Ter Stegen set for Barcelona return after overcoming knee injury

By Sports Desk November 04, 2020

Marc-Andre ter Stegen could be set to make his first appearance of the season when Barcelona take on Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday.

Goalkeeper Ter Stegen underwent knee surgery in August, with Barca saying following the procedure that the 28-year-old was expected to be out until November.

Neto has filled in during the Germany international's absence, starting all six LaLiga games and both Champions League fixtures played so far in the 2020-21 campaign.

Barca started with back-to-back clean sheets in victories over Villarreal and Celta Vigo but have failed to win in the league since, including going down 3-1 at Camp Nou to rivals Real Madrid.

An awful Neto error gifted Deportivo Alaves their opener on Saturday as the Blaugrana were held by 10 men.

They did shut out Juventus in their previous European match, albeit the Serie A side were without Cristiano Ronaldo and had three potential goals for Alvaro Morata ruled out for offside by VAR.

Ter Stegen could now make his return against Kiev, having been included by coach Ronald Koeman in a 21-man squad list after receiving medical clearance.

The Barca number one's save percentage in the Champions League since the start of last season (67.5 per cent) is lower than Neto's (80), although eight of the 13 goals he has conceded in that span came in one game.

The 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich, which spelled the end of an era at Camp Nou, was Ter Stegen's most recent appearance.

Over the same period of time, Ter Stegen has saved 69.0 per cent of shots on target in LaLiga, marginally up on Neto's 66.7 per cent, with each keeper conceding an average of exactly one goal per game.

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    ROUND-UP

    - Eric Garcia looks set to finish the season with Manchester City. Marca reports Barcelona cannot afford a transfer fee for the defender and the delay of the LaLiga club's presidential elections, now scheduled for March 7, mean Garcia will have to wait for a move.

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    Manchester United's record against the so-called 'big six' of the Premier League this season reads zero wins, two defeats and two draws.

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    In their most recent three league games against these sides, United have had xG of 0.6 against City, 0.7 against Chelsea and a lowly 0.4 in a 1-0 loss to Arsenal. In those same fixtures in 2019-20, those figures were 1.6 (in a 2-0 win against City), 2.2 (in a 4-0 win over Chelsea) and 0.9 (in a 1-1 draw with Arsenal). Interestingly, though, Chelsea and Arsenal had higher xG numbers in those games last season, even though they suffered worse results, and City's only increased this term by 0.7.

    This reflects a general balancing out in these matches. They are, for the most part, more attritional and less unpredictable affairs settled by fine margins – exactly the sort of contest you'd expect between true heavyweights. United are not significantly under-performing each time; they're just not quite tilting the odds in their favour.

    How, then, might they change that against Liverpool? There is one simple way.

    SLAB EXPERIMENT

    United have one particular weakness, regardless of opposition: set-pieces. This season, they have conceded 11 goals from set-plays; only Wolves (12), Brighton and Hove Albion (14) and Leeds United (16) have a worse record. They have shipped four goals from corners, the same number as Liverpool, but the champions have only conceded eight times from dead-ball situations overall.

    At the other end, United have scored 10 goals from set-pieces, a tally bettered by just four teams: Aston Villa and Southampton (11), and Chelsea and Liverpool (12). Only Chelsea (34) have created more dead-ball chances than United (31).

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    Since the start of last season, Harry Maguire has won 73 per cent of his aerial duels in the Premier League. That's the best rate of anyone who has contested at least 300 in that time. In fact, he has lost only 98 of the 341 he has been involved in, which is the lowest number of losses across the same period within that elite group.

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