Juve face must-win Benfica trip after past Portugal pain – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk October 24, 2022

Benfica could dump Juventus out of the Champions League, while Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are among the other clubs who can seal a round-of-16 spot on Tuesday.

Juve must win at Benfica to have any chance from qualifying from Group H, while a victory will be enough to see the home side through. They can also advance with a point if Maccabi Haifa are unable to beat PSG.

The Ligue 1 champions will be through with a victory at the Parc des Princes or if they draw and Juve fail to win in Lisbon.

Chelsea travel to Salzburg as the Group E leaders and are guaranteed to progress if they win, while the Austrian side also remain in the hunt to qualify. The Premier League club can also go through if they draw and third-placed Milan defeat Dinamo Zagreb, who are bottom but only three points behind the leaders.

Borussia Dortmund will be sure to join Manchester City in getting out of Group G if they secure a home win over Pep Guardiola's side, who could win the pool with a game to spare. Real Madrid are in a similar situation to City, while RB Leipzig bid to join the holders in the knockout stage.

Ahead of another tense night of action, Stats Perform picks out the standout Opta numbers for the eight matches.

Benfica v Juventus

Juve have lost all three of their European matches away at Benfica, with their most recent loss a 2-1 Europa League defeat in 2014. 

The Turin giants only have one victory home or away in the seven previous meetings between the two famous clubs, Jurgen Kohler, Dino Baggio and Fabrizio Ravanelli on target in a 3-0 UEFA Cup clash in 1993.

Benfica could qualify for the knockout stage for a second consecutive season, a back-to-back feat they have only previously achieved in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons under Rui Vitoria. 

Juve could be eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since the 2013-14 season, when Antonio Conte was in charge.

Paris Saint-Germain v Maccabi Haifa

Maccabi are winless in three away European games (including qualifiers) in France, losing two and drawing in a Cup Winners' Cup tie at PSG back in 1998.

PSG have only lost one of their past 32 group stage games at the Parc des Princes in the Champions League (W25 D6), with their lone defeat during that run coming against Manchester United in October 2020 (1-2). They have averaged 2.7 goals per game in those fixtures, scoring 86.

Since Kylian Mbappe's Champions League debut in September 2016, only Robert Lewandowski has been directly involved in more non-penalty goals (55) than the France forward (54 – 34 goals, 20 assists). 

Omer Atzili has scored twice for Maccabi in the Champions League this season. The last Israeli player to net more in a single campaign in the competition was Eran Zahav, who scored three for Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2010-11.

Salzburg v Chelsea 

Chelsea have only played two away European matches in Austria, losing 1-0 at Weiner Sport-Club in November 1965 in the Fairs Cup and drawing 1-1 against Austria Vienna in November 1994 in the Cup Winners’ Cup. 

Salzburg are winless in all seven of their European matches against English teams (D2 L5), failing to beat Blackburn Rovers (D1 L1), Manchester City (L2), Liverpool (L2) and Chelsea (D1).

In-form Chelsea have won back-to-back Champions League games, beating Milan 3-0 at Stamford Bridge and 2-0 at the San Siro. The last time they won three games in a row in the competition by a margin of at least two goals was in October-November 2013.

Salzburg have scored exactly one goal in each of their past seven games in the Champions League – only one team have ever had a longer run of scoring a single goal in the competition, with Olympiacos doing so in 10 in a row in a run ending in November 2005. 

Borussia Dortmund v Manchester City

No player has been directly involved in more goals than City's Erling Haaland (five goals) or Dortmund's Jude Bellingham (four goals, one assist) during the group stage this season.

Dortmund have won just one of their five Champions League matches against City (D1 L3), a 1-0 home victory in the 2012-13 group stage. 

No full-back has been involved in more sequences of play that have ended in shots (29) or goals (five) thans Joao Cancelo in the Champions League this season. The Portugal international has provided three assists in four games, equalling his season-best tally in a Champions League campaign (three in nine games last season). 

If Haaland scores on his return to face his former club, it will be the third time he has scored in five or more consecutive appearances in the Champions League. Only five players have achieved that feat on three occasions – Cristiano Ronaldo (five), Lionel Messi (three), Lewandowski (three), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (three) and Ruud van Nistelrooy (three). 

Other fixtures:

RB Leipzig v Real Madrid

13 – Madrid are unbeaten in their past 13 games against German sides in European competition (W9 D4), scoring at least two goals in every game during this run (31 in total). 

3 – Leipzig will be looking to win three consecutive Champions League games for just the second time – they won three in a row between February and August 2020, beating Tottenham twice and Atletico Madrid once. 

Dinamo Zagreb v Milan

5 – Dinamo have lost all five of their matches against Milan in European competition (including qualifiers). Against no side have they lost more games in their European history (also five v Ajax). 

100 – Milan's 100 per cent record against Dinamo – winning five out of five games against them – is their best against any side in Europe.

Sevilla v Copenhagen

29 – The average age of Sevilla's starting line-up in the Champions League this season is 29 years and 73 days, the second-oldest of any side in the competition this term after Rangers (29 years 96 days). 

13 – Copenhagen are winless in all 13 of their major European matches against Spanish teams (D5 L8), losing their last three on Spanish soil. 

Celtic v Shakhtar Donetsk 

– Celtic have lost seven of their past eight games in the Champions League (D1) and are looking for their first win in the competition since September 2017 (3-0 v Anderlecht).

0 – Shakhtar have never won a Champions League away match against a British team, losing on eight of their nine total trips. They did avoid defeat in the most recent one, however, drawing 1-1 against Manchester City in November 2019. 

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    Chelsea have splashed the cash this month and could break the Premier League record by landing Enzo Fernandez before the transfer window closes on Tuesday.

    The Blues have already spent big to bring Mykhailo Mudryk to Stamford Bridge, while Noni Madueke, Joao Felix and Benoit Badiashile are among their other recruits.

    Fernandez could follow from Benfica on what promises to be a busy deadline day as clubs across Europe scramble to get late deals done.

    It remains to be seen if Arsenal can tempt Brighton and Hove Albion to part with Moises Caicedo.

    Joao Cancelo looks set to swap Manchester City for Bayern Munich on loan and Paris Saint-Germain could finally seal a deal for long-time target Milan Skriniar along with Hakim Ziyech.

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    BLUES TO SHOW THE COLOUR OF THEIR MONEY FOR WORLD-CUP WINNER?

    Fernandez emerged as a target for Chelsea following his influential displays for Argentina during their World Cup triumph in Qatar.

    The London club have wasted no time in building a new-look squad since a Todd Boehly-led consortium completed a takeover and Graham Potter arrived as head coach.

    They have already made huge statements this month, none more so than snaring winger Mudryk from under the noses of Premier League leaders Arsenal.

    Chelsea are working on trying to secure the services of Fernandez for a reported fee of £105.5million (€120m), which would break the Premier League record of £100m City paid Aston Villa for Jack Grealish.

    CAICEDO A NO-GO?

    Arsenal have already raided Brighton to bring wantaway winger Leonadro Trossard to the capital.

    The Gunners have failed with big-money offers for centre midfielder Caicedo, who last week made it clear he wants to join the Premier League leaders.

    Arsenal are said to be ready to test the Seagulls' resolve again on deadline-day with a third bid of £75m, but Brighton want to keep him for the rest of the season.

    If they do not get an offer they cannot refuse, Arsenal could turn to Leicester City's Youri Tielemans or Chelsea's Jorginho.

    CANCELO BAYERN-BOUND

    Eyebrows were raised on Monday when it came to light that Bayern are poised to bring Cancelo to the Bundesliga from City.

    The Portugal full-back Cancelo has fallen out of favour at the Etihad Stadium, having reportedly had a bust-up with Pep Guardiola.

    A loan deal would be great business for Bayern as they hunt more trophies and this one is expected to go through.

    PSG'S SKRINIAR PERSISTENCE COULD PAY OFF, ZIYECH TO FOLLOW?

    While Bayern's move for Cancelo has come late in the window, Skriniar has long since been a target for PSG.

    The Inter centre-back is only under contract at the end of the season and with the Serie A giants unable to tie him to a deal, it has been seemingly only a matter of time before he moves on.

    PSG should finally get their man before the window closes, with the defender having already confirmed he has agreed terms with the Ligue 1 champions. Chelsea winger Ziyech could also be on his way to the French capital.

  • Can anyone loosen Europe's hold on the Club World Cup? Can anyone loosen Europe's hold on the Club World Cup?

    The Club World Cup begins on Wednesday as seven teams compete to become world champions.

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    That is not to disrespect any of the other participants, but Europe's stranglehold on the competition simply cannot be denied.

    Although South American teams won the first three editions in its current format, the only occasion in the last 15 where the Champions League winners have not triumphed was in 2012 when Corinthians defeated Chelsea in the final, the last time Europe's best did not succeed.

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    It would be fair to assume that, as the only other confederation to claim the prize, the South American representatives will always be seen as the biggest challengers to Europe.

    Flamengo have participated in the Club World Cup before, having reached the final in 2019 only to lose 1-0 to Liverpool after extra time.

    The Mengao have faced some recent upheaval with head coach Dorival Junior leaving despite winning the Copa do Brasil and Copa Libertadores, just the third time they had prevailed in South America's premier competition.

    Former Fenerbahce and Corinthians boss Vitor Pereira arrived in December and will be relying on star striker Gabriel Barbosa to fire his team to glory, as the ex-Inter man did when he scored the only goal of the Libertadores final against Athletico Paranaense in October.

    Despite promising young midfielder Joao Gomes leaving for Premier League side Wolves, Pereira will hope his new team can at least make their way to the February 11 final when they face either hosts Wydad Casablanca or Al Hilal in the final four.

    CONCACAF – Seattle Sounders

    The Sounders are carrying the hopes not only of Seattle but of MLS as a whole. Due to a series of CONCACAF Champions League heartbreaks for American and Canadian clubs prior to Seattle's triumph last May, the league has had a long, long wait for representation on the world stage.

    It is fitting then that the Sounders should be the team to do it, having broken so many barriers since arriving in MLS in 2009, selling out stadiums, enjoying instant success and signing big-name stars from European clubs.

    Although the 2022 season saw the Sounders' ever-present record in the MLS playoffs ended, that was no reflection of the quality of this squad; injuries badly hampered Brian Schmetzer's side after their early-season focus on that successful Champions League campaign.

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    CAF – Wydad Casablanca

    Otherwise known as Wydad AC, the Moroccans would have sealed their place regardless of being hosts after lifting the CAF Champions League in May.

    Under the guidance of Walid Regragui before he left to lead the Morocco national team to the semi-finals of the World Cup, Zouhair El Moutaraji's two goals in the final against Al Ahly brought Wydad their third Champions League title.

    Their record in this competition is less impressive, with their only previous involvement coming in 2017 when they were beaten by Mexico's Pachuca in the second round, before going down 3-2 to Japan's Urawa Reds in the fifth-place playoff.

    Former Racing Santander and Birmingham City player Mehdi Nafti took over from Regragui after leaving LaLiga side Levante late last year, and Regragui thinks they can improve on their 2017 showing at least.

    "I think the trap game is Al Hilal [second round]. If they manage to pass Al Hilal, they can go to the final against Real Madrid. Everything is possible," the Morocco coach told FIFA.com.

    AFC – Al Hilal

    The four-time AFC Champions League winners will compete with Wydad in the second round, with the winner going on to face Flamengo in the final four.

    Ramon Diaz returned for a second spell in charge, and like several other head coaches at the Club World Cup, was not actually the one who lifted the trophy that got his team here in the first place.

    Former Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim was in charge when Al Hilal beat Korea's Pohang Steelers in November 2021, before leaving by mutual consent to be replaced by Diaz.

    Diaz is unsurprisingly the only former Oxford United manager at the Club World Cup, but the 63-year-old has plenty of talent to call upon in his quest for glory in Morocco.

    Odion Ighalo and Luciano Vietto will be accompanied by a number of players from Saudi Arabia's impressive World Cup campaign, with Al Hilal looking to improve on their last CWC campaign when they were beaten by Chelsea in the semi-finals and Al Ahly in the third-place playoff in 2022.

    CAF – Al Ahly

    Al Ahly are also back again, somewhat fortuitously as they inherit Wydad's assigned host spot following the Moroccans beating them in the CAF Champions League final.

    This will be the Egyptian side's eighth appearance at the Club World Cup, with their most impressive previous campaign seeing them finish third after beating Brazilian's Palmeiras on penalties in 2021.

    Head coach Marcel Koller also played no part in his team's qualification for this competition, with the former Austria boss only arriving in September.

    With a number of Egypt's national team players to call on, they will be hoping to repeat their previous meeting with Auckland City in the first round when they beat the New Zealanders 2-0 in 2006. 

    OFC – Auckland City

    This will be the 10th appearance for the Navy Blues, but they are back again after their 3-0 win against Tahiti's Venus in the 2022 OFC Champions League final.

    That was overseen by head coach Albert Riera, not to be confused with the former Liverpool and Galatasaray winger, who took charge in December 2021.

    Riera will be hoping to at least match his team's best ever performance at the CWC, when they came third in 2014 after winning on penalties against Mexico's Cruz Azul. 

    It would take a momentous effort for anyone to stop Madrid, who somehow overcame Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool on their way to Europe's Champions League title last season.

    Never say never, though.

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    Tielemans is one of Leicester's top talents, appearing in all 20 of their Premier League games this season while contributing three goals and an assist from his 18 starts.

    Jorginho is in his fifth season at Stamford Bridge and remains an integral part of Chelsea's squad, making 15 league starts this season, including wearing the captain's armband in their two most recent fixtures.

    However, both players are in the final six months of their contracts and are set to become available via free transfers at the end of the campaign, and their clubs may be willing to accept a significantly reduced figure for highly valuable assets.

     

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    According to Football London, Arsenal's pursuit of 21-year-old Brighton and Hove Albion standout Moises Caicedo appears to have been unsuccessful, and they now view Jorginho as an acceptable alternative.

    The report states Chelsea are willing to let the Italy international leave, indicating he will become expendable if the impending arrival of Benfica's Enzo Fernandez comes to fruition.

    Football London also adds Arsenal will make another push at both Caicedo and Real Sociedad's Martin Zubimendi, but they are considered unlikely options.

    Meanwhile, 90min claims Leicester would be more open to allowing Tielemans to leave if they were not locked in a relegation battle, but as it stands they would need a "huge" bid to prioritise a transfer fee over their Premier League survival.

     

    ROUND-UP

    – Calciomercato is reporting Leeds United will try to secure Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo after he snubbed Bournemouth, but Roma are unlikely to accept unless the full transfer fee is paid up front.

    – According to L'Equipe, Paris Saint-Germain are interested in a loan move for Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech, who would prefer a loan to France instead of a fellow Premier League side.

    – Manchester United captain Harry Maguire has rejected a loan approach from Inter and will instead opt to fight for his place, although he will re-evaluate his future at the end of the season, per the Daily Star.

    – El Nacional is reporting Liverpool will make a run at signing Chelsea's N'Golo Kante when his contract expires after the season.

    – According to Football Insider, Southampton have agreed to meet the £26.2million (€30m) release clause for 22-year-old Braga forward Vitinha.

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