Two titans collide in the Champions League on Wednesday when Real Madrid host Manchester City, while Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to continue his remarkable goal-scoring record in the knockout phase.

Ronaldo has come a long way since the days critics suggested he did not perform in the biggest matches, as he now boasts an astonishing record in the latter stages of Europe's elite competition.

He will fancy his chances of being decisive yet again in this tie, with Juve firm favourites against Lyon.

Nevertheless, most eyes will be on the Santiago Bernabeu, as Pep Guardiola takes City to the setting of some of his most chaotic matches as a coach, having previously been in charge of Barcelona.

Ahead of those two matches, we take a look at the key data below.

Real Madrid v Manchester City

4 - Madrid have prevailed in their previous four Champions League knockout ties against English opposition: 5-0 on aggregate v Tottenham (2010-11 quarter-finals), 3-2 v Manchester United (2012-13 last 16), 1-0 v Manchester City (2015-16 semi-finals), 3-1 v Liverpool (2017-18 final).

23 - Los Blancos are into the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 23rd consecutive season, the longest run in the history of the tournament and a streak that began in 1997-98.

22 - Madrid have scored in each of their previous 22 home games in the knockout stages of the Champions League; the last team to stop them from scoring were Pep Guardiola's Barcelona in the 2010-11 semi-finals (0-2). However, they have failed to win their past three knockout matches at the Santiago Bernabeu (D1 L2); Madrid have never gone four matches in a row without a victory.

3 - City boss Guardiola is facing Madrid in a Champions League knockout tie for the third time, with a third different club – he won 3-1 on aggregate with Barcelona in the 2010-11 semi-finals and he lost 5-0 on aggregate with Bayern in the 2013-14 semi-finals.

10 - Sterling has scored 10 goals in his previous 13 Champions League appearances, one more goal than in the 34 matches in this competition (nine) prior to that run. Only Lionel Messi (six) and Ronaldo (five) scored more times than Sterling in last season's knockout stages (four).

Lyon v Juventus

11 - Lyon have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League more times than any other French club (11). However, it has been 10 years since they progressed past the round of 16 (2009-10). They have scored only three goals in their previous nine knockout games in this competition (W1 D2 L6).

6 - Juve are in the Champions League knockout stages for the sixth straight season, their longest ever run. In the past five campaigns, they have made it past the last 16 on four occasions, only failing to do so in 2015-16 when they were eliminated by Bayern Munich (4-6 on aggregate).

2 - Lyon won two of their six group games (D2 L2), the lowest tally alongside Atalanta among the remaining 16 teams.

45 - Memphis Depay (six goals, four assists) has been directly involved in 45 per cent of Lyon's Champions League goals since the start of last season (10/22), however they will be without the Dutch forward for this match due to injury.

65 - Among the seven players with 50+ goals in the Champions League, Juve striker Ronaldo is the only one to have scored more goals in the knockout stages (65) than in the group phase (63). He has also registered more assists in the competition against Lyon (four) than any other side.

Robert Lewandowski equalled a Champions League best set by Cristiano Ronaldo as he led Bayern Munich to an emphatic win at Chelsea.

Lewandowski scored once and assisted another two goals as the Bundesliga leaders claimed a 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday.

The Bayern striker combined with Serge Gnabry to devastating effect to set up two goals in the space of three minutes for the Germany winger, before tapping in a cross from the electric Alphonso Davies to secure a potentially unassailable first-leg advantage.

Lewandowski moved onto 11 goals in seven Champions League games, his best record in a single season, while he also matched Ronaldo's record of nine away goals scored in Europe's top club competition in the same campaign set back in 2013-14.

Remarkably, the Poland star had gone 672 minutes without a goal in the Champions League knockout phase until his simple finish.

Bayern's win means they have scored three or more goals away from home against four separate English sides in the competition since 2013 - Arsenal twice, Tottenham, and now Chelsea.

The margin of defeat was Chelsea's heaviest at home in any European competition in their history.

While Lewandowski and Gnabry were responsible for the goals, it was the performance of young converted full-back Davies that particularly caught the eye.

The 19-year-old was a menace down the left with his pace and also kept Chelsea wing-back Reece James on the fringes of the action with some superb defensive work.

As well as creating two chances overall, including Lewandowski's tap-in, Davies regained possession eight times in the 90 minutes. Only Thiago Alcantara (17) did so more often for Hansi Flick's side.

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to make his 1,000th appearance for club and country when Juventus face SPAL in Serie A on Saturday.

The Portugal superstar was named in Maurizio Sarri's starting XI after being rested for the 2-0 win over Brescia last weekend.

Providing the 35-year-old comes through the warm-up unscathed, he will bring up his incredible landmark and seek to add to his tally of 724 goals. 

It will be the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's 73rd outing for Juve, with the bulk of his matches having come for Real Madrid (438).

Manchester United sit second on that list (292), with 31 of his games coming for Sporting CP, a further two for Sporting B and 164 for his country. 

Jose Mourinho is hoping to end a six-year wait to win a Champions League last-16 tie when Tottenham take on RB Leipzig.

The Spurs boss has suffered frustration in Europe's elite club competition since taking Chelsea to the last four back in 2014.

Tottenham are at home for the first leg against Leipzig, a team they have never played before, with Atalanta taking on Valencia in the other game to take place on Wednesday.

Here, we highlight the best Opta stats for the two Champions League fixtures.

 

Tottenham v RB Leipzig

6 - Mourinho last made it past the round of 16 of the Champions League six years ago, leading Chelsea to the semi-finals in 2013-14. It is also nearly 10 years since he last reached the final, with Inter in 2010.

9 - Son Heung-min has scored nine goals in his past 10 Champions League starts. In the knockout stages with Spurs, his record is five goals in seven starts.

20 - The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has seen more goals than any other venue in this season's Champions League (20 goals; 11 for Tottenham, 9 against).

11 - Between them, Timo Werner (6) and Emil Forsberg (5) have scored over half of RB Leipzig's all-time goals in the Champions League (55 per cent, 11 out of 20).

1 - Only one of Spurs' 21 Champions League home games has ended in a draw (0-0 v Milan in March 2011).

Atalanta v Valencia

0 - Atalanta have never played Valencia, or indeed any Spanish team, in a competitive fixture before.

1 - The Italian team are the first Champions League debutants to make it to the knockout stages of the Champions League since Leicester City in 2016-17. The English side were eventually knocked out in the quarter-finals by Atletico Madrid.

13 - Valencia are in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2012-13. It has been 13 years since they last made it past the round of 16 (2006-07).

3 - Atalanta are the first team to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League in its current format after losing their opening three group games.

4 - Rodrigo Moreno has been involved in four goals in five Champions League games this season (two goals, two assists). That is more than in his previous 24 matches in the competition, from which he produced two goals and one assist.

Atletico Madrid appear clear underdogs as they welcome European and world champions Liverpool to the Wanda Metropolitano this week.

Liverpool have reached consecutive Champions League finals, winning the decider at Atleti's home last season, and are on course for a stunning record-breaking first Premier League triumph.

Diego Simeone's Atleti have similarly been counted among Europe's elite in years past, winning LaLiga in 2013-14 as they lost the Champions League final, a continental feat that was repeated two years later.

But the Spanish side are facing a battle just to finish in the top four in their domestic league this season.

They face Liverpool in the Champions League last 16, hosting the first leg on Tuesday, and we use Opta data to assess just where they have fallen away ahead of this mammoth task.

 

Steadily slowing since 2014

Simeone has long had a reputation for setting up his side to stifle the best in Spain and across Europe, but in 2013-14 – the greatest season in their modern history – Atleti packed a punch in attack.

The LaLiga champions scored 116 goals in their 61 matches in all competitions – 1.9 per game.

As they returned to the Champions League final in 2015-16, Atleti netted 89 times in 57 matches (1.6 per game), while they average just 1.1 per game this term.

Diego Costa alone scored 35 in 2013-14, and Atleti clearly lack a similarly prolific marksman right now, but their style of play in attack has also changed considerably.

Atleti still have a similar portion of possession – 46.8 per cent in 2013-14 to 47.5 per cent this campaign – yet they were previously far more effective at launching attacks from their low block.

A total of 108 fast breaks across their 61 matches in their best season works out at 1.8 per game. That was down to 0.4 fast breaks per game in 2015-16, and 0.5 per game in 2019-20.

Atleti have simply become far slower and therefore easier to defend against.

 

Alvaro Morata no marksman

Atleti's issues would still not be quite so grave if they were taking chances with the same regularity as previously, but a study of Expected Goals (xG) provides cause for concern.

Costa could have been expected to score 31.85 times across the 2013-14 season but instead beat that xG figure with his tally of 35.

The ability of Simeone's side to compete again two years later was largely due to the talents of Antoine Griezmann, meanwhile, signed after the LaLiga title success.

The France striker outperformed his xG of 18.84 by some distance with a total of 24 goals in all competitions, taking several chances he would not have been expected to score from.

This season, Alvaro Morata is Atleti's top scorer with just eight. Worryingly, he would have been expected to score 12.85 times already.

Joao Felix (three goals, 5.87 xG), Costa (two goals, 2.92 xG) and Vitolo (no goals, 1.62 xG) have all toiled in the final third, too, explaining Atleti's poor goals return.

 

Defensive standards slipping

And Atleti's problems are not just at one end of the field. Jan Oblak remains one of Europe's finest goalkeepers, but even he cannot match previous standards behind a much-changed defence.

The Slovenia star was outstanding in 2015-16, conceding just 26 times across 51 matches, keeping 32 clean sheets and saving 82.67 per cent of shots faced on target.

This term, Oblak has already let in 22 goals in just 31 games, with his save percentage 76.84

Where Atleti could have expected to concede 45.31 goals four seasons ago and allowed just 31, the margins have slimmed considerably: 27.5 xG conceded versus 24 conceded in 2019-20.

Just as Atleti have not effectively replaced Griezmann in attack, they look to be feeling the losses of Diego Godin, Lucas Hernandez and Filipe Luis in defence, with Oblak unable to stem the tide.

Liverpool's all-star attack can now fancy their chances against a previously stingy back line.

Liverpool return to the setting of their sixth coronation as European champions on Tuesday, as they face Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano in their last-16 first leg.

The Reds beat Tottenham 2-0 at Atletico's ground last year to win the competition for the first time since 2005, having been defeated in the final the previous campaign.

They go into Tuesday's encounter as big favourites due to a combination of their remarkable form and Atletico's well-documented struggles.

Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain tussle in Germany in Tuesday's other fixture, with their contest sure to capture the imagination of neutrals given the amount of attacking talent on display.

Ahead of Tuesday's action, we take a look at the key data from both games…

Atletico Madrid v Liverpool

0 - Atletico have never lost at home under Diego Simeone in the Champions League knockout stages (W8 D4). In those 12 games, they have only conceded two goals.

3 - Liverpool, who beat Genk and Salzburg on matchday three and matchday six of the group stage, have never won three consecutive away Champions League games. They last did so in the European Cup back in September 1984 under manager Joe Fagan (five in a row).

10 - Liverpool's Sadio Mane has scored 10 goals in 14 Champions League knockout games since 2017-18. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has been more prolific over that period (11 goals).

3 - Liverpool have always progressed against Spanish opposition in two-legged Champions League ties (3/3): 2-2 on away goals v Barcelona (2006-07, round of 16), 5-0 on aggregate v Real Madrid (2008-09, round of 16), 4-3 v Barcelona (2018-19, semi-finals).

50 - If he plays, this will be Alvaro Morata's 50th Champions League game. Fifty per cent of the Atletico striker's goals in the Champions League have come in the knockout phase (7/14).

Borussia Dortmund v PSG

1 - Dortmund have made it past the Champions League last 16 only once in the past five seasons. That was in 2016-17 under current PSG coach Thomas Tuchel – they were eventually knocked out by Monaco in the quarter-finals.

8 - PSG have reached the Champions League knockout stages for the eighth consecutive season – only Real Madrid (23), Barcelona (16) and Bayern Munich (12) are on a longer run. However, in that time, the French side have never gone past the quarter-finals and have been eliminated in the last 16 in each of the past three seasons.

2 - Two of the three youngest players to have scored three or more goals and delivered three or more assists in the Champions League since last season play for Dortmund: 19-year-old Jadon Sancho (three goals, three assists) and 21-year-old Achraf Hakimi (four goals, three assists). The other is PSG's 21-year-old Kylian Mbappe (nine goals, eight assists).

30 - Mbappe has had 30 goal involvements in 30 Champions League games (19 goals, 11 assists). He has scored three goals against BVB, his joint-best record in the Champions League against a single opponent.

22 - Dortmund's previous 22 goals in the Champions League have all come from open play, the longest current run among the remaining sides in the competition.

Romelu Lukaku has made quite the impact in Serie A this season but he comes up against one of Europe's most in-form strikers in Ciro Immobile when Inter visit Lazio on Sunday.

Lazio have been one of the surprise packages in Italy's top flight this term and are just one point adrift of table-topping Inter ahead of a huge clash at Stadio Olimpico.

The performances of Immobile and Lukaku could well be crucial in determining the outcome of a blockbuster encounter between two teams aiming to end Juventus' stranglehold of Serie A.

With help of Opta data, we look at how the two compare this season.


IMMOBILE ON FIRE IN FRONT OF GOAL

Lukaku said "there's a new king in town" after helping Inter down Milan in the derby last weekend, and he has been an undoubted success during his maiden campaign at Inter. Thus far he has 17 goals in 23 Serie A appearances with an impressive minutes-to-goal average of 116.

But Immobile is Lazio's leading light, scoring 25 times in 23 league games, giving him an impressive average of a goal every 77 minutes in the top flight.

The Lazio man has also taken more shots (including blocked efforts), registering 93 to Lukaku's tally 68, with 46 on target compared to 35 for the Belgium striker.

Lukaku has scored nine and missed 10 'big chances', with Immobile's numbers reading 15 and 12 in that department. The Italian has a slightly better shot conversion rate (including blocks) of 27 per cent to 25.


CIRO THE CREATOR? LUKAKU UP FOR THE BATTLE

Lukaku's strengths are not just his goalscoring prowess but his ability to bring team-mates in to play.

Immobile is no slouch in terms of those attributes, though, and his six assists and 41 chances created outstrip what Lukaku (two and 34 in the respective categories) has managed this season.

Where Lukaku has outperformed Immobile is the number of duels won, with his 104 some way clear of Immobile's 65. Unsurprisingly, his duel success rate of 44.07 per cent is better than the Lazio forward's 38.69.

In terms of recoveries, Immobile has made 59 to Lukaku's 44.


THE STATS

- Immobile has failed to score in his past two league games; he has not gone three without a goal since last May.

- After scoring twice in his first three matches against Inter, Immobile has failed to net in the following eight against the Nerazzurri.

- Lukaku has the most away goals in the top five European leagues this season with 12, while Immobile is the highest scorer in home fixtures with 15 (the same total as Cristiano Ronaldo).

- Indeed, Lukaku's tally of 12 away goals is already the joint-best for a debut Serie A campaign. Andriy Shevchenko (1999-2000) and Antonio Vojak (1929-30) also managed as many on the road in their maiden seasons.

Chelsea have committed €44million to the signing of Hakim Ziyech, who has become one of the most admired talents in European football over the past two seasons at Ajax.

The impending transfer was announced on Thursday but remains subject to Morocco international Ziyech agreeing personal terms at Stamford Bridge.

The 26-year-old was one of the best players on the pitch during a barnstorming 4-4 draw in November's Champions League clash between the sides.

Kepa Arrizabalaga may have been credited with an own goal but it was Ziyech's sensational bending free-kick from the right touchline that did the damage as the visitors opened up a 3-1 half-time lead.

Ziyech, who predominantly operates from the right but can play behind a striker, is now set to feature more regularly at the Bridge and we used Opta data to examine his ability.


THE EREDIVISIE'S MASTER CREATOR

Ziyech has been one of the Eredivisie's top performers since breaking into the first team at Heerenveen in 2012 having risen through the club's youth teams.

After a two-year stop at Twente, Ziyech moved to Ajax in August 2016 where his performances domestically and in Europe have seen his star continue to rise.

Since his switch to the Johan Cruijff ArenA, only four players can boast a higher goals return than his 38 while his sensational tally of 51  Eredivisie assists is 16 better than the 35 of Steven Berghuis, the next highest on the list.

Indeed, his combined 89 goal involvements is in the best in the league during this time, seven more than Berghuis, while Bryan Linssen (who has the most goals with 52 ) is way behind with 66 .

To really emphasise Ziyech's attacking brilliance, his 421 chances created since September 2016 is a whopping 134 more than second-place Berghuis.


MIXING IT WITH MESSI AND MBAPPE IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Ajax were the great entertainers of the of the 2018-19 Champions League and only a last-gasp goal from Tottenham's Lucas Moura denied Erik ten Hag's men a place in the final.

Ziyech was typically influential in that run to the last four and since August 2018 he has provided seven assists in Europe's premier competition (excluding qualifiers).

That is as many as team-mate Dusan Tadic and just one fewer than the best of eight achieved by Kylian Mbappe and Riyad Mahrez - and one more than Barcelona great Lionel Messi.

His five goals are 13 fewer than the sensational 18 scored by Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski in the same time, with Messi registering 14 .

Messi tops the list of goal involvements at 20 , with Lewandowski (18) , Mbappe (17) , Raheem Sterling (14) , Tadic and Mohamed Salah (both 13) above Ziyech's combined goals and assists tally of 12 .

In terms of chances created, Ziyech scores highly as well. His 39 is the same as Christian Eriksen and beaten only by Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos (51) , Tadic (47) and Messi (41) .


THE STATS

- Since the 2012-13 season, Ziyech has made 217 Eredivisie appearances, scored 79 goals and contributed 87 assists.

- Ziyech has at least 10 assists in each of his previous six Eredivisie seasons, no player has managed to do so in more than two campaigns in the same period.

- No players has more assists (51) , shots (528) , created chances (421) , completed dribbles (288) or recoveries (752) than Ziyech in the Eredivisie since he joined Ajax.

- Over the past two seasons, only Mohamed Salah (79) and Messi (77) have taken more Champions League shots than Ziyech ( 75 same as Cristiano Ronaldo). 

Each close-season transfer window has a defining 'saga' and everything points to the next revolving around Jadon Sancho and Manchester United.

Media reports began to circulate on Wednesday claiming Sancho is set to leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, having emerged as one of world football's next great hopes since joining from Manchester City.

The England international seems likely to return home later this year and United are rumoured to be leading the chase, ready to pay £120million for his signature.

United's issues on the flanks are nothing new. For several years they have seemingly operated with a bizarre square-pegs-round-holes policy, assigning numerous players who clearly aren't wingers to wide roles.

We looked at the data to understand how Sancho stacks up with United's current attacking options.

A PROLIFIC CREATOR

It's difficult to imagine Sancho joining United and not having a swift and decisive impact. The only other genuine winger in their squad is Daniel James, and while the Wales international has enjoyed a solid debut season after a shock move, he has faded recently and clearly lacks a certain presence.

After Andreas Pereira (31), Fred (30) and Marcus Rashford (24), James (23) has created the most Premier League chances for United this term and his haul of six assists isn't matched by any of his team-mates.

By comparison, Sancho has laid on 47 opportunities for team-mates in the Bundesliga this season, the fifth-highest in the division, and his haul of 13 assists is the same amount as James, Anthony Martial and Rashford combined.

SUBTLETY IN THE FINAL THIRD

The United squad isn't exactly blessed with lots of physical attackers renowned for their aerial ability, which suggests hooking hopeful crosses into the box does not represent a fertile route to goal.

For the most part, United forwards aren't desperate to cross, with Pereira (28), Rashford (19) and Martial (7) often looking for alternative ways to penetrate the box, but James (79) is the 11th most-frequent crosser in the league, even if he's some way off Trent Alexander-Arnold (159).

Sancho fits in more with the former group, supplying only 22 crosses this season. Perhaps such a low figure is justified by the fact only five per cent were accurate.

Nevertheless, this does suggest Sancho is more subtle and deliberate with his creativity, and given he has crafted comfortably more chances and goals than the United contingent, it is difficult to argue he should alter his style.

A KEY INFLUENCE

As someone who creates so many opportunities, it wouldn't be unusual to expect Sancho to be somewhat wayward in possession, given the necessity to take risks.

But 80 per cent of his 496 passes into the final third have been accurate. Of the 284 Bundesliga players to play at least 50 passes into that part of the pitch, only 11 have greater accuracy than Sancho, though none of those attempted more than 308.

Martial, Fred, Mason Greenwood, Luke Shaw, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard have all been more accurate in the final third, but Sancho has attempted far more passes, while none of them have got anywhere close to the Dortmund star's chance creation record.

DEADLY WHEN IT MATTERS

Sancho's not just a creator, however.

As well as his 13 assists, Sancho has also chipped in with 12 Bundesliga goals this season, a figure bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (22) and Timo Werner (20).

Those 12 goals came from 37 attempts, meaning he is averaging almost a goal every three shots, comfortably better than Martial (17 per cent of 48 shots) and Rashford (19 per cent of 74 shots).

A complete player in attack, Sancho offers an all-round threat that United simply do not possess.

He also appears to be the ideal player for United stylistically, with his attributes and dynamism similar to the likes of Martial, Rashford and Greenwood, around whom club seem intent on building their future.

Will Sancho be the next to join that trio?

Hakim Ziyech will need little introduction to Chelsea fans if the Morocco international does complete his move to Stamford Bridge from Ajax.

Ziyech was one of the best players on the pitch during a barnstorming 4-4 draw in November's Champions League clash.

Kepa Arrizabalaga may have been credited with an own goal but it was Ziyech's sensational bending free-kick from the right touchline that did the damage as the visitors opened up a 3-1 half-time lead.

Next season, the 26-year-old appears destined to play much more regularly at the Bridge, with reports claiming the Blues have agreed a £38million deal for the attacking midfielder.

Predominantly employed on the right, Ziyech can also play as a number 10 and here we have used Opta data to take a closer look at an exciting talent.


THE EREDIVISIE'S MASTER CREATOR

Ziyech has been one of the Eredivisie's top performers since breaking into the first team at Heerenveen in 2012 having risen through the club's youth teams.

After a two-year stop at Twente, Ziyech moved to Ajax in August 2016 where his performances domestically and in Europe have seen his star continue to rise.

Since his switch to the Johan Cruijff ArenA, only four players can boast a higher goals return than his 38 while his sensational tally of 51 Eredivisie assists is 16 better than the 35 of Steven Berghuis, the next highest on the list.

Indeed, his combined 89 goal involvements is in the best in the league during this time, seven more than Berghuis, while Bryan Linssen (who has the most goals with 52) is way behind with 66.

To really emphasise Ziyech's attacking brilliance, his 421 chances created since September 2016 is a whopping 134 more than second-place Berghuis.


MIXING IT WITH MESSI AND MBAPPE IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Ajax were the great entertainers of the of the 2018-19 Champions League and only a last-gasp goal from Tottenham's Lucas Moura denied Erik ten Hag's men a place in the final.

Ziyech was typically influential in that run to the last four and since August 2018 he has provided seven assists in Europe's premier competition.

That is as many as team-mate Dusan Tadic and just one fewer than the best of eight achieved by Kylian Mbappe and Riyad Mahrez - and one more than Barcelona great Lionel Messi.

His five goals are 13 fewer than the sensational 18 scored by Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski in the same time, with Messi registering 14.

Messi tops the list of goal involvements at 20, with Lewandowski (18), Mbappe (17), Raheem Sterling (14), Tadic and Mohamed Salah (both 13) above Ziyech's combined goals and assists tally of 12.

In terms of chances created, Ziyech scores highly as well. His 39 is the same as Christian Eriksen and beaten only by Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos (51), Tadic (47) and Messi (41).


THE STATS

- Since the 2012-13 season, Ziyech has made 217 Eredivisie appearances, scored 79 goals and contributed 87 assists.

- Ziyech has at least 10 assists in each of his previous six Eredivisie seasons, no player has managed to do so in more than two campaigns in the same period.

- No players has more assists (51), shots (528), created chances (421), completed dribbles (288) or recoveries (752) than Ziyech in the Eredivisie since he joined Ajax.

- Over the past two seasons, only Mohamed Salah (79) and Messi (77) have taken more Champions League shots than Ziyech (75 same as Cristiano Ronaldo). 

Julian Nagelsmann insists the outcome will not decide anything, but RB Leipzig's trip to Bayern Munich is undoubtedly a pivotal moment in the Bundesliga title race.

A charging Bayern squad suddenly sit on top of the table, a point clear of their opponents. The reigning champions have hit top form, reeling off six league wins on the spin. They have scored 12 goals in their three outings since the mid-season break, too.

In contrast, Leipzig - who have enjoyed such a rapid rise since they were formed in 2009 - have stumbled in recent weeks.

A 2-0 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt was followed by a 2-2 draw at home to Borussia Monchengladbach last time out. Sunday's trip to the Allianz Arena should tell us a lot more about their prospects of lasting the distance.

With help from Opta, we look at key statistics behind both teams' recent performances - and identify how a coaching change may turn out to be crucial in the final reckoning.

 

Leipzig out of luck, or are they wilting under pressure?

Vibrant, youthful, exciting – set aside the off-field politics that surrounds Leipzig's ownership, and there is little to dislike about them on the pitch.

But since the post-winter break, Leipzig have relinquished their position at the Bundesliga's summit and won just once in four matches across all competitions. If they weren't hopeful of a title challenge this could be dismissed as a blip, but given their lofty ambitions, it warrants investigation.

Even with the in-form Timo Werner, Leipzig have been far less impressive in front of goal. Before the break they had scored 67 times but their expected goals (xG) was 62 – since returning they've netted six times, which corresponds exactly with xG.

They're averaging more shots now, 18.5 per game as opposed to 16.5 before Christmas, but accuracy has dropped to 49 per cent from 59, while big-chance conversion has decreased spectacularly from 41 per cent to just 17.

Leipzig are still creating chances at an almost identical rate, so the data suggests a decrease in composure is to blame for their issues.

 

Demme departure a factor

It was always likely to be a blow to lose club captain Diego Demme, the tidy and tenacious midfielder Leipzig allowed to join Napoli in the January transfer window.

Given he is more of a defensive-minded player, it's difficult to attach too much importance to his absence from an attacking perspective, but even the smallest change can have a ripple effect – after all, Leipzig averaged 2.9 goals per match with him in the starting XI and just 1.7 without him.

Their win percentage also takes a dip from 65 to 44.4 per cent when Demme has not been in the line-up.

They averaged 2.2 points each match when the German started, but that plummets to 1.6 if he has been absent.

 

Bayern back in business

For a time in the first half of the season, it seemed possible we could be in for a Bundesliga title race without Bayern. However, last season provided a cautionary tale.

Bayern eventually came good in the 2018-19 campaign, finishing strongly enough to win the title by two points despite Borussia Dortmund – who ended up second – holding a nine-point lead over them at the end of the 15th matchday.

Statistically, there were only negligible differences between how Bayern performed before and after last season's winter break, but this term there are notable improvements, even if there is a smaller sample of games to look at post-break.

Big-chance conversion is up from 40 per cent to 53; shooting accuracy is now 64 per cent when it was 51; they're averaging four goals per game compared to 2.8 and conceding one every match, as opposed to 1.2.

Whereas last season Bayern appeared to simply profit off Dortmund's collapse, this term there is early evidence of genuine improvement.

With that coming off the back of several uninterrupted weeks of working with their new coach, Hansi Flick, it seems a leadership change might be paying dividends.

The opening round of fixtures in this year's Six Nations did not disappoint.

Wales served up a feast of tries to kick things off, the defending champions showing a cutting edge as they thrashed poor Italy 42-0 in Cardiff.

The score was far closer at the Aviva Stadium, though, as Ireland edged out Scotland. New captain Johnny Sexton was the hero for the hosts, scoring all their points in a hard-fought 19-12 triumph. Next up: Wales.

England, meanwhile, got their just deserts following a shocking start against France. Failing to score a point in the opening half of a game in the tournament for the first time since 1988 left Eddie Jones' side with too much to do in Paris, Les Bleus delighting the home crowd by holding on for a 24-17 win on Sunday.

So, what will be on the menu for the second week? With help from Opta, we whet your appetite for the upcoming games.

 

Ireland v Wales

- Wales have lost just one of their last five Six Nations games against Ireland (W3, D1). However, their solitary defeat in that spell came the last time they travelled to Dublin in the tournament (2018).

- As for Ireland, they have an outstanding home record, losing just two of the last 22 Tests they have played in front of their own fans (W19, D1). Those defeats? Against New Zealand (November 2016) and England (February 2019).

- Wales gained the most metres (563) of any side in last weekend's opening round, ahead of Ireland (413). Wales also topped the charts for clean breaks (12) and defenders beaten (26, level with Scotland and France).

- Ireland's Jordan Larmour made the most carries (19) and metres (138) of any player last weekend, while Wales' Leigh Halfpenny ranked second in both categories (17 carries, 107 metres).

- Josh Adams crossed for a hat-trick against Italy, taking him to 13 tries in Test rugby since the beginning of 2019. That tally is two more than any other player has managed over that same period of time.


Scotland v England

- Scotland are unbeaten in their last two Six Nations matches against England (W1, D1), this after losing seven in a row before that. Not since 1982-1984 have Scotland gone unbeaten in three straight Calcutta Cup fixtures (W2, D1).

- Only once since 2000 have England suffered successive defeats to open a campaign (2005), but they have lost five of their last seven away outings, including the last two.

- England won 17 of their 18 lineouts in the defeat to France, their 94 per cent success rate the best of any side. In contrast, Scotland's 78 per cent success rate was the worst out of the nations.

- Stuart Hogg beat eight defenders against Ireland, more than any other player in week one. Team-mate Jonny Gray excelled in defence, ending as the joint-top tackler (22, level with Bernard Le Roux).

- Owen Farrell is 20 points away from reaching 900 for England in Test rugby. His highest haul in an international match came against Scotland in 2017, as he landed seven conversions and four penalties to finish with 26.


France v Italy

- France have won 18 of their 20 clashes with Italy in the Six Nations (L2) – scoring victories in each of their 10 home games in that run. They have averaged four tries per game against the Azzurri in the Championship, too.

- Italy hold an unwanted record, having now lost their last 23 Six Nations games. No other side has lost more than 17 consecutive games in Five or Six Nations history.

- France were not flush with possession in the match against England, yet they conceded the fewest metres (224) and clean breaks (6), as well as making the most tackles (182).

- Only England's Maro Itoje (44) hit more rucks in the opening round of this year's Six Nations than France duo Gregory Alldritt (43) and Charles Ollivon (37, level with Peter O'Mahony). Alldritt hit the most defensive rucks of any player (25) and slowed the opposition ball down on 16 occasions at the breakdown.

- France are beginning a Six Nations campaign with two successive home games for the first time since 2016, which also happens to be the last time they began with back-to-back victories.

Even when you consider the well-reported exit clause in his contract, until recently the idea of Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona for another club was virtually unthinkable.

But this week friction has started to appear, with Messi publicly calling out Barca director of football Eric Abidal for bad-mouthing players in an interview, saying that "many players weren't satisfied nor working hard and there was also an internal communication problem" before Ernesto Valverde's sacking.

Messi's forthright response on Instagram said the "sports management must also assume their responsibilities" and suggested Abidal should name specific players if he is willing to criticise them, otherwise "we are all getting dirtied and feeding things that are said but aren't true".

Barca have since assured – via Spain's sports newspapers – that all is well, the pair have reconciled and Abidal will keep his job, but that is unlikely to dispel concern among supporters, particularly following further reports several other clubs have registered an interest.

Nevertheless, arguably for the first time ever, the prospect of Messi leaving does not seem an impossibility, particularly given a contract clause allows him to leave for free – but where would that leave Barca?

A BRUTAL GENIUS

Declaring Messi important to Barcelona would be an understatement akin to saying the Titanic was big. After all, he's helped them win 34 trophies.

Messi made his breakthrough in the 2004-05 season and his impact has been almost beyond comprehension. If the six-time Ballon d'Or winner isn't the greatest footballer of all-time, good luck making a case for anyone else.

He has gone on to play a role in 864 goals (622 goals, 242 assists) in 711 matches across all competitions, a truly astounding feat.

One gets an even greater perspective of his influence when considering how much of Barca's overall total that equates to.

Across the same period, the Blaugrana have scored 2,241 times, meaning he has had a hand in 39 per cent of all of their goals over a period of almost 16 years – including his first season when he featured on just nine occasions.

Since the 2007-08 campaign, his first with more than 20 involvements, that figure shoots up to 44 per cent – or 804 of Barca's 1,812 goals in that time.

ONE-MAN TEAM?

Given some of the players he has featured alongside, it is probably a step too far to suggest Barca have been a one-man team since Messi made a first-team role his own.

However, there can be little denying he has often carried them and no one else has had a remotely comparable impact.

Over the past 12 seasons, Messi has finished as Barca's leading scorer across all competitions in all but one - 2015-16 when Luis Suarez plundered 59.

His best was that remarkable 2011-12 campaign when he scored 73 goals across all fronts, while a haul of 29 assists took him to 102 involvements - 54 per cent of the team's total.

IRREPLACABLE?

Where do you even start when planning to replace a player who has been directly involved in almost 50 per cent of your club's goals in a 12-and-a-half-year period?

One would hope for Barca's sake they have some form of contingency plan, but even if they do, it's difficult to imagine them being able to buy anyone anywhere near as influential.

Messi is more than a mere footballer – Barca teams for more than a decade have been built with the purpose of getting the best out of him, while he is virtually unrivalled both as a creator and finisher.

Neymar is the obvious candidate to replace Messi when the time comes, as he does offer a similar blend of deadliness and craft, although Barca's financial constraints are well-documented and it's hard to see how they could afford him at the moment, even without Messi's wage.

They may opt to go down the route of signing a more singled-minded attacker, such as Kylian Mbappe or Lautaro Martinez, but again, certainly in the case of the former, affordability may be an issue.

Even if Antoine Griezmann manages to belatedly blossom in Barcelona colours, Messi's eventual departure will leave a gaping chasm that their current squad is unequipped to fill.

Putting together a post-Messi Barca could just be the single most fascinating rebuilding job in football history – but Josep Maria Bartomeu and Abidal will be clinging on to the hope that won't be for another few years yet.

Manchester City and West Ham are each struggling to match expectations as they prepare to do battle on Sunday, with the Premier League champions 22 points adrift of Liverpool as the Hammers toil in the relegation zone.

City suffered a sixth league defeat at Tottenham last week – matching the combined total number of losses from their previous two campaigns – while West Ham let a two-goal lead slip to draw with Brighton and Hove Albion at home.

Dropping points from winning positions has been a frustrating theme of West Ham's season – 19 is a league high – as they have failed to secure victory in eight of the 14 matches in which they have scored first.

A trip to City is not exactly what David Moyes needs right now either, as West Ham have a miserable record at the Etihad Stadium.


PEP PERFECT AGAINST HAMMERS

City have won the sides' past seven league meetings – scoring 23 and conceding three – and manager Pep Guardiola has beaten West Ham on each of the eight occasions he has faced them in all competitions.

That record matches his best 100 per cent return against any opponent, also beating Malaga and Watford eight times out of eight, and the former Barcelona coach will relish the opportunity to down West Ham once more.

The Hammers did win at the Etihad in September 2015, but they have collected just four of a possible 39 points at the stadium. Not since December 2001 – against Manchester United – have they won away at the Premier League champions.

Keeping it tight will be key for the visitors, as they have not won any of their past 16 league games in which they have conceded. However, West Ham's most recent clean sheet against City in the league came way back in November 2012.

Meanwhile, Raheem Sterling will hope to use this game to get back on track. Although he has not scored since December, the England star has been involved in 11 goals in seven Premier League appearances against West Ham.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: DECLAN RICE V RODRI

Declan Rice's second season as a Premier League regular has not been quite as convincing as his first, but he has still played every minute for West Ham in the top flight this term, and the England international's battle against Rodri could be key this week.

West Ham have certainly kept Rice busy, the midfielder making 3.1 tackles and 2.0 interceptions per 90 minutes – 78 and 51 respectively in total.

Rodri has also been handed a prominent role in the middle for City, with Fernandinho often played in defence, but he enjoys far more time on the ball than Rice.

While only averaging 1.9 tackles and 0.96 interceptions per 90 minutes, the Spain international plays 86.9 passes – to Rice's 47.6 – and creates 1.3 chances.

It will be up to Rice to disrupt Rodri, yet the City star actually wins more aerial duels than this week's opponent – 2.4 versus 1.4 per 90 – and has conceded 1.6 fouls per 90, settling into the physicality of the English game seamlessly.

FORM GUIDE

City last suffered consecutive league losses in December 2018 and West Ham would need to end a five-match winless run in the top flight – their worst under Moyes – to inflict another defeat on Guardiola's men.

The Hammers have been beaten in each of their past three away league matches, yet their most recent two trips to 'big six' opposition yielded 1-0 victories at Tottenham and Chelsea.

Former manager Slaven Bilic oversaw a sequence of three straight away wins against 'big six' opponents in 2015, with City the third side West Ham defeated.

City's attack has remained a potent force at home, scoring 2.8 goals per game over a 32-match stretch in which only Wolves – 2-0 away winners this season – prevented the hosts from scoring.

However, City have kept a clean sheet in just 33 per cent of their league games at the Etihad this term.

HISTORY SAYS...

As well as collecting win after win against West Ham, City tend to hit plenty of goals too, scoring four or more times in four of their seven straight victories over the Hammers.

In fact, five of the most recent 16 occasions on which West Ham have conceded four or more have come against City.

City have scored in each of their past 17 games against West Ham in all competitions, tallying 50 to their opponents' 11 in total over that stretch.

And West Ham's return of just one victory at the Etihad in 13 games sees City's home rank alongside Liverpool's Anfield (23 matches) and Leeds United's Elland Road (10) as a stadium the London club have visited at least 10 times in the Premier League but only tasted victory at once.

It's third-and-three in the first offensive series of Super Bowl LIV and Patrick Mahomes' pass to Damien Williams in the flat falls incomplete.

Even those with a passing interest in the NFL are not too surprised. The Kansas City Chiefs have been slow starters in these playoffs. They spotted the Houston Texans a 24-point lead in the Divisional Round and then trailed the Tennessee Titans by 10 in the AFC Championship Game.

Ethan Cooperson, a senior research analyst for the broadcast support team at Stats Perform, knows the estimated 40 million listeners tuned into Westwood One's play-by-play caller Kevin Harlan and analyst Kurt Warner desire more than just an observation that it takes Mahomes and Co. a while to get going.

On this occasion, Cooperson and the team have trawled the Stats Perform database to recognise a pattern: Kansas City have now gone three-and-out on each of their three opening drives in the playoffs having done so only twice in the regular season, when they were the NFL's best at moving the chains on third down.

It is one example of the type of data nugget that Cooperson, sat next to Harlan and Warner in the upper reaches of Miami's Hard Rock Stadium, writes down on pieces of paper to pass across to the Westwood One commentary duo throughout the 54th edition of the Super Bowl.

"You have to think quickly, think on your feet," Cooperson tells Omnisport before the game.

"You react to those things and figure out what's important, what trend is happening, what record might be broken or what might have happened that hasn't happened in a long time."

This game is a classic example. The aforementioned Kansas City running back Williams - who had fewer than 500 rushing yards in the regular season - ends up being a key part of the Chiefs' 31-20 success over the San Francisco 49ers.

Stats Perform's historical database can quickly identify Williams as the first player in Super Bowl history to have over 100 yards on the ground, a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown.

"People want to know, 'Well, how many times has this ever happened?'," Cooperson, who also works alongside the CBS broadcast team of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, explains.

"People want to go deeper into those historical numbers. It's not enough anymore to be able to say, 'How many times has it happened this year?' We want to know, 'How many times has this ever happened?'"

He adds: "We're trying to look beyond what much of the media already has, digging into the Stats Perform database, the historical database, trying to find interesting trends that the public doesn't know about."

One of Cooperson's favourite recent examples was when running back Derrick Henry became just the fifth player in NFL history to score a touchdown on his birthday, doing so in Tennessee's Wild Card Round win over the New England Patriots.

Cooperson had an inkling that might happen, but it was a case of quick-thinking two weeks later when he worked out Titans tackle Dennis Kelly (321 pounds) was the heaviest man to catch a postseason touchdown in NFL history, a stat which got him a namecheck from Nantz on the air.

"I think back to when I first started doing TV with CBS in 2000 and some of the things that we got on there at that time, that we thought were really interesting and deep... Well, frankly, someone now in fourth grade could get access to some of those numbers," he says.

"So what we thought was great back then is very easy and simple to come by now.

"There's more demand, [we have to] dig deeper, find more stuff that goes deeper into the historical trends."

In the end, a rather mundane game came to life in the final quarter. The Chiefs scored the joint-most points (21) in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl while becoming the first team in NFL history to overturn 10-point deficits in each of their three playoff wins.

Just like Mahomes and the Chiefs offense, Cooperson has to make adjustments as the game wears on.

"You don't want to get so involved in things that you have prepared or looked up prior to the game," Cooperson admits. 

"You very much want to react to what's happening."

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