Chelsea want more from Lukaku, Allegri out to right his predecessors' wrongs – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk February 22, 2022

Champions League holders Chelsea get their knockout campaign started on Tuesday as the defence of their crown enters an altogether more challenging stage.

Thomas Tuchel's men may feel they have dodged a bullet or two by getting this draw, with their next opponents Lille struggling to match the highs of their Ligue 1 title victory from last season in 2021-22.

Tuesday's other encounter sees Juventus travel to Villarreal, with Massimiliano Allegri looking to improve on the knockout exploits of Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Pirlo before him.

Here, Stats Perform delves into the Opta data to pick out the key statistical narratives and subplots ahead of Tuesday's games.

Chelsea v Lille

Much of the attention at Stamford Bridge will be on Romelu Lukaku, whether the Belgian plays or not.

The big-money signing's struggles this season have been well-publicised, but he hit a new low on Saturday as he touched the ball just seven times in the win over Crystal Palace – that is the fewest by any player to feature for 90 minutes in a single Premier League game since at least 2003-04.

On the other side of the contest is a striker aiming to emulate Lionel Messi. Jonathan David may not have scored a Ligue 1 goal since December but the talented Canadian impressed in the second half of the group stage.

He scored one goal in each of his last three appearances in the competitions, meaning if he scores on Tuesday he will be the second-youngest (22 years, 39 days) non-European to score in four successive Champions League games after Messi (21y, 155d in November 2008).

That is not to say Lille are a high-scoring side. Many will be wondering who let Les Dogues out of Group G, given their haul of seven makes them the lowest-scoring group winners since Leicester City and Atletico Madrid (seven each) in 2016-17. In fact, no team from that section scored more than eight.

The omens are, perhaps unsurprisingly, overwhelmingly in Chelsea's favour here. Only Manchester City (15) and Bayern Munich (14) have won more Champions League games than the holders since the start of last season, while Lille are appearing at this stage for just the second time ever.

Further to that, Tuchel boasts a fine record in Champions League knockout ties, having progressed from/won (including finals) eight of his previous 11 (73 per cent), a success rate bettered by only three managers (minimum 10 knockout ties): Vicente del Bosque (80 per cent - 8/10), Jupp Heynckes (86 per cent - 12/14) and Zinedine Zidane (88 per cent - 14/16).

Villarreal v Juventus

Sarri and then Pirlo were both tasked with establishing a new era at Juventus, but when Allegri returned after a two-year break in pre-season, he picked up the pieces of a side that had regressed significantly.

There remain plenty who feel Allegri never should have been re-hired, but this tie at least gives him an opportunity to point to a degree of progress – at least in the context of the Champions League.

After all, neither Sarri nor Pirlo got beyond the last 16. Allegri, on the other hand, was only eliminated at this stage once in five seasons, and that was to Pep Guardiola's excellent Bayern side.

His counterpart on Tuesday, Unai Emery, has something of a point to prove as well, but his has more to do with his own personal record.

While something of a specialist at Europa League level, having won the competition four times including last season, he has won only one of six knockout games in the Champions League.

Much of Emery's hope will be pinned on Arnaut Danjuma.

The Dutchman – who recently returned from two months out and scored a hat-trick at the weekend – had a hand in five goals in the group stage, which is already a joint-club record for the club in the competition.

By no means are the Yellow Submarine a one-man team, however. Young winger Yeremi Pino caught the eye in the group and is plotting to become only the fourth Spanish teenager to score in the knockout stages of the Champions League after Bojan, Cesc Fabregas and Raul.

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    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Atlanta United – Thiago Almada

    Atlanta will be hoping for inspiration from the likes of Almada as they look to end their winless streak.

    The Argentina international has scored in two of their last three league games on home soil.

    Los Angeles FC – Denis Bouanga

    Bouanga scored both goals in LAFC’s 2-0 win over St. Louis City last time out in MLS.

    He has now found the net 33 times since the start of last season (including play-offs), seven more than any other player during that time.

    MATCH PREDICTION: LOS ANGELES FC

    Only once in their MLS history have Atlanta endured a longer winless streak, going 12 straight games without victory between May and August 2021.

    Meanwhile, LAFC have won successive games to nil for the first time during the regular season since August 2022.

    That came after they recorded just one victory while keeping a clean sheet in their previous 21 such matches.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Atlanta United: 38.2%
    Los Angeles FC: 32.8%
    Draw: 29.0%

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