Ruben Amorim has renewed his contract as Sporting CP head coach until 2026, the club announced on Tuesday.

Amorim, 37, had been linked with Premier League clubs Chelsea and Aston Villa earlier this season but no move ever materialised.

The former Portugal international moved to Sporting in 2020 after a positive spell with Braga and went on to guide the club to their first Primeira Liga title in 19 years in 2021.

Last season they finished as runners-up in Portugal's top tier, though after 13 games of the 2022-23 campaign they find themselves fourth and 12 points adrift of bitter rivals Benfica at the summit.

They also finished third in their Champions League group, subsequently dropping into the Europa League.

Nevertheless, Sporting remain committed to stability, convinced in Amorim they have one of the world's premier coaches.

"This renovation demonstrates a lot how Sporting CP works today: with discretion, efficiency and direction," president Frederico Varandas said.

"It is also a very strong sign of how today Sporting CP is a strong and stable club, with stability being the basis of all success.

"A contract of this length always obliges the people who sign it to see themselves 100 per cent in the sporting project and that there is extreme trust between both parties.

"As president of Sporting CP, I can only be very happy that we have a contract until 2026 with one of the best coaches in the world and that we will continue to make Sporting CP grow."

Cristiano Ronaldo's second spell at Manchester United officially came to an end on Tuesday.

United confirmed the Portugal superstar has departed Old Trafford by mutual consent, despite having six months to run on his contract.

The news comes a week on from an explosive interview in which Ronaldo declared he feels "betrayed" by United and expressed his lack of respect for manager Erik ten Hag.

While the World Cup will be top of the agenda for Ronaldo in the weeks ahead, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner must also now find a new club for the start of next year.

Which team he joins, though, remains difficult to predict.

Having unsuccessfully pushed to join a Champions League club prior to the start of the season, a return to Europe's elite competition may prove difficult once more.

However, now he is officially a free agent, that may change the situation.

Here, Stats Perform has taken a look at some potential destinations for the 37-year-old, with options both in Europe and further afield.

MLS

With the MLS season recently concluding, a move to North America would present Ronaldo with a clean slate for 2023 and would help to boost the profile of the league ahead of the World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026.

Ronaldo would absolutely require a Designated Player spot for any franchise looking to make a move, eliminating a number of clubs from the equation, but David Beckham's Inter Miami have been attributed with a strong interest.

Interestingly enough, Inter Miami have also been heavily touted for a move for Lionel Messi, who sees his contract with Paris Saint-Germain expire at the end of the season. Will the two greats ever line up in the same side?

 

Sporting

Ronaldo's return to United was not as successful as fans would have wanted, but there could be better fortunes for the superstar if he returns to his homeland to rejoin boyhood club Sporting CP, where he began his career.

His initial stint with Sporting was short, with United making the move to secure his services less than a year after he made his first-team debut, which means there is not a high bar to reach from his previous spell at the club.

Sporting would also likely be able to offer Ronaldo Champions League football next season, though it would be more Europa League football this term after their third third-place finish in Group D of the Champions League.

Saudi Arabia

It has been widely reported that the only offers United received in the previous transfer window for Ronaldo's services came from Saudi Arabia, with Al Hilal said to have offered him a whopping £2million-a-week contract, with an offer from Al-Nassr also rejected.

Saudi Football Federation president Al-Misehal stated in September he believes further offers will be made to Ronaldo, with the Middle East region potentially looking to capitalise on the increased focus following the World Cup in Qatar.

While a move to Saudi would be the most lucrative for Ronaldo, it would be seen as a significant step down for him in competitiveness and one he will probably avoid.

Bayern Munich

One of the clubs linked with Ronaldo in the previous window, Bayern executives publicly stated it was not a transfer that was under consideration and the Portugal international does not fit their 'philosophy'.

However, reports have suggested Bayern held talks with Ronaldo's agent, Jorge Mendes, earlier this month before details of his explosive interview were revealed, perhaps indicating a change in the club's stance.

Bayern have seen Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting excel this season following Robert Lewandowski's sale to Barcelona, though the contract of the striker is due to expire at the end of the season and the capture of a new – and higher-profile – forward could be on the cards.

Chelsea

Ronaldo's expected departure from United does not necessarily mean he will wave goodbye to the Premier League, with Chelsea continuing to be linked with a move to snatch the 37-year-old from their domestic rivals.

New owner Todd Boehly was widely reported to have explored the possibility of a move ahead of the season but Thomas Tuchel was against the proposal – and his sacking earlier this year may have changed the situation at Stamford Bridge.

It would, however, be a surprise if Graham Potter supported the move considering his history of developing young players, while he has not appeared to be keen on the high-earning forward he already has at his disposal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Honourable mentions

Paris Saint-Germain: With Kylian Mbappe reportedly pushing for a move, PSG could have a spot available for a new superstar and the allure of partnering him with Messi could be difficult to turn down.

Napoli: Top of Serie A and heading into the World Cup break on the back of an 11-match win streak, Napoli are flying high and do not necessarily need Ronaldo – but he may be the final piece of the puzzle to bring the Scudetto to Naples.

Newcastle United: Eddie Howe's side have excelled this season and are pushing for European football, which Ronaldo could propel them towards as well as standing out as a marquee addition for the Saudi-owned side.

Tottenham are reportedly interested in Sporting right-back Pedro Porro, and could launch a move as soon as January for the Spain international.

Porro, 23, was identified by Manchester City back in 2019, when they purchased him for £11million from LaLiga's Girona.

He never played a game for the Premier League champions, spending a season on loan with Real Valladolid before two further campaigns on loan to Sporting, with the Portuguese club eventually agreeing to make his move permanent earlier this year for £7m.

That has proven to be a masterstroke, as he has contributed four assists in 10 Primeira Liga games, and apparently caught the eye of Antonio Conte when starting in a 2-0 home Champions League victory over Spurs.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS PREPARE JANUARY BID FOR SPORTING RIGHT-BACK

According to Portugal's Jornal de Noticias, Tottenham are joined by Spanish giants Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in the chase for Porro, who made his senior international debut for Spain last year.

He remains under contract with Sporting until 2025, but reportedly has a €45m release clause that could force their hand.

Currently 12 points adrift of Primeira Liga leaders Benfica, Sporting may choose to ride out the rest of the season with their breakthrough talent, but the report claims they will listen to offers "close to" Porro's release clause in January.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Sport, Barcelona are investigating a potential move for 20-year-old centre-back Josko Gvardiol, who RB Leipzig reportedly rejected a €90m bid for in the offseason from Chelsea.

- The Guardian report that Liverpool and Juventus are monitoring Chelsea's Mason Mount as the 23-year-old's contract negotiations continue to stall.

- Football Insider believes Borussia Dortmund may be open to a January move from Liverpool for Jude Bellingham.

- According to The Athletic, Shakhtar Donetsk are demanding €100m for 21-year-old Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal and City target Mykhailo Mudryk.

- ESPN is reporting Fulham, Bayer Leverkusen and Villarreal will make a run at 31-year-old Arsenal full-back Cedric Soares in January.

Cristiano Ronaldo's time at Manchester United is surely up. 

Following an explosive interview with Piers Morgan in which the superstar forward said he feels "betrayed" by senior figures at Old Trafford and does not respect manager Erik ten Hag, Ronaldo's departure seems certain.

Having tried and failed to join a new club in the past transfer window, Ronaldo may be granted his wish in January once the World Cup is done and dusted.

If that is the case, there are only a few likely destinations for the Portugal international, who is reportedly eager to continue his career at the highest level despite turning 38 in February.

 

Napoli

A return to Serie A has been touted for Ronaldo, with Napoli being named as potential suitors earlier this year after losing attacking spearheads Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens. Whether the that remains the case, with Luciano Spalletti's side eight points clear at the Serie A summit, remains to be seen.

But in Ronaldo's three years in Italy with Juventus, no player scored more Serie A goals than his tally of 81 and, despite spending the past year and a half with United, only Ciro Immobile (117) has scored more Serie A goals since 2018.

Napoli would certainly match Ronaldo's aspirations, with Champions League football post-Christmas to look forward to and a first Scudetto since the glory days of Diego Maradona a realistic target. However, the club's finances and the forward's wage demands may prove to be restrictive.

Chelsea

Finances will certainly not be a problem for Chelsea, who are at somewhat of a crossroads following Todd Boehly's takeover earlier this year. The American billionaire is said to have previously met with Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes, but no transfer went through in August.

Thomas Tuchel has since been replaced by Graham Potter in the Stamford Bridge dugout, though, and while the Englishman may not be on board with the idea of signing another ageing attacker, Boehly will very much have the final say.

Whether Ronaldo would accept a move to a Premier League rival, even if his reputation at Old Trafford has plummeted in recent months, is the biggest question regarding any hopes the Blues may have in signing the Portuguese. There is also then the small matter of United agreeing to offload to a domestic rival midway through the campaign, with both sides battling for a top-four finish.

Sporting CP

With a United homecoming already under his belt, could Sporting secure a sensational return of their own and bring Ronaldo back to where it all began? It's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility – especially as he enters the final six months of his United contract.

Ronaldo had just a single season in the senior squad with Sporting before he moved to United, so he may feel he has unfinished business – and it is a side that can definitely compete, having ended a 20-year barren spell without a league title in the 2020-21 season.

That said, Sporting have endured a difficult campaign this time around as they sit fourth in the Primeira Liga and have exited the Champions League. As head coach Ruben Amorim recently stated, however, there is no harm in dreaming of seeing CR7 in the famous green and white strip once again.

 

Real Madrid

Another possible return destination... could Ronaldo wind back up in the Spanish capital?

The Champions League winners are hardly in need of another superstar forward, given they already have the world's best player in Karim Benzema, but bringing Ronaldo back to the club where he scored 450 goals would surely appeal to president Florentino Perez, who is never shy in his attempts to make statement signings.

Madrid missed out on Kylian Mbappe earlier this year, much to their frustration, and having Ronaldo in their side would undoubtedly provide some depth up top until the PSG forward is further into the new, three-year contract he signed with the French club in May.

MLS

Champions League football has been documented as the reason for Ronaldo's strong desire to leave United but, if such offers are not forthcoming, could a move to MLS be on the cards? 

Financial rules and designated player spots would make a switch complicated, with there only being a handful of teams likely to be able to make a move possible – likely to be those in Los Angeles, Miami and New York.

With the 2026 World Cup taking place in North America, bringing Ronaldo to MLS would raise the profile of the league further – and would undoubtedly be the biggest acquisition for the league since David Beckham's move to LA Galaxy in 2007.

That move marked the start of a new era of soccer in the US and has evolved considerably since, though Ronaldo's arrival would send things to a completely new level.

Barcelona will face Manchester United in their return to the Europa League after the Blaugrana were drawn against the Premier League club in the knockout round play-offs.

Xavi's side dropped into Europe's second-tier competition for the second season running after failing to progress from the Champions League group stages, finishing behind Bayern Munich and Inter.

It sets up the outstanding tie with Erik ten Hag's United, who are looking to end a trophy drought stretching back to when they last won the Europa League under Jose Mourinho in 2017.

United came second to Real Sociedad in the Europa League group stage, ultimately missing out to La Real by one goal.

They have paid the price for their failure in that regard, with Barca arguably the toughest draw they could possibly get and La Real already through to the competition's last 16.

Joining Barca in dropping down from the Champions League are Juventus, though they will likely be much more content with their draw after being paired with Ligue 1 side Nantes.

Europa League knockout round play-offs:

Barcelona v Manchester United
Juventus v Nantes
Sporting CP v Midtjylland
Shakhtar Donetsk v Rennes
Ajax v Union Berlin
Bayer Leverkusen v Monaco
Sevilla v PSV
Salzburg v Roma

The only Champions League group with qualifying places still to play for on Tuesday is Group D, with all four teams in with a reasonable chance of progression.

Marseille host leaders Tottenham while Sporting CP take on Eintracht Frankfurt, with each team knowing a win will see them through and defeat will mean third our fourth spot.

It has been a sensational start to the season for Napoli, and they can complete a perfect Champions League group stage on Tuesday.

Luciano Spalletti's men travel to Liverpool looking for a sixth win in six Group A games, and will top the group as long as they avoid defeat by four or more at Anfield.

As the Champions League group stage prepares to draw to a close, Stats Perform takes a look at the Opta numbers behind these and the rest of Tuesday's clashes.

Marseille v Tottenham

Having lost six home matches in a row in the Champions League between March 2012 and November 2020, Marseille have since won two of their last three such matches (L1), including last time out against Sporting. They have not won consecutive home games in the competition since the 2010-11 campaign when they beat MSK Zilina and Chelsea.

Despite currently sitting bottom of Group D, Marseille can still top the standings if results go their way. Only once in 10 previous campaigns have the Ligue 1 side finished top of their Champions League group, which was in 1992-93 when they went on to lift the trophy.

Spurs have failed to win any of their last four away matches in the Champions League. Should they fail to win here, it will be their longest run of games without a win away from home in the competition.

Antonio Conte will be concerned that Tottenham have failed to score in any of their last three away matches in the Champions League; the last English side to go on a longer run without a goal away from home in the competition was Manchester United between October 2004 and November 2005 (five games – a record for an English club).

Sporting CP v Eintracht Frankfurt

In what is their first ever Champions League campaign, Eintracht Frankfurt can still win their group if results go their way. The only German club to win their first group participation in the competition was Kaiserslautern in 1998-99, while the last Bundesliga side to progress to the knockout rounds at the first attempt was Stuttgart in 2003-04.

Sporting are looking to progress to the knockout stages in consecutive Champions League campaigns, having been eliminated during the group stage in seven of their previous eight participations (progressing in 2008-09).

Eintracht's Mario Gotze has recorded an assist in each of his past two appearances in the Champions League; only once before has he set up a goal in three consecutive games in the competition – between November 2012 and March 2013 for Borussia Dortmund.

Sporting have been shown three red cards so far this season in the Champions League – the last team to have more players sent off in a single group stage was Anderlecht in 2013-14 (four).

Liverpool v Napoli

This will be the eighth meeting between Liverpool and Napoli in European competition, with the Italian side (three) edging the Reds (two) in terms of victories so far (two draws). After their 4-1 win in this season's reverse fixture, Napoli could beat Liverpool in consecutive games for the first time.

The Italian side have travelled to face the Reds on three previous occasions in European competition, but are yet to win at Anfield (D1 L2) – losing 3-1 in the Europa League in November 2010 and 1-0 in the Champions League in December 2018, before a 1-1 draw in November 2019, also in the Champions League.

This will be Jurgen Klopp's 100th match as a manager in the Champions League, across spells with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool. He will become the first German coach to take charge of a century of games in the competition.

Napoli have scored more goals than any other team through the first five matchdays in this season's group stage (20). The only team to score more during a single group stage in the previous four campaigns has been Bayern Munich (twice, 24 in 2019-20 and 22 in 2021-22).

Bayern Munich v Inter

Speaking of which, Bayern and Inter have met on eight previous occasions in European competition, with the German side winning half of those meetings (W4 D1 L3). Indeed, they are unbeaten in the three matches in the Champions League that have taken place in the group stage (W2 D1).

Inter are themselves unbeaten in their previous three away games at Bayern (W2 D1). This makes them the team to have faced the Bavarians away from home on the most occasions without ever losing in European competition.

Bayern have won each of their last 12 group-stage matches in the Champions League, and are looking to become the first side in history to win all six group games in consecutive campaigns. They would also become the first side to do so on three separate occasions, having also achieved perfection in 2019-20.

Inter are unbeaten in three away games in the Champions League, and could go four games without defeat away from home in the competition for the first time since December 2003 to February 2005 (five games).

Bayern have scored in 42 of their last 43 home matches in the Champions League, netting 136 goals across this spell at an average of 3.2 per game. They have scored in each of their last 21 in a row since being held by Sevilla in April 2018.

Other fixtures:

Viktoria Plzen v Barcelona

3 - Viktoria Plzen have lost all three of their previous games against Barcelona in the Champions League, scoring just one goal and conceding 11 times in return.

3 - Barcelona have lost each of their last three away matches in the Champions League, and could lose four in a row for the first time since a run between November 1994 and October 1997. 

Rangers v Ajax

5 - Rangers have lost all five of their games in the Champions League this season. No Scottish side have ever been beaten six times within a single campaign in the European Cup/Champions League.

4 - Ajax have lost each of their previous four games in the Champions League; they have not lost five in a row in the competition since September 2004 under Ronald Koeman.

Bayer Leverkusen v Club Brugge

18 - Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick has played 18 times in the Champions League without scoring a goal. His three goals in major European competition have all been scored in the Europa League, where he averages a goal every 138 minutes.

1 - Club Brugge have already qualified for the knockout stage, and could finish top of their group for the very first time in a single edition of the tournament.

Porto v Atletico Madrid

3 - Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa has saved three of the four penalties he has faced in the Champions League this season. This is already the most ever by a goalkeeper in a single season on record in the competition (since 2003-04). 

4 - Atletico are winless in their last four Champions League games (D2 L2). They last had a longer run without a victory in the competition between December 2008 and December 2009, when they went nine games without one prior to head coach Diego Simeone's arrival.

Newcastle United's Bruno Guimaraes has only played 27 games for the club since arriving from Lyon, and he has been so impressive that he is now a target of Barcelona.

Guimaraes, 24, spent three seasons with Lyon before Newcastle secured his services in a £40million move in January.

He scored five goals in just 11 starts this past Premier League campaign, and has added two goals and two assists this season, with Newcastle unbeaten in the 10 games he has started.

The Brazil international with eight senior caps to his name is a key part of why Newcastle currently occupy fourth place in the Premier League table, but they will now reportedly have to fend off interest from Barca.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA INVESTIGATE A MOVE FOR GUIMARAES

According to The Sun, Barcelona have officially moved on from their chase of Manchester City's Bernardo Silva and are instead focusing their attention on Newcastle's Guimaraes.

The report claims Barcelona were "priced out" of a move for Silva after City slapped a price tag of £80m on him and Guimaraes would certainly not come cheap.

With his contract tying him to Newcastle until 2026, it would need a huge offer to land the 24-year-old. 

While their spending spree will eventually need to be balanced out with some sales, the Magpies are said to be offering Guimaraes a new contract that will pay him £200,000 per week to put any questions about his future to bed.

 

ROUND-UP

– Calciomercato is reporting both Roma and Juventus are expected to pursue 23-year-old Sassuolo midfielder Davide Frattesi, who is valued in the region of €30m.

– According to The Mirror, Sporting will attempt to bring in Cristiano Ronaldo in January, and are preparing a second contract offer despite previously stating they can not afford the Portugal legend.

– Relevo claims N'Golo Kante is seen by Barcelona as a potential successor to Sergio Busquets, with the Chelsea midfielder's contract set to expire at the end of the season.

– It could be a busy January for Barcelona as Sport are reporting they hope to sell Memphis Depay, while Fichajes believe Franck Kessie will push for a move back to the Serie A.

– According to IG Esporte, Brighton and Everton are interested in 25-year-old Monaco left-back Caio Henrique.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta is known to be desperate for Lionel Messi to finish his career at his long-time club.

The 35-year-old Argentine forward departed Camp Nou hastily in August last year due to Barcelona's financial issues.

Messi joined the Blaugrana in 2000 and had an association with the club for more than two decades, scoring 672 goals across 778 first-team appearances.


TOP STORY – LAPORTA PLOTTING JANUARY MOVE FOR MESSI

Laporta is planning a move for Barcelona club legend Lionel Messi in the January transfer window, according to Sport.

The report states that Barcelona want to take advantage of the Fair Play situation in January, rather than wait for the off-season where the 1/4 rule will make any move more difficult.

However, Laporta's plan is full of obstacles for the Blaugrana to overcome, not least LaLiga's financial restraints, along with convincing Messi and his current club Paris Saint-Germain to part midway through the season.

Messi has publicly said he has deferred any decisions on his club or international future until after the World Cup.


ROUND-UP

– Sporting CP head coach Ruben Amorim may have distanced the club from links with Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo in midweek but The Mirror reports that the Portuguese club will make a bid for him in January.

– Brighton and Hove Albion are open to selling Moises Caicedo amid interest from Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle United but have slapped a £85m price tag on the 20-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder, reports the Sunday Mirror.

– The Express claims that Arsenal are leading the race ahead of Manchester United to sign Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans. The Belgian could move to the Gunners for free, as he is out of contract at the end of the season and unlikely to pen a new deal.

– Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante - whose contract is also up at the end of June 2023 - is a major target for Barcelona who are looking at replacements for veteran Sergio Busquets, reports Relevo.

– Sport claims Barcelona are looking to offload Memphis Depay in January, with Juventus interested in signing the Dutch attacker.

Wolves are set to approach ex-Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui again, having failed to convince him previously to become their new manager, claims The Sun.

Antonio Conte accused the VAR of "creating a lot of damage" after Harry Kane saw a 95th-minute goal disallowed in a chaotic 1-1 draw with Sporting CP, claiming other big clubs receive more favourable calls than Spurs.

Tottenham thought they had sealed a spot in the Champions League's last 16 with a game to spare on Wednesday, when Kane rifled home at the last after Rodrigo Bentancur cancelled out Marcus Edwards' opener.

However, Kane was ruled to have been offside from Emerson Royal's knockdown following a three-minute VAR review, leaving the hosts incensed. 

Conte was dismissed by referee Danny Makkelie as the Tottenham bench erupted in protest following the decision, and he continued to express his fury in his post-match interview.

"About the end, I think that the ball was in front of Kane and the goal is a goal. I don't understand the VAR, the line that they put," Conte told BT Sport.

"It's very difficult to comment on this decision and VAR, I think, is creating a lot of damage. 

"I want to see if, in another stadium or with another big team, they are ready to disallow this type of goal. I'd like to know this.

"[I see] a lot of injustice. I don't like this type of situation. I see no positive things."

Conte was equally bemused by the decision to show him a red card, having been one of several members of the Spurs bench to spill onto the pitch in the aftermath of Kane's strike.

"All the people came inside the pitch after the decision to disallow the goal," Conte added. "He came to give me a red card, maybe because I was the most popular person going onto the pitch."

The result – coupled with Eintracht Frankfurt's 2-1 win over Marseille – leaves Group D finely balanced, with just two points separating all four teams after five games. 

That means Spurs will need a draw to secure a top-two finish when they visit the Stade Velodrome next Tuesday, but Conte was reluctant to look beyond Wednesday's contentious finale.

"It's only one point, but I don't understand why we have to wait for another game when we could finish the qualification in this game," Conte added.

"When you invent this type of situation, which is incredible, you create a lot of damage to the club, and you create problems." 

Tottenham were made to wait in their bid to reach the Champions League's last 16 after Harry Kane was denied a 95th-minute winner in a contentious and chaotic finish to their 1-1 draw with Sporting CP.

Kane looked to have sealed Spurs' progression from Group B when he fired past Antonio Adan from close range at the last, but a VAR review controversially ruled the striker to have been offside. 

Marcus Edwards – who came through Spurs' youth system before moving to Portugal – had earlier handed Sporting a deserved lead, which was cancelled out by Rodrigo Bentancur's header.

Antonio Conte was dismissed for his furious reaction to Kane's disallowed goal, and his side will now require a result at Marseille next Tuesday in order to reach the knockout stage.

Paulinho had already given Spurs a warning before Edwards opened the scoring 22 minutes in, riding Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's challenge in a slaloming run before picking out the bottom-right corner.

Sporting were on top throughout the opening half and were denied a two-goal lead when Sebastian Coates inexplicably handled into the net from close range.

Spurs needed 52 minutes to put Adan under any genuine pressure, as Eric Dier tested the Spaniard with a well-struck volley before sending a glancing header onto the roof of the net.

Sporting passed up huge chances to make sure of the points through Flavio Nazinho, and they paid for that profligacy as Bentancur rose to nod Ivan Perisic's corner home with Adan in no man's land.

However, there was more drama to come when Kane lashed in from Emerson Royal's knockdown and a three-minute VAR review followed, eventually striking off the England captain's winner.

Liverpool can seal progression to the Champions League last 16 when they play on Wednesday, but Barcelona could see their exit confirmed from Europe's top competition.

Jurgen Klopp's Reds make the trip to face Ajax in Group A knowing they are guaranteed a spot in the Europa League at the very least – and simply avoiding defeat would guarantee their place in the Champions League knockout stages.

It is a more dicey affair for Xavi's Barca, however, as they welcome Bayern Munich to Camp Nou in Group C knowing a loss would spell the end of their journey. Even a win will not be enough if Inter defeat Viktoria Plzen.

Tottenham will hope to keep their noses in front in Group D, with Marseille and Sporting CP just a point behind, while Atletico Madrid have work to do in Group B.

Stats Perform previews Wednesday's eight matches by picking through the Opta data.

Ajax v Liverpool

Ajax have made for generous opponents for Liverpool of late, losing their last three against the Reds in the Champions League. Only Juventus (four, 1997-2004) and Real Madrid (seven, 2010-2019) have previously won four in a row against Ajax in the European Cup or Champions League.

Yet Ajax remain the last Dutch side to achieve a home win against Liverpool, albeit that was back in 1966, with the Premier League side unbeaten in seven subsequent trips to the Netherlands.

Liverpool's countrymen have also made hay, as Ajax have won just one of their last eight home European matches against English teams, beating Manchester City in October 2012.

With or without another strong result, this will be an historic occasion for Liverpool and Klopp, who will match Rafael Benitez's 62 Champions League matches in charge of the Reds, who bring up 150 games in the competition.

Barcelona v Bayern Munich

Needing a win, Barca might have hoped to face any team but Bayern, who have a record three Champions League away wins at the Blaugrana. Along with Juventus and Real Madrid, they are one of three teams to have won more matches at Barca than they have lost.

Home and away, Barca have lost nine of their 12 Champions League matches against Bayern, including the past five in a row.

In fact, if Bayern win again, they will match Madrid's record of 10 wins against a single opponent in the competition – Madrid's dominance coming against Bayern.

Although Bayern are already through, they are seeking a fourth home-and-away double against Barca in a Champions League season (also 1998-99, 2012-13 and 2021-22). Dynamo Kyiv (in 1997-98) are the only other team to beat Barca twice in the same campaign even once.

Tottenham Hotspur v Sporting CP

Sporting won 2-0 against Tottenham in Portugal in what was the sides' first meeting, but they have a dismal record in England, with two victories in 15 attempts away to English sides.

Spurs have won six of their seven home European matches against Portuguese opposition, only losing to Benfica in the 2013-14 Europa League.

Both of Tottenham's wins in this campaign have come at home, where Antonio Conte is bidding to become just the second Spurs coach to win each of his first three at home in the Champions League – after Harry Redknapp.

He and Tottenham will know they must keep their focus early and late; Sporting's last three Champions League goals have come in either the first or last minutes of the match, netting twice in second-half stoppage time in the reverse fixture.

Atletico Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen

Atletico have not lost at home to Leverkusen in their prior four such matches, winning two and drawing two, but the Bundesliga team have started to turn the tide, winning two in a row against them in the Champions League.

That strong home record applies whenever Atletico face German opposition, though, as Borussia Dortmund were the last Bundesliga visitors to win there in 1996. Atleti are unbeaten in 11 since.

Diego Simeone needs his team to rediscover their scoring touch, having gone three without a goal in the Champions League.

That is their worst run under Simeone. Only once in the competition have Atletico gone four without netting, back in 2009 under Abel Resino.

Other fixtures:

Club Brugge v Porto

21 – Club Brugge goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has saved all 21 of the shots on target he has faced in the Champions League this season. He has prevented a competition-leading 4.9 goals, according to expected goals on target data.

4 – Four of Porto's last seven Champions League goals have come from the penalty spot.

Inter v Viktoria Plzen

12 – Inter have scored 12 of their last 14 Champions League goals in the second halves of matches. All three against Barca last time out came after the interval – only the third time an away team has netted three second-half goals at Camp Nou in this competition.

28 – Plzen have averaged just 28 per cent of the possession in the Champions League this season, the lowest average by a team in a single season since Opta data collection began in 2003-04.

Napoli v Rangers

4 – Napoli have won all four of their matches in the Champions League this season and could become the first Italian side to win their opening five games in a single campaign since Juventus in 2004-05. 

12 – No goalkeeper has faced more shots on target (29) or conceded more goals (12) than Rangers' Allan McGregor in the Champions League this season. Indeed, he has only kept four clean sheets in 21 appearances in the competition overall.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Marseille

50 – Eintracht Frankfurt's Mario Gotze could make his 50th start in the Champions League in this match. He has been involved in 25 goals in his previous 65 appearances, including 21 in his 49 starts.

3 – Marseille have won their last two games in the Champions League – both against Sporting CP – and will be looking to win three in a row for the first time since October-December 2010, when they won four on the spin under Didier Deschamps.

Bringing Cristiano Ronaldo back to Sporting CP remains the club's "dream", according to head coach Ruben Amorim, though he acknowledges the striker's wage demands make such a move impossible. 

Ronaldo reportedly asked to leave Manchester United following their failure to secure Champions League qualification last season, and Sporting – the club at which he began his career – were touted as a potential destination.

After struggling for minutes following his failure to secure a transfer, Ronaldo reportedly refused to come on as a substitute during United's win over Tottenham last week, leading Erik ten Hag to temporarily banish him from first-team training.

That incident has led to renewed speculation about Ronaldo's future at Old Trafford, but financial concerns will prevent his former side from taking him back. 

"Ronaldo is a top player, a Manchester United player," Amorim said at a news conference ahead of Sporting's Champions League trip to Tottenham.

"I'm going to respond the same way, as a lot of journalists in Portugal ask me that question. He's a Manchester United player.

"At Sporting, everyone dreams of Cristiano's return, but we don't have the money to pay him his salary. I think he's happy in Manchester, but he doesn't play, that's the problem."

With Ronaldo returning to first-team training with United on Tuesday, Amorim was unwilling to pass judgement on Ten Hag's decision to sanction the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"I have my problems with Sporting players," he added. "It's a problem with Ten Hag, I'm happy with my players. I just want to beat Tottenham."

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte is "concentrated on the present" ahead of his team's Champions League clash against Sporting CP, saying any discussions about his long-term future must wait.

Back-to-back defeats in the Premier League to Manchester United and Newcastle United have knocked the north London side out of their rhythm.

It is three league defeats in the last five for Tottenham after going unbeaten in their opening seven games, and the loss of domestic league form comes alongside uncertainty around Conte's future.

The Italian head coach, appointed last November, has yet to sign a new deal and his contract is due to expire at the end of the season.

Asked about being prepared to stay for the long haul, Conte said at Tuesday's press conference: "This is a topic we will go to face at the club at the right moment.

"I think in this moment we have to be concentrated and focused on the present and to try to do our best.

"This season will be much more difficult than last season, because after the transfer market you have seen that many, many teams have improved a lot. You have to face a lot of big, big teams.

"For sure, it will be the time to speak to the club, at the right time, to understand what is the best solution for us."

As for whether his Spurs side remain in transition, Conte said: "Since November now and after one year I understand a lot of things that at the first moment for me were really difficult to understand.

"Now I am going into the Tottenham world, and I'm understanding well what is our situation, what is our position, and what is our starting point. How long is the path to be competitive and to fight for something important.

"Now, for sure, my knowledge about Tottenham, I have more, it is more complete, and for this reason I would be prepared at the moment that we are going to speak with the club to understand what is best for the future.

"But for now we have to focus on the present because we want to do our best in the present. My desire, my will, is with my players to do my best. We have to do everything to give satisfaction to our fans. This must be the best aspiration for everybody, then for the other situation we'll see at the right moment."

While domestic form is cause for concern, Spurs have fared better in the Champions League and victory against Sporting on Wednesday would seal their spot in the last 16, which Conte signalled as being hugely significant.

"It is important for everybody. It is important for the club, for the fans, for everybody. We are talking about a big, big competition," he said.

"The most important [competition] in Europe and for this reason everybody has great desire, great will to go into the next round and especially because we want to show we deserve it."

Manchester United are joining Milan in the chase for midfielder Davide Frattesi, with Sassuolo reportedly willing to cash in on him if their asking price is met.

Frattesi, 23, burst onto the scene this past season after returning from three consecutive loan stints in Serie B, earning 35 league starts before taking a step forward this term with three goals in nine games.

His rapid ascension earned him his first senior international cap for Italy in June, and he has since started in big Nations League fixtures against Germany and England.

There was a belief he could leave the club this past transfer window, when Sassuolo also sold Gianluca Scamacca to West Ham, but his continued improvement means he could be gone in January.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED PONDER MOVE FOR SASSUOLO'S FRATTESI

According to Calciomercato, United sent scouts to Sassuolo to get a closer look at the six-foot tall midfielder, and were told he could be available for a price of €35million.

United may find that a bit rich after recent reports their financial position will only allow them to make a move for one of Jude Bellingham or Frenkie de Jong, but they could receive a cash injection of their own if they are to part ways with 23-year-old defender Diogo Dalot. Calciomercato also claims Dalot wishes to leave the club, and Juventus have a strong interest in him. 

Frattesi's contract ties him to the Serie A side until 2026, giving them all the leverage in the negotiation, and with Milan's interest already established, that price tag may not be an unreasonable demand.

 

ROUND-UP

– Gazzetta dello Sport are reporting Juventus are preparing a January move for Lazio's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who will only have 18 months remaining on his contract.

– After reportedly turning down a bid of €60m from Paris Saint-Germain in the most recent transfer window, Tuttosport now claims Inter will accept a bid in the range of €25m for centre-back Milan Skriniar in January, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season.

– Sky Sport's Florian Plettenberg believes PSV forward Cody Gakpo has no interest in joining Leeds United, who are said to have launched a move for him on deadline day, and will instead hold out for a bigger move.

– According to Record, Tottenham are keen on signing 21-year-old Sporting midfielder Manuel Ugarte, although his price is believed to be set at €80m.

– The Athletic are reporting Erling Haaland has a €200m release clause in his Manchester City contract that can be activated by any team outside of England as soon as 2024.

Inter have a chance to become the first Italian side to ever beat Barcelona twice in a Champions League campaign when they meet at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Club Brugge are on the brink of their first trip to the knockout stages as they play Atletico Madrid.

Mohamed Salah can make history with one more Champions League goal for Liverpool on their trip to Scotland to take on Rangers, and Bayern Munich are one win away from their own record as they try to win an 11th consecutive group stage match.

Tottenham will look to break out of a scoring slump when they host Eintracht Frankfurt, while Porto and Bayer Leverkusen are battling it out in Group B.

With plenty of important matchups, Stats Perform has parsed through the data to preview the eight fixtures on Wednesday and shine a light on some of the more interesting angles.

Barcelona v Inter

Inter's 1-0 victory against Barcelona at San Siro last week was their first triumph over the Spanish giants since April 2010, with Barca collecting four wins and one draw since.

With another win, Inter can become the first Italian side to ever beat Barcelona twice in the same Champions League campaign, although they have lost all five of their away fixtures at Camp Nou – their most losses at any away venue in the competition.

In fact, Camp Nou has not been a happy hunting ground for Italian sides in general, with a 3-0 victory for Juventus in 2020 marking the country's only win at the venue in the last 17 tries (L13 D3).

It is not just Barcelona who have given Inter trouble on away days, with their last away win in the Champions League against a Spanish opponent coming back in 2004 against Valencia.

Working in Inter's favour is road warrior Lautaro Martinez, who has scored six of his seven Champions League goals away from home.

Tottenham v Eintracht Frankfurt

After banking four consecutive wins against Borussia Dortmund between 2017 and 2019, Tottenham are now winless in their past five Champions League fixtures against German sides (D1 L4).

On the other side, Eintracht have enjoyed success when travelling to England in European competition, winning both of their previous two attempts – against Arsenal in 2019, and West Ham in April this year – in the Europa League.

However, this is a clear step up from the Europa League, and after winning their first ever Champions League away game last month (1-0 at Marseille), Frankfurt will be looking to become the only German team to ever win their first two away fixtures in the competition.

The 0-0 draw between these two sides in Frankfurt a week ago was the second consecutive Champions League game where Tottenham have failed to score a goal – also losing 2-0 to Sporting. The last time they went three games in the competition without scoring was back in 2011.

Striker Harry Kane will be key, as he boasts the best minutes-per-goal figure – 20 goals in 27 appearances for a goal every 118 minutes – of any English player with at least 10 goals in the Champions League.

Atletico Madrid v Club Brugge

Not many, if any, would have tipped Club Brugge to top Group B ahead of Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Porto, but they have defeated all three to lead with a perfect nine points and zero goals conceded.

One more win for Brugge would see them progress past the group stage for the first time, in their 10th Champions League campaign. By defeating Atletico, they would become the first Belgian side since Anderlecht in 2000 to win four games in a row in the competition.

Brugge are also one goal away from matching their highest goal tally from a single Champions League campaign, with eight goals in 2020-21.

Surprisingly, Atletico have struggled at home in the Champions League, snapping a streak of eight games without a win (D5 L3) by defeating Porto this season.

Brugge's Ferran Jutgla has registered a goal and an assist in each of his past two Champions League games, and if he can manage to do it again, he will join Robert Lewandowski and Leroy Sane as the only players since 2003-04 to have a goal and an assist in three straight games in the competition.

Bayer Leverkusen v Porto

With Brugge seemingly cruising, Porto, Leverkusen and Atletico are likely fighting it out for one automatic qualification spot, and Leverkusen will feel good about their chances as Porto are winless in their last seven away games against German teams (D2 L5).

After defeating Atletico at home on the second matchday, Leverkusen will be looking to win consecutive Champions League home fixtures in the same campaign for the first time since 2014.

Patrick Schick is Leverkusen's focal point going forward, attempting more than twice as many shots (12) as any of his team-mates this Champions League season, but he is yet to score, having missed a penalty against Porto in last week's 2-0 loss.

Porto's Mehdi Taremi assisted both goals in the reverse fixture, marking the first time he has been involved in multiple goals in a Champions League game, while the sending-off of Jeremie Frimpong gave Leverkusen their 11th red card in their history in the competition, trailing only Bayern Munich (21) amongst German sides.

Other fixtures:

Napoli v Ajax

5 – Napoli beat Ajax 6-1 in the reverse fixture at Johan Cruyff Arena, with the five-goal margin marking the heaviest defeat Ajax have ever suffered in European competition.

10 – With one more win, Napoli would become the fourth Italian club to ever mount a 10-game unbeaten streak in the Champions League, with six wins and three draws from their past nine fixtures.

Rangers v Liverpool

5 – Rangers have failed to score in their past five European games against English competition, including a 2-0 loss against Liverpool last week.

35 – Mohamed Salah has scored 35 Champions League goals for Liverpool – only Didier Droga (36 for Chelsea) and Sergio Aguero (36 for Manchester City) have scored more for a single Premier League club in the competition.

Sporting v Marseille

9 – Marseille have lost their past nine away fixtures in the Champions League, and with one more loss they would become the sixth team to ever post 10 consecutive away defeats in the competition, and the first from France.

18 – It has been 18 years since Sporting lost a home fixture against a French side in European competition, with that loss coming against Sochaux in the 2004 UEFA Cup.

Viktoria Plzen v Bayern Munich

31 – Bayern Munich are undefeated in their past 31 Champions League group stage matches (28W 3D) – which is an all-time high – and with one more win they will set the new record for consecutive group stage wins with 11.

32 – Viktoria Plzen have faced 32 shots on target in their first three games of this Champions League campaign – more than any other side. In the reverse fixture, Bayern had 13 shots on target.

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