Ronaldo aims to vanquish Atletico again, Haller seeks further goals – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk March 15, 2022

Tuesday sees two very finely poised games in the Champions League round of 16 as Manchester United host Atletico Madrid and Benfica travel to Amsterdam to face Ajax.

A 1-1 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano three weeks ago felt harsh on Atletico, and Diego Simeone will not have been too pleased to see Cristiano Ronaldo roar back into form at the weekend with a hat-trick in United's 3-2 win against Tottenham.

An exciting first leg in Lisbon saw Benfica and Ajax play out a 2-2 draw, with the Dutch side's star striker Sebastien Haller finding the net at both ends.

The removal of the away goals rule means there is not a single thing separating these sides heading into the second legs, so here are some Opta facts to help you decide who you think will come out on top on Tuesday.

Manchester United v Atletico Madrid

Ronaldo was back to his effervescent best on Saturday, and has scored in both of his Champions League home games for Ralf Rangnick's men this season. If he does so again, it would be only the second time he has managed three in a row for the club (previously between November 2007 and March 2008).

He has netted 13 goals in his last 15 home games against Atletico across all competitions, including two hat-tricks in his most recent four (for Real Madrid in May 2017 and Juventus in March 2019, both in this competition).

United have been eliminated from their last three Champions League knockout stage games when drawing the first leg, doing so against Real Madrid (2012-13 last 16), Bayern Munich (2013-14 quarter-final) and Sevilla (2017-18 last 16).

However, when failing to win the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie at home, Atletico have been eliminated three out of four times. The only exception was a 3-1 win at Chelsea in the 2013-14 semi-final, following a 0-0 draw in the home leg.

 

Before this season, 69 per cent of teams to draw the first leg of a Champions League knockout stage tie at home have been eliminated (59/85). That being said, six of the last 10 such teams to progress have done so against English sides.

Atletico have lost their last two away trips to face English sides in the Champions League, losing at Chelsea in 2020-21 and Liverpool this season without scoring a goal in either. In addition, they have not kept a clean sheet in any of their eight total away games against English teams in the competition, conceding 14 goals overall.

The Red Devils have only won two of their last eight Champions League home games when hosting Spanish opposition (D3 L3), although the most recent of those did come earlier in the competition this season, beating Villarreal 2-1 with a stoppage-time winner from Ronaldo.

Despite the reputation of Simeone's side for being tight at the back, they have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last six Champions League matches – only between September 2009 and October 2013 (seven games) have they had a longer such run in the competition.

Ajax v Benfica

Ajax lost their first ever home game against a Portuguese opponent in the European Cup/UEFA Champions League (3-1 in February 1969 v Benfica) but have since gone unbeaten in five matches since (W4 D1). They have won all three encounters that have taken place in the Champions League era, including one earlier this season (4-2 win v Sporting CP in the group stage).

Including qualifiers, Benfica have only won one of their last 10 away games against Dutch sides in European competition – 1-0 v AZ in the Europa League in 2013-14. Six of the other nine games have ended in draws (L3), including one earlier this season against PSV in Champions League qualifying (0-0).

Ajax have won all three of their home games in the Champions League this season. They will be looking to win four in a row on home soil in the competition for the first time since March 1996, when they won seven in succession under Louis van Gaal.

Benfica are looking to progress beyond the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time since 2015-16, when they beat Zenit. It would be just the fourth time they have reached the quarter-finals of the competition in the 21st century, after doing so in 2005-06, 2011-12 and 2015-16.

 

Goal enthusiasts Ajax have scored at least twice in all seven of their Champions League games this season, netting 22 times in total. That is the most by team from outside of the big five European leagues through their first seven games of a campaign since Ajax themselves, who scored 30 in 1979-80.

Benfica have only won one of their last 14 away games in the Champions League (D4 L9), which was against AEK Athens in October 2018. In the knockout stages of the competition, Nelson Verissimo's side have lost five of their last six away games (W1).

Ajax have four different players in double figures for chances created from open play in the Champions League this season – Dusan Tadic (16), Haller (13), Steven Berghuis (12) and Antony (10). Only Manchester City have had as many different players do so (also four).

Haller has been directly involved in five goals in three home appearances in the Champions League this season (three goals, two assists), and could become just the fourth player in the competition's history to score in each of his first four home appearances, after Oscar (2013), Frederic Kanoute (2008) and Alessandro Del Piero (1996).

Related items

  • England 'really have to improve' despite thrashing Netherlands, warns Wiegman England 'really have to improve' despite thrashing Netherlands, warns Wiegman

    Sarina Wiegman is "absolutely happy" with England's progress ahead of the Women's Euro 2022, but she did not see a stunning 5-1 defeat of the Netherlands as cause to get carried away.

    England have never lost back-to-back matches against the Oranje, yet their previous meeting had been a crushing 3-0 reverse in the Euro 2017 semi-finals.

    Wiegman was in the Netherlands dugout on that occasion, guiding her country to a home tournament success.

    That is now her aim with the Lionesses, and Friday's victory at Elland Road surely laid down a marker, with Beth Mead scoring twice – either side of goals from Ella Toone and Lauren Hemp – after Lucy Bronze had cancelled out Lieke Martens' opener.

    England are yet to lose in their 13 games under Wiegman, scoring 80 times across those matches, but the manager still saw room for improvement.

    "Maybe," Wiegman told ITV Sport when asked if she had to temper expectations. "For us, it's just that when we lose, we go with our plan; when we win, we go with our plan.

    "We had a good win, but we cannot think we are there. Today showed that we have still lots of things to do.

    "Things went really well, but lots of things didn't go well, and we really have to improve that, too. We'll start working on that again on Monday."

    That is not to say Wiegman was unhappy with what she saw, adding: "I'm absolutely happy. It was such a high-level game.

    "Of course the score says a lot: 5-1. That's really good, the game in the second half was really good, so there are very exciting things to see.

    "Yes, we're in a good place, but still we have some things to improve."

    The slow start was undoubtedly one area that could have concerned Wiegman, although she was enthused by England's response to only the third goal they have conceded in her tenure – this the first time they have trailed.

    "It's very nice to score five goals, but for us it actually was good that we got behind for the first time and how we reacted to that," she said.

    "We needed to come back from not playing well, conceding a goal, and get the game to a higher standard. That was good."

  • Tsitsipas reaches first grass-court final, Fritz and Cressy set up all-American Eastbourne showdown Tsitsipas reaches first grass-court final, Fritz and Cressy set up all-American Eastbourne showdown

    Roberto Bautista Agut stands in the way of Stefanos Tsitsipas and his first grass-court title.

    Making his debut at the Mallorca Championships, Tsitsipas sealed his maiden appearance in a grass-court final by cruising past Benjamin Bonzi 6-4 6-4 on Friday.

    The world number six has now reached four finals this season, having lost two of the previous three – winning on clay at the Monte Carlo Masters.

    It was the second meeting between the pair in as many weeks, with the Greek having also downed Bonzi at the Halle Open.

    And Tsitsipas now has a chance to warm up for Wimbledon in winning fashion.

    "It was a good match. I am very happy today," Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview. "I have played a final a week before a grand slam before. It was the year I made the final at Roland Garros, in Lyon.

    "It worked out pretty well to have that final and consistency of matches. It is different this time. We are talking about a different surface, so we will see."

    Tsitsipas has now claimed a tour-leading 39 wins this season, but standing between the 23-year-old and silverware is Spaniard Bautista Agut, who reached a 20th career final by beating Antoine Bellier 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.

    Like Tsitsipas, Bautista Agut is aiming for a second title of the season.

    At the Eastbourne International, two Americans will vie for the title after Indian Wells Masters champion Taylor Fritz saw off a tough challenge from Alex de Minaur while Maxime Cressy defeated home favourite Jack Draper 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (2-7) 6-3.

    Fritz, who triumphed at Eastbourne in 2019 – similarly against an American, in Sam Querrey – but has found his best form hard to come by of late, also needed three sets to get the better of De Minaur, eventually succeeding 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-3.

    "It's amazing," Fritz said. "I was having a bit of a rough start coming back from injury to the grass season, and then I came here and the first day I was here I just immediately felt like I was playing good tennis again.

    "I just have a lot of confidence being here, obviously great memories, so I'm really excited to come back out and play for the title again."

  • Aaron Judge, Yankees agree on $19m salary for 2022 Aaron Judge, Yankees agree on $19m salary for 2022

    The New York Yankees and star slugger Aaron Judge agreed to a one-year, $19million contract just hours before the two sides were scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Friday.

    The deal represents a compromise between Judge, who is in his final year of arbitration eligibility, and the Yankees.

    The three-time All-Star's representatives had been seeking a $21m salary for this season, while New York countered with a $17m offer.

    Judge can also earn an additional $250,000 if he wins the American League MVP award and another $250,000 if named MVP of the World Series. 

    The 30-year-old has emerged as an early MVP frontrunner as the leader of a Yankees team who own the majors' best record at 52-18.

    Judge's 27 homers in 2022 are five more than any player, and he is batting a career-best .304 through 68 games. He also ranks third in the majors in OPS (1.037) and third in the AL with 53 RBIs.

    Judge reportedly turned down a seven-year, $213.5m extension offer from the Yankees during spring training, and the six-foot-seven outfielder's stellar start to 2022 likely has him in line for a more lucrative payday when he reaches free agency in the offseason. 

    Those 2022 numbers would not have impacted Judge's arbitration case, however, as any statistics after March 1 are not admissible per the agreement between MLB and the players' association that ended this past offseason's lockout.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.