Zidane out to avoid record-equalling loss, Klopp eyes first Italian victory - Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk November 03, 2020

Squads are being stretched, injuries are piling up and managers are moaning, but there is no let up as the Champions League group stage rolls around for a third straight week.

There were hard-fought wins, thrilling draws and a few teams on the end of thrashings on matchday two.

Real Madrid's European form continues to cause concern after they followed their loss to Shakhtar Donetsk with a draw at Borussia Monchengladbach; Inter, who are also yet to win, are next up on Tuesday.

Holders Bayern Munich are away to Salzburg, Liverpool head to Atalanta, and Manchester City host Olympiacos with all three clubs aiming to maintain 100 per cent starts.

Salzburg v Bayern Munich: Bavarians brilliant on the road

The defending champions have maximum points from the first two games of their Group A campaign and the omens are good for them as they go to Austria next, with Die Roten unbeaten in 14 away matches in the competition – two shy of the record set by Manchester United between 2007 and 2010.

Whatever the outcome, there is a strong possibility this contest will be a thriller. Since the start of last season, Bayern (58) and Salzburg (38) are among the top three teams in terms of the number of goals their Champions League matches have seen.

Salzburg's Dominik Szoboszlai has found the net in each of his past two appearances in the competition and could become the first Hungarian player to find the net in three consecutive Champions League matches.

Real Madrid v Inter: Zidane keen to avoid unwanted record

Madrid are winless in their past four Champions League matches (D1 L3), which is their worst run in the competition since September 2006 when they went five without a victory. Zinedine Zidane made his last appearance in the competition as a player during that run, and will be out to avoid equalling that record as coach.

Inter have lost eight of their previous 10 Champions League away games in Spain (W1 D1). Although in the history of Europe's premier club competition, only against Lyon (30 per cent) do Madrid have a lower win percentage than they do against Inter (33 per cent, three wins in nine games) among teams they have faced at least five times.

Arturo Vidal could be a lucky charm for the Nerazzurri as he bids to become the first player to score against Madrid in the Champions League for three different clubs, having previously done so during his time at Juventus and Bayern Munich.

Atalanta v Liverpool: Klopp eyes first Italian away success

Jurgen Klopp has lost all five of his away Champions League matches in Italy, losing to Napoli three times plus defeats to Juventus and Roma during his managerial career with Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund. Only former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson (6) has lost more away Champions League games on Italian soil than Klopp.

The Reds will have to keep an eye on Atalanta's Duvan Zapata, who has been directly involved in six goals in five starts in the competition for the club (four goals and two assists), in the first competitive meeting between the two clubs.

Liverpool's Diogo Jota will attempt to follow his Premier League goalscoring feats in the Champions League. Jota can become only the second player to score in his first two starts in the competition for the Reds, following Robbie Keane back in 2008.

Manchester City v Olympiacos: Torres can match Mbappe and Haaland

City are unbeaten in their past 13 games in the group stage of the Champions League (W10 D3), winning five of the six games at the Etihad Stadium in this run (D1).

Pep Guardiola won has his two previous Champions League matches against Olympiacos, winning 3-0 away and 4-0 at home as Bayern Munich boss in the 2015-16 group stage.

City winger Ferran Torres is looking to become the third-youngest player in competition's history to score in four consecutive appearances (20 years, 248 days), behind only Kylian Mbappe (18 years, 120 days) and Erling Haaland (19 years, 107 days).

Other fixtures:

Lokomotiv Moscow v Atletico Madrid

5 - Should Atletico win they will have beaten Lokomotiv more often than any other side in major European competition, having defeated them four times already.

3Joao Felix scored in both Champions League matches against Lokomotiv last season - no Atleti player has ever scored in three consecutive games against an opponent in the competition.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Borussia Monchengladbach

7 - Shakhtar’s two Champions League starting line-ups this season have featured seven players aged 21 or younger – they could become the first team to do so three times in the competition.

9 - The last nine German teams to visit Ukraine in the Champions League have all failed to win (D6 L3). Bayern's victory over Dynamo Kiev in December 1994 is the most recent.

Midtjylland v Ajax

14 - Ajax will be without Dusan Tadic in Denmark. Since making his debut in the competition for Ajax in September 2018, he has been directly involved in more goals than any other player for the club with 14 (seven goals and seven assists).

14 - The number is also the total shots the Danish side have had on goal in this season's competition; they have the highest expected goals total (2.08) of any of the three teams yet to score.

Porto v Marseille

12 - A defeat in this match for Marseille would see them become only the third team in history to lose 12 consecutive matches in Europe's premier club competition, after Anderlecht (12 between 2003 and 2005) and Jeunesse Esch (16 between 1973 and 1987).

5 - Porto have won five of their past six home games in the Champions League, with their only defeat in this run coming in April 2019 against Liverpool; the team who went on to win the competition that season.

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    Robert Lewandowski has his work cut out to match Gerd Muller's Bundesliga goals record but Bayern Munich will do all they can to make it happen, Hansi Flick has said.

    Muller hit 40 goals for Bayern in the 1971-72 season, a mark that is firmly in the sights of Lewandowski after he began the campaign with 22 goals in Bayern's first 17 games.

    Speaking ahead of Bayern's trip to face Schalke on Sunday, in a clash of the top and bottom teams in the German top flight, Flick spoke of how he used to idolise the legendary Muller.

    As leaders Bayern pursue a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title, the prospect of Lewandowski challenging Muller is drawing plenty of attention, and Flick indicated the team would love it to happen.

    "Gerd Muller was my role model," said Flick. "Unfortunately, I've never scored as many goals as he did, I wasn't as lethal, maybe at the beginning in the youth teams.

    "He was a striker who was always ready to accept balls outside the box and you could combine together with him. He was wonderful in front of goal.

    "For Robert to have scored more goals than him in the first half of the season shows his quality and that the team keep supporting him to end up in situations where he can score goals.

    "I think about the 1-0 against Freiburg, which was a genius attacking move via Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller, who immediately passed the ball to him. Their alignment was perfect.

    "We all know, and Robert knows this too, that a lot of things need to be in place to continue like this. We're working on it.

    "We have to support Robert and he is important to the team. He has certain tasks within the team and if he does them well, it is easier for the team to assist him at goalscoring.

    "I would wish he could manage 40 but Gerd Muller is really something special."

    Muller is suffering with Alzheimer's disease and is said to be living in a nursing home.

    "We all know how Gerd Muller is doing, that also makes you sad," Flick said.

    Bayern will face a Schalke team who are showing flickers of life at the foot of the table, and who brought Klaas Jan Huntelaar back to the club this week from Ajax.

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    He previously had a seven-year spell with the club and, much like Lewandowski, has a proven nose for goal.

    The veteran Dutch striker could have a role to play this weekend, with Schalke coach Christian Gross saying on Friday: "I think that Klaas Jan will be part of the squad against Bayern. He's a good option for the bench."

  • Kevin De Bruyne injured: Liverpool, Man Utd and other games Man City star could miss Kevin De Bruyne injured: Liverpool, Man Utd and other games Man City star could miss

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    De Bruyne, the reigning PFA Players' Player of the Year, has been in typically sparkling form for City this term, scoring three times and providing 10 assists in the Premier League.

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    De Bruyne would probably have been rested for the weekend clash with League Two Cheltenham Town in any case, although the fifth round on February 10 also looks to be out of the question if City progress. In 16 appearances in the FA Cup, he has five goals and as many assists - claiming one of each in the 6-0 demolition of Watford in the 2019 final

    West Brom (A) - January 26

    City are back in Premier League action against Sam Allardyce's relegation-threatened Baggies next week. De Bruyne has two goals and three assists against the Baggies in the competition but could not manage a goal involvement as Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling failed to convert his late crosses during December's 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium. City have won nine games in a row across all competitions since that setback.

    Sheff Utd (H) - January 30

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    Burnley (A) - February 3

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    Tottenham (H) - February 13

    De Bruyne scored in each of his first three Premier League appearances against Spurs and set up both City goals as the sides shared a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Etihad last season. Jose Mourinho's men were the last team to inflict a defeat upon City, 17 games ago.

    Arsenal (A) - February 21

    No Premier League team has conceded more goals to De Bruyne than Arsenal's five. City's number 17 scored twice and dazzled throughout in a 3-0 win at Emirates Stadium last term.

    Borussia Monchengladbach (A) - February 24

    UEFA named De Bruyne their Midfielder of the Season following his performances on City's run to the quarter-finals in 2019-20. Despite his club's patchy record in Europe's top competition, the 29-year-old has seven goals and 15 assists in 37 Champions League appearances for the English side.

    West Ham (H) - February 27

    Rodri converted De Bruyne's corner before the man himself rounded off a 2-0 win over West Ham when the teams met on February 19 last year. It was the last time fans were allowed into the Etihad Stadium.

    Manchester United (H) - March 6

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  • Zidane 'feeling fine' as Madrid remain without Ramos for Alaves trip Zidane 'feeling fine' as Madrid remain without Ramos for Alaves trip

    Zinedine Zidane is in "good spirits" after testing positive for COVID-19 as Real Madrid get ready to take on Deportivo Alaves without their head coach.

    The Spanish club confirmed on Friday that Zidane is isolating after contracting coronavirus, meaning he will not be present for Saturday's LaLiga fixture.

    Having already lost to Athletic Bilbao in the semi-finals of the Supercopa de Espana, Los Blancos suffered a humiliating defeat to third-tier club Alcoyano to exit the Copa del Rey in midweek.

    With their title defence also stuttering, the pressure has increased on Zidane, whose absence this weekend means assistant coach David Bettoni will be in charge.

    "I spoke to him this morning, he's feeling fine," Bettoni told the media ahead of a trip to an Alaves side that won 2-1 in Madrid last season.

    "He's in good spirits. He won't be with us in person but we know he'll be supporting us. The important thing is that everyone knows he'll be there in spirit.

    "We're just finalising how we're going to do things."

    Zidane insisted he remained calm about his own future in the aftermath of the defeat to Alcoyano, having seen a strong Madrid side let slip a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 after extra time.

    Bettoni insists the squad remain united with the focus now shifting back to LaLiga, where they quickly need to make up ground on leaders Atletico Madrid.

    "At Real Madrid, every defeat brings criticism, but we have enough experience to know we've got a chance against Alaves to show everyone we're a unit," he said.

    "We're all together in this and we're going to do all we can to take the three points. We work hard every day towards just that and we have another chance to show it."

    Sergio Ramos did not feature in the cup tie on Wednesday and will once again be absent this weekend, while fellow defender Dani Carvajal is not yet ready to make a return.

    "With Sergio Ramos, he is in his recovery process and he won't be with us tomorrow," Bettoni confirmed.

    "Dani Carvajal trained a little with us, but he won't be with us either and will be able to train normally from Monday."

    Madrid have lost just one of their previous 15 away games in LaLiga but have found goals hard to come by this season, managing 30 in 18 games. That is their second-worst tally at this stage in the past 14 campaigns.

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