Ralf Rangnick's start at Manchester United has been rather underwhelming.

There have been reports this week that stars in the United dressing room have not fully taken to the German, who was appointed as interim manager in the wake of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's dismissal.

United plan to move Rangnick into a consultancy role after his short spell in charge of the team, with a new, permanent manager their target ahead of next season.

However, whoever the club picks must reportedly gain the approval of Cristiano Ronaldo.


TOP STORY – RONALDO'S UNITED RETURN TO COME TO AN END?

United need to get their next appointment right, with Mauricio Pochettino supposedly high on their list of targets.

Yet another factor in the decision seems set to be the feelings of Ronaldo, who may yet have input in the appointment.

According to the Daily Star, Ronaldo could cut short his second stint at Old Trafford should he disagree with the club's managerial selection.

 

ROUND-UP

- Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves is Manchester United's top transfer priority in January, according to Fichajes.

- Liverpool have declined a £7million bid from an unspecified Premier League club for defender Nathaniel Phillips, according to the Daily Mail.

- The Sun, meanwhile, claims Liverpool are moving in on a £60million deal for Porto's Luis Diaz. The Colombia winger was close to joining Everton in August.

- Sky Sports says Newcastle United want to buy Norwich City midfielder Todd Cantwell.

- Fabrizio Romano has reported that Manchester United are not interested in signing River Plate's young striker Julian Alvarez in this window.

Fiorentina's Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic is attracting a long list of suitors.

Vlahovic is under contract at the Stadio Artemio Franchi until June 2023.

Fiorentina are hoping to convince him to extend amid increasing interest in him.

 

TOP STORY – FIORENTINA SET €100M VLAHOVIC PRICE TAG

Fiorentina have set a whopping €100million (£85m) price tag for Vlahovic according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Arsenal, Tottenham, Juventus and Manchester City are all keen on the Serbian striker.

Vlahovic netted 21 Serie A goals last season and has already got 15 to his name this term, making him hot property.  

ROUND-UP

- Marseille defensive midfielder Boubacar Kamara is on Manchester United's radar with a view to sign him as a free agent, reports The Athletic.  Wolverhampton and Newcastle are also believed to be interested in Kamara.

- Real Madrid are in the box seat to sign Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger following positive discussions, according to The Guardian. Rudiger is set to exit Chelsea as a free agent at the end of this season.

- Tottenham are set to allow Dele Alli to exit the club in January, claims The Athletic. England international Alli has made eight league appearances for Spurs this season and is understood to not be in new manager Antonio Conte's plans.

- Fichajes claims that Manchester United will join Liverpool and Manchester City in the race for Porto winger Luis Diaz.

- Newcastle wants to sign Lille's 21-year-old defender Sven Botman in January, reports The Guardian.

Diego Simeone said Atletico Madrid always find new ways to excite him as the Colchoneros boss savoured the team's dramatic progress to the Champions League last 16.

Atletico prevailed in Tuesday's do-or-die battle away to Porto on matchday six, defeating the Portuguese hosts 3-1 to book their spot in the knockout phase.

Simeone's Atletico required a victory and hoped Milan failed to beat Liverpool elsewhere in Group B, and the stars aligned for the stuttering LaLiga champions.

Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Rodrigo de Paul scored to earn Atletico victory in a match that saw three players sent off – Yannick Carrasco received his marching orders, while Porto duo Wendell and Marchesin were also dismissed amid chaotic scenes as three goals were scored after the 90th minute.

Simeone, who has guided Atletico to two LaLiga titles and a pair of Champions League runners-up appearances during his decade-long tenure in the Spanish capital, could not contain his emotions.

"I've been at this club for 10 years and the team always ends up exciting me in new ways," Atletico head coach Simeone said.

"The difficulties, the fact that we didn't have three of our four centre-backs, but there are players with few minutes who are still so important to us. Today it was [Sime] Vrsaljko’s turn, we knew he could do his job. [Geoffrey] Kondogbia is the same.

"The whole team got involved in the game, gave everything, put their hearts into it. We have a goalkeeper who delivered in moments of difficulty. In the second half, if they had scored from that chance, they win.

"Today was a beautiful day, a great day. The boys from the youth team made it through and I wanted to as well. They gave us the ambition of wanting to make it through. We are going to remember this as one of the classic Champions League matches of our lifetime, against a great team in a tough game. We're similar.

"The game had everything – sendings off, chances. Football, how beautiful."

Porto against Atletico was the first ever Champions League game to see as many as three goals scored in the 90th minute (including stoppage time), while the fixture was the first in the premier club competition to have as many as three red cards since 2013.

Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak said: "It's been an incredible night. I'm very happy with the victory, for the team and the fans. I'm sure many people didn't believe in us but it's in matches like these where we show what a team we really are and that we are such a strong group.

"You have to keep your head up when you lose and, when things don't go your way, you have to keep playing as if your life depends on it. We can't be at our best throughout the season but you have to keep on going.

"There's no limit to what we can do and when we have to dig our heels in we do it. I wish we didn't have to suffer so much but this is football: it's not always easy."

Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Rodrigo de Paul scored and three players were sent off as Atletico Madrid earned a place in the last 16 of the Champions League after a riotous 3-1 victory over Porto.

Following a goalless first half, Griezmann arrived at the far post after the break to divert in a corner and give Atletico the edge in a tight contest.

Yannick Carrasco lost his cool in the 67th minute, being sent off after grabbing Otavio's head, before Porto's Wendell was shown a straight red card just five minutes later for an elbow, making it a 10-a-side game. Unused Porto substitute Marchesin also saw red amid chaotic scenes.

Three goals were then scored from the 90th minute onwards, with Correa racing away to slot into the bottom corner and De Paul hammering in before Sergio Oliveira netted a consolation from the spot.

The first big chance of the game fell Atletico's way in the 22nd minute as Carrasco's low ball across the face of goal found Thomas Lemar, but Costa made the save at point-blank range and Griezmann could not connect with the loose ball with the goal gaping. The Porto goalkeeper then denied Marcos Llorente from a tight angle.

The visitors broke the deadlock in the 56th minute as Lemar's corner was flicked on by Geoffrey Kondogbia and turned in at the back post by Griezmann to give Diego Simeone's men a vital advantage.

Carrasco refused to give the ball back for a Porto throw-in before lashing out at Otavio as the Porto midfielder attempted to grab it from him, the Belgian earning himself a straight red card.

Ugly scenes ensued as both camps clashed, and Porto substitute Wendell suffered the same fate as Carrasco shortly after as he elbowed Angel Correa in the throat. Marchesin appeared to be red-carded for speaking out of turn from the sidelines.

Correa broke away in the 90th minute to double Atletico's advantage with a low finish into the bottom-left corner before De Paul smashed in the rebound after Griezmann's shot was saved two minutes later.

Porto pulled one back deep into stoppage time as Oliveira rifled a penalty past Jan Oblak, but Atletico had done enough to make it to the knockout stage. Porto must settle for the Europa League.

Milan host Liverpool knowing they need a win to keep their Champions League hopes alive in one of the headline fixtures on Tuesday.

Real Madrid and Inter meet in a battle for top spot in Group D, with both already qualified as the Italian side travel to Spain with a woeful recent record.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are already through in Group A as well, with Lionel Messi aiming to follow in the footsteps of George Weah and Neymar at home to Club Brugge.

Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data behind the next set of matches.

Milan v Liverpool: Reds eye English record

Milan are searching for their first win against an English side in Europe since February 2012, while the Rossoneri have recorded victory in just one of their past nine home games in the Champions League group stage.

In contrast, Liverpool have triumphed in all five of their opening games this season as they look to become the first English side to win all six of their group-stage matches in a single campaign.

The Reds are also aiming to record victories in six consecutive games in the European Cup/Champions League for the first time in their history, with Alisson on the hunt for three consecutive clean sheets in the continental competition for his first time.

Paris Saint-Germain v Club Brugge: Mbappe and Messi await leaky defence

Club Brugge were defeated by five goals in their last clash against RB Leipzig, the third consecutive group game in which they conceded at least four times.

No team has ever gone four straight games letting in at least four, but the Belgians will have to negotiate with Messi, who could become just the third player – after Weah in 1994 and Neymar in 2017 – to score in his first three consecutive home games for PSG in the competition.

The visitors will also have to contend with Kylian Mbappe, the France international managing five goal involvements in three matches against Brugge – his joint-most against a single opponent in the competition, along with Red Star and Istanbul Basaksehir.

RB Leipzig v Manchester City: Guardiola's men out to defend German record

City are unbeaten in their previous 14 games against German opposition, including a six-game undefeated streak on the road, in a run that stretches back to November 2014 in the Champions League.

The reigning Premier League champions have won their past nine such fixtures, scoring 28 goals and conceding just nine in return, while Leipzig are winless in their most recent three meetings with English sides.

If Leipzig fail to defeat Pep Guardiola's side, it will be the first time they have not registered a single home win during the group stages in Europe.

Real Madrid v Inter: Los Blancos looking for goalscoring milestone 

Inter have claimed just one win in their past 11 meetings with Spanish opposition in European competition and their last away win against such sides came all the way back in October 2004.

The Serie A outfit have not beaten Madrid in Europe since March 1967 as Carlo Ancelotti's side look to score their 1,000th goal in the European Cup/Champions League in just their 455th game.

Karim Benzema could be central to Madrid hitting that milestone if he is passed fit, the forward already with five group-stage goals to his name this term as he sits two behind Raul in the club charts in the competition (66).

 

Other fixtures:

Ajax v Sporting CP:

16 - Ajax have scored 16 goals in their five games in the Champions League this season, with only Bayern Munich (19) and Manchester City (17) finding the net more.

15 - The previous three meetings between Ajax and Sporting have seen a total of 15 goals scored, at an average of five goals per game. Indeed, neither side has managed to keep a clean sheet in any of their three clashes to date.

Borussia Dortmund v Besiktas:

60 - Jude Bellingham has had a direct hand in 60 per cent of Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League goals this season (one scored, two assisted), with the last Englishman to enjoy more than three goal involvements during the group stages of a season before the age of 19 being Jack Wilshere in 2010-11 for Arsenal (one scored, three assisted).

5 - Besiktas remain the only Champions League side in 2021-22 to lose all five of their matches and are looking to avoid being the first team since AEK Athens in 2018-19 to lose each of their six group games.

Porto v Atletico Madrid:

5 - Porto will be aiming to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League for a fifth time in their past five tournament appearances (2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2020-21). The last time they failed to do so was in 2015-16 under Julen Lopetegui.

786 - Luis Suarez's only goal in 11 appearances for Atletico Madrid in the Champions League was a penalty against Milan in September, giving him a minutes-per-goal ratio of 786. At previous club Barcelona, the Uruguay striker scored 25 goals in 55 appearances, with a minutes-per-goal ratio of 192.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Sheriff: 

1 - Shakhtar Donetsk have only won one of their past 11 home games in the Champions League (D5 L5), while they have failed to score in seven of the games in this run, including both in 2021-22 (D1 L1).

25 – Sheriff's 2-0 victory over Shakhtar in this season's tournament came despite the Moldovan side having just 25 per cent possession – since 2003-04, only Atletico (23) versus Barcelona in April 2016 have won a Champions League game by multiple goals with a lower possession percentage.

Porto will be without captain Pepe for their decisive Champions League showdown with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday after he tested positive for coronavirus.

The Primeira Liga leaders go into their final Group B match at Estadio do Dragao in second place, with Atleti and Milan also in the hunt to qualify for the last 16 behind runaway leaders Liverpool.

Porto will have to do without veteran centre-back Pepe, while Marko Grujic is a doubt due to an ankle injury.

Coach Sergio Conceicao said during a news conference on Monday: "Pepe tested positive for COVID. It's an uncontrollable situation, it's part of society.

"As for Grujic, two days ago in training, with the poor quality of our pitches, he sprained [his ankle] and is in doubt."

Milan and Atleti are just a point behind Porto and Jurgen Klopp will ring the changes for Liverpool's trip to San Siro.

Conceicao believes it should already have been mission accomplished for his side, who must win to make certain of a place in the knockouts.

He said: "In this circumstance, in the last round of the group stage [to be in contention to progress] is something my team deserves praise for, and it would be deserved to be already in the round of 16.

"Any of the teams [Porto, Milan and Atleti] can dream of going through, but we have to focus on what we have to do in the game and win it."

Mateus Uribe (suspended) and Ivan Marcano (foot) are also ruled out, while Francisco Conceicao (hip) and Joao Mario (fatigue) are rated as doubtful. 

This week sees the end of the group stages for this season's Champions League with honour, ambition and, yes, prize money on the line.

Two Spanish giants are being made to sweat on matchday six as Atletico Madrid need a win and a favour to stay in the competition, while Barcelona quite probably need to beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena to avoid dropping into the Europa League.

Atalanta and Villarreal will battle it out for second place in Group F, while Real Madrid and Inter face off at the Santiago Bernabeu to determine who will win Group D.

Group G will perhaps be the most dramatic, with all four participants in with a chance of finishing first or second, but what exactly does each team need from their final group game? Stats Perform has the answers for you here...

 

Group A

Manchester City have already secured top spot after beating Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 on matchday five, with the French side definitely finishing second, sitting four points behind City and four points ahead of both RB Leipzig and Club Brugge.

Leipzig, who sacked coach Jesse Marsch over the weekend, host City and need to match or better Club Brugge's result to clinch third place and a Europe League spot.

The Belgians must get something from their trip to Paris and hope that they achieve a better result than Leipzig.

 

Group B

Liverpool have had first place sewn up since they beat Atletico Madrid at Anfield on matchday four and now sit 10 points ahead of second place in what had been labelled a 'group of death' when the draw took place.

It's all to play for otherwise, though, with Porto second. A win for them at home to Atletico will confirm their passage to the knockout stage. A draw will also be fine as long as Milan do not beat Liverpool at San Siro.

Milan need to win against the Reds and hope the other game is a draw, while the Spanish champions have to beat Porto and hope that the Italians fail to beat Liverpool.

 

Group C

The most straightforward group of all as every position has already been confirmed, with Ajax top, Sporting CP joining them in the knockout stage as runners-up, while Borussia Dortmund will go into the Europa League and Besiktas are out.

 

Group D

Real Madrid and Inter have both qualified, with Carlo Ancelotti's men only needing to avoid defeat to the Italians at the Santiago Bernabeu to top the group. Inter need to beat Madrid to overtake them.

Sheriff will go into the Europa League having already been confirmed in third place above Shakhtar Donetsk.

 

Group E

Bayern Munich have won the group and Dynamo Kyiv will finish bottom, but the battle for second and third is going to the wire.

Barcelona have a two-point advantage in second place, but travel to Bayern, while Benfica host Dynamo, with the Portuguese side boasting the superior head-to-head record over the Catalans.

A win in Germany sees Xavi's men safely through, but should they draw or lose, they will be reliant on Benfica failing to win as well.

 

Group F

Manchester United sealed top spot with their 2-0 win at Villarreal on matchday five.

The Yellow Submarine are a point ahead of Atalanta in second, so only need to avoid defeat in Italy, while Gian Piero Gasperini's side must win to take the other qualification place.

Young Boys can still claim a Europa League spot if they beat United at Old Trafford and Atalanta lose.

 

Group G

The tightest of groups where it all comes down to the final round.

Lille sit top on eight points, and a win at Wolfsburg will secure that spot, while a draw will still see them qualify as they have a superior head-to-head with Sevilla.

Salzburg will go through if they avoid defeat at home to Sevilla, winning the group if they win and Lille do not.

Sevilla have to win in Austria to go through. They will at least secure third and a place in the Europa League if they lose and Wolfsburg also fail to beat Lille.

Wolfsburg actually cannot finish third but can finish first or second with a win against Lille.

 

Group H

Chelsea and Juventus have both qualified from the group, and Thomas Tuchel's side will secure top spot with a win at Zenit. Juventus must better Chelsea's result when they host Malmo.

Zenit have already confirmed their place in the Europa League, while Malmo are out.

Diego Simeone has backed his players to respond to a shock LaLiga defeat to Real Mallorca against Porto in the Champions League next week.

Atleti are in fourth spot in LaLiga – seven points behind leaders Real Madrid – after the 2-1 loss at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday.

It was their first defeat on home turf against Mallorca since April 2006 and against a side who were winless in their previous seven LaLiga games.

Atletico also lost a LaLiga match at home after scoring the first goal of the game for the first time since a 2-1 loss to Barcelona in September 2015.

Atleti's attention will now switch to their final fixture in Group B against Porto on Tuesday where anything other than victory will see them exit the competition.

Simeone claimed the prospect of that fixture did not distract his side against Mallorca, and is confident this result will motivate his players in Porto.

"I have no doubt that surely this type of blows generates a reaction and we hope to find it on Tuesday," he told a news conference.

"I absolutely don't think [it distracted the players]. Specific situations couldn't be controlled. Two shots, two goals is what happened."

Matheus Cunha had put Atletico ahead but Franco Russo equalised before Takefusa Kubo, on loan from Atleti's rivals Real Madrid, slotted home in injury time.

Russo's header for Mallorca's equaliser was the ninth goal Atleti have conceded from a set-piece in LaLiga season and only Cadiz (11) have given away more which Simeone acknowledged was a worry.

He said: "We are concerned, we are concerned and we seek to work on it. We hope to find better results in the next matches.

"It is difficult to explain situations sometimes. There are moments when things flow and moments that are more difficult.

"We are going through a moment of this type. It is a difficult moment, but I trust the squad. The best thing is to have close matches to see if we can reverse the situation."

Atleti midfielder Koke believes the club's squad have enough wise, experienced heads to know how to recover quickly from the setback.

"We have to analyse it and improve many things. When we look at it coldly, we'll see what we have to improve," he added.

"We are older and we have the personality and character and we are international players who have lived through difficult times. We know that with work and more work we will get ahead."

Porto and Sporting CP face a one-year ban from playing in Europe if they fail to pay outstanding debts by the end of next month.

UEFA on Friday revealed sanctions that have been issued to eight clubs for breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

Primeira Liga leaders Porto and second-placed Sporting have been fined €300,000 and €250,000 respectively and will not play in the next UEFA club competition they qualify for in one of the next three seasons unless they can prove by January 31, 2022 they have settled "outstanding overdue amounts."

LaLiga side Real Betis have been hit with a €250,000 fine, while CSKA Sofia and CD Santa Clara were both ordered to pay €75,000 and Mons Calpe SC must fork out €15,000.

All of those clubs also face missing out on playing in Europe in either the 2022-23, 2023-24 or 2024-25 season if they qualify, but have not paid what they owe.

FC Astana and CFR 1907 Cluj were fined €150,000 and €200,000 respectively, but were not threatened with a ban.

The newly established First Chamber of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB First Chamber) also found that AEK Athens did not comply with several club licensing and FFP rules.

The Greek club agreed to pay an unconditional financial contribution of €1.5million, while they will also withhold 10 per cent of UEFA prize money they make in the next UEFA club competition they qualify for.

Jurgen Klopp marvelled over a Thiago Alcantara "thunderbolt" but felt Liverpool were somewhat fortunate to beat Porto 2-0 in the Champions League.

Klopp rung the changes for Wednesday's clash at Anfield, with the Reds already through to the round of 16 as Group B winners.

Porto had their chances and were made to pay for their profligacy when Thiago fired home a sublime long-range first-time finish in the second half before Mohamed Salah clinically took his goal tally for the season to 17.

Thiago has endured a frustrating start to his Reds career, but he showed outstanding technique to get off the mark for the season and pulled the strings in the middle of the park alongside Champions League debutant Tyler Morton.

Klopp said of the Spain international's world-class finish: "We had bigger chances in the game than that. Incredible. 

"I see that in training, I know he has the technique to do it, but you don't always hit a thunderbolt like that. We needed some moments, some luck, they had big chances on the counter-attack."

Klopp gave key men a rest with qualification already assured and the Liverpool manager expects a stronger showing against Southampton in the Premier League this weekend.

He said: "We could have lost this tonight. We were lucky in moments, yes. We have moments when we're not cool to play against, true, but I didn't expect that tonight.

"I didn't expect a ruthless pressing machine, we grew into the game and that's what I am happy about. We have to play better against Southampton as they are a machine."

The German added: "We had lots to think about, who is injured. who hasn't played, who needs a rest.

"No one felt like they needed a rest as [playing] Saturday-Wednesday the boys are used to that, but it's about the games coming up, so we needed the boys in a rhythm. It all worked out. No injuries, all good."

Liverpool have won all five Champions League matches this season, while Porto remain second ahead of a decisive final group game at home to Atletico Madrid in a fortnight.

Milan, who face Liverpool at San Siro in their last group match, and Atleti are just a point behind Porto after the Serie A side beat the LaLiga champions 1-0.

Thiago Alcantara's sublime long-range strike set Liverpool on their way to a 2-0 Champions League win over Porto at Anfield.

The Reds had already qualified as Group B winners with two matches to spare, so teenager Tyler Morton made his Champions League debut as Jurgen Klopp rung the changes.

Liverpool maintained their perfect record in Europe this season despite being without key men, Thiago scoring his first goal of the season in style with a magnificent second-half finish.

Mohamed Salah added a second as Porto were made to pay for missed opportunities, leaving them facing a decisive final group match against Atletico Madrid in the battle for a place in the round of 16 along with Liverpool.

Porto should have had an early lead when Otavio somehow failed to hit the target with the goal gaping after Luis Diaz showed great pace to burst away and unselfishly set him up.

The Primeira Liga leaders had a let-off when goalkeeper Diogo Costa's poor attempted clearance struck Sadio Mane on the head and fell nicely for Salah, but the prolific forward could not apply the finish.

Porto lost captain Pepe to an injury before Mane had a goal disallowed for offside in a first half that saw Sergio Conceicao's side pose a threat without having a cutting edge.

Mateus Uribe almost capitalised on slack Reds defending when he spun sharply in the penalty area and drilled a right-foot shot narrowly wide as Porto continued to probe after the break.

Thiago made them pay for their profligacy seven minutes into second half, firing into the bottom-right corner from 25 yards out with a stunning first-time drive after Porto failed to clear an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain free-kick.

Takumi Minamino had a goal ruled out for offside, but Salah doubled Liverpool's lead when he took a pass from Jordan Henderson and surged inside before finding the bottom-right corner with his left foot to take his tally for the season to 17.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola will be looking to seal top spot in Group A of the Champions League on Wednesday with a win against Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium, having lost the reverse fixture 2-0 in the French capital in September.

Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid will also be seeking revenge as they visit Sheriff after the Moldovan outfit famously won 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu on matchday two.

After losing their first league game of the season at the weekend, Milan must find the first win of their European campaign if they are to keep their hopes of qualification alive when they travel to Atletico Madrid.

Stats Perform picks out the key Opta facts ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action.

 

Manchester City v Paris Saint-Germain: Messi aims to smite Guardiola again

Despite failing to find the net in Paris, only Bayern Munich (17) have scored more goals than Manchester City (15) in the Champions League this season. The Citizens are averaging 3.4 expected goals per game in the competition this term; since the start of 2013-14, this is the highest per-game average by a team in the group stage in a single Champions League campaign. 

PSG are winless in their past three away games in the Champions League (D2 L1), and could go without an away victory in the group stage of the competition in a single season for the first time since 2004-05. 

Lionel Messi, who fired home a brilliant second in the reverse game, has scored seven goals in seven Champions League appearances against City, the second-most by a player against an English club in the competition after his own haul of nine goals in six appearances against Arsenal.

7 - Lionel Messi has scored more UEFA Champions League goals against Man City (7) than any other player, while his seven goals against sides managed by Pep Guardiola (two vs Bayern Munich, five against Man City with him as manager) are also the most of any player. Haunting. pic.twitter.com/wPAYIZTx2R

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 28, 2021

 

Sheriff v Real Madrid: Can Benzema keep up his form?

Real Madrid have won both of their away games in the Champions League this season without conceding a goal (1-0 v Inter and 5-0 v Shakhtar Donetsk), while they last managed this in three consecutive away games in the competition between October 2014 and February 2015, during Carlo Ancelotti’s first spell in charge of the club.

After their famous win in Spain this season, Sheriff could become just the fourth team to win their first two meetings with Madrid in European competition, after Liverpool (1981, 2009), Galatasaray (2000, 2001) and Benfica (1962, 1965).

One rather big obstacle to stop that from happening is Karim Benzema, who has scored in each of his previous three Champions League appearances (four goals), and will be looking to do so in four in succession for the first time since 2016-17. His brace against Shakhtar last time out took him to 100 direct goal involvements in the Champions League (75 goals and 25 assists). 

 

Atletico Madrid v Milan: Must-win for the Rossoneri

Stefano Pioli's side need a win to keep their slim hopes of qualification for the knockout stages alive, having amassed just one point from their four games, but the numbers do not bode well for the Rossoneri. Atletico Madrid have a 100 per cent record against Milan in European competition, winning all three of their meetings, which have all been in the Champions League – 1-0 away and 4-1 at home in 2013-14, and 2-1 away from home this season. 

Joao Felix has been directly involved in four of Atletico's previous five goals at the Wanda Metropolitano in the Champions League, scoring three times himself and providing an assist for Antoine Griezmann against Liverpool in October.

Milan have only won one of their past 16 games against Spanish opponents in the Champions League (D6 L9), beating Barcelona 2-0 at home in the round of 16 in 2012-13. Indeed, they are winless in their previous six such games (D1 L5), suffering defeats in each of the most recent four. 

 

Liverpool v Porto: Salah still a threat despite no jeopardy for Reds

Liverpool may have already sewn up top spot in Group B, but they will want to keep up their impressive record against Porto. The Reds are unbeaten in their nine meetings in European competition (W6 D3), with five of those games coming during Jurgen Klopp's reign (W4 D1). 

Since the start of 2017-18 – Mohamed Salah's first season as a Liverpool player – the Egypt star has scored 30 goals in 47 Champions League appearances. Only four of these have been penalties, with Robert Lewandowski (33) being the only player to have netted more non-penalty goals in the competition than Salah (26) during this period.

Porto defender Pepe could make his 100th career start in the Champions League in this game. In doing so, he would become just the second Portuguese player in the history of the competition to start a century of games, after Cristiano Ronaldo.


Other fixtures:

Besiktas v Ajax

5 – Besiktas have lost all five of their meetings with Ajax across all European competitions – only against Dynamo Kyiv (six) have they suffered more defeats.

4 – Ajax are one of only four teams with a 100 per cent record through the opening four matchdays of the 2021-22 Champions League. The Amsterdam side will be looking to become only the second Dutch team to win their opening five games of a European Cup/Champions League campaign, after Feyenoord in 1971-72.

Inter v Shakhtar Donetsk

0 – The previous three meetings between Inter and Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League have finished goalless, with all three coming since the start of last season. There have been 66 shots recorded in these previous three games (43 by Inter and 23 by Shakhtar), without a goal being scored.

2 – Shakhtar Donetsk have only lost two of their past six away games against Italian sides in the Champions League (W2 D2), going unbeaten in the most recent two – 2-1 versus Atalanta in October 2019 and 0-0 v Inter in December 2020.

Club Brugge v Leipzig

1 – Club Brugge have only won one of their past 15 home games in the Champions League (D6 L8), with that lone victory coming against Zenit in December 2020 (3-0). This was the only game in this run in which the Belgian side managed to score more than one goal, netting just 10 across the 15 games in total.

0 – RB Leipzig are winless in their past six Champions League games, suffering five defeats in this run (D1). The Bundesliga outfit have also conceded more goals in the competition in 2021 than any other team, shipping 17 in six games this calendar year.

Sporting CP v Borussia Dortmund

– Only Salah (3.01), Lewandowski (4.77) and Sebastien Haller (5.51) have accumulated a higher xG tally (excluding penalties) in this season's Champions League than Sporting's Paulinho (2.96), who has scored with three of his six shots on target to date.

– Without Erling Haaland, who is already ruled out of this contest through injury, Dortmund have managed just five goals in four Champions League matches (1.25 on average), compared to 20 in 12 with him in the side (1.7) since his debut for the club in February 2020.

Jurgen Klopp was adamant that his Liverpool team will not step off the gas when they face Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Liverpool host Porto in their fifth game of the Champions League campaign with top spot in Group B already secured.

The Reds have taken 12 points from 12 on offer so far, with a 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid last time out guaranteeing their position as group winners.

Porto were hammered 5-1 in the reverse fixture, though a win at Anfield could see them through should Atleti lose to Milan.

Klopp suggested he will look to rotate his side as the fixture list begins to become even more hectic, though insisted that does not mean Liverpool - who trashed Arsenal 4-0 on Saturday - will change their full-throttle approach.

"When you sign a contract for Liverpool as a manager or player you pretty much have to win all the games," he told a news conference.

"It means there's a lot of pressure on their shoulders. We don't have to win the game tomorrow but we want to win the game. I hope it gives us the freedom to play but have the desire to defend and all those kinds of things.

"In our Champions League history since I was here we always had to fight until the last second of the last game to get through the group, that's the only difference but actually it's not in my mind. I know it's a difference, but we try to win the game.

"We know that our opponent will be motivated in the highest level, for two reasons, because we won there in the other game in a way they didn't like and another is if they win they have a final against Atletico in the last match of the group, so that's what they want.

"It will be a difficult game for us, I really hope everybody at Anfield is at their best, we always show up to win the game. We never take this thing for granted, I hope nobody is doing that, we need to put a proper fight together, I'm pretty confident we can do that."

Liverpool also played in a Champions League dead rubber last season, with Klopp's decision to field a strong team backfiring when Diogo Jota sustained a serious injury.

"It's really easy to sit there and say leave him out, leave this player out," Klopp hit back when asked if he regretted that decision.

"It's very easy to sit in your chair, we have to line up a team to win the game and the Diogo situation was very unlucky and I hated it. Would I have done the same decision again? Yes.

"We need stability, we cannot play football games with one line up and then the next game change the team and then bring them back again, the players need rhythm, all these kinds of things.

"It's not fair that you bring it up this old story that a player got injured. These things happen in football and hopefully nothing happens tomorrow."

Jordan Henderson and Andrew Robertson are, according to Klopp, fit after returning from injuries, though he is unsure if either will play a part against Porto, who have never beaten Liverpool in nine competitive meetings.

One player set to feature is Takumi Minamino, who scored less than a minute after coming on from the bench against Arsenal.

Klopp said: "He played for Japan in the last few games because he's in good shape, he's in exceptional shape, we knew that.

"That's why it's important for us. He's pretty much our first option for changing five positions, that says a lot, because he can play all the different positions and when he came on it was a wonderful moment, 40 seconds on the pitch and scoring a goal.

"You can see the confidence now and how good a player he is. He will get his minutes, definitely."

Luis Diaz's agent says it is "normal" the Porto winger is attracting interest from Europe's heavyweights, amid links to Liverpool and Chelsea.

Since making the switch from Colombian side Junior to Porto in July 2019, Diaz has scored 21 goals, provided nine assists and created 59 chances in Portugal's Primeira Liga.

This season alone, he has nine goals in 11 top-flight appearances to stand top of the scoring charts in Portugal's highest tier.

The 24-year-old has a reported €80million release clause in his contract, with Premier League sides Liverpool and Chelsea reported to be weighing up a move for the Colombia international.

He has also caught the eye in the Champions League this term, scoring against Atletico Madrid and Milan, and will come up against Liverpool in Europe's premier competition next week.

For his representative, Carlos Van Strahalen, such attention is to be expected given his impressive form.

Speaking to Bola Branca, Van Strahalen said: "It's normal. If a player plays well, if he starts to stand out, if the majority considers him the best player in the Portuguese league, if he's the top scorer and is making a high-level Champions League, that interest is normal.

"Can he leave Porto? I don't know."

Jurgen Klopp insisted Liverpool will take their two remaining Champions League group games seriously after they secured a place in the knockout stages in record time.

The Reds made it four wins from four in the group stages of Europe's elite competition for the first time in their history as they beat Atletico Madrid 2-0 at Anfield on Wednesday.

That result means they are guaranteed to progress to the next round as group winners regardless of the outcome of upcoming fixtures against Porto and Milan, but Klopp has suggested he will still take both very seriously.

"You earn a lot of money if you win Champions League games - not me personally, it's just for the club it's important. That's what we will do," Klopp said during the post-game news conference.

"Of course, the first target was to get through this group and getting through the group with 12 points after four matches is absolutely insane, to be honest. 

"But we did it and now there are two more games to go. One is against Porto and we are Liverpool in a home game, what can we do? Let them play or whatever? 

"And then, going to Milan, I've never been there. It's a historical one, so we will show up there as well. That's the situation. 

"But, of course, when I saw the group I didn't expect that we would be through after four games, but the boys did it and really well deserved."

Liverpool's task was made all the easier when Atletico's Felipe was sent off for a cynical swipe at Sadio Mane during the first half at Anfield.

But Klopp felt he had to substitute the Senegalese himself at the break in order to avoid him receiving a second yellow card.

Explaining the decision, he said: "I really hated the moment when I had to take off Sadio because Sadio played an incredible game. You could see now everybody wants it [the red card]. 

"My worry was any kind of challenge in the air, where you never know exactly what happens there with the arm, one of them goes down and makes three times a roll over then Sadio's off and that would have been the wrong thing. I didn't like it but, in the end, we had to do it." 

Page 1 of 6
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.