Mbappe out to end drought, Barca go for four in a row - Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk November 24, 2020

All eyes are on a finely poised Group H as the Champions League returns this week following the international break.

Paris Saint-Germain, finalists last season, are in trouble after defeats to Manchester United and RB Leipzig, who they face again on Tuesday.

United's fine early European form took a hit when they lost to Istanbul Basaksehir, however, meaning all four teams are separated by just three points.

Elsewhere, Barcelona will hope their impressive Champions League results continue to provide an effective distraction after their latest LaLiga setback.

Juventus, Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund are all also in action as we break down Tuesday's key matchday four fixtures with Opta data.
 

Paris Saint-Germain v RB Leipzig: Milestone in sight for misfiring Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe netted a brace in PSG's 3-2 defeat at Monaco last week and his next goal will be his 100th for the capital club. However, the World Cup winner has not scored in the Champions League in 2020, enduring a seven-game, 529-minute drought in the competition since scoring against Galatasaray last December.

Neymar is set to be fit to start alongside Mbappe, and PSG will need their star pair on form to avoid suffering a second consecutive home defeat in the Champions League for the first time.

Leipzig, who were unbeaten in five away Champions League games before losing 5-0 at United, got the better of PSG last time out, meaning the Ligue 1 side have lost four of their previous six matches against German opposition in the competition - including the 2019-20 final to Bayern Munich.

Manchester United v Istanbul Basaksehir: Martial a man in form

Fresh from enjoying their first home Premier League win of the season, United will look to maintain their strong European run at Old Trafford, where they have six straight victories by a combined scoreline of 20-1.

Anthony Martial scored in the win against Leipzig and the defeat to Basaksehir and could become the first United player to score in three consecutive Champions League appearances since Wayne Rooney in 2010.

But Demba Ba also netted in the sides' previous meeting and has made four previous appearances at Old Trafford, scoring for Newcastle United in a 1-1 draw in 2011. United have lost three of their past four games against Turkish opposition.

Dynamo Kiev v Barcelona: No Leo against luckless Lucescu

Barca are looking to win their first four Champions League group-stage matches for just the second time (also 2002-03), despite this being the fourth occasion in five years they have started the campaign with three victories in a row.

The Blaugrana will welcome the sight of Mircea Lucescu in the home dugout. He has lost six Champions League matches against Barca, a miserable tally against a single opponent only topped by Arsene Wenger (eight defeats v Barca, seven v Bayern).

The Catalan club, who will have to cope without Lionel Messi, have three straight Champions League wins in Ukraine and Lucescu has been the opposition coach for two of them, both with Shakhtar Donetsk.

Juventus v Ferencvaros: Loan man Morata making strides

Cristiano Ronaldo is the man in form in Serie A, but Alvaro Morata has made an outstanding start to the Champions League campaign for Juve. He has four goals in three games, as many as he had netted in his previous 17 appearances across spells with Chelsea and Atletico Madrid.

Expect Ronaldo to be in the thick of the action, too, though, as he aims to nudge ahead of Messi as the competition's leading home goalscorer. He has 69 goals in home games, one behind the Barca man's 70.

Ferencvaros are visiting Italy for a European match for the first time since their 1968 Fairs Cup draw with Bologna. They are winless in three European Cup or Champions League games against Serie A opposition, shipping four goals in both of their defeats (4-0 v Inter in 1966, 4-1 v Juve this season).

 

Other fixtures:

Krasnodar v Sevilla

3 - In the sides' previous meeting on matchday three, Sevilla became only the third team in Champions League history to win a match after having a man sent off when they were losing (also Hamburg against CSKA Moscow in December 2006, Manchester City against Schalke in February 2019).

4 - Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui has only lost four of his 22 Champions League matches (W13 D5), although his last defeat in the competition was away in Russia, losing with Real Madrid at CSKA in October 2018.

Rennes v Chelsea

5 - It is five years since Chelsea won three consecutive Champions League matches, while they are looking to win three in a row without conceding for the first time since November 2013.

1 - Rennes have given at least one teenager a Champions League debut in each of their three games in the campaign so far. They have used five teenagers in all (Eduardo Camavinga, Jeremy Doku, Adrien Truffert, Brandon Soppy, Yann Gboho), two more than any other club.

Borussia Dortmund v Club Brugge

12 - Erling Haaland was the joint-fastest player to score five Champions goals (three games, level with Didier Drogba), the fastest to score 10 goals (seven games) and will be the fastest to 15 goals if he scores in this game - his 12th appearance. The record is held by Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roberto Soldado (19 games).

20 - Lucien Favre will become the second coach to take charge of 20 Champions League matches with Borussia Dortmund after Jurgen Klopp (37). Favre's win rate of 53 per cent (P19 W10 D2 L7) is the third-best for Dortmund in the competition, behind Nevio Scala (60 per cent) and Ottmar Hitzfeld (58 per cent).

Lazio v Zenit

3 - Lazio have avoided defeat in their opening three Champions League group-stage matches (W1 D2) for the first time since 1999-00, when they went on to top the table unbeaten.

13 - Including qualifiers, Zenit are winless in 13 away European matches (D3 L10) since a 3-1 victory at Real Sociedad in December 2017 in the Europa League.

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  • De Bruyne v Grealish: Creative kings set to take centre stage in Man City v Aston Villa De Bruyne v Grealish: Creative kings set to take centre stage in Man City v Aston Villa

    Manchester City and Aston Villa would have faced each other on the opening weekend of this Premier League campaign had Pep Guardiola's side not reached the final stages of the Champions League in Lisbon and earned an extra week to recuperate.

    Plenty of what's happened since then - for both of these clubs and throughout the division - would have been impossible to predict, with a strange season springing surprises at every turn.

    However, had City and Villa played one another in September, most observers would have confidently looked towards Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish to supply the creative inspiration for their respective teams.

    It is safe to say each star midfielder has lived up to his billing over the first half of the campaign.

    Mutual respect

    Grealish earned a long-awaited England debut earlier this season and was a bright spark when England suffered a 2-0 Nations League defeat in Belgium.

    Before the match, the 25-year-old revealed he spent his final preparations casting an admiring eye over a certain member of the opposition.

    "For the past 24 hours, I've been watching little clips of my favourite players like I do before every game," he told Sky Sports.

    "I watch loads of clips. I watch clips of De Bruyne, I watch clips of [Philippe] Coutinho, just players that are in my position, really.

    "That's what I've done since I was a little kid and I still do it to this day - I have no shame in saying that and that's what gets me going for football matches."

    After the match, De Bruyne conceded Grealish had also captured his attention.

    "I rate him very highly," he said. "He's somebody I mentioned before, talking to the team-mates at City, in a random conversation.

    "In England they talked about creative problems in midfield, but he brings that to a team. He deserves a shot."

    Those warm words from De Bruyne seemed to carry a little more weight when a move for Grealish was rumoured to be one of the topics of discussion during Guardiola's successful contract extension negotiations in November.

    Given the City boss already must try to accommodate the playmaking talents of Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva around De Bruyne, it is questionable whether he needs such a reinforcement in his creative department.

    However, Opta data from this season shows Grealish is doing plenty to match the reigning PFA Players' Player of the Year.

    King creators

    Both De Bruyne and Grealish have started 15 Premier League games apiece this season, with the latter playing one more minute overall.

    In that time, the Villa man has created 55 chances to De Bruyne's 51, although City's number 17 has 10 assists to Grealish's seven following an outrageous outside-of-the-boot cross for John Stones to open the scoring in Sunday's 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace.

    Overall, they are second and third in the Premier League's assists table, Harry Kane's fruitful relationship with Son Heung-min helping the England captain to amass 11 for Tottenham.

    Manchester United talisman Bruno Fernandes separates them at the top when it comes to chances created, having crafted 54 for his Old Trafford colleagues.

    Those numbers continue to look incredibly strong when projected across Europe's top five leagues.

    Hakan Calhanoglu has created 59 chances for Serie A leaders Milan, although only six of those have been converted, while the continental top five is rounded out by Lyon's Memphis Depay being level with De Bruyne on 51.

    In terms of assists, Kane and De Bruyne are again one and two from Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller (nine) and Roma's Henrikh Mkhitaryan (eight).

    Goals, guile and grubby work

    De Bruyne has fired off 57 shots this season (17 on target) to Grealish's 40 (14 on target).

    However, City's designated penalty taker has only scored three, with his first Premier League goal from open play this season coming earlier in January at Chelsea.

    Grealish has weighed in with five for Dean Smith's men, including a double in their logic-defying 7-2 evisceration of champions Liverpool.

    Grealish has 81.2 per cent accuracy for passes ending in the final third, outstripping De Bruyne's 73.5 per cent, although the City favourite attempting 105 crosses and corners to the younger man's 51 goes some way to explaining this discrepancy.

    In terms of dribble success rate, they are neck and neck again, with Grealish returning 63.8 per cent and De Bruyne 63.

    Grealish has attempted 69 dribbles to his idol's 46, which does a little to explain the frequency with which he draws free-kicks.

    His 73 fouls won is comfortably the highest in the division, with Palace's Wilfred Zaha (51), Liverpool's Sadio Mane (43) and Kane (40) up next.

    A key reason for this could be how integral Grealish is to so much of Villa's attacking play. As per Opta, he is responsible for 11 per cent of his team's passes. By contrast, Zaha and Kane make five per cent and Mane four.

    As players who cherish the ball so much, De Bruyne and his counterpart do plenty to get it back.

    The UEFA midfielder of the year has made 74 recoveries, 27 tackles and seven interceptions in the Premier League this season, compared to 79 recoveries, 23 tackles and eight interceptions for Grealish.

    It seems implausible that these two midfield maestros will stray too far from the thick of the action at the Etihad Stadium, which should make for a very watchable encounter.

    Whether or not it amounts to a live audition for Grealish, only time will tell.

  • How did Malone get Jokic to score more? - I beat him with a pillowcase of soda cans, jokes Nuggets coach How did Malone get Jokic to score more? - I beat him with a pillowcase of soda cans, jokes Nuggets coach

    Nikola Jokic has become a more aggressive scorer because he was beaten with a pillowcase full of soda cans by Mike Malone, the Denver Nuggets coach joked.

    Nuggets center Jokic had 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in three quarters as Denver cruised to a 119-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Pepsi Center on Tuesday.

    The 25-year-old has had at least a double-double in each of his 14 games this season and is averaging a triple-double of 25.1 points, 11.4 rebounds and 10 assists – all of which represent career highs.

    Jokic's best scoring season was 2018-19 when he averaged 20.1 points per game, and Malone gave a light-hearted response when asked what has motivated the Serbian to become more prolific.

    He replied: "I locked him in my office one day and I beat him with a pillowcase full of soda cans and I said: 'You've got to score more!'"

    In a far more serious tone, Malone continued: "You know how he is, he's a great player, he's playing at an MVP level. You go back to tonight, 27, 12 and six, only one turnover.

    "Early on they were playing him one-on-one, and sometimes I get frustrated because I don't think we give him the ball enough, especially when he's being guarded one-on-one.

    "Nikola has seen every possible double-team, and so have we as a team. We space the floor correctly and he is so willing to find the open man, and we had great possessions against the double-team.

    "He's always going to take what the defense gives him but he is being more aggressive, which is what we need from him."

    The Nuggets are 10-2 against the Thunder since 2017-18, their best record against any Western Conference opponent in that span.

    Denver's latest victory saw them improve to 7-7 on the season, but they are yet to hold a winning record this season after never being .500 or worse after their first game in the previous campaign.

  • Lampard accepts Chelsea 'not ready to compete' for Premier League title Lampard accepts Chelsea 'not ready to compete' for Premier League title

    Under-pressure Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard accepts the Blues are "not ready to compete" for the Premier League title following another defeat.

    Chelsea lost 2-0 at Leicester City on Tuesday, meaning their only win in their previous five Premier League games was against a Fulham side languishing in the relegation zone.

    Victory for Leicester put Brendan Rodgers' side top of the table at least until Manchester United go to Fulham on Wednesday, while Chelsea will be 11 points adrift of the summit if the Red Devils win.

    It was not so long ago that Chelsea were being dubbed favourites for the Premier League title by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, with Lampard's side top of the pile as recently as early December.

    Since beating Leeds United to go top on December 5, Chelsea have taken just seven points from a possible 24 and Tuesday's defeat meant only Newcastle United (52) have conceded more away goals in the Premier League than them (50) since the start of last season.

    Reports began to emerge a few weeks ago about Lampard's position being in doubt, and it is unlikely he has done himself any favours by essentially conceding defeat in the title race.

    "I don't think this is the first time I've been asked this, been asked this a few times in the last few weeks – after 16 unbeaten we lost two on the bounce and I was starting to be asked these questions, and I understand it," Lampard told reporters.

    "It's the expectations of this club. Whether I think it's right or wrong… As I said pre-match, we are not in the position of a Chelsea that we were in periods when we were winning leagues.

    "I took this job knowing that there will be difficult times because it's not a club ready to compete. We had a transfer ban, we had young players. Now we have new players and we can see that the new players, the younger players are striving for form, to be settled into this team.

    "While everything was rosy in early-to-mid December, it's not so rosy now. We're not the only team to suffer that situation and I'm not the only manager to be put under this sort of pressure.

    "The lucky thing for me is I'm good at handling the pressure. I don't like it, I want to win games, I want everyone to be talking about how we are moving towards the top of the table like we were a month ago, but the reality is, for me, I could sense these periods were coming and that's all I have to concern myself with, how to deal with them and get us out of it."

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