Cologne 2-2 Mainz: Visitors fight back to claim draw

By Sports Desk May 17, 2020

Mainz fought back from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw at Cologne and claim a point that boosts their fight to avoid relegation from the Bundesliga.

Cologne led when Mark Uth converted a sixth-minute penalty for his fifth goal in eight games since joining on loan from Schalke, with Florian Kainz's back-post header making it 2-0 early in the second half.

Mainz pulled one back through substitute Taiwo Awoniyi's first Bundesliga goal and Pierre Kunde levelled with a brilliant solo goal, running from near the centre circle and slotting home.

The result left Mainz nine points clear of 17th-placed Werder Bremen, and four above Fortuna Dusseldorf, who occupy the relegation play-off place.

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  • How does Upamecano compare to Liverpool's defenders amid transfer talk? How does Upamecano compare to Liverpool's defenders amid transfer talk?

    Liverpool may need to make a January move for a centre-back after Virgil van Dijk's serious knee injury. 

    The Premier League champions were dealt a huge blow with Van Dijk set to miss most - if not the remainder - of the season after a tackle from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the Merseyside derby draw against Everton. 

    Liverpool have been left with just two senior centre-backs – Joe Gomez and Joel Matip – with Van Dijk's injury, although defensive midfielder Fabinho can also provide cover. 

    Unsurprisingly, there have been transfer rumours in the aftermath, with the Reds linked with RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano and Brighton and Hove Albion centre-back Ben White. 

    Having joined Leipzig from Salzburg for a reported €10million in 2017, Upamecano re-signed earlier this year, but he apparently has a €42m release clause in his contract – although that can only be triggered at season's end. 

    Upamecano is highly rated in Europe and, using Opta data, we assess how his performances compare to Liverpool's defenders.

    Bright future awaits, but would Upamecano improve Liverpool?

    Upamecano, 21, helped RB Leipzig finish third in the Bundesliga and reach the Champions League semi-finals last season.

    The France international's tackling numbers were particularly impressive when compared to Liverpool defenders Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip.

    In the Bundesliga last season, Upamecano had 1.95 tackles per 90 minutes – with Matip (1.66 per 90 in just nine Premier League games) the closest of Liverpool's trio. However, only Van Dijk (52.2) had a worse tackle success rate than Upamecano (58.8), with Gomez and Matip both above 69.

    In the Champions League, Upamecano had 3.4 tackles per 90 minutes , well above Van Dijk (1.08) and Gomez (1.59), and also at a better rate (56) than the Liverpool trio. Matip, often injured in 2019-20, played just 90 minutes in total in Europe's top club competition last season.

    Ready to do battle

    Upamecano contested the most duels (87) of the four in the Champions League, and went at a success rate of 71.26, similar to Van Dijk (70 duels and 74.29 success rate), while he also had a comparable number of headed clearances per 90 minutes (2.04 to Van Dijk's 2.28) and interceptions (1.63 to 1.08). Gomez had 2.64 interceptions per 90 minutes in the Champions League last season.

    Van Dijk's absence will also hurt Liverpool aerially, with the Dutchman an imposing figure in Jurgen Klopp's back four.

    Upamecano, who stands at 186cm, was between Van Dijk and Gomez when it came to aerial duels last season. He won 18 of 27 aerials in the 2019-20 Champions League, a rate worse than Van Dijk (33 of 47) but better than Gomez (24 of 41).

    It was a similar story in the respective leagues, although he contested fewer than Liverpool defenders. An area Upamecano fell short in, at least domestically, was in being dribbled past by an opponent, which happened 20 times in 28 Bundesliga games, a figure ranking him below both Van Dijk (seven times in 38) and Gomez (11 in 28), but ahead of Matip (seven in nine). 

    Boosting Liverpool's build-up play

    A problem set to be exacerbated by Alisson's injury absence, Van Dijk's passing ability in defence is also important to how Liverpool function.

    In this area, Upamecano may offer the Reds the most. In the Champions League last season, his passing accuracy in the opposition half was 83.1 – higher than the Liverpool trio, including Van Dijk (82.7). When it came to passing accuracy ending in the final third, Upamecano again topped the list (74.1), ahead of Gomez (71.6), and that included averaging 11.7 passes into the final third per 90 minutes.

    In domestic action, Upamecano also topped the list in these categories, and his passing accuracy in the opposition half to begin this Bundesliga season is 84.7, while Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip have all dropped off from last season in this area.

  • Carragher urges Liverpool to sign Upamecano in January Carragher urges Liverpool to sign Upamecano in January

    Jamie Carragher says Liverpool need to do whatever it takes to sign RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano in January after losing Virgil van Dijk to a serious knee injury. 

    Netherlands international Van Dijk was forced off early in the Reds' 2-2 draw with Merseyside rivals Everton on Saturday after a wild challenge from Jordan Pickford.

    Scans have since revealed Van Dijk suffered damage to his anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that will ensure he misses the majority – if not the entirety – of the remainder of the season.

    Liverpool have previously been linked with 21-year-old France international Upamecano and Carragher – the Reds' second-highest appearance maker – says Jurgen Klopp needs to bring him in as a matter of urgency when the January transfer window opens. 

    "Liverpool's next big signing had to be a centre-back anyway and I am talking next summer," Carragher told Sky Sports. 

    "Dejan Lovren went and they didn't replace him so they only have three centre-backs and one of those, Joel Matip, is always injured. There are question marks now about Joe Gomez.

    "So, there is no doubt that Liverpool had to go big in the transfer market next summer. That was the next one. That has now got to be brought forward to January 1, whoever the target was in the summer. Not the end of January. 

    "There is a young man everyone was talking about at Leipzig, Dayot Upamecano. I think he is only 6'1" or 6'2", so he is maybe not that aerial but if he is the one they wanted then bring it forward. Pay extra money and do it on January 1.

    "That means getting through 11 league games without Virgil van Dijk."

  • Ibrahimovic has 'shifted the balance more' in Italy than Ronaldo Ibrahimovic has 'shifted the balance more' in Italy than Ronaldo

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had a greater impact on Italian football than Cristiano Ronaldo, according to former Milan and Juventus head coach Alberto Zaccheroni. 

    The 39-year-old has made a considerable impact since rejoining Milan in January, scoring 11 goals in 20 appearances in the second half of the 2019-20 campaign.

    He has been in equally impressive form this season despite missing almost a month after contracting COVID-19, taking his tally to four goals in just two games with a double against Inter at the weekend. 

    One of the best strikers of his generation, Ibrahimovic spent two years with Milan earlier in his distinguished career, a stint that included securing the Serie A title in 2011. 

    Ronaldo, meanwhile, has been just as prolific since he joined Juve from Real Madrid in 2018, scoring 68 goals in 91 appearances across all competitions. 

    Zaccheroni, though, is in no doubt which player has had more influence on Serie A. 

    "I have coached great champions in my career, from [Oliver] Bierhoff to [George] Weah up to Adriano but the only regret I have is that I never trained Ibrahimovic," he told Il Giornale.

    "He is eternal and I still don't understand why he never won the Ballon d'Or.

    "In Italy, he has shifted the balance more than Ronaldo. It is no coincidence that many young players have grown exponentially since his arrival.

    "He doesn't just score. He transmits confidence to all his team-mates, carrying the team on his shoulders in difficult moments."

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