Thursday, September 29, 2022

Messi and Haaland chase more goals as group stage begins – Champions League in Opta numbers

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 6 Sep 2022

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The biggest club competition in European football is back, and some of the shiniest names and players will be on show on the first night of action of this season’s Champions League on Tuesday.

Holders Real Madrid have a trip to Scotland as they take on Celtic at what will surely be a noisy Parkhead, while tournament favourites Manchester City head to Sevilla.

Thomas Tuchel will be hoping to get Chelsea back to the winners’ enclosure as he did in 2021, starting with an away game at Dinamo Zagreb, while two of Europe’s heavyweights clash in France as Paris Saint-Germain entertain Juventus.

Read on for more as Stats Perform looks at the key Opta facts ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League action.

Dinamo Zagreb v Chelsea

This will be the first-ever European meeting between Dinamo Zagreb and Chelsea. In fact, Zagreb will be Chelsea’s first Croatian opponents in a competitive match.

Tuchel’s men will be the ninth English side to face Zagreb in European competition. The Croatian club have won two of their last three meetings with English opponents (L1), as many as their first 16 such matches before then (W2 D3 L11).

Chelsea have lost just one of their last 11 away games in the Champions League (W8 D2), a 1-0 defeat at Juventus last season. Indeed, that loss in Turin is their only one from their last 17 group-stage matches home and away in the competition (W11 D5).

Sevilla v Manchester City

This will be the second season in which Sevilla and City will meet in major European competition. The only previous instance saw City win home and away in the 2015-16 Champions League group stage.

Julen Lopetegui’s men have qualified for the Champions League for a third successive campaign. They are unbeaten on matchday one in each of their last six appearances in the competition (W2 D4), although each of their previous four openers have been drawn, including twice against English sides (2-2 v Liverpool in 2017-18, 0-0 v Chelsea in 2020-21). 

City striker Erling Haaland has scored 23 goals in 19 Champions League appearances, the best goals/game ratio of any player in the competition’s history with a minimum of 10 appearances (1.2). The Norwegian scored eight goals in six games for Salzburg and 15 in 13 for Borussia Dortmund, with four of his goals coming in two matches against Sevilla in 2020-21.

Celtic v Real Madrid

The only time Celtic and Real Madrid have faced each other in this competition was the 1979-80 European Cup quarter-final. Madrid won 3-2 on aggregate after winning the second leg 3-0.

Celtic may have their work cut out, as the defending champions of the Champions League have only been eliminated from their first group stage in one of the last 28 seasons, with Chelsea bowing out in 2012-13.

And only one of the last 27 holders have lost their first match of the following season’s competition (W16 D10), with Liverpool being beaten 2-0 at Napoli in 2019-20.

Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou will become the first ever Australian to manage in the Champions League. Overall, he is the fifth person to take charge of Celtic in the tournament, after Martin O’Neill, Gordon Strachan, Neil Lennon and Brendan Rodgers.

Paris Saint-Germain v Juventus

PSG have only lost one of their last 30 home games in the Champions League group stage (W24 D5), a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United in October 2020.

Juve have won 15 of their last 17 group stage matches in the Champions League, losing the other two, at home to Barcelona in October 2020 (2-0) and away at Chelsea in November 2021 (4-0).

PSG’s Lionel Messi has scored 72 goals in 69 starts in group matches in the Champions League. His 76 group-stage goals overall is an all-time competition record, with the Argentine scoring five goals in five group games for his current club last season – with each goal coming at the Parc des Princes.

Other fixtures:

Borussia Dortmund v Copenhagen

12 – Dortmund have lost just one of their last 12 home games in the Champions League group stage (W8 D3), a 3-1 reverse to Ajax in last season’s competition.

14 – Copenhagen have only lost one of their last 14 away games in all European competitions (including qualifiers – W8 D5). The Danish side won their last away match in the Champions League 2-0 at Club Brugge in December 2016. 

RB Leipzig v Shakhtar Donetsk

12 – Last season, Christopher Nkunku (12 goals) overtook Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg (both 11) to become RB Leipzig’s top goalscorer in major European competition (excluding qualifiers). The French forward scored seven goals in six games in last season’s Champions League, having scored just once in 18 appearances in the competition prior to that.

17 – This will be Shakhtar Donetsk’s 17th season in the Champions League, one shy of the Ukrainian record, which is Dynamo Kyiv’s 18. Shakhtar have qualified for each of the last six editions of the tournament, their joint-best run (also six from 2010-11 to 2015-16).

Salzburg v Milan

3 – Salzburg remained unbeaten at home in last season’s Champions League (P4 W3 D1 L0), winning all three of their home games in the group stage. Only Man City (six) and Bayern Munich (five) played more home matches in last season’s competition without losing than Salzburg.

11 – Of Milan striker Olivier Giroud’s last 12 Champions League goals, 11 have been scored away from home. Indeed, of all players to score more than 10 goals in the competition, Giroud has the highest proportion scored away (78 per cent – 14 of 18).

Benfica v Maccabi Haifa

5 – Benfica have won five of their last seven Champions League group matches at home (L2), as many as their previous 16 such games before then (W5 D4 L7).

0 – No side from Israel has ever progressed from a Champions League group stage, with clubs from the country winning just four of 30 previous matches in the competition proper (D4 L22). Half of those wins, though, were by Maccabi Haifa in the 2002-03 season.

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