Klopp reaches Rafa's Reds record, Barca up against it – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk October 26, 2022

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.

Related items

  • Football rumours: Niko Kovac emerges as potential Jurgen Klopp replacement Football rumours: Niko Kovac emerges as potential Jurgen Klopp replacement
    What the papers say

    The Daily Mail reports that Niko Kovac is being considered to succeed the departing Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. The former Croatia and Bayern Munich manager is a free agent after being sacked by Wolfsburg in March

    Newcastle have their sights set on Nottingham Forest’s Morgan Gibbs-White, with the attacking midfielder continuing to impress in the Premier League this season, writes the Mirror.

    The Sun reports that Marcus Rashford will remain at Manchester United, with Paris Saint-Germain indicating no interest in signing the 26-year-old.

    Social media round-upPlayers to watch

    Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall: Tottenham are tracking the Leicester midfielder and are understood to be keen to sign him for up to a £40 million price tag, says Football Insider.

    Riccardo Calafiori: Tottenham are also interested in signing the 21-year-old Italian defender from Champions League-chasing Bologna this summer, writes Tuttosport.

    Bryan Gil: Again, there is movement at Tottenham, with Spanish winger Bryan Gil mulling over a departure and Spurs are willing to let him go on a permanent transfer, according to Give Me Sport.

  • Manchester City thriving under ‘dead or alive’ title pressure – Pep Guardiola Manchester City thriving under ‘dead or alive’ title pressure – Pep Guardiola

    Pep Guardiola believes his Manchester City players are thriving under the pressure of the title run-in.

    City enjoyed an outstanding weekend in their quest for a fourth successive Premier League crown as an emphatic victory over Luton, coupled with defeats for rivals Liverpool and Arsenal, put them top of the table.

    Guardiola’s side are now not only clear favourites to retain their title but in a strong position to secure an unprecedented second treble in succession.

    “They like to play the pressure,” said City manager Guardiola, speaking after Saturday’s 5-1 hammering of the Hatters. “They like it when you are dead or alive.

    “That doesn’t mean we are going to do it but I am pretty sure we will be there until the end because I know them, I see their faces in the meetings before games and how they prepare.

    “That means we’ll be Premier League champions? No, no. I am not saying that. But we will compete, that is for sure.”

    City now head into two decisive knockout games against Real Madrid in the Champions League and Chelsea in the FA Cup over the coming week in good heart.

    Real are the first up at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday for the second leg of a quarter-final tie that is evenly poised at 3-3 after a pulsating game in the Spanish capital last week.

    Full-back Kyle Walker, who has missed the last five games with a hamstring injury sustained on international duty last month, could return after being an unused substitute against Luton.

    Guardiola said: “He feels much better but he was injured, so now we will see in the next days. But he is good, he feels good.

    “Maybe he can help with minutes because it is a ‘final’ but I don’t want to lose him for a long time if he gets injured. He will train a bit more now and we will decide.

    “I know how important Kyle is against the players from Real Madrid but he was not in Madrid and Manu (Akanji), Josko (Gvardiol), John (Stones) and Ruben (Dias) played incredibly well. We will see.”

    Fellow defender Stones should be fit despite being left out of the squad altogether on Saturday as a precaution.

    Guardiola said: “He had some problems, some niggles, but he’s fine.

    “He is not injured but he felt uncomfortable and we didn’t want to take risks. That is all.”

  • Mauricio Pochettino: It will take time for leaders to emerge at youthful Chelsea Mauricio Pochettino: It will take time for leaders to emerge at youthful Chelsea

    Mauricio Pochettino has warned it will take time for leaders to emerge among Chelsea’s inexperienced squad and rejected comparisons with players who helped shape the club’s illustrious past.

    With an average age of just over 23, the Argentinian has worked with the youngest group in this season’s Premier League, and accused his team of lacking maturity in the aftermath of last weekend’s 2-2 draw against bottom side Sheffield United.

    Since taking over in May 2022, co-owner Todd Boehly and his Clearlake Capital consortium have pursued a transfer policy exclusively favouring players in their early 20s, while the squad’s more experienced members – many of whom won Chelsea’s last major silverware, the 2021 Champions League – have been moved on.

    It has left a squad that has been accused of lacking balance, while at times this season there has been a notable absence of leadership on the pitch, as Chelsea have struggled to climb above mid-table.

    But Pochettino, who has repeatedly defended the club’s recruitment strategy, called for perspective, singling out former stars who took time to mature into leadership roles.

    “John Terry was young,” he said. “I don’t believe when he was 18, 19 he was already a leader. (Those players) were in a different situation. Maybe they had some help when they were young, maybe they were in another project.

    “We are in a project where 80 or 90 per cent of the players are young. They need to grow all together. They need some help. That’s why we are here, to help them in this process to become leaders.

    “We’re talking about too many players that only arrived this season at Chelsea and in the Premier League.”

    An unbeaten run of seven games, their longest in the league for almost 18 months, has helped drag the team into contention for European qualification.

    Victory over Everton at Stamford Bridge on Monday night will put them in a promising position to break into the top eight, likely to be sufficient to reach next season’s Conference League, though they could also seal a Europa League place by finishing in the top seven or by winning the FA Cup.

    Nevertheless, Pochettino urged caution, suggesting it is unfair to expect players – such as striker Nicolas Jackson, who has led the line virtually all season despite previously having played only 34 league games for former side Villarreal – to instantly assume the mantel of Chelsea greats.

    The 22-year-old has scored 12 goals in 35 appearances since his £32million move from LaLiga, and recent performances have marked a significant improvement on his early weeks in west London.

    “We talk about Nicolas Jackson,” said Pochettino. “If we compare with (Didier) Drogba’s first season, there’s hope he can be a leader, but Drogba was a leader in his first season.

    “People can find excuses and criticise, but I cannot pay attention. Sometimes you laugh about the opinions you receive from outside.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.