Mbappe chases Messi record, history weighs heavily on Pirlo – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk October 20, 2020

The Champions League returns this week after a short hiatus, with beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain looking to get back up and running – and exact a measure of revenge – against Manchester United.

Juventus begin European competition under new head coach Andrea Pirlo, who faces one of the most experienced coaches in the game in Mircea Lucescu.

Barcelona will endeavour to banish memories of August's 8-2 obliteration by Bayern Munich when they face Ferencvaros for the first time, while Chelsea will hope to improve the poor record Premier League teams have had of late against Sevilla.

Here's the key data from Tuesday's matches in Europe's elite competition...

Dynamo Kiev v Juventus: Pirlo feeling the weight of history

Twice a Champions League winner with Milan in 2003 and 2007, Pirlo's first game in the competition comes away to Dynamo Kiev. None of the previous eight Juve head coaches have lost their first match in charge.

In fact, Juve have only been beaten on matchday one in the competition once in 20 previous seasons, winning 11 of those games and drawing eight. That one defeat was a 3-0 loss at Barcelona three years ago.

Dynamo boss Lucescu will be 75 years and 83 days old on Tuesday, making him the oldest coach in Champions League history, overtaking Jupp Heynckes (who was 72 and 357 days old in May 2018). If he wants to celebrate in style, he will need to inflect just a fifth group-stage defeat on Juve in 34 games.

 

Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester United: Mbappe chasing Messi record

PSG's last home defeat in the competition was that famous loss to United in the 2018-19 round of 16, when Marcus Rashford's late penalty secured a 3-1 win for an understrength Red Devils and sent them through on away goals.

If they are to start their quest for a return to the final with a win, Mbappe might be the man to do it. He has scored 19 goals in the tournament and, at 21 years and 305 days old, he needs just one against United to become the youngest player to reach 20. That would surpass Messi's record, set back in 2010 when he was 22 years and 267 days old.

Of course, if United's unsteady defence focuses on Mbappe, they risk leaving Neymar unchecked. Only Messi (45) had more carries with a take-on in last season's Champions League than Neymar (36), and nobody progressed further with the ball than the Brazil star (1,279 metres).

Barcelona v Ferencvaros: Koeman's worrying numbers

Barca have not lost any of their previous 31 home group games since Rubin Kazan stunned Pep Guardiola's men 2-1 back in October 2009. When you consider Ferencvaros have not been in the competition since 1995-96, when they conceded 19 goals in six matches, you would not expect that Barca run to be stopped.

However, coach Ronald Koeman heads into his first European game in charge with a pretty poor record. The fifth coach to take charge of at least six teams in the competition, after Carlo Ancelotti (eight), Claudio Ranieri (six), Jose Mourinho (six) and Rafael Benitez (six), he has the worst win ratio (26.3 per cent) of anybody to manage at least 50 games in the tournament.

Still, he has Messi. The Barca captain has been involved in at least one goal in 38 of his previous 43 group-stage starts, scoring 56 times and assisting 16.

 

Chelsea v Sevilla: Can Werner lift English spirits?

Sevilla, who knocked United out of last season's Europa League semi-finals, have won all three major European matches against teams from England. Chelsea, meanwhile, have taken one victory from their previous nine Champions League meetings with teams from Spain, drawing five and losing three.

Frank Lampard will hope Timo Werner can make the difference. The forward was involved in nine goals in his last 11 Champions League games for RB Leipzig (seven scored, two assisted) and could become the third German to score for Chelsea in the competition, after Michael Ballack (four goals) and Andre Schurrle (two). He has, however, never scored at home.

Other fixtures:

Lazio v Borussia Dortmund:

3 – Dortmund's last Champions League win in Italy was a 1-0 victory over Milan in March 2003, courtesy of a Jan Koller goal. They have lost all three such visits since.

8 – Only Robert Lewandowski (10) scored more group-stage goals last season than Erling Haaland (eight). Haaland averages a goal or assist every 50 minutes in the competition.

 

RB Leipzig v Istanbul Basaksehir:

6 – Istanbul Basaksehir are the sixth Turkish team to play in the Champions League. Only one of the previous five won their first match – that was Trabzonspor, who beat Inter 1-0 away in September 2011.

14 – RB Leipzig's Hwang Hee-chan created the most chances in open play in the Champions League group stage in 2019-20 (14) when he played for RB Salzburg. He was directly involved in six goals in his six group-stage appearances (three goals, three assists) and was one of two players to both score and assist three goals in the group stage, along with Kylian Mbappe.

 

Rennes v Krasnodar:

2 – Rennes have lost just twice at home in major European games, winning five and drawing seven of those 14 matches, all of which were in the UEFA Cup/Europa League between November 2007 and December last year.

36 – Krasnodar boss Murad Musayev is 36 years and 345 days old, the second-youngest coach in this season's competition (behind Leipzig's Julian Nagelsmann, 33). He could become the fifth-youngest to win his first game and the youngest since Andre Villas-Boas in September 2011.

 

Zenit v Club Brugge:

11 – Artem Dzyuba has been directly involved in 11 goals in his 12 Champions League group-stage matches with Zenit (eight goals, three assists). That run includes goals in both games against Belgian side Gent in 2015-16.

19 – Of the 51 teams to have featured in at least 40 Champions League matches, only Steaua Bucharest (9.5 per cent), Dinamo Zagreb (11.9 per cent) and Anderlecht (16.7 per cent) have a lower win percentage than Club Brugge (19 per cent). They have won just eight of 42 matches.

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    Stones started alongside Ruben Dias in the centre of defence as City booked their place in the Champions League last 16 with a 1-0 win over Olympiacos on Wednesday.

    The 26-year-old won all five of his duels and his three clearances were a team-high.

    While the defender has made four appearances in European competition, he has been limited to just one in the Premier League – against Wolves in September.

    But Guardiola expects Stones to get more chances for City after finding some form.

    "At the end I judge the players on what they do right now, in the present. John played with Ruben, they played well," the City manager told reporters.

    "I'm happy, especially, especially, especially, happy with John because he's a special guy for me. We arrived together here, we spend all the time together.

    "He was injured, had personal issues and now he's settled again, with his confidence and performance like last time he will have chances to show his quality in this team."

    Dias, meanwhile, has settled quickly at City after arriving from Benfica in September, making nine starts in all competitions.

    As City prepare to host Burnley on Saturday, Guardiola praised the defender's form.

    "Ruben is playing every week and every game because he doesn't make mistakes. He leads the line and does absolutely everything almost perfectly. That's why he plays," he said.

    "It doesn't depend on what he has done in the past and who you are in the past. We have to win in our position every three days. As a manager, when a guy plays good you have more chance [to play] of course.

    "There will be some players who are playing well but I will rotate the team so they don't get injured, they will be rotated. But with other issues when they are playing well they have more chance to continue on the pitch."

  • Pique wants Messi at Barcelona for years to come Pique wants Messi at Barcelona for years to come

    Gerard Pique hopes Barcelona can convince Lionel Messi to stay at the club for years to come.

    Messi, 33, sensationally requested to leave the LaLiga giants during the close season, but ended up staying at the club.

    However, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is linked with the likes of Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

    But Pique hopes Messi will remain at Barca, where he has spent his entire professional career.

    "We will have to ask Leo. It is his personal decision … and we will see what happens," the defender told Radio Marca on Friday.

    "I believe that as long as he continues to wear the Barca shirt there is always hope.

    "We hope they can seduce him so that he stays more years."

    Messi has struggled to live up to his usual form so far this season, scoring six goals in 11 games – including three in eight in LaLiga.

    He is without an assist in LaLiga, while he has created just 2.1 chances per 90 minutes – his lowest since 2012-13 (1.6). His 0.4 big chances created per 90 minutes is also the lowest since that campaign.

    It comes with Barcelona struggling in 13th in the table and awaiting a presidential election next year.

    Pique, who suffered a knee injury earlier this month, said he had previously thought about one day becoming the club's president.

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  • Klopp hopeful over Wijnaldum stay at Liverpool Klopp hopeful over Wijnaldum stay at Liverpool

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    Wijnaldum is out of contract with the Premier League champions at the end of the season and the midfielder has been linked with a move to Barcelona.

    Ahead of Saturday's trip to Brighton and Hove Albion, Klopp had no update on the Netherlands international – but he would like the 30-year-old to remain at Anfield.

    "I cannot really say a lot about that. I would be happy if he would stay here – that's maybe the only thing," he said.

    "But sitting here, I'm pretty happy with Gini. You see when you look at most of the line-ups."

    Wijnaldum arrived at Liverpool from Newcastle United in 2016 and has helped the club win the Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

    Since 2016-17, Wijnaldum has missed just 11 Premier League games for Liverpool. They have won five, drawn four and lost two, a win percentage of 45.5, compared to 70.7 in the 150 games he has played.

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    "That might be only because your memories are not that good. He played always good. That's why he played that amount of games," he said.

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    "It's good and there's nothing else to say about it, to be honest. As long as nothing is decided, everything is possible and I'm positive."

    Liverpool are second in the Premier League table ahead of their trip to Brighton.

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