Cristiano Ronaldo's departure from Manchester United this week has put plenty of clubs on alert.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is a wanted commodity, given his quality and sudden availability.

Ronaldo and United parted ways with a mutual termination of his contract after his explosive interview with TalkTV.

 

TOP STORY – SAUDI AND BRAZILIAN GIANTS TO MOVE FOR RONALDO

Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal and Brazilian giants Flamengo are among the clubs queuing to sign free agent Cristiano Ronaldo according to reports.

Sky Sports claims that Al Hilal are exploring a deal with the Portuguese, who had declined a £305m bid from an unnamed Saudi Arabian club in the off-season.

Brazilian outlet Veja reports that the 2022 Copa Libertadores winners intend to formalize a proposal to Ronaldo's representatives, although an offer has not yet been made, nor have talks commenced.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Football Insider reports that Chelsea are set to open talks with Brighton and Hove Albion's Belgian forward Leandro Trossard with his contract to expire at the end of season. New Blues boss Graham Potter knows Trossard well from his time at Brighton.

- Chelsea are ready to swoop for Manchester United target Diogo Costa, having made contact with him, according to Relevo. The goalkeeper recently re-signed with Porto and has a €75 million (£64.5m) release clause in his contract.

- Amid talk that Chelsea will try to sell Romelu Lukaku at the end of this season, SkySport claims Inter will extend the Belgian forward's loan for another year.

- Torino's Ivorian defender Wilfried Singo could snub interest from Juventus to remain with his current club, reports Calciomercato.

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Scottish champions Celtic are in talks with Canada international Alistair Johnston, with personal terms already being discussed. The right-back is currently with MLS club Montreal.

- QPR are anticipating the departure of manager Michael Beale to take over Rangers, claims Talk Sport. The Gers sacked Giovanni van Bronckhorst earlier this week.

Joao Felix is angling for a way out of Atletico Madrid, having fallen out of favour in Spain.

The 22-year-old has started only eight of the 17 games he has played in this season, netting three goals.

The forward is contracted with Atletico until 2026, having signed a bumper seven-year deal when joining from Benfica in 2019.

TOP STORY – PSG PLOTTING JANUARY LOAN MOVE FOR JOAO FELIX

Paris Saint-Germain have joined the list of clubs interested in Atletico Madrid's wantaway forward Joao Felix, according to Le Parisien.

PSG may look to sign the Portuguese on loan in January, having been interested in a move for him during the last transfer window.

Joao Felix has also been linked with Bayern Munich and Manchester United, with both clubs reportedly bidding for him in the last transfer window.

ROUND-UP

– Borussia Dortmund are bullish they can ward off interest in their 19-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham and retain his services, reports 90min. Real Madrid, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United are all keen on the England international.

– Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa may have penned a new contract last week, but Manchester United are still monitoring the 23-year-old, reports Nicolo Schira. United will keep an eye on him during the World Cup, although he has a €75million (£65m) release clause.

– Arsenal are willing to fork out £56m to land Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Mykhailo Mudryk, according to Dean Jones on GiveMeSport.

– Roma are interested in out-of-favour Barcelona full-back Hector Bellerin, having failed to lure Manchester United's Diogo Dalot, reports Calciomercato.

– West Ham have identified Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Kouadio Kone as their top transfer target, reports Bild.

Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton are reportedly keeping a close eye on Lille striker Jonathan David when he heads to the World Cup later this month to represent Canada.

David, 22, is enjoying a breakout season in Ligue 1, netting nine goals in 14 games as he begins to fulfil the potential that saw him become the most expensive Canadian transfer in history when he was purchased for €30million from Gent as a 20-year-old.

In a recent interview with Sky Sports News he made it clear he envisions his future being somewhere other than France, and with a strong performance at the World Cup, he could get his wish as soon as January.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS KEEPING AN EYE ON CANADA STAR

In that Sky Sports News interview, David said "every player wants to play for a massive club in their life – I think if I had the chance to do it, I'll go for it for sure".

That is becoming more of a reality every day, according to a report from GiveMeSport, which names Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton as interested parties, while saying Manchester United could throw their hat in the ring if they like what they see in Qatar.

His price tag is expected to exceed €40m as a starting point, but that figure could skyrocket if he catches the eye in Qatar.

Another report from 90min adds that Arsenal are prepared to spend in the January window as they pursue their first Premier League title since 2003, potentially putting them in the box seat.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to Portuguese publication A Bola, Chelsea and Arsenal are interested in signing 25-year-old Porto winger Pepe, who has a €75m release clause in his contract.

– Sky Italy is reporting Chelsea's odds of landing Rafael Leao have improved as his contract negotiations with Milan make little progress.

Manchester United have made Borussia Dortmund's 19-year-old England midfielder Jude Bellingham their top target, and expect him to cost €150m, per Sky Germany.

– Meanwhile, Marca report Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group will sign Bellingham for €100m as a "parting gift" before selling the club.

– According to Sport Bild, 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund prospect Youssoufa Moukoko is holding off on signing a new contract that will pay him €5m per year due to interest being shown from Barcelona.

Diego Simeone wants Atletico Madrid to "see the reality" of their Champions League struggles after their European campaign came to an end on Wednesday.

Atletico's exit from the Champions League at the group stage was confirmed last week with a 2-2 home draw to Bayer Leverkusen.

The Rojiblancos still had the chance to claim a Europa League spot, but missed out on third place in Group B as they were beaten 2-1 by Porto.

Goals from Mehdi Taremi and Stephen Eustaquio put Porto in command, with a late Ivan Marcano own goal nothing more than scant consolation for Atletico.

Their defeat, combined with Bayer Leverkusen's goalless draw with group runners-up Club Brugge, means it is the Bundesliga side who drop into the Europa League.

For Atletico, the focus is now solely on domestic matters and ensuring they at least qualify for next season's Champions League, with the LaLiga title already looking a tall order.

Atletico, who are eight points behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid, head out of Europe with just one win from six matches. They scored five goals and conceded nine, finishing bottom of a Champions League group for the first time in their history.

Atletico Madrid will not contest European football in the second half of a season for the first time since 2010-11 after a 2-1 defeat to Porto saw them finish bottom of Champions League Group B.

Diego Simeone's men would have secured a spot in the Europa League with a third-place finish, but an underwhelming display at the Dragao on Tuesday ensured Bayer Leverkusen – who drew 0-0 with Club Brugge – took that spot.

Porto needed only five minutes to take control as Mehdi Taremi got a poacher's goal, and that was followed before the half-hour mark by an emphatic Stephen Eustaquio strike.

Atletico livened up towards the end, seeing an Antoine Griezmann strike contentiously wiped out and Ivan Marcano put into his own net, but that came too late to make a difference.

The hosts meant business right from the start and raced into a 1-0 lead. Pepe's reverse pass into the right side of the box released Evanilson, and his scuffed shot found Taremi for a tap-in.

Galeno then wasted a gilt-edged opportunity but made up for his wastefulness in the 24th minute, beating Stefan Savic to the ball out wide before cutting it back for Eustaquio to blast into the bottom-left corner.

Chances were rare after the break until Atletico thought they pulled one back when Griezmann found the top-right corner with 22 minutes left.

But referee Daniele Orsato controversially disallowed it for an apparent foul by Rodrigo De Paul in the build-up and there was no VAR reprieve.

Atletico did eventually net in stoppage time as Marcano diverted Yannick Carrasco's corner past his own goalkeeper, but it was scarcely even a consolation for Simeone's team.

The only Champions League group with qualifying places still to play for on Tuesday is Group D, with all four teams in with a reasonable chance of progression.

Marseille host leaders Tottenham while Sporting CP take on Eintracht Frankfurt, with each team knowing a win will see them through and defeat will mean third our fourth spot.

It has been a sensational start to the season for Napoli, and they can complete a perfect Champions League group stage on Tuesday.

Luciano Spalletti's men travel to Liverpool looking for a sixth win in six Group A games, and will top the group as long as they avoid defeat by four or more at Anfield.

As the Champions League group stage prepares to draw to a close, Stats Perform takes a look at the Opta numbers behind these and the rest of Tuesday's clashes.

Marseille v Tottenham

Having lost six home matches in a row in the Champions League between March 2012 and November 2020, Marseille have since won two of their last three such matches (L1), including last time out against Sporting. They have not won consecutive home games in the competition since the 2010-11 campaign when they beat MSK Zilina and Chelsea.

Despite currently sitting bottom of Group D, Marseille can still top the standings if results go their way. Only once in 10 previous campaigns have the Ligue 1 side finished top of their Champions League group, which was in 1992-93 when they went on to lift the trophy.

Spurs have failed to win any of their last four away matches in the Champions League. Should they fail to win here, it will be their longest run of games without a win away from home in the competition.

Antonio Conte will be concerned that Tottenham have failed to score in any of their last three away matches in the Champions League; the last English side to go on a longer run without a goal away from home in the competition was Manchester United between October 2004 and November 2005 (five games – a record for an English club).

Sporting CP v Eintracht Frankfurt

In what is their first ever Champions League campaign, Eintracht Frankfurt can still win their group if results go their way. The only German club to win their first group participation in the competition was Kaiserslautern in 1998-99, while the last Bundesliga side to progress to the knockout rounds at the first attempt was Stuttgart in 2003-04.

Sporting are looking to progress to the knockout stages in consecutive Champions League campaigns, having been eliminated during the group stage in seven of their previous eight participations (progressing in 2008-09).

Eintracht's Mario Gotze has recorded an assist in each of his past two appearances in the Champions League; only once before has he set up a goal in three consecutive games in the competition – between November 2012 and March 2013 for Borussia Dortmund.

Sporting have been shown three red cards so far this season in the Champions League – the last team to have more players sent off in a single group stage was Anderlecht in 2013-14 (four).

Liverpool v Napoli

This will be the eighth meeting between Liverpool and Napoli in European competition, with the Italian side (three) edging the Reds (two) in terms of victories so far (two draws). After their 4-1 win in this season's reverse fixture, Napoli could beat Liverpool in consecutive games for the first time.

The Italian side have travelled to face the Reds on three previous occasions in European competition, but are yet to win at Anfield (D1 L2) – losing 3-1 in the Europa League in November 2010 and 1-0 in the Champions League in December 2018, before a 1-1 draw in November 2019, also in the Champions League.

This will be Jurgen Klopp's 100th match as a manager in the Champions League, across spells with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool. He will become the first German coach to take charge of a century of games in the competition.

Napoli have scored more goals than any other team through the first five matchdays in this season's group stage (20). The only team to score more during a single group stage in the previous four campaigns has been Bayern Munich (twice, 24 in 2019-20 and 22 in 2021-22).

Bayern Munich v Inter

Speaking of which, Bayern and Inter have met on eight previous occasions in European competition, with the German side winning half of those meetings (W4 D1 L3). Indeed, they are unbeaten in the three matches in the Champions League that have taken place in the group stage (W2 D1).

Inter are themselves unbeaten in their previous three away games at Bayern (W2 D1). This makes them the team to have faced the Bavarians away from home on the most occasions without ever losing in European competition.

Bayern have won each of their last 12 group-stage matches in the Champions League, and are looking to become the first side in history to win all six group games in consecutive campaigns. They would also become the first side to do so on three separate occasions, having also achieved perfection in 2019-20.

Inter are unbeaten in three away games in the Champions League, and could go four games without defeat away from home in the competition for the first time since December 2003 to February 2005 (five games).

Bayern have scored in 42 of their last 43 home matches in the Champions League, netting 136 goals across this spell at an average of 3.2 per game. They have scored in each of their last 21 in a row since being held by Sevilla in April 2018.

Other fixtures:

Viktoria Plzen v Barcelona

3 - Viktoria Plzen have lost all three of their previous games against Barcelona in the Champions League, scoring just one goal and conceding 11 times in return.

3 - Barcelona have lost each of their last three away matches in the Champions League, and could lose four in a row for the first time since a run between November 1994 and October 1997. 

Rangers v Ajax

5 - Rangers have lost all five of their games in the Champions League this season. No Scottish side have ever been beaten six times within a single campaign in the European Cup/Champions League.

4 - Ajax have lost each of their previous four games in the Champions League; they have not lost five in a row in the competition since September 2004 under Ronald Koeman.

Bayer Leverkusen v Club Brugge

18 - Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick has played 18 times in the Champions League without scoring a goal. His three goals in major European competition have all been scored in the Europa League, where he averages a goal every 138 minutes.

1 - Club Brugge have already qualified for the knockout stage, and could finish top of their group for the very first time in a single edition of the tournament.

Porto v Atletico Madrid

3 - Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa has saved three of the four penalties he has faced in the Champions League this season. This is already the most ever by a goalkeeper in a single season on record in the competition (since 2003-04). 

4 - Atletico are winless in their last four Champions League games (D2 L2). They last had a longer run without a victory in the competition between December 2008 and December 2009, when they went nine games without one prior to head coach Diego Simeone's arrival.

Diego Simeone acknowledged Atletico Madrid are still hurting from their early Champions League exit but vowed to battle with the same intensity to qualify for the Europa League.

Atleti failed to make the knockout stages of Europe's premier club competition for the first time in five years after a 2-2 home draw with Bayer Leverkusen last week, in which Yannick Carrasco missed a late penalty.

Simeone's side also trail LaLiga leaders Real Madrid by nine points, while they are winless in their past four Champions League games, their longest run since between December 2008 and December 2009.

Atleti failed to win in nine games in that period before the appointment of Simeone, who admitted he and his players are still reeling from their elimination ahead of Tuesday's clash at Porto.

"Today we are out of the Champions League. It hurts us, it p****s me off because of the responsibility we have with many people who grow up in the club," the Atleti coach said.

"But it's a reality and we can't go against it. Reality is what we have and I invited us all to be together and see if we can express what we feel on the pitch."

Simeone insisted he is no stranger to an unfavourable situation in the Spanish capital, but suggested not letting those around the club down remains his primary concern.

"In my fourth year the same thing was said, in the sixth the same," the 52-year-old said of recent criticism. "In the [coronavirus] pandemic we were sixth and with a lot of work we achieved our goals. 

"In the following season it seemed that we could not win LaLiga and we won it. Last season, the same – with 14 games to go, the group and the people came together to get back together.

"I suffer more for the people who work and have been around for years. People are always with us. There are things that we did not do well, but competitively I have nothing to complain about. 

"I'm ready to compete, I don't know how to do it any other way. I was raised that way, knowing that you can lose, but it's nicer to win."

Simeone has his sights on the Europa League, needing to match Bayer Leverkusen's result against Club Brugge when they visit Porto to secure third place in Group B.

"They taught me since I was a child to always compete and now we can get in the Europa League," he continued. "For this we have to be strong and want it.

"We will go [every] match with our [best team], knowing that we are not in the Champions League but the Europa League is important."

Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk is valued at "more than Antony of Manchester United, who cost €100million" according to assistant sporting director Carlo Nicolini, with Arsenal and Manchester City said to be interested.

Mudryk, 21, has been with the Ukrainian club since he was 15 years old, and after a pair of loan moves he returned to the club this past season and forced his way into the first team.

After the league season was halted due to the war between Ukraine and Russia, Mudryk returned in style this campaign, collecting three goals and five assists in six league fixtures, as well as three goals and two assists in five Champions League contests.

His exploits included two assists and a goal in a surprise 4-1 win over RB Leipzig, as well as goals in both of Shakhtar's 1-1 draws against Celtic – and Europe's top clubs have taken notice.

TOP STORY – PRICE TAG FOR SHAKHTAR'S MUDRYK SET AT NORTH OF €100M

In an interview with Calciomercato's TV Play, Nicolini claimed City and Arsenal are among teams keen on the Ukraine international, but made it clear Shakhtar are in no rush to sell.

Mudryk signed a four-year contract in February this year that ties him to the club until 2026.

As well discussing where interest is coming from – saying "the Italians bring low proposals" and "always come later", while confirming Spanish and French suitors – Nicolini claimed Mudryk was one of the best wingers in the world.

"It takes the right amount to take him away – together with Mbappe, Leao and Vinicius, Mudryk is the strongest player at the position," he said.

ROUND-UP

– According to HITC, Fulham are interested in four of Sao Paulo's players, including 20-year-old midfielder Pablo Maia, for whom they have reportedly submitted a second bid.

– Nottinghamshire Live claims Nottingham Forest are also prepared to bid for Sao Paulo's Maia, who is said to have a price tag of £9million.

– The Athletic is reporting Manchester United are monitoring 23-year-old Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa and 25-year-old Athletic Bilbao goalie Unai Simon as they decide whether to trigger David de Gea's contract extension.

– According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Juventus have joined Newcastle United and Arsenal in the chase for 24-year-old Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar.

Arsenal also have strong interest in 23-year-old Eintracht Frankfurt centre-back Evan Ndicka, according to GiveMeSport.

Liverpool can seal progression to the Champions League last 16 when they play on Wednesday, but Barcelona could see their exit confirmed from Europe's top competition.

Jurgen Klopp's Reds make the trip to face Ajax in Group A knowing they are guaranteed a spot in the Europa League at the very least – and simply avoiding defeat would guarantee their place in the Champions League knockout stages.

It is a more dicey affair for Xavi's Barca, however, as they welcome Bayern Munich to Camp Nou in Group C knowing a loss would spell the end of their journey. Even a win will not be enough if Inter defeat Viktoria Plzen.

Tottenham will hope to keep their noses in front in Group D, with Marseille and Sporting CP just a point behind, while Atletico Madrid have work to do in Group B.

Stats Perform previews Wednesday's eight matches by picking through the Opta data.

Ajax v Liverpool

Ajax have made for generous opponents for Liverpool of late, losing their last three against the Reds in the Champions League. Only Juventus (four, 1997-2004) and Real Madrid (seven, 2010-2019) have previously won four in a row against Ajax in the European Cup or Champions League.

Yet Ajax remain the last Dutch side to achieve a home win against Liverpool, albeit that was back in 1966, with the Premier League side unbeaten in seven subsequent trips to the Netherlands.

Liverpool's countrymen have also made hay, as Ajax have won just one of their last eight home European matches against English teams, beating Manchester City in October 2012.

With or without another strong result, this will be an historic occasion for Liverpool and Klopp, who will match Rafael Benitez's 62 Champions League matches in charge of the Reds, who bring up 150 games in the competition.

Barcelona v Bayern Munich

Needing a win, Barca might have hoped to face any team but Bayern, who have a record three Champions League away wins at the Blaugrana. Along with Juventus and Real Madrid, they are one of three teams to have won more matches at Barca than they have lost.

Home and away, Barca have lost nine of their 12 Champions League matches against Bayern, including the past five in a row.

In fact, if Bayern win again, they will match Madrid's record of 10 wins against a single opponent in the competition – Madrid's dominance coming against Bayern.

Although Bayern are already through, they are seeking a fourth home-and-away double against Barca in a Champions League season (also 1998-99, 2012-13 and 2021-22). Dynamo Kyiv (in 1997-98) are the only other team to beat Barca twice in the same campaign even once.

Tottenham Hotspur v Sporting CP

Sporting won 2-0 against Tottenham in Portugal in what was the sides' first meeting, but they have a dismal record in England, with two victories in 15 attempts away to English sides.

Spurs have won six of their seven home European matches against Portuguese opposition, only losing to Benfica in the 2013-14 Europa League.

Both of Tottenham's wins in this campaign have come at home, where Antonio Conte is bidding to become just the second Spurs coach to win each of his first three at home in the Champions League – after Harry Redknapp.

He and Tottenham will know they must keep their focus early and late; Sporting's last three Champions League goals have come in either the first or last minutes of the match, netting twice in second-half stoppage time in the reverse fixture.

Atletico Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen

Atletico have not lost at home to Leverkusen in their prior four such matches, winning two and drawing two, but the Bundesliga team have started to turn the tide, winning two in a row against them in the Champions League.

That strong home record applies whenever Atletico face German opposition, though, as Borussia Dortmund were the last Bundesliga visitors to win there in 1996. Atleti are unbeaten in 11 since.

Diego Simeone needs his team to rediscover their scoring touch, having gone three without a goal in the Champions League.

That is their worst run under Simeone. Only once in the competition have Atletico gone four without netting, back in 2009 under Abel Resino.

Other fixtures:

Club Brugge v Porto

21 – Club Brugge goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has saved all 21 of the shots on target he has faced in the Champions League this season. He has prevented a competition-leading 4.9 goals, according to expected goals on target data.

4 – Four of Porto's last seven Champions League goals have come from the penalty spot.

Inter v Viktoria Plzen

12 – Inter have scored 12 of their last 14 Champions League goals in the second halves of matches. All three against Barca last time out came after the interval – only the third time an away team has netted three second-half goals at Camp Nou in this competition.

28 – Plzen have averaged just 28 per cent of the possession in the Champions League this season, the lowest average by a team in a single season since Opta data collection began in 2003-04.

Napoli v Rangers

4 – Napoli have won all four of their matches in the Champions League this season and could become the first Italian side to win their opening five games in a single campaign since Juventus in 2004-05. 

12 – No goalkeeper has faced more shots on target (29) or conceded more goals (12) than Rangers' Allan McGregor in the Champions League this season. Indeed, he has only kept four clean sheets in 21 appearances in the competition overall.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Marseille

50 – Eintracht Frankfurt's Mario Gotze could make his 50th start in the Champions League in this match. He has been involved in 25 goals in his previous 65 appearances, including 21 in his 49 starts.

3 – Marseille have won their last two games in the Champions League – both against Sporting CP – and will be looking to win three in a row for the first time since October-December 2010, when they won four on the spin under Didier Deschamps.

Manchester United have reached the end of their tether with Cristiano Ronaldo and want the superstar out of the club as soon as January, reports say.

The apparent refusal by Ronaldo to come on as a substitute against Tottenham on Wednesday, before flouncing off before the final whistle, has led to the striker being barred from playing any part in this weekend's Premier League clash with Chelsea.

Now Ronaldo may have played his last game for the club, unless bridges can be rebuilt.

TOP STORY – RONALDO'S UNITED FUTURE IN DOUBT

Ronaldo's last visible matchday act as a Manchester United player could turn out to be the moment he walked down the tunnel before the final whistle blew in the Spurs game.

That act looks to have been one of rebellion, with widespread reports now stating Ronaldo had declined to come off the bench late in the game.

According to the i newspaper and The Sun, among others, United boss Erik ten Hag has decided enough is enough and the time has come to part ways with the 37-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Ronaldo's performances in his second United stint have been mixed, and amid diminishing returns Ten Hag is said to want Ronaldo moved on to another club in January, or for his contract to be terminated. Ronaldo's deal runs to the end of this season.

There appeared to be a dearth of suitors during the last transfer window when Ronaldo looked keen on a move, so arranging a transfer for the former Real Madrid star may not be straightforward, unless of course he excels with Portugal at the World Cup.

ROUND-UP

- Ruben Neves has unfinished business at Porto and the 25-year-old Wolves midfielder has revealed he wants to return to the Primeira Liga giants while still in his prime years. He left at the age of 20 to join his current club. Portugal international Neves told Canal 11: "Returning to FC Porto is something I really want to happen, but it's impossible to say when. I hope I'm in the best conditions and that they still want me. I don't know how I'll be in a few years, but my goal is not to go to FC Porto to finish my career, but to win titles. I was there for three years and I didn't win."

- Andriy Lunin has shown himself to be a handy deputy for Thibaut Courtois in the Real Madrid goal, but will he stay at Santiago Bernabeu? Mundo Deportivo says the Ukrainian goalkeeper could leave before the end of his contract, which runs to 2024, if he becomes frustrated with life on the bench, with the newspaper suggesting Madrid would not stand in his way.

Lazio are said to be looking for back-up for Ciro Immobile, their experienced Italy striker, and have reportedly got their eye on two Spain-based forwards. According to Corriere dello Sport, the players being eyed by Maurizio Sarri are Elche's Argentine frontman Lucas Boye and Sevilla's Spaniard Rafa Mir.

Xabi Alonso refused to be downbeat after losing his first Champions League game as Bayer Leverkusen head coach, describing Wednesday's 3-0 reverse to Porto as a "lesson".

Alonso led Leverkusen to a 4-0 Bundesliga win over Schalke in his first match in charge on Saturday, but endured a more chastening experience against the Portuguese outfit.

It was a tale of three penalties at the BayArena, as Porto's Mehdi Taremi added to Galeno's opener with two second-half spot-kicks after visiting goalkeeper Diogo Costa denied Karem Demirbay from 12 yards.

Leverkusen have now failed to score any of their last three Champions League penalties, two of which have come against Porto this season (also Patrik Schick on October 4).

Despite the result, the Bundesliga outfit managed 64 per cent possession and 17 attempts in a front-foot display, leaving Alonso to describe the defeat as unjust. 

"We have to analyse the game, come back tomorrow and move on. Today there is pain, but that's football. Today is a lesson for us," he told UEFA.com.

"We could see today that the small mistakes can be fatal in the Champions League. It's hard for me to talk about the result because I think we didn't deserve it."

The former Spain midfielder became the seventh different Leverkusen coach to lose his first Champions League match in charge, but the first to do so by a three-goal margin.

Goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky also thought Leverkusen were hard done by, adding: "It was an unlucky game. It started in a bad way for us and ended in a bad way. 

"Shortly after the break we lost the second goal. Small details were decisive. At this point we have to work hard for success. It's a hard time for our club, but we will work on it."

Leverkusen remain bottom of Group B following their third defeat in four Champions League games this campaign, three points adrift of second-placed Porto.

Inter have a chance to become the first Italian side to ever beat Barcelona twice in a Champions League campaign when they meet at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Club Brugge are on the brink of their first trip to the knockout stages as they play Atletico Madrid.

Mohamed Salah can make history with one more Champions League goal for Liverpool on their trip to Scotland to take on Rangers, and Bayern Munich are one win away from their own record as they try to win an 11th consecutive group stage match.

Tottenham will look to break out of a scoring slump when they host Eintracht Frankfurt, while Porto and Bayer Leverkusen are battling it out in Group B.

With plenty of important matchups, Stats Perform has parsed through the data to preview the eight fixtures on Wednesday and shine a light on some of the more interesting angles.

Barcelona v Inter

Inter's 1-0 victory against Barcelona at San Siro last week was their first triumph over the Spanish giants since April 2010, with Barca collecting four wins and one draw since.

With another win, Inter can become the first Italian side to ever beat Barcelona twice in the same Champions League campaign, although they have lost all five of their away fixtures at Camp Nou – their most losses at any away venue in the competition.

In fact, Camp Nou has not been a happy hunting ground for Italian sides in general, with a 3-0 victory for Juventus in 2020 marking the country's only win at the venue in the last 17 tries (L13 D3).

It is not just Barcelona who have given Inter trouble on away days, with their last away win in the Champions League against a Spanish opponent coming back in 2004 against Valencia.

Working in Inter's favour is road warrior Lautaro Martinez, who has scored six of his seven Champions League goals away from home.

Tottenham v Eintracht Frankfurt

After banking four consecutive wins against Borussia Dortmund between 2017 and 2019, Tottenham are now winless in their past five Champions League fixtures against German sides (D1 L4).

On the other side, Eintracht have enjoyed success when travelling to England in European competition, winning both of their previous two attempts – against Arsenal in 2019, and West Ham in April this year – in the Europa League.

However, this is a clear step up from the Europa League, and after winning their first ever Champions League away game last month (1-0 at Marseille), Frankfurt will be looking to become the only German team to ever win their first two away fixtures in the competition.

The 0-0 draw between these two sides in Frankfurt a week ago was the second consecutive Champions League game where Tottenham have failed to score a goal – also losing 2-0 to Sporting. The last time they went three games in the competition without scoring was back in 2011.

Striker Harry Kane will be key, as he boasts the best minutes-per-goal figure – 20 goals in 27 appearances for a goal every 118 minutes – of any English player with at least 10 goals in the Champions League.

Atletico Madrid v Club Brugge

Not many, if any, would have tipped Club Brugge to top Group B ahead of Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Porto, but they have defeated all three to lead with a perfect nine points and zero goals conceded.

One more win for Brugge would see them progress past the group stage for the first time, in their 10th Champions League campaign. By defeating Atletico, they would become the first Belgian side since Anderlecht in 2000 to win four games in a row in the competition.

Brugge are also one goal away from matching their highest goal tally from a single Champions League campaign, with eight goals in 2020-21.

Surprisingly, Atletico have struggled at home in the Champions League, snapping a streak of eight games without a win (D5 L3) by defeating Porto this season.

Brugge's Ferran Jutgla has registered a goal and an assist in each of his past two Champions League games, and if he can manage to do it again, he will join Robert Lewandowski and Leroy Sane as the only players since 2003-04 to have a goal and an assist in three straight games in the competition.

Bayer Leverkusen v Porto

With Brugge seemingly cruising, Porto, Leverkusen and Atletico are likely fighting it out for one automatic qualification spot, and Leverkusen will feel good about their chances as Porto are winless in their last seven away games against German teams (D2 L5).

After defeating Atletico at home on the second matchday, Leverkusen will be looking to win consecutive Champions League home fixtures in the same campaign for the first time since 2014.

Patrick Schick is Leverkusen's focal point going forward, attempting more than twice as many shots (12) as any of his team-mates this Champions League season, but he is yet to score, having missed a penalty against Porto in last week's 2-0 loss.

Porto's Mehdi Taremi assisted both goals in the reverse fixture, marking the first time he has been involved in multiple goals in a Champions League game, while the sending-off of Jeremie Frimpong gave Leverkusen their 11th red card in their history in the competition, trailing only Bayern Munich (21) amongst German sides.

Other fixtures:

Napoli v Ajax

5 – Napoli beat Ajax 6-1 in the reverse fixture at Johan Cruyff Arena, with the five-goal margin marking the heaviest defeat Ajax have ever suffered in European competition.

10 – With one more win, Napoli would become the fourth Italian club to ever mount a 10-game unbeaten streak in the Champions League, with six wins and three draws from their past nine fixtures.

Rangers v Liverpool

5 – Rangers have failed to score in their past five European games against English competition, including a 2-0 loss against Liverpool last week.

35 – Mohamed Salah has scored 35 Champions League goals for Liverpool – only Didier Droga (36 for Chelsea) and Sergio Aguero (36 for Manchester City) have scored more for a single Premier League club in the competition.

Sporting v Marseille

9 – Marseille have lost their past nine away fixtures in the Champions League, and with one more loss they would become the sixth team to ever post 10 consecutive away defeats in the competition, and the first from France.

18 – It has been 18 years since Sporting lost a home fixture against a French side in European competition, with that loss coming against Sochaux in the 2004 UEFA Cup.

Viktoria Plzen v Bayern Munich

31 – Bayern Munich are undefeated in their past 31 Champions League group stage matches (28W 3D) – which is an all-time high – and with one more win they will set the new record for consecutive group stage wins with 11.

32 – Viktoria Plzen have faced 32 shots on target in their first three games of this Champions League campaign – more than any other side. In the reverse fixture, Bayern had 13 shots on target.

Xabi Alonso is relishing his "very special" first taste of managing in the Champions League as Bayer Leverkusen aim to ignite their European campaign with victory over Porto.

The 40-year-old replaced Gerardo Seoane as Leverkusen head coach last week and made a winning start to his tenure against Schalke in the Bundesliga at the weekend.

Focus now turns to Wednesday's visit of Porto in UEFA's flagship competition, which Alonso won as a player with Liverpool in 2005 and Real Madrid nine years later.

Leverkusen are third in Group B at the midway stage after last week's 2-0 loss to Porto, who they are level on points with, while Club Brugge lead the way with a perfect record.

Asked about managing in the competition for the first time, Alonso said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference: "It is something very special, for sure. 

"It is one thing to play, but it is something different to coach. Hopefully this will be the first of many games in the Champions League. 

"But it is always special: the lights, the atmosphere, the noise of the stadium. I think it is the most beautiful competition. 

"Every game is big, and you always have to show your highest level when you play these games."

Saturday's 4-0 win over Schalke at BayArena was the highest victory for a coach in their first match in charge of Leverkusen.

That was only the German club's third victory in 13 outings this season and moved them out of the Bundesliga relegation zone.

Leverkusen are now looking to win successive home games in a single Champions League campaign for the first time since October 2014 when Porto visit.

The visitors will be without experienced centre-back and captain Pepe, who Alonso previously played with at Madrid, in what the Leverkusen boss says will be a loss.

"We were team-mates in Madrid and had a great time. He's a great guy, one that you want to have on your side," Alonso said. 

"I wish him a great recovery. Well, from tomorrow! He's a very important player for them, the captain, but he's a leader as well.

"His absence is what it is. You never know if it's good or bad, but we know what Pepe means for Porto. 

"Because of the qualities he has, because of the big personality he has. He's been able to show that hunger and that motivation the way he plays on."

Patrik Schick had a penalty saved in last week's reverse fixture and is without a goal from 12 shots in this season's competition – at least twice as many shots as any team-mate.

However, Alonso has backed the Czech Republic international – Euro 2020's joint-top scorer – to find his scoring touch once again.

"His goals will come, for sure," said Alonso, who previously spent three years managing Real Sociedad B and a period with Madrid's youth sides. 

"He has the quality, the personality and the desire to work on these things. He will help the team and the team will help him."

Club Brugge's Ferran Jutgla has put himself on the radar of some Europe's richest clubs after a terrific start to the Champions League, with Arsenal and Atletico Madrid said to be keen.

Jutgla, 23, appeared to be on an upward trajectory after leaving Espanyol last year to join Barcelona, but despite working his way up from the B team and scoring on his first-team starting debut against Elche in December, he was shipped off to Brugge after one season for a modest €5million.

It is looking like a shrewd investment from the Belgian side, with the Spanish forward contributing six goals and three assists in his first 10 league games, but it is in the Champions League where Jutgla has really made his mark.

TOP STORY – BRUGGE BREAKOUT STAR JUTGLA BURSTS ONTO THE WORLD STAGE

Brugge have been arguably the most surprising team from the first three matchdays in the Champions League, collecting three wins and three clean sheets as they defeated Bayer Leverkusen 1-0, FC Porto 4-0 and Atletico 2-0 to sit atop Group B.

Jutgla collected a goal and an assist in both the Porto and Atletico games, and according to Media Foot, the latter liked what they saw.

The report also mentions Arsenal as a team with keen interest, and claims they will keep a close eye on his progress with the aim of making an offer at the end of the season.

ROUND-UP

– According to Turkish outlet Fotomac, Galatasaray are interested in signing Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo in January.

– A Bola is reporting Arsenal have strong interest in 30-year-old Porto forward Mehdi Taremi, who is expected to play a big role for Iran at the World Cup.

Real Madrid are monitoring 18-year-old Benfica defender Antonio Silva, according to Calciomercato.

– Calciomercato is also reporting Milan could look to sign 21-year-old Midtjylland winger Gustav Isaksen in January after sending scouts to see him score in a 2-2 Europa League draw against Feyenoord.

– Jeunes Footeux believes West Ham and Sevilla are both interested in Eintracht Frankfurt centre-back Evan Ndicka, with West Ham hoping to get him for free when his contract expires in June, while Sevilla could make a bid in January.

Liverpool face Rangers in a battle of Britain and Barcelona will attempt to apply more pressure on Inter boss Simone Inzaghi with a Champions League victory on Tuesday.

An army of Gers fans will travel south of the border to descend on Merseyside for a Group A clash that will give them another opportunity to secure a first point, with the Reds in second spot behind Napoli.

Barca moved top of La Liga last weekend and Xavi's side will start their third Group C game level on points with out-of-sorts Inter after losing 2-0 to leaders Bayern Munich last month.

Bayern will be expected to maintain their 100 per cent record at the expense of Viktoria Plzen, and Serie A table-toppers Napoli travel to Ajax looking to continue their brilliant start to the season.

Ahead of another mouthwatering set of matches, Stats Perform trawls through the Opta data to highlight the most noteworthy facts for each contest.

Liverpool v Rangers

This will be the first European meeting between Liverpool and the Glasgow giants in a European competition.

The Gers have only won one of their seven away games in England, that being a 2-1 Champions League victory at Leeds United in November 1992 courtesy of goals from Mark Hateley and Ally McCoist. They have suffered six defeats and drawn twice.

Liverpool's last meeting with Scottish opponents in the European Cup was back in the 1980-81 campaign, winning 5-0 on aggregate against Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen (1-0 away, 4-0 home). The Reds went on to win the competition that year.

Jurgen Klopp's side have won 13 of their past 15 home Champions League group stage matches (D1 L1), scoring 36 goals in process. Their solitary defeat was against Atalanta in November 2020

Rangers have failed to score in their two group games so far. Indeed, only Plzen (2) and Sevilla (3) have had fewer shots on target than the Scottish club (4) in this season's first two matchdays.

Inter v Barcelona

Inter have won just two of their 14 European matches against Barcelona (D4 L8), a 2-1 victory in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in January 1970 and 3-1 Champions League triumph in April 2010.

Barca's two away wins against the Nerazzurri came 60 years apart, winning 4-2 in the Fairs Cup in September 1959 and 2-1 in the Champions League in December 2019.

Inter have lost six UEFA Champions League matches against the Catalan giants, their most against a single opponent. Barca have only beaten Celtic (8) more times in the competition.

Barca have lost three of their past four away Champions League group stage matches (W1), as many as in their previous 25 matches on their travels in the competition (W15 D7). Xavi is only the second manager to lose his first two away Champions League matches in charge of Barcelona, along with Louis van Gaal in 1997.

Inter have lost their past two Champions League games at San Siro (0-2 v Liverpool and Bayern). Only once previously have they suffered three consecutive home defeats in the European Cup/UEFA Champions League (a run of three between February-September 2011).

Bayern Munich v Viktoria Plzen

Bayern have won all four of their European matches against Plzen, beating them twice in the 1971-72 Cup Winners' Cup and the Champions League in 2013-14.

Plzen's two away European matches against Bayern have seen them concede at least five goals on each occasion, losing 6-1 in September 1971 in the Cup Winners' Cup and 5-0 in the Champions League nine years ago.

Bayern are out to record three wins at the start of a Champions League campaign for a fourth consecutive season. In their opening three games in the previous three seasons and their two games this year, they have won all 11 matches by an aggregate score of 41-7.

Plzen have conceded seven goals in their two Champions League games this season and only kept one clean sheet in their 20 matches in the competition.

Leroy Sane has been directly involved in 14 goals in his past 11 Champions League starts for Bayern (8 goals, 6 assists). The winger could become only the second player to score in Bayern's first three Champions League games in a season, with Robert Lewandowski (in 2019-20 and 2021-22) being the other.

Ajax v Napoli

Napoli have never won away from home in the Netherlands (D2 L3) in any European competition.

Ajax have failed to win any of their past 11 home European matches against Italian opposition (D6 L5) since winning 2-1 against Roma in this competition in December 2002.

Napoli will be looking to win their first three Champions League group stage games for the first time. They are unbeaten in eight matches in the group stage of the competition (W5 D3).

Ajax have won their past four home games in the group stage of the Champions League, scoring four goals in each of the previous three (4-0 v Borussia Dortmund, 4-2 v Sporting CP and 4-0 v Rangers).

Napoli are the top scoring side in the Champions League this season with seven goals. Luciano Spalletti's side have had more shots (43) and shots on target (19) than any other team.

Other fixtures:

Marseille v Sporting CP

6 - Marseille have lost six of their eight European Cup/Champions League matches against Portuguese opponents (W1 D1).

16 - Marseille have lost 16 of their past 17 Champions League matches (W1), failing to score in 11 matches in this run, including both games this season.

Porto v Bayer Leverkusen

7 - Porto have won seven of their eight home Champions League games against German opposition (D1), winning five in a row.

2 - Leverkusen have only won two of their past 13 away matches in the Champions League (D5 L6), with three of the previous four ending in defeats without scoring.

Club Brugge v Atletico Madrid

3 - Brugge are unbeaten in all three home meetings with Atleti in European competition (W2 D1).

7 - Atleti have never won a European match against a Belgium club in seven attempts (five away, two neutral). They have played more major European games on Belgian soil without winning than in any other country.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Tottenham

4 - Tottenham have lost their past four Champions League matches against German opposition by an aggregate score of 14-3, losing twice to Bayern Munich (2-7 and 1-3) and twice to RB Leipzig (0-1 and 0-3).

3 - Eintracht have won three consecutive European games against English teams (one versus Arsenal, two v West Ham), as many as in their first 14.

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