Benzema's record puts Chelsea in crosshairs, Milan must blunt free-scoring Napoli again – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk April 11, 2023

Champions League holders Real Madrid resume their European campaign on Wednesday as they once again go up against English opposition in Chelsea.

Now with Frank Lampard in charge again, Chelsea realistically need to win the Champions League just to qualify for it next season, with the Blues languishing 11th in the Premier League.

But after brushing Liverpool aside in ruthless fashion in the last round, Madrid will be massive favourites in the eyes of most people.

Wednesday's other Champions League duel is almost as intriguing. Serie A rivals Milan and Napoli will tussle in San Siro, with any of the four teams in that side of the draw likely fancying their chances of reaching the final.

Ahead of two potentially engrossing matches, Stats Perform picks out the best Opta pre-game facts.

Real Madrid v Chelsea: Benzema out to continue dominance of Premier League opposition

This season has been perceived as an underwhelming one for Karim Benzema in some respects, with injuries disrupting him – particularly ahead of the World Cup.

But since Qatar 2022, the only player across the top five leagues to register more goal involvements in all competitions than Benzema (24) is Manchester United's Marcus Rashford (25), and the Frenchman has been especially lethal in recent weeks.

He scored hat-tricks in each of his first two games this month and was sensational in Madrid's 6-2 aggregate defeat of Liverpool in the previous round, scoring three times over the two legs.

 

That haul means each of his last 10 goals in the Champions League have been against English clubs (in order: x4 Chelsea, x3 Manchester City, x3 Liverpool), which is already the longest such streak against clubs from a single nation by one player.

Benzema's form and Chelsea's rather unimpressive current state would have most considering Los Blancos firm favourites on Wednesday, and the Blues would do well to stop their hosts from scoring given they have netted in each of their previous 30 Champions League knockout games at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Chelsea and interim manager Lampard will be grasping to every hint of optimism they can find.

Their record against Madrid might be one such example, as they have the lowest percentage of losses (14 per cent) of any team to have played them at least five times in European competition.

The Blues are also unbeaten against the Champions League reigning champions since 2004-05 (six games), which is a record.

Milan v Napoli: Uncharted territory for the Partenopei

This promises to be a memorable season for Napoli, who are within touching distance of a first Scudetto since 1990.

But their Champions League journey could yet elevate this campaign to hitherto unseen levels for Luciano Spalletti's side.

After all, this will be their first Champions League quarter-final. Considering they were drawn into the side of the bracket that looks wide open, the outlook is promising.

 

Admittedly, Napoli were remarkably beaten 4-0 at home to Milan at the start of this month, though the Serie A leaders should be a different beast with Victor Osimhen back in the team.

The Nigeria international's brilliance in attack has contributed to Napoli being the top scorers in this season's Champions League with 25 goals, while only Bayern Munich have won more matches (eight to seven).

Furthermore, Napoli's average of 3.1 goals per game is the fifth-best in a single campaign after Bayern in 2019-20 (3.9), PSG in 2017-18 (3.4), Real Madrid in 2013-14 (3.2) and Liverpool in 2017-18 (3.2).

 

Milan will hope they have the defensive nous to counteract that. And, to be fair, they are one clean sheet away from five successive Champions League shutouts for the first time since 2004-05.

Some might also point to Milan's greater experience in such ties, though this will actually be just their first quarter-final since 2011-12, and they last reached the semis in 2006-07 en route to winning the competition.

For the Rossoneri, even when you take into consideration that freak 4-0 away win on April 2, a positive result on Wednesday is surely a must – Napoli will be aiming to make it four successive wins over Milan at San Siro.

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