Messi set for landmark appearance, Guardiola dominates group stage – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk September 15, 2021

Lionel Messi is in line to make his 150th Champions League appearance and his first with Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.

Mauricio Pochettino's men travel to Club Brugge and Messi is about to partake in his first European campaign without Barcelona, while Manchester City host RB Leipzig.

Liverpool and Milan renew rivalries in the competition for just the second time since the 2004-05 final between the pair but the Serie A side have a woeful record against English teams.

Inter have a similarly poor record against Spanish teams and they face Real Madrid, with Karim Benzema edging towards another goalscoring landmark.

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

Inter v Real Madrid: Benzema looks to edge past former Galactico Raul 

Inter have lost four of their last five against Real Madrid but Los Blancos have only won one of their previous eight away games against Wednesday's opponents as they prepare for a replay of last year's group stage outing.

However, Inter have not won against a Spanish team in Europe's premier competition since 2010 and Madrid have been victorious in 12 of their last 13 against Serie A outfits.

Carlo Ancelotti has Karim Benzema among his ranks and the forward will appear in his 17th consecutive campaign as he looks for his 72nd goal to move ahead of Raul (71) into fourth in the all-time scoring list.

 

Manchester City v RB Leipzig: Guardiola's group stage dominance

Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 17 group-stage ties and, since Pep Guardiola was appointed, they have lost just three of 30 at this stage of the competition.

The hosts are eyeing their 50th win in their 91st game as they look to become the second fastest to the half-century, while RB Leipzig have lost three of their last four against English opposition.

City's attacking riches could thrive at Etihad Stadium, too, Ferran Torres has scored four in his last six appearances in Europe - a goal every 90 minutes - and Riyad Mahrez has been involved in 22 goals in 28 starts for Leicester City and his current side in the Champions League.

 

Liverpool v Milan: Istanbul replay ends Rossoneri's seven-year wait

Milan will appear in their first Champions League since 2014, their first fixture a replay of the memorable 2004-05 final that saw Liverpool triumph.

Stefano Pioli's men have won just one of their last 13 against English opponents in European competition, while the Reds have lost just one of their last 12 group-stage games at Anfield in Europe under Jurgen Klopp.

Mohamed Salah (25) is one of two Liverpool players – along with Steven Gerrard (21) – to score 20+ times in the competition but Sadio Mane (19) could join them with a goal on Wednesday to become the fourth African to the 20-goal mark.

 

Club Brugge v Paris Saint-Germain: Pochettino's attacking riches

Paris Saint-Germain have netted 21 goals across six games against Belgian opposition – winning five and drawing once – while Club Brugge have only won one of their six opening games.

Lionel Messi – the second all-time leading scorer in the competition – could make his first PSG continental appearance, having scored 120 goals and provided 35 assists in 149 games for Barcelona against teams from 17 nations.

The visitors also boast half of the six players to be involved in 30+ goals in the competition in the last four seasons, with Kylian Mbappe (37), Messi (36) and Neymar (31) all doing so.

Other fixtures:

Atletico Madrid v Porto:

41 – Diego Simeone has won 41 of the 79 Champions League fixtures he has managed since 2013-14, with only Pep Guardiola (56) picking up more wins in this period.

4 – Porto have won four of their last five away games in the competition, their only loss coming against eventual runners-up Manchester City last term.

Besiktas v Borussia Dortmund:

1 – Besiktas have only collected one win in their last 10 home games in the Champions League and two of four defeats in that run have come against Bundesliga sides.

100 – Borussia Dortmund have a 100 per cent record against Turkish opposition in the Champions League, though all four wins have come against Galatasaray.

Sheriff Tiraspol v Shakhtar Donetsk:

1 – Sheriff Tiraspol are the first ever Moldovan team to feature in the Champions League proper. They are unbeaten in their last nine in European competition.

3 – Shakhtar Donetsk have only been beaten three times in their last 11 games as they went unbeaten against Real Madrid and Inter in the group stages last season.

Sporting CP v Ajax:

36 – Aged just 36, Ruben Amorim becomes the second youngest Portuguese manager in the competition's history, after former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas (33) in 2011.

2 – Ajax have only lost two of 10 games against Portuguese opponents since the inaugural European Cup. However, just two of these games have taken place this century.

Related items

  • AFCON matchday preview: Ethiopia go in search of qualification miracle AFCON matchday preview: Ethiopia go in search of qualification miracle

    Monday sees the conclusion of Group A of the Africa Cup of Nations, with three sides still hoping to reach the knockouts.

    While host nation Cameroon have already secured their last-16 spot, any of Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Ethiopia could yet join them in the next round.

    Ethiopia's qualification would truly seem miraculous given they lost their opening two games and have failed to win any of their previous 10 matches in this competition.

    Yet in a tournament that has already seen a few shocks, few would rule out another famous result.

     

    Burkina Faso v Ethiopia

    Ethiopia are on a four-match losing run at the AFCON, and they have only once endured a longer such streak, losing five in a row between 1968 and 1970.

    They also suffered a 4-0 defeat to Burkina Faso in the only previous meeting of these sides in this competition, in what was the Stallions' biggest victory in the tournament.

    However, despite losing 1-0 to Cape Verde and 4-1 to Cameroon at these finals, Wubetu Abate's men can still clinch a top-two finish with a win on matchday three. A high-scoring win would see them snatch second place should the hosts win the other game, while they could still end up as one of the top four third-place finishers.

    "We did everything to put in a good match and a good performance against Cameroon," said Abate. "We scored a goal early in the game but couldn't keep the score in our favour.

    "We are learning in the big competitions. Experience has made the difference between us and the Cameroon team. Each match has its characteristics. The matches are different but we try to show our abilities and play good football."

    One to watch: Gustavo Sangare

    Burkina Faso could finish second even with a defeat as long as Cape Verde lose, but the man best placed to get them all three points could be Sangare. Scorer of the opening goal of the tournament against Cameroon, he has attempted more shots (four) and created more chances (six) than any other player for his side.

    Cape Verde v Cameroon

    Although they have twice had to come from behind, Cameroon have looked impressive in these finals, their 4-1 thrashing of Ethiopia guaranteeing their spot in the last 16.

    Should Toni Conceicao choose to rest any of his stars, this could prove to be a far trickier test given Cape Verde's recent defensive record.

    They had lost only once in their previous eight AFCON matches before a 1-0 defeat to Burkina Faso, and that was the only time in their most recent four games in the competition in which they conceded a goal. They have faced difficulties in the opposition box, though, failing to score in three of their past four AFCON matches.

    There is plenty to admire about Cape Verde's approach, even if goals have been a little hard to come by. They have recorded more sequences of 10 passes or more than any side at these finals (24), while a high-pressing approach has yielded 13 high turnovers, a figure bettered by only four teams.

    One to watch: Kenny Rocha Santos

    No Cape Verde player has attempted more shots (five), created more chances (two) or made more recoveries (13) than Kenny Rocha Santos. The 22-year-old Oostende midfielder also leads his side for shot-ending sequence involvements (eight) and shot-ending carries (two). Little wonder there is talk of interest from Liverpool.

  • Betis beat Sevilla as Guardado appears to mock Jordan injury Betis beat Sevilla as Guardado appears to mock Jordan injury

    Manuel Pellegrini said it was a bittersweet feeling after Real Betis beat Sevilla 2-1 in a Copa del Rey derby that spanned two days and was marred by violence. 

    The Betis head coach saw his team resume at 1-1 on Sunday at Estadio Benito Villamarin, and a strike from Sergio Canales carried them through to the quarter-finals.

    The game had been suspended on Saturday due to crowd trouble, with Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan hit by an object from the stands during celebrations of Nabil Fekir's 39th-minute goal that equalised Papu Gomez's opener.

    Jordan was taken to hospital for checks after being struck by a projectile from the crowd that appeared to hit him on the head.

    After the game was completed behind closed doors on Sunday, television footage emerged of Betis substitute Andres Guardado seemingly mocking Jordan's misfortune while celebrating, bouncing a water bottle off his forehead and slumping to the ground, feigning injury.

    The incident drew an immediate rebuke in the Spanish media, where it was widely interpreted as a jibe at Jordan.

    Pellegrini said of the result, according to AS: "The first thing is that I'm happy to be in the next round. But also bitter because I think a lot of damage has been done by a brainless person [when Jordan was hit on Saturday].

    "I don't know if a plastic tube does that much damage, but there has to be an investigation. Football suffered great damage."

    Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui did not want the game to resume on Sunday, and said: "There were many possibilities to play on other days. Justice in this case does not exist at all."

    Canales put Betis ahead in the 73rd minute when he was left in space on the left after a pass from William Carvalho and surged forward before beating goalkeeper Alfonso Pastor.

    Jules Kounde hit the bar with a late header as Sevilla battled for a leveller.

  • Ivory Coast 2-2 Sierra Leone: Late blunder and Kessie miss cost Elephants Ivory Coast 2-2 Sierra Leone: Late blunder and Kessie miss cost Elephants

    A stoppage-time clanger from goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare meant Ivory Coast could only draw 2-2 with Sierra Leone at the Africa Cup of Nations.

    Sangare attempted to prevent a late corner but shockingly let the ball squirm from his grasp and Steven Caulker was able to capitalise, crossing for Alhaji Kamara to scramble home.

    It was the second costly major error from Ivory Coast who squandered a 12th-minute penalty when Franck Kessie saw his kick pushed away by Mohamed Kamara, after Wilfried Zaha was sent sprawling by Umaru Bangura.

    Kamara was the hero of Sierra Leone's opening goalless draw against Algeria, but he was beaten here in the 25th minute when Zaha's excellent pass found Sebastien Haller, and the Ajax man took a touch before rifling into the bottom-right corner.

    Sierra Leone surprisingly drew level in the 55th minute when Musa Kamara produced some outstanding footwork to drive into the penalty area and send a left-footed strike into the top-left corner.

    Ivory Coast restored their lead with a delightful team goal in the 65th minute, the ball being worked swiftly from left to right before Nicolas Pepe drove a low 20-yard shot beyond the Sierra Leone goalkeeper. Yet there was a sucker-punch to come in the third minute of stoppage time, Sangare left embarrassed and injured in the process of conceding the dramatic equaliser.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.