Salzburg need Austrian first as Bellingham looks to match Mbappe, Haaland – Champions League in Opta Numbers

By Sports Desk November 02, 2022

Salzburg will have to do what no other Austrian side has done before at Milan to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages, while Jude Bellingham has his eyes on an achievement managed by only two players previously.

The Rossoneri need only a point from the game at San Siro and the historical facts suggest they will achieve their aim to make it out of Group E.

For Bellingham, he can put his name in the record books alongside former team-mate Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe by scoring for Borussia Dortmund at Copenhagen.

There is plenty to play for as the Champions League group stage wraps up on Wednesday, and Stats Perform has trawled through the data to shine a light on the most interesting angles.

Milan v Salzburg

With a win, Salzburg will advance to the knockout stages for the second consecutive season after never making it out of the group stage previously.

They will need to defy the odds on their trip to Milan, where the Italian side are undefeated in home fixtures against Austrian opponents in the competition (W4 D1), while averaging 3.8 goals per game.

Salzburg have never beaten Milan in their three previous Champions League meetings, but after losing the first two, they collected their first point with a 1-1 draw in this campaign's reverse fixture.

While Olivier Giroud became the oldest player in Champions League history to reach 20 goals (36 years old) during Milan's win at Dinamo Zagreb last time out, Salzburg boast the youngest starting XI in the competition with an average age of 22 years and 279 days.

Shakhtar Donetsk v RB Leipzig

Shakhtar have only won one game in the group stage, but sit three points behind second-placed. A win would see them through to the knockout stages for the third time in the past four seasons.

The reverse-fixture was a memorable one for Shakhtar and exciting young winger Mykhailo Mudryk, who showed why he is so in-demand with a goal and two assists in a 4-1 away win.

Unfortunately for the Ukrainian side, that was their only victory from their past 12 Champions League matches (D6 L5).

Meanwhile, Leipzig have found some form in the competition, with back-to-back victories against Celtic before making it three wins in a row when they beat Real Madrid 3-2.

Manchester City v Sevilla

City are eyeing an undefeated group stage when they host Sevilla, having only conceded one goal in total from their five games until this point.

English sides have given Sevilla trouble for years now, with their last Champions League win over a Premier League team coming back in 2007 against Arsenal. 

If Jorge Sampaoli's side are to stand any chance of a shock win, they will need to pay special attention to Jack Grealish, who has impressed in the group stage with 10 chances created from open play, the most in Pep Guardiola's squad.

Maccabi Haifa v Benfica

If Juventus can salvage even a draw in their clash with Paris Saint-Germain, then Benfica will be able to win Group H by defeating Maccabi Haifa.

It has been a special run of form for Benfica, who for the first time since 1990 have gone six Champions League games without a loss (W3 D3).

Maccabi will have their backs against the wall, as only Malmo have a worse winning percentage (17 per cent) than their 24 per cent among teams to have played at least 15 Champions League games.

Also working in Benfica's favour is manager Roger Schmidt's record in the competition. Between his time with Bayer Leverkusen (2014-2017) and Benfica in this campaign, his run of 13 games unbeaten is the most by any active manager qualified for this season's Champions League.

Other fixtures:

Juventus v Paris Saint-Germain

- Juventus are looking to avoid becoming the second Italian side to ever lose five matches in a Champions League group stage, after Roma in 2004-05.

- Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe has six goals in the group stage. With one more he can tie Christopher Nkunku (last season) for the most by a French player in a single group stage, while with two more he can tie Zlatan Ibrahimovic's club-record of eight in 2013-14.

Copenhagen v Borussia Dortmund

60  - Despite Copenhagen still being without a win in Group G, they have kept a clean sheet in 60 per cent (nine-of-15) of their Champions League home games – the best ratio of any team with at least 10 appearances.

- With a goal, Bellingham can become just the third teenager to ever score in all three away games in a Champions League group stage, following Mbappe (2017-18) and Haaland (2019-20).

Chelsea v Dinamo Zagreb

10  - Chelsea are undefeated in their past 10 group stage games in the Champions League dating back to September 2019 (W6 D4). Over that period, they are averaging 2.3 goals per game.

10  - Along with City's Grealish, Chelsea's Mason Mount is the only other Premier League player from this Champions League campaign to tally at least 10 shots and 10 chances created.

Real Madrid v Celtic

20  - Since the beginning of last season's Champions League, no player has been involved in more open-play sequences that have resulted in a goal than Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior (20).

14  - Celtic's Matt O'Riley has attempted the most shots in the Champions League this season without scoring, with no goals from his 14 shots.

Related items

  • Ancelotti suggests Spanish football has racism problem after Vinicius abused again Ancelotti suggests Spanish football has racism problem after Vinicius abused again

    Carlo Ancelotti suggested Spanish football has a "problem" with racism after Real Madrid star Vinicius Junior was abused again on Sunday.

    LaLiga launched an investigation on Monday after social media footage showed racist insults being directed at Vinicius during Madrid's 1-0 defeat at Real Mallorca on Sunday.

    The 22-year-old was subjected to racist abuse in both of Madrid's matches with city rivals Atletico Madrid this season, while LaLiga filed hate crime charges to Spanish courts after similar incidents in December's game with Real Valladolid.

    Vinicius accused LaLiga in December of "doing nothing" to combat racism, and his head coach feels Spanish football must face up to the issue.

    "The question I ask is this: What is the problem?" Ancelotti told reporters. "Vinicius? Vinicius' team-mates? What's the problem? To defend himself? What does Vinicius have to defend himself against? What do his team-mates have to defend themselves against? I don't know.

    "It seems like the problem is Vinicius, but the problem is what happens around him. Period.

    "It is a problem of Spanish football. I am a part of Spanish football and I think it's a problem that we have to solve. Because it seems that Vinicius is the culprit, but he is the victim of something that I don't understand."

    Federico Valverde defended Vinicius' exuberant playing style after he was fouled 10 times against Mallorca – the most by any Madrid player in a Spanish top-flight match since Isco against Real Betis in August 2013.

    Vinicius has won 79 fouls in LaLiga this season, 25 more than any other player, and Valverde feels Madrid's players must stand up for him to counter any opposition roughhouse tactics.

    "He is an incredible person, with a lot of values," Valverde said ahead of Madrid's Club World Cup semi-final against Egyptian side Al Ahly on Wednesday. "On the pitch, he tries to enjoy it, that's the way he is.

    "I always say that so many fouls on the pitch is part of the game, we have to defend him as team-mates.

    "Another thing is racism and what happens on the pitch, [there is] so much anger. He is a 22-year-old boy. I think Vinicius deserves respect."

  • Ballance becomes only the second batter to score Test centuries for two countries Ballance becomes only the second batter to score Test centuries for two countries

    Record-breaking Zimbabwe debutant Gary Ballance frustrated West Indies by becoming only the second batter to score a Test century for two countries on Tuesday.

    The former England left-hander struck 137 not out on day four of the first Test at Queens Sports Club, where Zimbabwe declared on 379-9 and the Windies closed on 21-0 – leading by 89 runs.

    Ballance made four hundreds for England in 23 matches in the longest format, the last of which came against West Indies in April 2015.

    The 33-year-old signed a two-year contact with Zimbabwe Cricket last December, having been granted a release from his Yorkshire contract after a challenging period in which he endured struggles with his mental health.

    Zimbabwe-born Ballance last year admitted to using racist and offensive language towards his Yorkshire team-mate Azeem Rafiq.

    Rafiq said he had accepted an apology from Ballance, who was suspended for an indefinite period from England selection.

    He played three white-ball matches for his country of birth last month and now has the highest score by a Zimbabwe Test debutant, beating the previous record of 121 set by Dave Houghton – the team's current coach.

    Kepler Wessels is the only other player to have made hundreds for more than one country in the longest format, reaching three figures for South Africa and Australia.

     

  • Man City probe could lead to rivals facing scrutiny, says finance expert Man City probe could lead to rivals facing scrutiny, says finance expert

    Premier League clubs have become "incentivised to sometimes push the rules to the limit, if not beyond" and Manchester City may not be the only team to face an investigation into their affairs, according to a leading football finance expert.

    The Premier League announced on Monday it had referred a number of alleged breaches of the competition's rules to an independent commission, with some of those dating back as far at the 2009-10 season.

    In response, City said they had "irrefutable evidence" that would be presented in their defence against the accusations.

    Kieran Maguire, author of the book The Price of Football, said isolating City could be seen as making a "scapegoat" of the Premier League champions, and he suspects investigators will also look closely at the finances of other clubs.

    Speaking to Stats Perform, Maguire said: "Certainly we have seen some clubs, in terms of the financial submissions that they've made, make fairly significant claims as to the impact, for example, that COVID had on their finances, and they've claimed that COVID cost them money in a myriad of ways, some of which have certainly raised eyebrows as far as observers are concerned.

    "So if Manchester City are charged, you would think that Manchester City would say to the Premier League, 'well, you've investigated us and charged us, then surely you have a responsibility to do this for other clubs as well'.

    "If the Premier League don't do that, it could be seen that they're trying to make a scapegoat of Manchester City, who are unpopular with certain other elements of the English football establishment because they represent new money, and old money doesn't like new money in all aspects of life, it doesn't have to be sport.

    "Therefore you can understand why there's likely to perhaps be enthusiasm for this to move on. And that's going to be bad news for football as a whole because then it becomes who's got the best lawyers, and the best accountants, as opposed to who's got the best strikers and centre-halves and midfield players."

    If the independent commission finds City to have breached financial guidelines, they could face a variety of punishments, ranging from fines to points penalties, or even expulsion from the league.

    City are controlled by the City Football Group, which is owned by Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Since a 2008 takeover, the club have invested heavily in infrastructure and players to develop the dominant team in England.

    It remains to be seen how City come out of this saga, if found to have transgressed.

    "There's a lot of politics in English football," said Maguire. "I think that the preferred punishment would be a points deduction, because the argument would be that if it was just a financial punishment, given the wealth of the owners, given that it is effectively a sovereign wealth fund which is the benefactors of Manchester City, that a financial penalty would not actually particularly harm the club.

    "Therefore, you need to do something which would be seen within football itself as being a punishment, and also acting as a deterrent should any other clubs with equally benevolent owners decide to take or consider a similar action."

    Maguire said City face jealousy and "resentment" from rival clubs, and he believes there would not be such interest if a smaller Premier League club came under the microscope.

    "It's because it is Manchester City who have won the Premier League for four years out of the last five, who have reached the Champions League final, who have spent around about $1.3billion in building their squad, that we're having this conversation," Maguire said.

    "There is jealousy, there is resentment, there is envy. And there's not a lot of admiration, because football doesn't operate like that. Football is a very, very snarky business, where everybody's trying to put each put other clubs down.

    "Changing the culture of football into one of ethics, morality, sustainability, is very difficult because of the nature of the people that own the clubs. They tend to be very successful in their own right. And therefore, they are used to getting their own way.

    "And in the world of sport, you can't have 20 Premier League clubs all being successful at the same time. Therefore, they're incentivised to outmanoeuvre each other, and they're incentivised to sometimes push the rules to the limit, if not beyond the limit."

    Maguire said world governing body FIFA, having been tarnished by scandal itself in recent years, was "unlikely to be in a position to take a moral high ground".

    "And it then just simply becomes a game of whack-a-mole, as the authorities find one loophole, they bring a sticking plaster to solve it," Maguire said. "And then you're always in a room with a smarter accountant and a smarter lawyer who will come up with yet another scheme."

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