Ronaldo eyes more records, Barcelona seek Bayern revenge – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk September 13, 2021

Barcelona host Bayern Munich as two Champions League heavyweights headline the first round of matchday one fixtures on Tuesday.

Barca will be without Lionel Messi for a European campaign for the first time since 2003-04 as they seek revenge against the Bundesliga outfit.

Manchester United – armed with the competition's all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo – travel to Young Boys while reigning champions Chelsea begin at home to Zenit.

Italian giants Juventus make the trip to Sweden's most successful team Malmo, who are making their first appearance in the group stage since 2015-16 following their title win in 2020.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data ahead of Tuesday's fixtures.

Barcelona v Bayern Munich: Blaugrana out to make amends

Barcelona and Bayern Munich have not met in the group stages since 1998-99, but the Bundesliga side did inflict Barca's heaviest defeat since April 1951 with an 8-2 crushing in 2019-20's quarter-finals.

There are remarkable records at stake for both sides as well, Bayern boasting the longest unbeaten away run in the history of the competition (18), while Barca are unbeaten in their last 22 group-stage openers – stretching back to 1997-98.

However, Julian Nagelsmann's side have won 17 opening games in a row and they also have Robert Lewandowski to call upon, the forward scoring 28 times since the start of 2018-19 – eight more than any other Champions League player.

 

Young Boys v Manchester United: Ronaldo returns for another record

Young Boys have won only one of 13 games against English opponents in European competition as they prepare for Manchester United, who have lost just one of their last 21 openers.

However, United have been beaten in six of their 10 Champions League matches under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – as many as they did in their last 20 under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

Having not appeared for the Red Devils in 12 years and 110 days – the fourth longest gap between appearances for the same club – Cristiano Ronaldo could equal the all-time appearance record in the Champions League, moving level with Iker Casillas on 177.

Chelsea v Zenit: History favours the champions

The reigning Champions League champions have only lost two of 27 games when starting their title defence, with no side ever losing a home game immediately following continental success.

Zenit face an uphill battle, given they are winless in their last seven fixtures, while Chelsea are unbeaten in 11 games in the group stage.

Indeed, the Blues are unbeaten in six matches against Russian teams and, since the start of last season, no team have lost fewer matches (1) or kept more clean sheets (9).

 

Malmo v Juventus: Allegri's away-day specialists

Tuesday will be Malmo head coach Jon Dahl Tomasson's managerial debut in the competition after last appearing as a player for Milan in the 2005 final.

The hosts, though, have scored just three goals across 10 previous appearances, while Juventus have won their last five group stage away games.

The visitors will also have Alvaro Morata available, the forward one of only three Spaniards to score more than 20 Champions League goals after netting six times in eight matches last term.

 

Other fixtures:

Dynamo Kyiv v Benfica

143 – Dynamo Kyiv manager Mircea Lucescu (76) and Benfica's Jorge Jesus' (67) combined age of 143 is the oldest of two managers to face off in the Champions League.

25 – The hosts are one of 25 teams to play 100 or more fixtures in the competition, but they have the third worst loss percentage (49) behind Olympiacos (52) and Galatasaray (51).

Lille v Wolfsburg

1 – Lille have only managed one win against German opposition in nine attempts in European competition, last prevailing in 2002.

5 – Wolfsburg have won five of their last six Champions League games and have scored twice in four of those victories.

Sevilla v Red Bull Salzburg

64 – Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri is averaging a Champions League goal every 64 minutes, recording three braces for his six goals in eight games last campaign.

2 – Red Bull Salzburg have only won two of their last 15 matches in the competition, but both of them have come away from home against Genk and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Villarreal v Atalanta

15 – Villarreal forward Gerard Moreno has 15 Europa League goals but has never played in Europe's premier competition – since 1992-93 only three players have scored more and not played in the Champions League.

5 – Atalanta have won five of their last six away games, only losing against Real Madrid, while they have also progressed from their two previous group stage campaigns.

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    Tsonga, who reached a career-high ranking of world number five in 2012, confirmed in April that he would retire at the culmination of his French Open campaign.

    That duly came in the first round on Tuesday as he bowed out to world number eight Casper Ruud 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 7-6 (7-0).

    He retires having won, according to Opta, 464 Tour-level matches since September 2004.

    Tsonga is one of just three players, along with Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro, to have beaten Nadal, Federer and Djokovic while they were ranked world number one.

    He is also one of three players, alongside Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych, who have defeated Nadal, Federer and Djokovic at grand slams.

    A video tribute was played on court after his defeat to Ruud, which featured messages from the sport's most iconic players.

    Federer said: "I wanted to congratulate you on an amazing career and it was a pleasure to share the court with and play against you, even to lose against you!

    "We had some great battles. Enjoy the moment in Paris with all your friends and family, in front of all your adoring spectators."

    Djokovic added: "Jo is one of the most charismatic tennis players ever to play the game. I was very happy to share the court with him many times.

    "We get along well and he's a really nice guy. He brought a lot of positive attention and popularity to our sport not just because of his dynamic game style, but also his charisma and his personality, so it's a big loss for professional men's tennis to have him retire.

    "I wish him all the best, and he definitely should be happy about his career and his achievements. He's made his mark and his legacy in our sport."

    Nadal said: "He is very charismatic. I've known him since we were kids; he is a good guy and I think he brings a lot of positive things to our sport so I'm sad to see him going but we are getting old so it's going to happen for everyone."

    Speaking at a media conference after his defeat, Tsonga said he would now spend some time relaxing before focusing on the development of his tennis academy.

    He said he will miss the adrenaline of playing on court, as well as how he was able to express himself completely when competing.

    "It's adrenaline, to step onto a big court like this one," he said. "It's adrenaline you can feel when you have 15,000 people shouting out your name, supporting you on the court.

    "This is what I'm going to miss – the contact with the crowd. And with those who have been supporting me for all these years.

    "You know, in real life, it's sometimes difficult to be intense. You don't want to shock, you don't want to be too rude, you don't want to hurt somebody.

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    "Me and my staff have been at Trigoria since the Torino game, preparing for this game. The squad look in good shape to me, ready for this."

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    "Still, it was important for him to see how he feels out there on the pitch. I will rely a lot on his view on whether he is ready or not tomorrow."

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    Former Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery has warned the Bundesliga champions not to keep striker Robert Lewandowski at the club against his will.

    Questions remain over Lewandowski's future after he confirmed last week that he wants to leave Bayern.

    Lewandowski suggested no new terms had been proposed on his contract, which is due to expire at the end of the season.

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    Lewandowski scored 50 goals in 46 matches for Bayern this season in all competitions, making him the top scorer across Europe's top five leagues.

    And Ribery, who now plays in Serie A for Salernitana, believes the Poland international and LaLiga giants Barca would be a perfect fit.

    "Barca is Barca," he added. "Sure, they have their problems, but even if they are not as strong as five or six years ago, they are still big.

    "It is known that then they had an amazing team, players who played together for many years. [Lionel] Messi, Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta, [Gerard] Pique, [Dani] Alves, [Jordi] Alba.

    "It's different now, but there is no shortage of talent there. Yes, if Lewy were to leave Bayern, Barcelona would be a good choice."

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