Blog

Here we go again

Haaland the monster, Bayern's frightening xG and former foes reuniting. The Champions League is back and so is Simon Hart with his first matchday blog of the season

WORDS Simon Hart

Hammer. Buffalo. Monster. The headline writers went into overdrive after Erling Haaland’s previous visit to Seville in the Champions League when he scored twice in a 3-2 win for Borussia Dortmund in the 2020/21 Round of 16.

Those same writers should get their figurative pens poised once more for the Norwegian’s return to the Sánchez-Pizjuán with Manchester City on Tuesday as the new Champions League campaign commences.  

Haaland’s record so far for the English champions – 10 goals in his first six Premier League games – is highly encouraging for those City fans hoping the competition’s top scorer from two seasons ago can prove the missing link for a side beaten in the final in 2021 and semi-finals last term.  

Will Haaland continue his blistering scoring start at City? 

When you consider Haaland’s habit of memorable debuts in this competition – a hat-trick for Salzburg in 2019, then a double for Dortmund in 2020 – Sevillistas could certainly be forgiven some trepidation.  

It is not their only reason for concern: Sevilla’s home defeat by Barcelona on Saturday leaves them with one point from their opening four Liga fixtures, their joint-worst start to a domestic league campaign. For a side still adjusting to the summer departures of centre-backs Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé, Haaland is probably the last player they’d want to face right now.

Lewandowski, Mané in new colours

From the formidable finishing of Haaland, we move on to the competition’s top-scoring side for each of the last three campaigns, Bayern München, who start their Group C programme with a rematch of the 2010 final against Inter. The clubs had contrasting fortunes when it came to precision in front of goal last term: Bayern’s 31-goal haul was superior to their Excepted Goals total of 26.7; Inter were less precise, scoring nine goals despite an xG of 12.9.

Will Bayern carry their superior goalscoring efficiency into the new campaign?

Bayern owed that precision, in part, to Robert Lewandowski, now a Barcelona player and preparing to play Plzeň on Wednesday. With five goals in four games already, the Pole will surely help Barcelona surpass the paltry two goals they managed last season when failing to qualify for the group stage for the first time since 2000/01.

As for Bayern and their trip to Milan, it should bring the first Champions League appearance in Bayern colours of Sadio Mané, the Senegalese who has the task of cushioning Lewandowski’s loss. He has four goals so far though Bayern, after hitting six and seven and five in their first three domestic away fixtures, have looked more human in drawing their last two Bundesliga matches 1-1.

We meet again

A rematch from last term to look out for is Atlético de Madrid’s home fixture with Porto. The sides produced an explosive Matchday 6 showdown in Portugal last December when Atleti prevailed 3-1 on a night of three red cards and three goals scored after the 89th minute. Sérgio Conçeicão, Porto’s coach, will hope for better defensively from a team who made the most errors leading to goals (four) of the 2021/22 group stage.  

As for more personal reunions, Ajax’s new defender Calvin Bassey will face the Rangers team with whom he reached last May’s Europa League final when Giovanni van Bronckhorst takes the Light Blues to Amsterdam. Angel Di María, meanwhile, will encounter the Paris Saint-Germain side with whom he spent the past seven seasons when his new team, Juventus, host the French champions in Christophe Galtier’s first Champions League match at the helm.  

Speed merchants

After reaching the round of 16 for the first time last term, Salzburg will attempt to repeat the feat in Group E, starting at home against an AC Milan buoyed by their weekend derby win over Inter. According to the 2021/22 Champions League technical report, no team in last season’s competition were more direct than Salzburg: in their 1-0 home win over Sevilla in the group stage, 54% of their passes went forward – and they surpassed that at home against Bayern in their round of 16 tie with a 57.2% portion of forward passes.

While the Austrian titleholders will look to retain that menace without forward Karim Adeyemi, now a Borussia Dortmund player, it will be intriguing to see how Darwin Núñez will impact on Liverpool’s attacking approach as the campaign progresses. The Uruguayan was the spearhead of a Benfica side last season who registered, on average, the swiftest route to goal among the eight quarter-finalists in 2021/22. Benfica posted an average sequence of 1.5 passes and 4.9 seconds with Núñez scoring six times.

Will Darwin Núñez pick up where he left off last season?

He is still settling into a Liverpool side who have won only two of their first six Premier League games and could have been given a less challenging start than at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona where the Reds lost on Matchday 1 in 2019/20 (and also in the 2018/19 group stage). Another testing evening could await against Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli who are currently unbeaten in Serie A, albeit with more draws than wins (W2 D3 L0)  

Hoop tests for last May’s winners

Finally to the two clubs who have already contested one European honour this term – defending champions Real Madrid and the Eintracht Frankfurt side they beat in August’s Super Cup.

Madrid kick off their title defence in Glasgow against Ange Postecoglou’s in-form side who have won their first eight matches this season, winning 9-0 at Dundee United the weekend before last then defeating arch-rivals Ranger 4-0 on Saturday.  Madrid too have a 100% record to date but something will have to give at Celtic Park where the Hoops have won not a home game in the group stage since October 2013.

Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi and first team coach Harry Kewell

As for an Eintracht side transported to the group stage by their Europa League triumph in May, they will come up against the other team in the group stage who wear green and white hoops, Sporting. Their Group D home encounter with the Lisbon side is their first match in Europe’s elite club competition since they lost the final of the 1959/60 edition against Madrid – their only previous participation. A big night awaits and confidence should be growing after Saturday’s 4-0 home defeat of another German Champions League contender, Leipzig.

Hammer. Buffalo. Monster. The headline writers went into overdrive after Erling Haaland’s previous visit to Seville in the Champions League when he scored twice in a 3-2 win for Borussia Dortmund in the 2020/21 Round of 16.

Those same writers should get their figurative pens poised once more for the Norwegian’s return to the Sánchez-Pizjuán with Manchester City on Tuesday as the new Champions League campaign commences.  

Haaland’s record so far for the English champions – 10 goals in his first six Premier League games – is highly encouraging for those City fans hoping the competition’s top scorer from two seasons ago can prove the missing link for a side beaten in the final in 2021 and semi-finals last term.  

Will Haaland continue his blistering scoring start at City? 

When you consider Haaland’s habit of memorable debuts in this competition – a hat-trick for Salzburg in 2019, then a double for Dortmund in 2020 – Sevillistas could certainly be forgiven some trepidation.  

It is not their only reason for concern: Sevilla’s home defeat by Barcelona on Saturday leaves them with one point from their opening four Liga fixtures, their joint-worst start to a domestic league campaign. For a side still adjusting to the summer departures of centre-backs Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé, Haaland is probably the last player they’d want to face right now.

Lewandowski, Mané in new colours

From the formidable finishing of Haaland, we move on to the competition’s top-scoring side for each of the last three campaigns, Bayern München, who start their Group C programme with a rematch of the 2010 final against Inter. The clubs had contrasting fortunes when it came to precision in front of goal last term: Bayern’s 31-goal haul was superior to their Excepted Goals total of 26.7; Inter were less precise, scoring nine goals despite an xG of 12.9.

Will Bayern carry their superior goalscoring efficiency into the new campaign?

Bayern owed that precision, in part, to Robert Lewandowski, now a Barcelona player and preparing to play Plzeň on Wednesday. With five goals in four games already, the Pole will surely help Barcelona surpass the paltry two goals they managed last season when failing to qualify for the group stage for the first time since 2000/01.

As for Bayern and their trip to Milan, it should bring the first Champions League appearance in Bayern colours of Sadio Mané, the Senegalese who has the task of cushioning Lewandowski’s loss. He has four goals so far though Bayern, after hitting six and seven and five in their first three domestic away fixtures, have looked more human in drawing their last two Bundesliga matches 1-1.

We meet again

A rematch from last term to look out for is Atlético de Madrid’s home fixture with Porto. The sides produced an explosive Matchday 6 showdown in Portugal last December when Atleti prevailed 3-1 on a night of three red cards and three goals scored after the 89th minute. Sérgio Conçeicão, Porto’s coach, will hope for better defensively from a team who made the most errors leading to goals (four) of the 2021/22 group stage.  

As for more personal reunions, Ajax’s new defender Calvin Bassey will face the Rangers team with whom he reached last May’s Europa League final when Giovanni van Bronckhorst takes the Light Blues to Amsterdam. Angel Di María, meanwhile, will encounter the Paris Saint-Germain side with whom he spent the past seven seasons when his new team, Juventus, host the French champions in Christophe Galtier’s first Champions League match at the helm.  

Speed merchants

After reaching the round of 16 for the first time last term, Salzburg will attempt to repeat the feat in Group E, starting at home against an AC Milan buoyed by their weekend derby win over Inter. According to the 2021/22 Champions League technical report, no team in last season’s competition were more direct than Salzburg: in their 1-0 home win over Sevilla in the group stage, 54% of their passes went forward – and they surpassed that at home against Bayern in their round of 16 tie with a 57.2% portion of forward passes.

While the Austrian titleholders will look to retain that menace without forward Karim Adeyemi, now a Borussia Dortmund player, it will be intriguing to see how Darwin Núñez will impact on Liverpool’s attacking approach as the campaign progresses. The Uruguayan was the spearhead of a Benfica side last season who registered, on average, the swiftest route to goal among the eight quarter-finalists in 2021/22. Benfica posted an average sequence of 1.5 passes and 4.9 seconds with Núñez scoring six times.

Will Darwin Núñez pick up where he left off last season?

He is still settling into a Liverpool side who have won only two of their first six Premier League games and could have been given a less challenging start than at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona where the Reds lost on Matchday 1 in 2019/20 (and also in the 2018/19 group stage). Another testing evening could await against Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli who are currently unbeaten in Serie A, albeit with more draws than wins (W2 D3 L0)  

Hoop tests for last May’s winners

Finally to the two clubs who have already contested one European honour this term – defending champions Real Madrid and the Eintracht Frankfurt side they beat in August’s Super Cup.

Madrid kick off their title defence in Glasgow against Ange Postecoglou’s in-form side who have won their first eight matches this season, winning 9-0 at Dundee United the weekend before last then defeating arch-rivals Ranger 4-0 on Saturday.  Madrid too have a 100% record to date but something will have to give at Celtic Park where the Hoops have won not a home game in the group stage since October 2013.

Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi and first team coach Harry Kewell

As for an Eintracht side transported to the group stage by their Europa League triumph in May, they will come up against the other team in the group stage who wear green and white hoops, Sporting. Their Group D home encounter with the Lisbon side is their first match in Europe’s elite club competition since they lost the final of the 1959/60 edition against Madrid – their only previous participation. A big night awaits and confidence should be growing after Saturday’s 4-0 home defeat of another German Champions League contender, Leipzig.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Hammer. Buffalo. Monster. The headline writers went into overdrive after Erling Haaland’s previous visit to Seville in the Champions League when he scored twice in a 3-2 win for Borussia Dortmund in the 2020/21 Round of 16.

Those same writers should get their figurative pens poised once more for the Norwegian’s return to the Sánchez-Pizjuán with Manchester City on Tuesday as the new Champions League campaign commences.  

Haaland’s record so far for the English champions – 10 goals in his first six Premier League games – is highly encouraging for those City fans hoping the competition’s top scorer from two seasons ago can prove the missing link for a side beaten in the final in 2021 and semi-finals last term.  

Will Haaland continue his blistering scoring start at City? 

When you consider Haaland’s habit of memorable debuts in this competition – a hat-trick for Salzburg in 2019, then a double for Dortmund in 2020 – Sevillistas could certainly be forgiven some trepidation.  

It is not their only reason for concern: Sevilla’s home defeat by Barcelona on Saturday leaves them with one point from their opening four Liga fixtures, their joint-worst start to a domestic league campaign. For a side still adjusting to the summer departures of centre-backs Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé, Haaland is probably the last player they’d want to face right now.

Lewandowski, Mané in new colours

From the formidable finishing of Haaland, we move on to the competition’s top-scoring side for each of the last three campaigns, Bayern München, who start their Group C programme with a rematch of the 2010 final against Inter. The clubs had contrasting fortunes when it came to precision in front of goal last term: Bayern’s 31-goal haul was superior to their Excepted Goals total of 26.7; Inter were less precise, scoring nine goals despite an xG of 12.9.

Will Bayern carry their superior goalscoring efficiency into the new campaign?

Bayern owed that precision, in part, to Robert Lewandowski, now a Barcelona player and preparing to play Plzeň on Wednesday. With five goals in four games already, the Pole will surely help Barcelona surpass the paltry two goals they managed last season when failing to qualify for the group stage for the first time since 2000/01.

As for Bayern and their trip to Milan, it should bring the first Champions League appearance in Bayern colours of Sadio Mané, the Senegalese who has the task of cushioning Lewandowski’s loss. He has four goals so far though Bayern, after hitting six and seven and five in their first three domestic away fixtures, have looked more human in drawing their last two Bundesliga matches 1-1.

We meet again

A rematch from last term to look out for is Atlético de Madrid’s home fixture with Porto. The sides produced an explosive Matchday 6 showdown in Portugal last December when Atleti prevailed 3-1 on a night of three red cards and three goals scored after the 89th minute. Sérgio Conçeicão, Porto’s coach, will hope for better defensively from a team who made the most errors leading to goals (four) of the 2021/22 group stage.  

As for more personal reunions, Ajax’s new defender Calvin Bassey will face the Rangers team with whom he reached last May’s Europa League final when Giovanni van Bronckhorst takes the Light Blues to Amsterdam. Angel Di María, meanwhile, will encounter the Paris Saint-Germain side with whom he spent the past seven seasons when his new team, Juventus, host the French champions in Christophe Galtier’s first Champions League match at the helm.  

Speed merchants

After reaching the round of 16 for the first time last term, Salzburg will attempt to repeat the feat in Group E, starting at home against an AC Milan buoyed by their weekend derby win over Inter. According to the 2021/22 Champions League technical report, no team in last season’s competition were more direct than Salzburg: in their 1-0 home win over Sevilla in the group stage, 54% of their passes went forward – and they surpassed that at home against Bayern in their round of 16 tie with a 57.2% portion of forward passes.

While the Austrian titleholders will look to retain that menace without forward Karim Adeyemi, now a Borussia Dortmund player, it will be intriguing to see how Darwin Núñez will impact on Liverpool’s attacking approach as the campaign progresses. The Uruguayan was the spearhead of a Benfica side last season who registered, on average, the swiftest route to goal among the eight quarter-finalists in 2021/22. Benfica posted an average sequence of 1.5 passes and 4.9 seconds with Núñez scoring six times.

Will Darwin Núñez pick up where he left off last season?

He is still settling into a Liverpool side who have won only two of their first six Premier League games and could have been given a less challenging start than at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona where the Reds lost on Matchday 1 in 2019/20 (and also in the 2018/19 group stage). Another testing evening could await against Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli who are currently unbeaten in Serie A, albeit with more draws than wins (W2 D3 L0)  

Hoop tests for last May’s winners

Finally to the two clubs who have already contested one European honour this term – defending champions Real Madrid and the Eintracht Frankfurt side they beat in August’s Super Cup.

Madrid kick off their title defence in Glasgow against Ange Postecoglou’s in-form side who have won their first eight matches this season, winning 9-0 at Dundee United the weekend before last then defeating arch-rivals Ranger 4-0 on Saturday.  Madrid too have a 100% record to date but something will have to give at Celtic Park where the Hoops have won not a home game in the group stage since October 2013.

Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi and first team coach Harry Kewell

As for an Eintracht side transported to the group stage by their Europa League triumph in May, they will come up against the other team in the group stage who wear green and white hoops, Sporting. Their Group D home encounter with the Lisbon side is their first match in Europe’s elite club competition since they lost the final of the 1959/60 edition against Madrid – their only previous participation. A big night awaits and confidence should be growing after Saturday’s 4-0 home defeat of another German Champions League contender, Leipzig.

Here we go again
Blog

Here we go again

Haaland the monster, Bayern's frightening xG and former foes reuniting. The Champions League is back and so is Simon Hart with his first matchday blog of the season

WORDS Simon Hart

Hammer. Buffalo. Monster. The headline writers went into overdrive after Erling Haaland’s previous visit to Seville in the Champions League when he scored twice in a 3-2 win for Borussia Dortmund in the 2020/21 Round of 16.

Those same writers should get their figurative pens poised once more for the Norwegian’s return to the Sánchez-Pizjuán with Manchester City on Tuesday as the new Champions League campaign commences.  

Haaland’s record so far for the English champions – 10 goals in his first six Premier League games – is highly encouraging for those City fans hoping the competition’s top scorer from two seasons ago can prove the missing link for a side beaten in the final in 2021 and semi-finals last term.  

Will Haaland continue his blistering scoring start at City? 

When you consider Haaland’s habit of memorable debuts in this competition – a hat-trick for Salzburg in 2019, then a double for Dortmund in 2020 – Sevillistas could certainly be forgiven some trepidation.  

It is not their only reason for concern: Sevilla’s home defeat by Barcelona on Saturday leaves them with one point from their opening four Liga fixtures, their joint-worst start to a domestic league campaign. For a side still adjusting to the summer departures of centre-backs Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé, Haaland is probably the last player they’d want to face right now.

Lewandowski, Mané in new colours

From the formidable finishing of Haaland, we move on to the competition’s top-scoring side for each of the last three campaigns, Bayern München, who start their Group C programme with a rematch of the 2010 final against Inter. The clubs had contrasting fortunes when it came to precision in front of goal last term: Bayern’s 31-goal haul was superior to their Excepted Goals total of 26.7; Inter were less precise, scoring nine goals despite an xG of 12.9.

Will Bayern carry their superior goalscoring efficiency into the new campaign?

Bayern owed that precision, in part, to Robert Lewandowski, now a Barcelona player and preparing to play Plzeň on Wednesday. With five goals in four games already, the Pole will surely help Barcelona surpass the paltry two goals they managed last season when failing to qualify for the group stage for the first time since 2000/01.

As for Bayern and their trip to Milan, it should bring the first Champions League appearance in Bayern colours of Sadio Mané, the Senegalese who has the task of cushioning Lewandowski’s loss. He has four goals so far though Bayern, after hitting six and seven and five in their first three domestic away fixtures, have looked more human in drawing their last two Bundesliga matches 1-1.

We meet again

A rematch from last term to look out for is Atlético de Madrid’s home fixture with Porto. The sides produced an explosive Matchday 6 showdown in Portugal last December when Atleti prevailed 3-1 on a night of three red cards and three goals scored after the 89th minute. Sérgio Conçeicão, Porto’s coach, will hope for better defensively from a team who made the most errors leading to goals (four) of the 2021/22 group stage.  

As for more personal reunions, Ajax’s new defender Calvin Bassey will face the Rangers team with whom he reached last May’s Europa League final when Giovanni van Bronckhorst takes the Light Blues to Amsterdam. Angel Di María, meanwhile, will encounter the Paris Saint-Germain side with whom he spent the past seven seasons when his new team, Juventus, host the French champions in Christophe Galtier’s first Champions League match at the helm.  

Speed merchants

After reaching the round of 16 for the first time last term, Salzburg will attempt to repeat the feat in Group E, starting at home against an AC Milan buoyed by their weekend derby win over Inter. According to the 2021/22 Champions League technical report, no team in last season’s competition were more direct than Salzburg: in their 1-0 home win over Sevilla in the group stage, 54% of their passes went forward – and they surpassed that at home against Bayern in their round of 16 tie with a 57.2% portion of forward passes.

While the Austrian titleholders will look to retain that menace without forward Karim Adeyemi, now a Borussia Dortmund player, it will be intriguing to see how Darwin Núñez will impact on Liverpool’s attacking approach as the campaign progresses. The Uruguayan was the spearhead of a Benfica side last season who registered, on average, the swiftest route to goal among the eight quarter-finalists in 2021/22. Benfica posted an average sequence of 1.5 passes and 4.9 seconds with Núñez scoring six times.

Will Darwin Núñez pick up where he left off last season?

He is still settling into a Liverpool side who have won only two of their first six Premier League games and could have been given a less challenging start than at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona where the Reds lost on Matchday 1 in 2019/20 (and also in the 2018/19 group stage). Another testing evening could await against Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli who are currently unbeaten in Serie A, albeit with more draws than wins (W2 D3 L0)  

Hoop tests for last May’s winners

Finally to the two clubs who have already contested one European honour this term – defending champions Real Madrid and the Eintracht Frankfurt side they beat in August’s Super Cup.

Madrid kick off their title defence in Glasgow against Ange Postecoglou’s in-form side who have won their first eight matches this season, winning 9-0 at Dundee United the weekend before last then defeating arch-rivals Ranger 4-0 on Saturday.  Madrid too have a 100% record to date but something will have to give at Celtic Park where the Hoops have won not a home game in the group stage since October 2013.

Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi and first team coach Harry Kewell

As for an Eintracht side transported to the group stage by their Europa League triumph in May, they will come up against the other team in the group stage who wear green and white hoops, Sporting. Their Group D home encounter with the Lisbon side is their first match in Europe’s elite club competition since they lost the final of the 1959/60 edition against Madrid – their only previous participation. A big night awaits and confidence should be growing after Saturday’s 4-0 home defeat of another German Champions League contender, Leipzig.

Penalty Pedigree

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Hammer. Buffalo. Monster. The headline writers went into overdrive after Erling Haaland’s previous visit to Seville in the Champions League when he scored twice in a 3-2 win for Borussia Dortmund in the 2020/21 Round of 16.

Those same writers should get their figurative pens poised once more for the Norwegian’s return to the Sánchez-Pizjuán with Manchester City on Tuesday as the new Champions League campaign commences.  

Haaland’s record so far for the English champions – 10 goals in his first six Premier League games – is highly encouraging for those City fans hoping the competition’s top scorer from two seasons ago can prove the missing link for a side beaten in the final in 2021 and semi-finals last term.  

Will Haaland continue his blistering scoring start at City? 

When you consider Haaland’s habit of memorable debuts in this competition – a hat-trick for Salzburg in 2019, then a double for Dortmund in 2020 – Sevillistas could certainly be forgiven some trepidation.  

It is not their only reason for concern: Sevilla’s home defeat by Barcelona on Saturday leaves them with one point from their opening four Liga fixtures, their joint-worst start to a domestic league campaign. For a side still adjusting to the summer departures of centre-backs Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé, Haaland is probably the last player they’d want to face right now.

Lewandowski, Mané in new colours

From the formidable finishing of Haaland, we move on to the competition’s top-scoring side for each of the last three campaigns, Bayern München, who start their Group C programme with a rematch of the 2010 final against Inter. The clubs had contrasting fortunes when it came to precision in front of goal last term: Bayern’s 31-goal haul was superior to their Excepted Goals total of 26.7; Inter were less precise, scoring nine goals despite an xG of 12.9.

Will Bayern carry their superior goalscoring efficiency into the new campaign?

Bayern owed that precision, in part, to Robert Lewandowski, now a Barcelona player and preparing to play Plzeň on Wednesday. With five goals in four games already, the Pole will surely help Barcelona surpass the paltry two goals they managed last season when failing to qualify for the group stage for the first time since 2000/01.

As for Bayern and their trip to Milan, it should bring the first Champions League appearance in Bayern colours of Sadio Mané, the Senegalese who has the task of cushioning Lewandowski’s loss. He has four goals so far though Bayern, after hitting six and seven and five in their first three domestic away fixtures, have looked more human in drawing their last two Bundesliga matches 1-1.

We meet again

A rematch from last term to look out for is Atlético de Madrid’s home fixture with Porto. The sides produced an explosive Matchday 6 showdown in Portugal last December when Atleti prevailed 3-1 on a night of three red cards and three goals scored after the 89th minute. Sérgio Conçeicão, Porto’s coach, will hope for better defensively from a team who made the most errors leading to goals (four) of the 2021/22 group stage.  

As for more personal reunions, Ajax’s new defender Calvin Bassey will face the Rangers team with whom he reached last May’s Europa League final when Giovanni van Bronckhorst takes the Light Blues to Amsterdam. Angel Di María, meanwhile, will encounter the Paris Saint-Germain side with whom he spent the past seven seasons when his new team, Juventus, host the French champions in Christophe Galtier’s first Champions League match at the helm.  

Speed merchants

After reaching the round of 16 for the first time last term, Salzburg will attempt to repeat the feat in Group E, starting at home against an AC Milan buoyed by their weekend derby win over Inter. According to the 2021/22 Champions League technical report, no team in last season’s competition were more direct than Salzburg: in their 1-0 home win over Sevilla in the group stage, 54% of their passes went forward – and they surpassed that at home against Bayern in their round of 16 tie with a 57.2% portion of forward passes.

While the Austrian titleholders will look to retain that menace without forward Karim Adeyemi, now a Borussia Dortmund player, it will be intriguing to see how Darwin Núñez will impact on Liverpool’s attacking approach as the campaign progresses. The Uruguayan was the spearhead of a Benfica side last season who registered, on average, the swiftest route to goal among the eight quarter-finalists in 2021/22. Benfica posted an average sequence of 1.5 passes and 4.9 seconds with Núñez scoring six times.

Will Darwin Núñez pick up where he left off last season?

He is still settling into a Liverpool side who have won only two of their first six Premier League games and could have been given a less challenging start than at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona where the Reds lost on Matchday 1 in 2019/20 (and also in the 2018/19 group stage). Another testing evening could await against Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli who are currently unbeaten in Serie A, albeit with more draws than wins (W2 D3 L0)  

Hoop tests for last May’s winners

Finally to the two clubs who have already contested one European honour this term – defending champions Real Madrid and the Eintracht Frankfurt side they beat in August’s Super Cup.

Madrid kick off their title defence in Glasgow against Ange Postecoglou’s in-form side who have won their first eight matches this season, winning 9-0 at Dundee United the weekend before last then defeating arch-rivals Ranger 4-0 on Saturday.  Madrid too have a 100% record to date but something will have to give at Celtic Park where the Hoops have won not a home game in the group stage since October 2013.

Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi and first team coach Harry Kewell

As for an Eintracht side transported to the group stage by their Europa League triumph in May, they will come up against the other team in the group stage who wear green and white hoops, Sporting. Their Group D home encounter with the Lisbon side is their first match in Europe’s elite club competition since they lost the final of the 1959/60 edition against Madrid – their only previous participation. A big night awaits and confidence should be growing after Saturday’s 4-0 home defeat of another German Champions League contender, Leipzig.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Hammer. Buffalo. Monster. The headline writers went into overdrive after Erling Haaland’s previous visit to Seville in the Champions League when he scored twice in a 3-2 win for Borussia Dortmund in the 2020/21 Round of 16.

Those same writers should get their figurative pens poised once more for the Norwegian’s return to the Sánchez-Pizjuán with Manchester City on Tuesday as the new Champions League campaign commences.  

Haaland’s record so far for the English champions – 10 goals in his first six Premier League games – is highly encouraging for those City fans hoping the competition’s top scorer from two seasons ago can prove the missing link for a side beaten in the final in 2021 and semi-finals last term.  

Will Haaland continue his blistering scoring start at City? 

When you consider Haaland’s habit of memorable debuts in this competition – a hat-trick for Salzburg in 2019, then a double for Dortmund in 2020 – Sevillistas could certainly be forgiven some trepidation.  

It is not their only reason for concern: Sevilla’s home defeat by Barcelona on Saturday leaves them with one point from their opening four Liga fixtures, their joint-worst start to a domestic league campaign. For a side still adjusting to the summer departures of centre-backs Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé, Haaland is probably the last player they’d want to face right now.

Lewandowski, Mané in new colours

From the formidable finishing of Haaland, we move on to the competition’s top-scoring side for each of the last three campaigns, Bayern München, who start their Group C programme with a rematch of the 2010 final against Inter. The clubs had contrasting fortunes when it came to precision in front of goal last term: Bayern’s 31-goal haul was superior to their Excepted Goals total of 26.7; Inter were less precise, scoring nine goals despite an xG of 12.9.

Will Bayern carry their superior goalscoring efficiency into the new campaign?

Bayern owed that precision, in part, to Robert Lewandowski, now a Barcelona player and preparing to play Plzeň on Wednesday. With five goals in four games already, the Pole will surely help Barcelona surpass the paltry two goals they managed last season when failing to qualify for the group stage for the first time since 2000/01.

As for Bayern and their trip to Milan, it should bring the first Champions League appearance in Bayern colours of Sadio Mané, the Senegalese who has the task of cushioning Lewandowski’s loss. He has four goals so far though Bayern, after hitting six and seven and five in their first three domestic away fixtures, have looked more human in drawing their last two Bundesliga matches 1-1.

We meet again

A rematch from last term to look out for is Atlético de Madrid’s home fixture with Porto. The sides produced an explosive Matchday 6 showdown in Portugal last December when Atleti prevailed 3-1 on a night of three red cards and three goals scored after the 89th minute. Sérgio Conçeicão, Porto’s coach, will hope for better defensively from a team who made the most errors leading to goals (four) of the 2021/22 group stage.  

As for more personal reunions, Ajax’s new defender Calvin Bassey will face the Rangers team with whom he reached last May’s Europa League final when Giovanni van Bronckhorst takes the Light Blues to Amsterdam. Angel Di María, meanwhile, will encounter the Paris Saint-Germain side with whom he spent the past seven seasons when his new team, Juventus, host the French champions in Christophe Galtier’s first Champions League match at the helm.  

Speed merchants

After reaching the round of 16 for the first time last term, Salzburg will attempt to repeat the feat in Group E, starting at home against an AC Milan buoyed by their weekend derby win over Inter. According to the 2021/22 Champions League technical report, no team in last season’s competition were more direct than Salzburg: in their 1-0 home win over Sevilla in the group stage, 54% of their passes went forward – and they surpassed that at home against Bayern in their round of 16 tie with a 57.2% portion of forward passes.

While the Austrian titleholders will look to retain that menace without forward Karim Adeyemi, now a Borussia Dortmund player, it will be intriguing to see how Darwin Núñez will impact on Liverpool’s attacking approach as the campaign progresses. The Uruguayan was the spearhead of a Benfica side last season who registered, on average, the swiftest route to goal among the eight quarter-finalists in 2021/22. Benfica posted an average sequence of 1.5 passes and 4.9 seconds with Núñez scoring six times.

Will Darwin Núñez pick up where he left off last season?

He is still settling into a Liverpool side who have won only two of their first six Premier League games and could have been given a less challenging start than at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona where the Reds lost on Matchday 1 in 2019/20 (and also in the 2018/19 group stage). Another testing evening could await against Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli who are currently unbeaten in Serie A, albeit with more draws than wins (W2 D3 L0)  

Hoop tests for last May’s winners

Finally to the two clubs who have already contested one European honour this term – defending champions Real Madrid and the Eintracht Frankfurt side they beat in August’s Super Cup.

Madrid kick off their title defence in Glasgow against Ange Postecoglou’s in-form side who have won their first eight matches this season, winning 9-0 at Dundee United the weekend before last then defeating arch-rivals Ranger 4-0 on Saturday.  Madrid too have a 100% record to date but something will have to give at Celtic Park where the Hoops have won not a home game in the group stage since October 2013.

Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi and first team coach Harry Kewell

As for an Eintracht side transported to the group stage by their Europa League triumph in May, they will come up against the other team in the group stage who wear green and white hoops, Sporting. Their Group D home encounter with the Lisbon side is their first match in Europe’s elite club competition since they lost the final of the 1959/60 edition against Madrid – their only previous participation. A big night awaits and confidence should be growing after Saturday’s 4-0 home defeat of another German Champions League contender, Leipzig.

Penalty Pedigree

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