Man City out to amend poor Spanish record, Liverpool's Benfica omen – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk April 11, 2022

The final matchday of the Champions League quarter-finals has arrived, with Liverpool and Manchester City in touching distance of the last four.

The Premier League pair played out a thrilling 2-2 draw in what many billed as the title decider on Sunday, but their attention now turns back to Europe as they hunt yet more silverware.

Liverpool, if uncomfortable at times, managed a 3-1 victory at the Estadio da Luz, while City hold a slender 1-0 advantage heading to the Wanda Metropolitano against Atletico Madrid.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the data from a decisive Wednesday in UEFA's flagship club competition.

Atletico Madrid v Manchester City: Simeone's side must end home hoodoo

City make their first ever trip to Atletico in European competition having won just three of their last 11 away games against Spanish side – though Pep Guardiola's team won their most recent visit to Real Madrid (2-1 in February 2020).

The Premier League leaders do so with a narrow 1-0 first-leg lead, thanks to Kevin De Bruyne, after Atletico lost the first away leg of a Champions League knockout tie for a fourth time.

Simeone's side, though, may take confidence from the fact they have progressed on two of the three previous occasions they have lost the first leg away from home.

But the reigning LaLiga champions will have to turn around their torrid home form in the competition if they are to do so, given they are winless in their last seven home games in Europe.

The compact setup that many branded as negative will also have to make way for Atletico to compete, after they failed to record a single shot in the first meeting at the Etihad Stadium.

The fewest attempts across two-leg Champions League knockout ties is four (Shakhtar Donetsk v Bayern Munich in 2014-15), since Opta began recording in 2003-04, while the only team to have failed to record a shot on target across two legs in this period was Deportivo La Coruna in the 2003-04 semi-finals against Porto.

Simeone will look to Antoine Griezmann to make the difference, with the forward one goal away from overtaking David Trezeguet (29) for the fourth-most strikes by a Frenchman in the competition.

Meanwhile, City will reach the landmark of 100 games in the Champions League, having won 55 of their first 99 – only Real Madrid have triumphed more in their first 100 matches (57).

Liverpool v Benfica: Formidable Reds lucky Portuguese omen

The omens will be good if Liverpool can progress past Benfica here, given they have gone on to win the competition on the last two occasions they have won both legs in a European Cup or Champions League knockout tie against the Portuguese side, doing so in 1977-78 and 1983-84.

The Reds have won each of their last five games against Portuguese sides in Europe's premier club competition, scoring 16 goals and only conceding three times. 

Indeed, they are unbeaten in nine games against teams from Portugal in the competition since Benfica won at Anfield in March 2006 (W7 D2), as they eye a third Champions League semi-final under Jurgen Klopp.

That is as many times as the Reds had managed to do so prior to Klopp taking charge (2004-05, 2006-07 and 2007-08, all under Rafa Benitez), with the German somewhat of a knockout specialist.

There is no denying Liverpool are heavy favourites; they have progressed from each of their last 12 ties in the Champions League knockout stages after winning the first leg, since a 2001-02 quarter-final loss to Bayer Leverkusen, who lost 1-0 in the first leg before winning 4-2 in the return meeting.

Central to Klopp's plan will be the seemingly out of form Mohamed Salah, whose next home goal will see him overtake Steven Gerrard (14) for the most goals by a Liverpool player at Anfield across the European Cup and Champions League.

While only two teams have ever won by more than one goal away to Liverpool in the latter stages of the competition, one of those occasions was Benfica in a 2-0 victory in the last-16 in 2005-06.

Darwin Nunes will be the key, with the forward scoring five times in nine European appearances this season – no player has ever netted more in a single Champions League campaign for the Primeira Liga side.

Related items

  • 'Teams won't be braver than us' – Stokes hails England courage after another remarkable chase 'Teams won't be braver than us' – Stokes hails England courage after another remarkable chase

    Ben Stokes believes no other Test side can match England's bravery after the hosts completed a record 378-run chase to beat India in a remarkable Test match at Edgbaston.

    Despite being reduced to 109-3 at one point on day four, England recovered to better their terrific exploits during the recent series whitewash of world Test champions New Zealand.

    The hosts surpassed their previous best chase (362-9) against Australia in 2019, sealing the victory on Tuesday.

    That means England have secured three of the 10 highest chases in their history in their last three Test matches, with the Ben Stokes-Brendon McCullum regime having reinvigorated the country's red-ball side.

    Speaking to BBC Sport after the win - which saw the delayed series drawn at 2-2 - skipper Stokes declared that while other sides may match England for talent, none could replicate their courage.

    "It is amazing," he said after a fourth straight Test match win. 

    "The change, you're talking about mindset and everything like that - when you've got real clarity in what you want to achieve as a team and how you want to play, it makes things a lot easier. 

    "We know what we were going to do - we knew we were always going to go out and try and chase that down from the get-go. 

    "A great way to explain is that teams are perhaps better than us, but teams won't be braver than us." 

    Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow both brought up centuries to get England over the line in speedy fashion on day five, with the latter becoming the first batsman to score six or more centuries in a single calendar year in Tests when batting at five or below.

    And Stokes heaped praise on the Yorkshire-born duo for their stunning performances, comparing Bairstow's recent displays to his limited overs showings.

    "As people from Yorkshire say, 'strong Yorkshire, strong England'. It couldn't be more true right now. These two are just phenomenal," Stokes added.

    "Rooty has been doing it for 10 years and Jonny has just honestly been ridiculous over the last five or six weeks. 

    "He has got runs but it is the way that he has done it - it's exactly what we talk about. He has embraced it and just gone out and there and done it. It is like watching him play white-ball cricket at the moment."

    Having also become just the third England player to hit a century in both innings of a Test against India (after Graham Gooch and Andrew Strauss), Bairstow explained the players were simply enjoying an exhilarating brand of cricket.

    "It is awesome, it is a great environment at the moment," Bairstow said. "It is fantastic, the way we're playing, and everyone is really enjoying the success and that is a huge part of it.

    "If Joe and I are out there doing it together, we're in a really good place. We've been doing it for a long time together now.

    "It is really special to knock off 378 with just three down. It is something that we'll never forget. After day two I got asked, 'what do you think is too many', and I said 'whatever they set we'll go for'.

    "That's exactly what we did. The opening partnership deserves a huge amount of credit, for the way they went about it and the brand of cricket that we're trying to play, it was epitomised by that opening stand. 

    "It isn't going to work every time, but the pressure and intensity which they put on world-class bowling takes a huge amount of guts, courage and skill."

  • 'Whatever they get, we'll chase it' – Root lauds England's 'incredible' record chase against India 'Whatever they get, we'll chase it' – Root lauds England's 'incredible' record chase against India

    Joe Root hailed England's "incredible" display with the bat after he and Jonny Bairstow starred in a historic 378-run chase against India, declaring: "Whatever they get, we'll chase it."

    Having resumed at 259-3 before a lively Edgbaston crowd on Tuesday, England raced to their most impressive victory yet under the Ben Stokes-Brendon McCullum regime, with Root and Bairstow hitting centuries to complete the highest run chase in the hosts' history and claim a 2-2 draw in the delayed series.

    The victory saw England surpass their 359-run chase against Australia in August 2019, as Root made his 28th Test ton in finishing 142 not out.

    He and Bairstow registered the highest fourth-wicket partnership in the fourth innings of a men's Test (269), as well as England's fifth-highest fourth-wicket stand in any innings.

    Bairstow, meanwhile, also became just the ninth player to hit four Test centuries in England in a calendar year as the home side's entertainers continued their red-ball revival.

    England also recorded three successive chases of over 250 runs in their series whitewash of world champions New Zealand last time out, and Root says the team's fearlessness with the bat left them feeling in control throughout day five.

    "It was pretty fun doing it. Throughout the whole summer, from that first game, we've said, 'whatever they get, we'll chase it'," Root told Sky Sports. "Ben said to us before the toss: 'We're not going to bat first, we're going to chase.'

    "That's the mentality of how we're going about things at the minute. Once we got that partnership going, we just felt in full control.

    "So much credit has to go to the two lads at the top [Alex Lees and Zak Crawley], the way they set the platform, the way they shifted the pressure straight back onto India.

    "To smash that new ball around on a wicket that was doing a bit was just incredible batting. It really made the work that we had to do afterwards a lot easier. It really was a sublime partnership against a world-class attack.

    "The feeling in the dressing room at the moment is 'whatever you get, we're going for it, and we're going to take it down'."

    On a personal level, Root added he was enjoying his cricket again after stepping down as captain in April, saying successor Stokes has instilled a newfound ruthlessness in the side.

    "When you're enjoying things it makes it a lot easier, you turn up to practice excited, you get out in the middle, and you're up for the contest," Root added.

    "I feel in a really good place and I just need to make sure I maintain that. One thing that's worked for me is just accepting it's a game of failure, batting, and you're not going to get it right every time.

    "It was good fun, like I said, there was a little bit on offer, but when you're putting pressure on bowlers it's very difficult for them to keep coming hard at you.

    "We recognised crucial parts of pressure, I think we soaked it up well at times in the second innings, and then when we got our chances to put it back on them, we did it.

    "We were ruthless with it, something that we might have lacked a bit in recent times – especially under my leadership!"

  • Galtier named new PSG coach as Pochettino departs Galtier named new PSG coach as Pochettino departs

    Christophe Galtier has been confirmed as the new Paris Saint-Germain head coach after Mauricio Pochettino left the Ligue 1 champions.

    PSG won the league by a margin of 15 points in the 2021-22 season, but Pochettino departed on Tuesday following his failure to deliver their first Champions League title.

    Galtier is the man who has been trusted to take over at PSG, strongly supported by new sporting director Luis Campos.

    Campos and Galtier have worked together previously when they combined at Lille to create the team that pipped PSG to the Ligue 1 title by a point in 2020-21.

    Galtier left Lille days after they won that championship, joining Nice.

    But he spent only a single season on the French Riviera – finishing fifth and reaching the Coupe de France final – before leaving late last month, with Nice bringing back Lucien Favre as his replacement.

    That move came as speculation persisted around Galtier's move to PSG, with Pochettino's exit anticipated since the end of last season.

    Pochettino's departure was confirmed just hours before Galtier appeared alongside PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi at a news conference.

    Galtier will be tasked with finally ending PSG's wait for Champions League glory, their latest failure in the competition coming in a second-leg collapse against eventual winners Real Madrid in the last 16.

    He becomes the club's sixth coach since 2012.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.