MGU-K failure in Vettel's car that forced him to retire and enabled Lewis Hamilton to pit under the virtual safety and retain the lead denied them another victory in Russia.

The battle to be the main man at Ferrari appears to be bringing the best out of both stars.


In 2018, it was Mercedes who were at the centre of a team tactics storm. Valtteri Bottas went the entire season winless but would have had victory at the Russian Grand Prix had he not been ordered to allow Hamilton through.

Of course, the chief difference between the situation there and at Ferrari is that Hamilton won the drivers' championship and Mercedes collected the constructors' title, justifying their decisions.

By the start of this season, the Silver Arrows were on the same page, beginning with five straight one-twos - including a pair of Bottas wins.


Mercedes may have two stars, but they also boast a clear leading man - unlike the Scuderia. Bottas was permitted to take on Hamilton early in 2019 but can be under no illusion when it comes to the identity of the team's star.

Hamilton extended Mercedes' winning run through eight grands prix this year and is on course for a sixth championship - his third in a row.

Vettel cannot claim to have this season shown the experience and quality that led him to four titles, with Leclerc performing in a superior manner. The former champion and the up-and-comer can each justifiably feel they deserve special treatment - and Ferrari have so far found themselves stuck in the middle.

While their chances of hunting down Hamilton this season appear extremely slim, the Italian outfit have shown potential for 2020.

In order to provide a consistent challenge to Hamilton's crown, they must surely choose their own contender and back him week after week and avoid the confusion of these debates.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Rams 55-40 in a wild NFL clash in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff and Bucs signal-caller Jameis Winston passed at will.

Goff finished with a career-high 517 passing yards and two touchdowns and Winston (385 yards) tossed four touchdowns, including a 67-yard throw to Mike Evans.

Ndamukong Suh scored on a 37-yard fumble return for the final score of the game.

Here is a statistical look at one of the highest-scoring games in NFL history.

– The 95 combined points are tied for the 13th highest-scoring game in NFL history and it is the 10th highest-scoring game since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

– Tampa Bay's 55 points were the most points in a game in franchise history.

– The 55 points are also the most ever against a team that entered the contest 3-0 or better in the Super Bowl era.

– Goff's 517 yards tied him for the eighth-most in a game in NFL history (according to ProFootball Reference) and were the most since Tom Brady passed for 517 yards against the Miami Dolphins in 2011.

– Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein and Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay both made 58-yard field goals, making this the first game in the Super Bowl era where both teams made a field goal of at least 58 yards.

– The teams combined for 982 total yards from scrimmage.

Liverpool maintained their 100 per cent Premier League record courtesy of a fortuitous moment in a 1-0 win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on a weekend when their nearest rivals kept the pressure on.

There were landmark goals and appearances for major players in Manchester City's 3-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park, while Tottenham picked up a much-needed win as Harry Kane extended his outstanding record in matches against Southampton.

Spurs went into the weekend under pressure, as did rivals Chelsea who ended an unwanted 11-game streak as they beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Our Premier League Data Diary brings to light the detail behind the big stories of this weekend's top games.



There were few of the fireworks that erupted during their eight-goal win over Watford but Manchester City still had enough attacking power to claim a 3-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring by heading in a Kevin De Bruyne cross, giving him a 22nd goal in his past 21 starts for club and country and an eighth league assist of the season for the in-form De Bruyne.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin equalised before the interval but Riyad Mahrez's fine free-kick and Raheem Sterling's 100th club goal in all competitions ended Everton's resolve and earned substitute David Silva a 200th Premier League victory in record time, the City captain making his 289th appearance in the competition.

The Toffees did manage eight shots on target, the most the champions have faced in a top-flight fixture since November 2015, but Calvert-Lewin's prodded first-half finish was all they took from a fourth defeat of the campaign.


Dean Henderson's howler gifted Liverpool a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane and a club record-extending 16th successive Premier League win.

England Under-21 goalkeeper Henderson, on-loan from Manchester United, failed to keep out a tame Georginio Wijnaldum volley as the Reds made the breakthrough in the 70th minute with their first shot on target.

Jurgen Klopp's men were forced to battle hard but have now won seven games at the outset of a league season for just the second time, having first done so in 1990-91.

Their undefeated run in the Premier League, which began in January, stands at 24 matches leading into next weekend's home meeting with Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City.


Tottenham entertained Southampton having won just one of their previous five Premier League matches but survived Serge Aurier's sending-off and a Hugo Lloris howler to pick up their eighth victory over the Saints in nine league attempts at home.

Mauricio Pochettino's men started well, with Tanguy Ndombele scoring his second league goal for Spurs in the 24th minute, and he has now scored more goals (2) in five Premier League appearances for the north London club than he managed in 69 Ligue 1 appearances for Amiens and Lyon combined (1).

Aurier then picked up his second booking of the game for a foul on Ryan Bertrand in the 32nd minute and became the first Tottenham player to be sent off in a Premier League home game since Kyle Naughton against Stoke City in November 2014.

But after Lloris gifted Danny Ings an equaliser, Harry Kane pounced from 12 yards with Spurs' winner in the 43rd minute and took his tally to six in six straight Premier League appearances against Southampton, and only Robin van Persie vs Stoke (8), Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink vs West Ham (7) and Romelu Lukaku vs West Ham (7) have had longer scoring streaks against an opponent in the competition.


Frank Lampard's first home victory as Chelsea head coach came at the expense of Brighton, who suffered a 2-0 reverse at Stamford Bridge - their ninth defeat in nine league matches between the two sides.

The result gave Chelsea the record for most games played against a single opponent while winning every single one, surpassing Bournemouth's eight victories against Wimbledon, as well as their first clean sheet under Lampard.

It was Chelsea's first clean sheet since their goalless draw with Leicester City on the last day of the 2018-19 Premier League season, ending a run of 11 matches in all competitions without a shut-out, and Jorginho's goal from the penalty spot was his second of the season - more than he mustered in 54 games last term.

Willian added a second 14 minutes from time, finding the net for the first time in 17 Premier League appearances for Chelsea despite having 32 shots at goal during that period.

Lampard will have been delighted with the clean sheet, but also with the fact that Chelsea attempted 17 shots in the first half alone - their highest total in an opening 45 minutes of a Premier League game since August 2013 (18 against Hull City).

Manchester City captain David Silva reached 200 Premier League wins quicker than any player in Premier League history this weekend.

The former Spain international came off the bench to help see out a 3-1 triumph at Everton after Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling were on target at Goodison Park.

It was Silva's 289th appearance for City, meaning he reached his double century 16 games quicker than the previous record-holder – Chelsea great John Terry who chalked up 200 wins in 305 outings.

Terry's former Chelsea colleagues Petr Cech (310 matches) and Ashley Cole (318 matches) are also in the top five, with Manchester United icon Ryan Giggs (315 matches) there as well.

Since joining City from Valencia in 2010, Silva has made a strong claim to be regarded as the club's greatest ever player.

This will be his final season at the Etihad Stadium, and the Opta numbers we have combed through below underline what an exceptional performer the four-time Premier League winner has been.

A crafter and finisher of chances

Since Silva's Premier League debut in August 2010, only Ben Foster has played more matches in the division, with the goalkeeper making 292 appearances.

Silva has scored 55 goals top-flight goals, making him the third most prolific midfielder behind Yaya Toure (62) and weekend opponent Gylfi Sigurdsson (59) during his time in England.

No one rivals him in the assists stakes, however.

The World Cup winner has set up 87 goals in the Premier League – Christian Eriksen (61) is the closest to him.

Similarly, he is way out in front for chances created since August 2010, with his 751 significantly higher than Eden Hazard's 595.

No one expected the Spaniard's intuition

Pep Guardiola acknowledged he initially had doubts about Silva's suitability to the more physically demanding Premier League when he swapped Mestalla for the Etihad Stadium.

Many others were of the same opinion, but his impact on the Premier League is undeniable, having seamlessly adapted.

Cesc Fabregas is the only Spaniard to have more goal involvements (161) than Silva (142), while the former Arsenal and Chelsea man also set up a greater number of goals (111 compared to 87).

But Fabregas played 350 matches as opposed to Silva's 289, meaning he could yet usurp the Barcelona youth product.

The only Spanish player to score more Premier League goals than Silva is Fernando Torres with 85, though it seems unlikely he will topple El Nino.

A City great

In the Premier League era, no player has featured more for City than Silva, with Joe Hart (266), Vincent Kompany (265) and Richard Dunne (253) trailing in his wake.

Sergio Aguero is by far their most potent finisher during that time with 172, though Silva will fancy his chances of getting up to second before he eventually leaves or retires, with Carlos Tevez (58) and Yaya Toure (62) the only two in his way.

Again, Aguero is well clear at the top of the chart for goal involvements on 217, but Silva is second with 142. Of current City players, Raheem Sterling is next on 83 (54 goals, 29 assists).

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