Lionel Messi may yet remain at Barcelona.

Messi, 33, stunningly requested to leave the LaLiga giants during the close season but ended up staying at Camp Nou.

However, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has still been expected to leave at the end of his contract next year.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA'S CHANCES OF KEEPING MESSI BOOSTED

The resignation of president Josep Maria Bartomeu has boosted Barcelona's chances of keeping Messi beyond 2021, according to The Telegraph.

Messi has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona, winning 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies.

Manchester City and Inter have been most heavily linked with a move for Messi.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United sent a scout to watch RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano against Nurnberg in the DFB-Pokal last month, according to Bild. Upamecano has been linked with United previously and played 90 minutes as the Premier League side thrashed RB Leipzig 5-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday.

- With Virgil van Dijk injured, could Liverpool be eyeing Bayern Munich defender David Alaba? The Daily Star reports the Premier League champions were handed a boost in their prospects of a January transfer for Alaba after the defender's contract talks with Bayern collapsed. Alaba is out of contract next year.

- Manchester United, Barcelona and Juventus could be set for a transfer battle. The Mirror says United have joined Barcelona and Juventus in becoming interested in Ajax's 18-year-old midfielder Ryan Gravenberch.

- Inter may be in the market for a left wing-back in January. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A giants may look at Chelsea duo Marcos Alonso and Emerson Palmieri, two players they have been linked with previously.

Hat-trick hero Marcus Rashford wants Manchester United's 5-0 victory over RB Leipzig to signify that Old Trafford is becoming a place for teams to fear again.

Rashford came off the bench in the Champions League Group H clash just after the hour-mark to score a quickfire treble, becoming the fifth player in the competition's history do so as substitute.

The England striker's performance helped United confidently dismantle the Bundesliga leaders, who were unbeaten this season before facing the Red Devils.

United suffered a humiliating 6-1 defeat at home to Tottenham in the Premier League at the start of October but Rashford hopes the rout of Leipzig is a sign of things to come.

“It was important to get that first home win of the season," Rashford told reporters afterwards.

"This place has to be a fortress, so it was vital to get the win. Hopefully it’ll be the first of many here this season.

“We’ve got six points now after playing two very good teams. We’re in a great position in the group and hopefully we can take that form into the Premier League."

On his three goals, Rashford told BT Sport: "It was great to score a hat-trick. You obviously hope to make an impact from the bench and it couldn’t have gone much better for me.

"I think the manager wanted me to up the tempo. That for us means going forward. There was definitely spaces there. We looked dangerous throughout and that we could score every time we went forward."

Rashford became only the second United player to score a hat-trick as a substitute after manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's treble versus Nottingham Forest in February 1999 in the Premier League.

Solskjaer was thrilled with the impact made by Rashford, who took his tally to seven goals in all competitions for United this season. 

"Marcus was fantastic," Solskjaer said in a media conference after the game.

"He worked so hard after coming on and made an incredible impact. You hope you can make an impact off the bench, and when you’ve got players like that in reserve it’s great for us.

"Marcus took his chances incredibly well. He had space in front of him. You can see players looking for each other, playing that extra pass. I’m very pleased with the response.

"Now is not the time to think about how many goals Marcus will end up with. He’s just got to focus on the next job at hand, training on Thursday – he only played 30 minutes. So, one step at a time.

"If you try to think about too much you lose focus. He can keep focusing on what’s important on and off the pitch at the moment. He did really well, coming off the bench."

Hat-trick hero Marcus Rashford wants Manchester United's 5-0 victory over RB Leipzig to signify that Old Trafford is becoming a place for teams to fear again.

Rashford came off the bench in the Champions League Group H clash just after the hour-mark to score a quickfire treble, becoming the fifth player in the competition's history do so as substitute.

The England striker's performance helped United confidently dismantle the Bundesliga leaders, who were unbeaten this season before facing the Red Devils.

United suffered a humiliating 6-1 defeat at home to Tottenham in the Premier League at the start of October but Rashford hopes the rout of Leipzig is a sign of things to come.

“It was important to get that first home win of the season," Rashford told reporters afterwards.

"This place has to be a fortress, so it was vital to get the win. Hopefully it’ll be the first of many here this season.

“We’ve got six points now after playing two very good teams. We’re in a great position in the group and hopefully we can take that form into the Premier League."

On his three goals, Rashford told BT Sport: "It was great to score a hat-trick. You obviously hope to make an impact from the bench and it couldn’t have gone much better for me.

"I think the manager wanted me to up the tempo. That for us means going forward. There was definitely spaces there. We looked dangerous throughout and that we could score every time we went forward."

Rashford became only the second United player to score a hat-trick as a substitute after manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's treble versus Nottingham Forest in February 1999 in the Premier League.

Solskjaer was thrilled with the impact made by Rashford, who took his tally to seven goals in all competitions for United this season. 

"Marcus was fantastic," Solskjaer said in a media conference after the game.

"He worked so hard after coming on and made an incredible impact. You hope you can make an impact off the bench, and when you’ve got players like that in reserve it’s great for us.

"Marcus took his chances incredibly well. He had space in front of him. You can see players looking for each other, playing that extra pass. I’m very pleased with the response.

"Now is not the time to think about how many goals Marcus will end up with. He’s just got to focus on the next job at hand, training on Thursday – he only played 30 minutes. So, one step at a time.

"If you try to think about too much you lose focus. He can keep focusing on what’s important on and off the pitch at the moment. He did really well, coming off the bench."

Marcus Rashford came off the bench to score a quickfire hat-trick as Manchester United claimed back-to-back Champions League wins with a 5-0 hammering of RB Leipzig.

Mason Greenwood scored his first goal in the competition to give United the lead in the first half with a fine finish from a tight angle at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

But it was fellow striker Rashford, a 63rd-minute substitute, who left his mark on the game after twice breaking clear of the Leipzig finish and finishing emphatically.

Anthony Martial was on target from the penalty spot before Rashford put the gloss on the scoreline with another goal late on.

The victory leaves United top of Group H on six points, three clear of Leipzig and Paris Saint-German, who were 2-0 winners over Istanbul Basaksehir.

Bundesliga matches will be played behind closed doors from November 2 after it was announced Germany would return to a partial lockdown amid a significant increase in coronavirus cases. 

German chancellor Angela Merkel and the regional leaders of the 16 states decided on a raft of new measures to control the spread of the virus on Wednesday. 

One of these is to prevent any supporters from attending professional sports in the country.  

Ahead of the 2020-21 season, Bundesliga clubs announced they would be ready to welcome back fans if public health authorities considered it a safe step to take, having played out the final weeks of the 2019-20 season behind closed doors. 

The largest attendance under the restrictions was Borussia Dortmund's home clash with Freiburg when 11,500 fans watched on, while other clubs - including reigning champions Bayern Munich - did not reopen their stadiums due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in the surrounding area.  

Dortmund's managing director Hans-Joachim Watzke accepts the decision but insists supporters were safe inside the club's stadium. 

"In view of the extremely increased number of infections in Germany, the decision by politicians to be able to continue gaming operations without spectators for the time being must be accepted," he told Sky.  

"Nevertheless, I would like to state that the Bundesliga never posed a threat due to an elaborate, coherent hygiene concept valued by experts. We all at BVB hope that we can play again in front of our great fans as soon as possible." 

The restrictions do not come into place until Monday, which means Bundesliga fixtures this weekend could still yet be played in front of supporters.  

The German government is expected to reconvene on November 11 to reassess the situation, but it is believed the new measures will be in place until at least the end of the month. 

RB Leipzig lead the Bundesliga after five games with 13 points, with champions Bayern Munich and Dortmund sitting just a point behind. 

Dayot Upamecano is a player in demand following his exploits for RB Leipzig.

Upamecano attracted plenty of interest before re-signing at Bundesliga side Leipzig in July.

Manchester United have been linked previously and are reportedly plotting another move.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED WANT UPAMECANO

Manchester United will pursue a cut-price deal for RB Leipzig star Dayot Upamecano, according to The Times.

United have been keen to bolster their defence and the Red Devils were previously linked to France centre-back Upamecano, who has also caught the eye of the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Upamecano signed a new deal in July, though the contract reportedly includes a release clause of around £38million (€42m) at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bild reports a third round of negotiations regarding a new contract for Bayern star David Alaba failed. Alaba will become a free agent at the end of the season. Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Barca are believed to be interested.

Milan are interested in Schalke centre-back Ozan Kabak and Hellas Verona's Matteo Lovato, claims Gazzetta dello Sport. Kabak has also been linked to Premier League champions Liverpool.

- Tuttosport reports Barca and Juventus could be involved in another swap deal. After exchanging Miralem Pjanic and Arthur at the start of the season, Juve's Federico Bernardeschi and Barca forward Ousmane Dembele could also move in opposite directions.

Barca could raid PSV for Donyell Malen as an alternative to Lyon captain Memphis Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo. Barca tried to sign Depay in the previous transfer window but a move did not material as his contract expires at season's end.

Barcelona travel to fellow heavyweights Juventus in the pick of the second round of Champions League group-stage fixtures on Wednesday.

Cristiano Ronaldo will not get the chance to resume his rivalry with Lionel Messi after contracting coronavirus, but a number of other superstars will be on the field at Allianz Stadium.

Juve and Barca picked up victories in their opening games and that was also the case for Manchester United, who triumphed away at Paris Saint-Germain and now welcome RB Leipzig to Old Trafford.

PSG head to Turkey for their first competitive meeting with Istanbul Basaksehir while Chelsea, held by Europa League champions Sevilla in their first game, face a potentially tricky trip of their own at competition debutants Krasnodar.

Here is some of the key Opta data from day two of matchday two.

Juventus v Barcelona: Milestone victory in sight for Juve

Juventus' tally of six home games without losing to Barcelona is their joint-best total against any team in European competition, alongside another LaLiga side in Atletico Madrid.

Barca are unbeaten in six games against Italian opposition in the Champions League, however, and have only suffered defeat once in their last 17 away games in the competition.

Should Juve come out on top in Turin, it will be their landmark 100th victory in UEFA's showpiece competition in what will be their 200th game.


Krasnodar v Chelsea: Blues target first win

After drawing 0-0 with Sevilla in their opener, Chelsea are looking to avoid going back-to-back games without a win to begin a Champions League campaign since the 1999-2000 season.

The London club have lost only one of their last 11 away games in European competition, though that came in their last outing - a 4-1 loss to Bayern Munich.

None of the previous six Russian sides to have competed in the Champions League have won their first home game, which Krasnodar will be looking to put right on Wednesday.


Manchester United v RB Leipzig: More German joy for Red Devils?

United have gone 10 home games without being beaten by German opposition in European competition since a 1-0 loss against Bayern Munich in 2001, winning seven of those.

However, the Red Devils have lost four of their last six Champions League matches at Old Trafford - as many as in their previous 71 games combined.

Leipzig beat Tottenham home and away last season - their only previous encounters with an English team - and are unbeaten in five away games in the competition.

 

Nothing better than a sunny day!pic.twitter.com/leyNYvGTWm

— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) October 26, 2020 Istanbul Basaksehir v Paris Saint-Germain: Away-day specialist Mbappe

Basaksehir have won three of their last four home matches in European competition but this will be the first occasion they have hosted Champions League football.

On the back of their loss to United last week, PSG are out to avoid successive defeats to begin a group campaign for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign.

Kylian Mbappe played a key part in his side's run to the final last term and has been directly involved in 20 goals in his 16 away Champions League appearances. He has registered at least one goal or assist in 13 of those 16 away appearances.

 

Other fixtures:

Sevilla v Rennes:

12 - Sevilla are unbeaten in 12 home games in European competition since a 2-1 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich in April 2018.

2 - Only two of the 10 previous French sides to have played in the Champions League have won their first ever away match - PSG and Auxerre in 1994 and 1996 respectively.

Borussia Dortmund v Zenit:

6 - Zenit are winless in their last six European matches against teams from Germany, stretching back to a 2-1 victory against this week's opponents Dortmund in March 2014.

3 - Dortmund have won three Champions League home games in a row and are looking to make it four on the spin for the first time since a run of seven between September 2012 and October 2013.

Club Brugge v Lazio:

4 - Brugge have scored only four goals in their last 12 matches with Italian opposition and are winless in their last nine meetings with clubs from the Peninsula.

5 - Lazio have lost their last five away games on the continent, all of which came in the Europa League in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.

Ferencvaros v Dynamo Kiev:

3 - Dynamo have won just three of their last 24 away games in the Champions League, drawing three of their last four.

24 - Ferencvaros kept a clean sheet in their first home game in the competition but have since shipped 24 goals across their last six matches, giving them the highest goals-conceded-per-game ratio of any team to have played in more than one campaign.

Donny van de Beek has a big part to play this season and his lack of minutes so far only highlights Manchester United's lofty ambitions, according to boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Netherlands international has yet to start a Premier League game for United since joining from Ajax at the start of the season in a deal that could rise to £39.1million (€44m).

He was an unused substitute in Saturday's goalless draw with Chelsea and has barely an hour of football to his name across four league matches this term.

Dutch great Marco van Basten this week became the latest high-profile figure to question his compatriot's decision to join United, having also been linked with Real Madrid.

But speaking ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with RB Leipzig, Solskjaer once again stressed Van de Beek remains a part of his long-term plans.

"When players come into a new league, new team, it is always going to be a time for adaption," Solskjaer said at his pre-match news conference.

"Donny has played well when he has played. It says a lot about our depth of quality that we don't have to use him every game. I also think it says a lot about our ambitions.

"We want to push on and challenge for trophies. Donny will play a big, big part this year. I know the topic is about Donny van de Beek.

"It's nice for some players or commentators to have a go, and I know you're short for time on TV and have to put points across quickly.

"But you don't have to start the first three games to be an important player. I'd be disappointed if my team-mates said I wasn't important because I didn't start many games.

"Donny will be very important for us, don't worry about that."

Solskjaer also named Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic on the bench for the stalemate against Chelsea, with Fred and Scott McTominay getting the nod behind Bruno Fernandes.

The midweek visit of Leipzig presents the Norwegian with another opportunity to rotate in midfield as United look to build on their 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain in last week's Group H opener.

"It's going to be a long season. The depth of our squad is better now. To leave players out like Donny, Nemanja and Paul... they're all experienced international footballers," Solskjaer said.

"It's not easy. But we have so many games and they will all play a massive part in different periods. Nobody can play every game.

"When you put 11 together they have to work together as a team. Is it two or three in midfield? Who is on form, who needs a break?"

Solskjaer, who won 12 trophies during an 11-season playing career at Old Trafford, added: "I've been part of a successful Man United team myself.

"We had two players in every position. The more successful teams, the teams that win trophies, they have competition for places. It's not easy, it's very difficult.

"I don't feel pressure. Pressure is getting results. I've got to plan the next three or four games - we need to win more than just the next one. It's a nice problem to have.

"I'd rather have that than play players who are not ready for the Premier League."

McTominay started last week's win at the Parc des Princes and echoed the thoughts of his manager with regards to Van de Beek's limited playing time so far.

"I'm confident he will be an important figure. He has lifted everyone else along with the other new boys - top signings who can lift the dressing room," he said.

"We saw that in Paris, with the performances of Donny and Alex [Telles]. There's no time to panic - people are quick to come to quick assumptions. Let him settle into his new house and concentrate on playing."

United are unbeaten in their last 10 home matches against German sides in European competition, winning seven and drawing three of those, with their last such defeat coming at the hands of Bayern Munich in April 2001.

Manchester United forward Anthony Martial has vowed to work hard and return to his best form after a disappointing start to the 2020-21 campaign.

The France international is without a goal in eight outings for club and country this term and was sent off in United's humbling 6-1 league loss to Tottenham earlier this month.

He has yet to get a single shot on target or create a chance for any of his team-mates in his three Premier League appearances.

That is in stark contrast to his form of 2019-20 when Martial scored 23 goals and set up 12 more across all competitions as United reached three semi-finals.

But Martial, who is into his sixth season at Old Trafford, is hopeful that his best is yet to come in a United shirt.

"The red card was my first ever and it's something I will learn from. But it will at least allow me to work even harder in training to come back even better," he told United Review.

"I still haven't scored yet this season. But I know that as and when I get off the mark with one, everything will be fine.

"So, it's down to me to keep putting in a big effort in training and to then show everybody the real Anthony Martial."

Martial was able to play in last week's Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain as his three-match ban for a clash with Erik Lamela only applies to domestic games.

The 24-year-old became the ninth United player to score an own goal in the competition but played a part in his side's recovery as they prevailed 2-1 in the French capital.

"These things happen. Since it was my hometown club, I just wanted to give them a bit of a helping hand," Martial joked when asked about the own goal.

"Seriously, that kind of thing can happen to anybody, but the main thing was that we managed to score the winning goal right at the death, and that was more important to me."

Martial said what was especially satisfying was that he got one over on a number of friends who support PSG.

"They'd all told me that we were going to lose, and I'd told them that we wouldn't. So when we went on to win I was overjoyed," he said.

Martial's absence against Chelsea on Saturday paved the way for Edinson Cavani to come on as a second-half substitute for his United debut.

The free transfer acquisition scored 200 goals in 301 appearances for PSG and nearly found a way through in the goalless draw with one of his two shots.

Martial has backed the Uruguay international to be a success at Old Trafford, saying: "He's a really great player who has proved exactly that all the way through his career.

"I hope that he'll manage to help us out. It's always a positive to have even more quality within the group."

Martial is in contention to start United's Champions League clash with RB Leipzig on Wednesday as they look to win their opening two games in the competition for only a second time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

It remains to be seen whether Pep Guardiola will re-sign with Manchester City.

Guardiola's contract expires at the end of the season in Manchester.

Should the Spaniard decide to move on, there are already two men on the list to replace him.

 

TOP STORY – CITY INTERESTED IN NAGELSMANN

Manchester City are eyeing RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann as a possible replacement for Pep Guardiola, according to the Daily Mail.

Guardiola is out of contract at the end of the 2020-21 campaign and the City manager – who has been previously linked to Juventus – is no closer to re-signing.

Should Guardiola decide to leave after arriving in 2016, Nagelsmann and former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino are early candidates.

 

ROUND-UP

Sergio Ramos and LaLiga champions Real Madrid remain deadlocked over contract talks, claims the front page of Monday's Diario AS. The 34-year-old is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and he wants a two-year deal, though Madrid are only committed to 12 months.

- Tuttosport reports Juve and Barcelona are both pursuing Ajax sensation Ryan Gravenberch. The 18-year-old midfielder emerged from Ajax's youth system in 2018.

Barcelona will block a January loan offer from Ligue 1 holders Paris Saint-Germain for Riqui Puig, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Kylian Mbappe extending his PSG contract has not been ruled out, claims L'Equipe. Tipped to eventually join Madrid, while the likes of Liverpool, Barca and Manchester United have also been linked, Mbappe could stay in Paris should certain conditions be met. The Frenchman is keen to see what unfolds in the next transfer windows.

Angelino is showing the benefits of working under Pep Guardiola after he stole the show in RB Leipzig's 2-0 win over Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League, says Julian Nagelsmann. 

The Spaniard, playing left midfield, scored twice at Red Bull Arena – the first of which was a result of a glorious takedown and spin that Nagelsmann described as "world class". 

Angelino came through the youth ranks at Manchester City and spent time in the first team as well as going out on a spate of loan spells, the latest of which took him to Leipzig in January in a temporary deal that was extended for the 2020-21 season with a purchase option included. 

In total Angelino scored from two of his three shots on goal and provided a key pass, while he also gained possession of the ball six times for a Leipzig side that actually had less possession. 

Nagelsmann was full of praise for Angelino's performance, talking up the influence of City boss Guardiola on his development.

"Angelino is only unpleasant when he doesn't play, which only happened twice this year. That pretty much describes his character," Leipzig coach Nagelsmann said.  

"I think Yussi [Yussuf Poulsen] agrees, that he only wants to win. He is like a child that just wants to play all the time. He is almost as bad as me. I'm always playing around with a ball.  

"But he just always wants to have the ball and you see him constantly shooting it. After training he wants to continue. He has a massive playing instinct and he just wants to win all the time and play around with a ball.  

"I have to admit, he arrived after working under a great manager. I can't just praise myself. He came as a well-developed player.  

"We haven't brought many players in from Pep Guardiola, yet, so we can't draw a comparison. But his adaption time was minimal, as he arrived from a great team and a great manager, who surely taught him something.  

"He is inquisitive, listens and implements things, as he is a great footballer with an instinct to play.  

"He wants to work all the time and Yussi is like that too. So you adapt and show great results. To score his first goal today is world class."

Liverpool may need to make a January move for a centre-back after Virgil van Dijk's serious knee injury. 

The Premier League champions were dealt a huge blow with Van Dijk set to miss most - if not the remainder - of the season after a tackle from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the Merseyside derby draw against Everton. 

Liverpool have been left with just two senior centre-backs – Joe Gomez and Joel Matip – with Van Dijk's injury, although defensive midfielder Fabinho can also provide cover. 

Unsurprisingly, there have been transfer rumours in the aftermath, with the Reds linked with RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano and Brighton and Hove Albion centre-back Ben White. 

Having joined Leipzig from Salzburg for a reported €10million in 2017, Upamecano re-signed earlier this year, but he apparently has a €42m release clause in his contract – although that can only be triggered at season's end. 

Upamecano is highly rated in Europe and, using Opta data, we assess how his performances compare to Liverpool's defenders.

Bright future awaits, but would Upamecano improve Liverpool?

Upamecano, 21, helped RB Leipzig finish third in the Bundesliga and reach the Champions League semi-finals last season.

The France international's tackling numbers were particularly impressive when compared to Liverpool defenders Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip.

In the Bundesliga last season, Upamecano had 1.95 tackles per 90 minutes – with Matip (1.66 per 90 in just nine Premier League games) the closest of Liverpool's trio. However, only Van Dijk (52.2) had a worse tackle success rate than Upamecano (58.8), with Gomez and Matip both above 69.

In the Champions League, Upamecano had 3.4 tackles per 90 minutes , well above Van Dijk (1.08) and Gomez (1.59), and also at a better rate (56) than the Liverpool trio. Matip, often injured in 2019-20, played just 90 minutes in total in Europe's top club competition last season.

Ready to do battle

Upamecano contested the most duels (87) of the four in the Champions League, and went at a success rate of 71.26, similar to Van Dijk (70 duels and 74.29 success rate), while he also had a comparable number of headed clearances per 90 minutes (2.04 to Van Dijk's 2.28) and interceptions (1.63 to 1.08). Gomez had 2.64 interceptions per 90 minutes in the Champions League last season.

Van Dijk's absence will also hurt Liverpool aerially, with the Dutchman an imposing figure in Jurgen Klopp's back four.

Upamecano, who stands at 186cm, was between Van Dijk and Gomez when it came to aerial duels last season. He won 18 of 27 aerials in the 2019-20 Champions League, a rate worse than Van Dijk (33 of 47) but better than Gomez (24 of 41).

It was a similar story in the respective leagues, although he contested fewer than Liverpool defenders. An area Upamecano fell short in, at least domestically, was in being dribbled past by an opponent, which happened 20 times in 28 Bundesliga games, a figure ranking him below both Van Dijk (seven times in 38) and Gomez (11 in 28), but ahead of Matip (seven in nine). 

Boosting Liverpool's build-up play

A problem set to be exacerbated by Alisson's injury absence, Van Dijk's passing ability in defence is also important to how Liverpool function.

In this area, Upamecano may offer the Reds the most. In the Champions League last season, his passing accuracy in the opposition half was 83.1 – higher than the Liverpool trio, including Van Dijk (82.7). When it came to passing accuracy ending in the final third, Upamecano again topped the list (74.1), ahead of Gomez (71.6), and that included averaging 11.7 passes into the final third per 90 minutes.

In domestic action, Upamecano also topped the list in these categories, and his passing accuracy in the opposition half to begin this Bundesliga season is 84.7, while Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip have all dropped off from last season in this area.

The Champions League returns this week after a short hiatus, with beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain looking to get back up and running – and exact a measure of revenge – against Manchester United.

Juventus begin European competition under new head coach Andrea Pirlo, who faces one of the most experienced coaches in the game in Mircea Lucescu.

Barcelona will endeavour to banish memories of August's 8-2 obliteration by Bayern Munich when they face Ferencvaros for the first time, while Chelsea will hope to improve the poor record Premier League teams have had of late against Sevilla.

Here's the key data from Tuesday's matches in Europe's elite competition...

Dynamo Kiev v Juventus: Pirlo feeling the weight of history

Twice a Champions League winner with Milan in 2003 and 2007, Pirlo's first game in the competition comes away to Dynamo Kiev. None of the previous eight Juve head coaches have lost their first match in charge.

In fact, Juve have only been beaten on matchday one in the competition once in 20 previous seasons, winning 11 of those games and drawing eight. That one defeat was a 3-0 loss at Barcelona three years ago.

Dynamo boss Lucescu will be 75 years and 83 days old on Tuesday, making him the oldest coach in Champions League history, overtaking Jupp Heynckes (who was 72 and 357 days old in May 2018). If he wants to celebrate in style, he will need to inflect just a fifth group-stage defeat on Juve in 34 games.

 

Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester United: Mbappe chasing Messi record

PSG's last home defeat in the competition was that famous loss to United in the 2018-19 round of 16, when Marcus Rashford's late penalty secured a 3-1 win for an understrength Red Devils and sent them through on away goals.

If they are to start their quest for a return to the final with a win, Mbappe might be the man to do it. He has scored 19 goals in the tournament and, at 21 years and 305 days old, he needs just one against United to become the youngest player to reach 20. That would surpass Messi's record, set back in 2010 when he was 22 years and 267 days old.

Of course, if United's unsteady defence focuses on Mbappe, they risk leaving Neymar unchecked. Only Messi (45) had more carries with a take-on in last season's Champions League than Neymar (36), and nobody progressed further with the ball than the Brazil star (1,279 metres).

Barcelona v Ferencvaros: Koeman's worrying numbers

Barca have not lost any of their previous 31 home group games since Rubin Kazan stunned Pep Guardiola's men 2-1 back in October 2009. When you consider Ferencvaros have not been in the competition since 1995-96, when they conceded 19 goals in six matches, you would not expect that Barca run to be stopped.

However, coach Ronald Koeman heads into his first European game in charge with a pretty poor record. The fifth coach to take charge of at least six teams in the competition, after Carlo Ancelotti (eight), Claudio Ranieri (six), Jose Mourinho (six) and Rafael Benitez (six), he has the worst win ratio (26.3 per cent) of anybody to manage at least 50 games in the tournament.

Still, he has Messi. The Barca captain has been involved in at least one goal in 38 of his previous 43 group-stage starts, scoring 56 times and assisting 16.

 

Chelsea v Sevilla: Can Werner lift English spirits?

Sevilla, who knocked United out of last season's Europa League semi-finals, have won all three major European matches against teams from England. Chelsea, meanwhile, have taken one victory from their previous nine Champions League meetings with teams from Spain, drawing five and losing three.

Frank Lampard will hope Timo Werner can make the difference. The forward was involved in nine goals in his last 11 Champions League games for RB Leipzig (seven scored, two assisted) and could become the third German to score for Chelsea in the competition, after Michael Ballack (four goals) and Andre Schurrle (two). He has, however, never scored at home.

Other fixtures:

Lazio v Borussia Dortmund:

3 – Dortmund's last Champions League win in Italy was a 1-0 victory over Milan in March 2003, courtesy of a Jan Koller goal. They have lost all three such visits since.

8 – Only Robert Lewandowski (10) scored more group-stage goals last season than Erling Haaland (eight). Haaland averages a goal or assist every 50 minutes in the competition.

 

RB Leipzig v Istanbul Basaksehir:

6 – Istanbul Basaksehir are the sixth Turkish team to play in the Champions League. Only one of the previous five won their first match – that was Trabzonspor, who beat Inter 1-0 away in September 2011.

14 – RB Leipzig's Hwang Hee-chan created the most chances in open play in the Champions League group stage in 2019-20 (14) when he played for RB Salzburg. He was directly involved in six goals in his six group-stage appearances (three goals, three assists) and was one of two players to both score and assist three goals in the group stage, along with Kylian Mbappe.

 

Rennes v Krasnodar:

2 – Rennes have lost just twice at home in major European games, winning five and drawing seven of those 14 matches, all of which were in the UEFA Cup/Europa League between November 2007 and December last year.

36 – Krasnodar boss Murad Musayev is 36 years and 345 days old, the second-youngest coach in this season's competition (behind Leipzig's Julian Nagelsmann, 33). He could become the fifth-youngest to win his first game and the youngest since Andre Villas-Boas in September 2011.

 

Zenit v Club Brugge:

11 – Artem Dzyuba has been directly involved in 11 goals in his 12 Champions League group-stage matches with Zenit (eight goals, three assists). That run includes goals in both games against Belgian side Gent in 2015-16.

19 – Of the 51 teams to have featured in at least 40 Champions League matches, only Steaua Bucharest (9.5 per cent), Dinamo Zagreb (11.9 per cent) and Anderlecht (16.7 per cent) have a lower win percentage than Club Brugge (19 per cent). They have won just eight of 42 matches.

Jamie Carragher says Liverpool need to do whatever it takes to sign RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano in January after losing Virgil van Dijk to a serious knee injury. 

Netherlands international Van Dijk was forced off early in the Reds' 2-2 draw with Merseyside rivals Everton on Saturday after a wild challenge from Jordan Pickford.

Scans have since revealed Van Dijk suffered damage to his anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that will ensure he misses the majority – if not the entirety – of the remainder of the season.

Liverpool have previously been linked with 21-year-old France international Upamecano and Carragher – the Reds' second-highest appearance maker – says Jurgen Klopp needs to bring him in as a matter of urgency when the January transfer window opens. 

"Liverpool's next big signing had to be a centre-back anyway and I am talking next summer," Carragher told Sky Sports. 

"Dejan Lovren went and they didn't replace him so they only have three centre-backs and one of those, Joel Matip, is always injured. There are question marks now about Joe Gomez.

"So, there is no doubt that Liverpool had to go big in the transfer market next summer. That was the next one. That has now got to be brought forward to January 1, whoever the target was in the summer. Not the end of January. 

"There is a young man everyone was talking about at Leipzig, Dayot Upamecano. I think he is only 6'1" or 6'2", so he is maybe not that aerial but if he is the one they wanted then bring it forward. Pay extra money and do it on January 1.

"That means getting through 11 league games without Virgil van Dijk."

The 2020-21 season has only just started but Lionel Messi's future is dominating headlines once again.

Messi wanted to leave Barcelona, but he decided to remain at the embattled LaLiga giants.

Manchester City, who were reportedly tipped to lure Messi to England, are still dreaming of his arrival.

 

TOP STORY – CITY NOT GIVING UP ON MESSI

Manchester City are lining up a move for Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi at the end of the season, reports the Manchester Evening News.

Messi handed in a transfer request prior to the 2020-21 season getting underway and Premier League giants City were favourites to sign the six-time Ballon d'Or winner before he opted to stay.

Pep Guardiola and City, however, remain interested in Messi and will be in a position to land the Barca captain should the opportunity arise next year.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United have identified a list of potential defensive reinforcements that includes RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano and Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane, according to The Athletic.

- Fabrizio Romano says goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen's new Barcelona contract until 2025 will be confirmed soon. The 28-year-old's current deal is due to expire in 2022.

- Le10sport claims Paris Saint-Germain are considering a loan move for Inter midfielder Christian Eriksen, who has struggled to establish himself since joining from Tottenham in January.

West Ham are prepared to double Declan Rice's wages to fend off interest from London rivals Chelsea, reports The Sun.

- Tuttosport says Serie A champions Juventus are hoping to rival Madrid for Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga next year. Madrid have identified teenage midfielder Camavinga as a prime target, but Juve feel that by loaning Daniele Rugani to Rennes, it will help build a relationship with the Ligue 1 side.

- Calciomercato reports Lazio and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are facing a decisive season. The Serbia international has been previously linked to the likes of PSG, United, Inter, Juve and Madrid.

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