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UCL Match week 4 preview

Simon Hart returns with his match week preview, taking a look at Napoli's fast start, a Spanish trio and a certain Erling Haaland

WORDS Simon Hart

Not even in that golden time when Diego Maradona was king of Naples have Napoli’s supporters known a start to a season like this one.

Luciano Spalletti’s men have won their last eight matches in all competitions – a sequence without precedent in their history. It includes five victories in Serie A, which they lead, and three in the Champions League, where they head Group A as one of five sides with maximum points. They have put four goals past Liverpool and, even more remarkably, six past Ajax in Amsterdam last week – the heaviest European loss for the Dutch side.

Il Mattino, the Naples newspaper, described that feat as “Divine” the next morning but Luciano Spalletti sounded more grounded in the aftermath of Napoli’s joint-biggest European success, observing: “It's just one game and it doesn't change our lives.”

At 63, Spalletti has experienced the flipside – he was coach of the Roma side ravaged 7-1 by Manchester United in a Champions League quarter-final in 2007. After a two-year sabbatical after leaving Inter, he is back with a spring in his step, and the same goes for his attack-oriented team. Never mind Manchester City: it’s Napoli who have the most shots (69), the most shots on goal (32) and the most goals (13) in the group stage so far.

A symbol of their bold approach at Ajax was their captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo, a right-back who was constantly on the offensive and featured among the scorers. Others have stood out too. Kvicha Kvaratskhelia, 21, has proved one of the group stage’s most effective and exciting wingers: to cite one metric, after three matches of his debut campaign, the left-sided forward ranks joint-second for carrying the ball forward after taking on an opponent (12).

With three goals, meanwhile, creative midfielder Piotr Zieliński has displayed a rare precision with his shooting: from nine shots, he has seven on target. Another midfielder, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa ranks joint-first for assists, meanwhile, with three alongside João Cancelo and Ángel Di María

It's not just the pretty stuff they are doing well either. Zambo Anguissa also ranks third in the entire competition for recoveries (30) and his team have recorded the highest percentage of tackles won in their three games to date (53.8%).

As for Ajax, they ended a four-match winless run with victory at Volendam on Saturday and their own knack of finding the net on the road in Europe – they have scored in 19 of their last 20 Champions League away fixtures – suggests it would be unwise to forecast a goalless draw as the action switches from the Johan Cruijff Arena to the Diego Armando Mardona.

Spanish trio look to steady the ship  

Holders Real Madrid have maximum wins in Group F but it’s been far from plain sailing for the competition’s three other Spanish sides.

Ahead of their weekend showdown with Madrid, Barcelona host Group C rivals Internazionale looking to make amends for a 1-0 defeat at San Siro which was their second loss in the section. It’s surprising to think that the Blaugrana have not scored in six of their last nine Champions League matches. Yet the reality is that without a positive result this week Barcelona risk a second straight early exit from the competition.

On the bright side, Xavi’s men have won four in a row at Camp Nou in all competitions. And Inter’s recent record in Spain is poor: they have lost their last six Champions League away games against Spanish clubs  

Like Barcelona,  Atlético de Madrid are aiming to avoid a three consecutive defeats in the group stage when they host Club Brugge. And like Barcelona, they have their own curious recent record of underperformance in front of goal: the Rojiblancos have not scored in four of their last six games in the competition. Moreover, they have lost five of their last seven in the group stage.  

Coach Diego Simeone will hope his compatriot Ángel Correa can pick up where he left off against Girona on Saturday; an injury to Marcos Llorente gave him his chance and he took it with both goals in a 2-1 victory. On the subject of goalscorers, it could be worth keeping an eye on Club striker Ferran Jutglà at the Metropolitano. The man who scored one goal and set up the other when these teams met in Belgium will playing his first game back in Spain since leaving Barcelona for Brugge in the summer … and he and his team will not be lacking confidence after three straight Group B wins.

Finally, to Sevilla who visit Borussia Dortmund with a new coach in charge in Jorge Sampaoli, the Argentinian called in for a second spell after Julen Lopetegui’s departure immediately after Dortmund’s 4-1 triumph in Andalusia last Wednesday. On that evening Jude Bellingham highlighted the fact Dortmund operate on a different physical plane to Sevilla. It is not the only problem facing Sampaoli. His new side have been struggling to put the ball in the net – they have the competition’s third-lowest shot-on-target ratio (24.3%) – and a defence still adjusting to the summer exits of Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé.  

Fortunately for Sampaoli, Brazilian centre-back Marcao was finally fit to make his first appearance for the club in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao. It is too early to say that result stopped the rot – Sevilla sit third bottom of La Liga and with Dortmund buoyed by their snatching of a late draw with Bayern München at the weekend, this is one Spanish side that could end the week consigned to an early exit for the second year running.

30 up for Haaland?  

Copenhagen’s last three home matches in the Champions League group stage have all finished 0-0. The odds on a fourth must be pretty long. After all, Manchester City are the visitors, which could well mean a fresh episode of The Erling Haaland Show. The Norwegian has scored in each of City’s five away matches this season. He has found the net in his last 10 club appearances. He got two when City hit five against Copenhagen in Manchester on Matchday 3. Another double would take him to 30 goals in the UEFA Champions League matches. What’s Danish for ‘You might want to look away now’?

NB: Each player develops at his own pace but just for the record, Cristiano Ronaldo – the competition’s record scorer – hit his first goal in the competition (between group stage and final) on his 27th appearance. Haaland the Hungry has made 22 appearances so far.

Not even in that golden time when Diego Maradona was king of Naples have Napoli’s supporters known a start to a season like this one.

Luciano Spalletti’s men have won their last eight matches in all competitions – a sequence without precedent in their history. It includes five victories in Serie A, which they lead, and three in the Champions League, where they head Group A as one of five sides with maximum points. They have put four goals past Liverpool and, even more remarkably, six past Ajax in Amsterdam last week – the heaviest European loss for the Dutch side.

Il Mattino, the Naples newspaper, described that feat as “Divine” the next morning but Luciano Spalletti sounded more grounded in the aftermath of Napoli’s joint-biggest European success, observing: “It's just one game and it doesn't change our lives.”

At 63, Spalletti has experienced the flipside – he was coach of the Roma side ravaged 7-1 by Manchester United in a Champions League quarter-final in 2007. After a two-year sabbatical after leaving Inter, he is back with a spring in his step, and the same goes for his attack-oriented team. Never mind Manchester City: it’s Napoli who have the most shots (69), the most shots on goal (32) and the most goals (13) in the group stage so far.

A symbol of their bold approach at Ajax was their captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo, a right-back who was constantly on the offensive and featured among the scorers. Others have stood out too. Kvicha Kvaratskhelia, 21, has proved one of the group stage’s most effective and exciting wingers: to cite one metric, after three matches of his debut campaign, the left-sided forward ranks joint-second for carrying the ball forward after taking on an opponent (12).

With three goals, meanwhile, creative midfielder Piotr Zieliński has displayed a rare precision with his shooting: from nine shots, he has seven on target. Another midfielder, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa ranks joint-first for assists, meanwhile, with three alongside João Cancelo and Ángel Di María

It's not just the pretty stuff they are doing well either. Zambo Anguissa also ranks third in the entire competition for recoveries (30) and his team have recorded the highest percentage of tackles won in their three games to date (53.8%).

As for Ajax, they ended a four-match winless run with victory at Volendam on Saturday and their own knack of finding the net on the road in Europe – they have scored in 19 of their last 20 Champions League away fixtures – suggests it would be unwise to forecast a goalless draw as the action switches from the Johan Cruijff Arena to the Diego Armando Mardona.

Spanish trio look to steady the ship  

Holders Real Madrid have maximum wins in Group F but it’s been far from plain sailing for the competition’s three other Spanish sides.

Ahead of their weekend showdown with Madrid, Barcelona host Group C rivals Internazionale looking to make amends for a 1-0 defeat at San Siro which was their second loss in the section. It’s surprising to think that the Blaugrana have not scored in six of their last nine Champions League matches. Yet the reality is that without a positive result this week Barcelona risk a second straight early exit from the competition.

On the bright side, Xavi’s men have won four in a row at Camp Nou in all competitions. And Inter’s recent record in Spain is poor: they have lost their last six Champions League away games against Spanish clubs  

Like Barcelona,  Atlético de Madrid are aiming to avoid a three consecutive defeats in the group stage when they host Club Brugge. And like Barcelona, they have their own curious recent record of underperformance in front of goal: the Rojiblancos have not scored in four of their last six games in the competition. Moreover, they have lost five of their last seven in the group stage.  

Coach Diego Simeone will hope his compatriot Ángel Correa can pick up where he left off against Girona on Saturday; an injury to Marcos Llorente gave him his chance and he took it with both goals in a 2-1 victory. On the subject of goalscorers, it could be worth keeping an eye on Club striker Ferran Jutglà at the Metropolitano. The man who scored one goal and set up the other when these teams met in Belgium will playing his first game back in Spain since leaving Barcelona for Brugge in the summer … and he and his team will not be lacking confidence after three straight Group B wins.

Finally, to Sevilla who visit Borussia Dortmund with a new coach in charge in Jorge Sampaoli, the Argentinian called in for a second spell after Julen Lopetegui’s departure immediately after Dortmund’s 4-1 triumph in Andalusia last Wednesday. On that evening Jude Bellingham highlighted the fact Dortmund operate on a different physical plane to Sevilla. It is not the only problem facing Sampaoli. His new side have been struggling to put the ball in the net – they have the competition’s third-lowest shot-on-target ratio (24.3%) – and a defence still adjusting to the summer exits of Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé.  

Fortunately for Sampaoli, Brazilian centre-back Marcao was finally fit to make his first appearance for the club in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao. It is too early to say that result stopped the rot – Sevilla sit third bottom of La Liga and with Dortmund buoyed by their snatching of a late draw with Bayern München at the weekend, this is one Spanish side that could end the week consigned to an early exit for the second year running.

30 up for Haaland?  

Copenhagen’s last three home matches in the Champions League group stage have all finished 0-0. The odds on a fourth must be pretty long. After all, Manchester City are the visitors, which could well mean a fresh episode of The Erling Haaland Show. The Norwegian has scored in each of City’s five away matches this season. He has found the net in his last 10 club appearances. He got two when City hit five against Copenhagen in Manchester on Matchday 3. Another double would take him to 30 goals in the UEFA Champions League matches. What’s Danish for ‘You might want to look away now’?

NB: Each player develops at his own pace but just for the record, Cristiano Ronaldo – the competition’s record scorer – hit his first goal in the competition (between group stage and final) on his 27th appearance. Haaland the Hungry has made 22 appearances so far.

Read the full story
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Not even in that golden time when Diego Maradona was king of Naples have Napoli’s supporters known a start to a season like this one.

Luciano Spalletti’s men have won their last eight matches in all competitions – a sequence without precedent in their history. It includes five victories in Serie A, which they lead, and three in the Champions League, where they head Group A as one of five sides with maximum points. They have put four goals past Liverpool and, even more remarkably, six past Ajax in Amsterdam last week – the heaviest European loss for the Dutch side.

Il Mattino, the Naples newspaper, described that feat as “Divine” the next morning but Luciano Spalletti sounded more grounded in the aftermath of Napoli’s joint-biggest European success, observing: “It's just one game and it doesn't change our lives.”

At 63, Spalletti has experienced the flipside – he was coach of the Roma side ravaged 7-1 by Manchester United in a Champions League quarter-final in 2007. After a two-year sabbatical after leaving Inter, he is back with a spring in his step, and the same goes for his attack-oriented team. Never mind Manchester City: it’s Napoli who have the most shots (69), the most shots on goal (32) and the most goals (13) in the group stage so far.

A symbol of their bold approach at Ajax was their captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo, a right-back who was constantly on the offensive and featured among the scorers. Others have stood out too. Kvicha Kvaratskhelia, 21, has proved one of the group stage’s most effective and exciting wingers: to cite one metric, after three matches of his debut campaign, the left-sided forward ranks joint-second for carrying the ball forward after taking on an opponent (12).

With three goals, meanwhile, creative midfielder Piotr Zieliński has displayed a rare precision with his shooting: from nine shots, he has seven on target. Another midfielder, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa ranks joint-first for assists, meanwhile, with three alongside João Cancelo and Ángel Di María

It's not just the pretty stuff they are doing well either. Zambo Anguissa also ranks third in the entire competition for recoveries (30) and his team have recorded the highest percentage of tackles won in their three games to date (53.8%).

As for Ajax, they ended a four-match winless run with victory at Volendam on Saturday and their own knack of finding the net on the road in Europe – they have scored in 19 of their last 20 Champions League away fixtures – suggests it would be unwise to forecast a goalless draw as the action switches from the Johan Cruijff Arena to the Diego Armando Mardona.

Spanish trio look to steady the ship  

Holders Real Madrid have maximum wins in Group F but it’s been far from plain sailing for the competition’s three other Spanish sides.

Ahead of their weekend showdown with Madrid, Barcelona host Group C rivals Internazionale looking to make amends for a 1-0 defeat at San Siro which was their second loss in the section. It’s surprising to think that the Blaugrana have not scored in six of their last nine Champions League matches. Yet the reality is that without a positive result this week Barcelona risk a second straight early exit from the competition.

On the bright side, Xavi’s men have won four in a row at Camp Nou in all competitions. And Inter’s recent record in Spain is poor: they have lost their last six Champions League away games against Spanish clubs  

Like Barcelona,  Atlético de Madrid are aiming to avoid a three consecutive defeats in the group stage when they host Club Brugge. And like Barcelona, they have their own curious recent record of underperformance in front of goal: the Rojiblancos have not scored in four of their last six games in the competition. Moreover, they have lost five of their last seven in the group stage.  

Coach Diego Simeone will hope his compatriot Ángel Correa can pick up where he left off against Girona on Saturday; an injury to Marcos Llorente gave him his chance and he took it with both goals in a 2-1 victory. On the subject of goalscorers, it could be worth keeping an eye on Club striker Ferran Jutglà at the Metropolitano. The man who scored one goal and set up the other when these teams met in Belgium will playing his first game back in Spain since leaving Barcelona for Brugge in the summer … and he and his team will not be lacking confidence after three straight Group B wins.

Finally, to Sevilla who visit Borussia Dortmund with a new coach in charge in Jorge Sampaoli, the Argentinian called in for a second spell after Julen Lopetegui’s departure immediately after Dortmund’s 4-1 triumph in Andalusia last Wednesday. On that evening Jude Bellingham highlighted the fact Dortmund operate on a different physical plane to Sevilla. It is not the only problem facing Sampaoli. His new side have been struggling to put the ball in the net – they have the competition’s third-lowest shot-on-target ratio (24.3%) – and a defence still adjusting to the summer exits of Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé.  

Fortunately for Sampaoli, Brazilian centre-back Marcao was finally fit to make his first appearance for the club in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao. It is too early to say that result stopped the rot – Sevilla sit third bottom of La Liga and with Dortmund buoyed by their snatching of a late draw with Bayern München at the weekend, this is one Spanish side that could end the week consigned to an early exit for the second year running.

30 up for Haaland?  

Copenhagen’s last three home matches in the Champions League group stage have all finished 0-0. The odds on a fourth must be pretty long. After all, Manchester City are the visitors, which could well mean a fresh episode of The Erling Haaland Show. The Norwegian has scored in each of City’s five away matches this season. He has found the net in his last 10 club appearances. He got two when City hit five against Copenhagen in Manchester on Matchday 3. Another double would take him to 30 goals in the UEFA Champions League matches. What’s Danish for ‘You might want to look away now’?

NB: Each player develops at his own pace but just for the record, Cristiano Ronaldo – the competition’s record scorer – hit his first goal in the competition (between group stage and final) on his 27th appearance. Haaland the Hungry has made 22 appearances so far.

UCL Match week 4 preview
Blog

UCL Match week 4 preview

Simon Hart returns with his match week preview, taking a look at Napoli's fast start, a Spanish trio and a certain Erling Haaland

WORDS Simon Hart

Not even in that golden time when Diego Maradona was king of Naples have Napoli’s supporters known a start to a season like this one.

Luciano Spalletti’s men have won their last eight matches in all competitions – a sequence without precedent in their history. It includes five victories in Serie A, which they lead, and three in the Champions League, where they head Group A as one of five sides with maximum points. They have put four goals past Liverpool and, even more remarkably, six past Ajax in Amsterdam last week – the heaviest European loss for the Dutch side.

Il Mattino, the Naples newspaper, described that feat as “Divine” the next morning but Luciano Spalletti sounded more grounded in the aftermath of Napoli’s joint-biggest European success, observing: “It's just one game and it doesn't change our lives.”

At 63, Spalletti has experienced the flipside – he was coach of the Roma side ravaged 7-1 by Manchester United in a Champions League quarter-final in 2007. After a two-year sabbatical after leaving Inter, he is back with a spring in his step, and the same goes for his attack-oriented team. Never mind Manchester City: it’s Napoli who have the most shots (69), the most shots on goal (32) and the most goals (13) in the group stage so far.

A symbol of their bold approach at Ajax was their captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo, a right-back who was constantly on the offensive and featured among the scorers. Others have stood out too. Kvicha Kvaratskhelia, 21, has proved one of the group stage’s most effective and exciting wingers: to cite one metric, after three matches of his debut campaign, the left-sided forward ranks joint-second for carrying the ball forward after taking on an opponent (12).

With three goals, meanwhile, creative midfielder Piotr Zieliński has displayed a rare precision with his shooting: from nine shots, he has seven on target. Another midfielder, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa ranks joint-first for assists, meanwhile, with three alongside João Cancelo and Ángel Di María

It's not just the pretty stuff they are doing well either. Zambo Anguissa also ranks third in the entire competition for recoveries (30) and his team have recorded the highest percentage of tackles won in their three games to date (53.8%).

As for Ajax, they ended a four-match winless run with victory at Volendam on Saturday and their own knack of finding the net on the road in Europe – they have scored in 19 of their last 20 Champions League away fixtures – suggests it would be unwise to forecast a goalless draw as the action switches from the Johan Cruijff Arena to the Diego Armando Mardona.

Spanish trio look to steady the ship  

Holders Real Madrid have maximum wins in Group F but it’s been far from plain sailing for the competition’s three other Spanish sides.

Ahead of their weekend showdown with Madrid, Barcelona host Group C rivals Internazionale looking to make amends for a 1-0 defeat at San Siro which was their second loss in the section. It’s surprising to think that the Blaugrana have not scored in six of their last nine Champions League matches. Yet the reality is that without a positive result this week Barcelona risk a second straight early exit from the competition.

On the bright side, Xavi’s men have won four in a row at Camp Nou in all competitions. And Inter’s recent record in Spain is poor: they have lost their last six Champions League away games against Spanish clubs  

Like Barcelona,  Atlético de Madrid are aiming to avoid a three consecutive defeats in the group stage when they host Club Brugge. And like Barcelona, they have their own curious recent record of underperformance in front of goal: the Rojiblancos have not scored in four of their last six games in the competition. Moreover, they have lost five of their last seven in the group stage.  

Coach Diego Simeone will hope his compatriot Ángel Correa can pick up where he left off against Girona on Saturday; an injury to Marcos Llorente gave him his chance and he took it with both goals in a 2-1 victory. On the subject of goalscorers, it could be worth keeping an eye on Club striker Ferran Jutglà at the Metropolitano. The man who scored one goal and set up the other when these teams met in Belgium will playing his first game back in Spain since leaving Barcelona for Brugge in the summer … and he and his team will not be lacking confidence after three straight Group B wins.

Finally, to Sevilla who visit Borussia Dortmund with a new coach in charge in Jorge Sampaoli, the Argentinian called in for a second spell after Julen Lopetegui’s departure immediately after Dortmund’s 4-1 triumph in Andalusia last Wednesday. On that evening Jude Bellingham highlighted the fact Dortmund operate on a different physical plane to Sevilla. It is not the only problem facing Sampaoli. His new side have been struggling to put the ball in the net – they have the competition’s third-lowest shot-on-target ratio (24.3%) – and a defence still adjusting to the summer exits of Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé.  

Fortunately for Sampaoli, Brazilian centre-back Marcao was finally fit to make his first appearance for the club in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao. It is too early to say that result stopped the rot – Sevilla sit third bottom of La Liga and with Dortmund buoyed by their snatching of a late draw with Bayern München at the weekend, this is one Spanish side that could end the week consigned to an early exit for the second year running.

30 up for Haaland?  

Copenhagen’s last three home matches in the Champions League group stage have all finished 0-0. The odds on a fourth must be pretty long. After all, Manchester City are the visitors, which could well mean a fresh episode of The Erling Haaland Show. The Norwegian has scored in each of City’s five away matches this season. He has found the net in his last 10 club appearances. He got two when City hit five against Copenhagen in Manchester on Matchday 3. Another double would take him to 30 goals in the UEFA Champions League matches. What’s Danish for ‘You might want to look away now’?

NB: Each player develops at his own pace but just for the record, Cristiano Ronaldo – the competition’s record scorer – hit his first goal in the competition (between group stage and final) on his 27th appearance. Haaland the Hungry has made 22 appearances so far.

Penalty Pedigree

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Not even in that golden time when Diego Maradona was king of Naples have Napoli’s supporters known a start to a season like this one.

Luciano Spalletti’s men have won their last eight matches in all competitions – a sequence without precedent in their history. It includes five victories in Serie A, which they lead, and three in the Champions League, where they head Group A as one of five sides with maximum points. They have put four goals past Liverpool and, even more remarkably, six past Ajax in Amsterdam last week – the heaviest European loss for the Dutch side.

Il Mattino, the Naples newspaper, described that feat as “Divine” the next morning but Luciano Spalletti sounded more grounded in the aftermath of Napoli’s joint-biggest European success, observing: “It's just one game and it doesn't change our lives.”

At 63, Spalletti has experienced the flipside – he was coach of the Roma side ravaged 7-1 by Manchester United in a Champions League quarter-final in 2007. After a two-year sabbatical after leaving Inter, he is back with a spring in his step, and the same goes for his attack-oriented team. Never mind Manchester City: it’s Napoli who have the most shots (69), the most shots on goal (32) and the most goals (13) in the group stage so far.

A symbol of their bold approach at Ajax was their captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo, a right-back who was constantly on the offensive and featured among the scorers. Others have stood out too. Kvicha Kvaratskhelia, 21, has proved one of the group stage’s most effective and exciting wingers: to cite one metric, after three matches of his debut campaign, the left-sided forward ranks joint-second for carrying the ball forward after taking on an opponent (12).

With three goals, meanwhile, creative midfielder Piotr Zieliński has displayed a rare precision with his shooting: from nine shots, he has seven on target. Another midfielder, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa ranks joint-first for assists, meanwhile, with three alongside João Cancelo and Ángel Di María

It's not just the pretty stuff they are doing well either. Zambo Anguissa also ranks third in the entire competition for recoveries (30) and his team have recorded the highest percentage of tackles won in their three games to date (53.8%).

As for Ajax, they ended a four-match winless run with victory at Volendam on Saturday and their own knack of finding the net on the road in Europe – they have scored in 19 of their last 20 Champions League away fixtures – suggests it would be unwise to forecast a goalless draw as the action switches from the Johan Cruijff Arena to the Diego Armando Mardona.

Spanish trio look to steady the ship  

Holders Real Madrid have maximum wins in Group F but it’s been far from plain sailing for the competition’s three other Spanish sides.

Ahead of their weekend showdown with Madrid, Barcelona host Group C rivals Internazionale looking to make amends for a 1-0 defeat at San Siro which was their second loss in the section. It’s surprising to think that the Blaugrana have not scored in six of their last nine Champions League matches. Yet the reality is that without a positive result this week Barcelona risk a second straight early exit from the competition.

On the bright side, Xavi’s men have won four in a row at Camp Nou in all competitions. And Inter’s recent record in Spain is poor: they have lost their last six Champions League away games against Spanish clubs  

Like Barcelona,  Atlético de Madrid are aiming to avoid a three consecutive defeats in the group stage when they host Club Brugge. And like Barcelona, they have their own curious recent record of underperformance in front of goal: the Rojiblancos have not scored in four of their last six games in the competition. Moreover, they have lost five of their last seven in the group stage.  

Coach Diego Simeone will hope his compatriot Ángel Correa can pick up where he left off against Girona on Saturday; an injury to Marcos Llorente gave him his chance and he took it with both goals in a 2-1 victory. On the subject of goalscorers, it could be worth keeping an eye on Club striker Ferran Jutglà at the Metropolitano. The man who scored one goal and set up the other when these teams met in Belgium will playing his first game back in Spain since leaving Barcelona for Brugge in the summer … and he and his team will not be lacking confidence after three straight Group B wins.

Finally, to Sevilla who visit Borussia Dortmund with a new coach in charge in Jorge Sampaoli, the Argentinian called in for a second spell after Julen Lopetegui’s departure immediately after Dortmund’s 4-1 triumph in Andalusia last Wednesday. On that evening Jude Bellingham highlighted the fact Dortmund operate on a different physical plane to Sevilla. It is not the only problem facing Sampaoli. His new side have been struggling to put the ball in the net – they have the competition’s third-lowest shot-on-target ratio (24.3%) – and a defence still adjusting to the summer exits of Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé.  

Fortunately for Sampaoli, Brazilian centre-back Marcao was finally fit to make his first appearance for the club in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao. It is too early to say that result stopped the rot – Sevilla sit third bottom of La Liga and with Dortmund buoyed by their snatching of a late draw with Bayern München at the weekend, this is one Spanish side that could end the week consigned to an early exit for the second year running.

30 up for Haaland?  

Copenhagen’s last three home matches in the Champions League group stage have all finished 0-0. The odds on a fourth must be pretty long. After all, Manchester City are the visitors, which could well mean a fresh episode of The Erling Haaland Show. The Norwegian has scored in each of City’s five away matches this season. He has found the net in his last 10 club appearances. He got two when City hit five against Copenhagen in Manchester on Matchday 3. Another double would take him to 30 goals in the UEFA Champions League matches. What’s Danish for ‘You might want to look away now’?

NB: Each player develops at his own pace but just for the record, Cristiano Ronaldo – the competition’s record scorer – hit his first goal in the competition (between group stage and final) on his 27th appearance. Haaland the Hungry has made 22 appearances so far.

Read the full story
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Not even in that golden time when Diego Maradona was king of Naples have Napoli’s supporters known a start to a season like this one.

Luciano Spalletti’s men have won their last eight matches in all competitions – a sequence without precedent in their history. It includes five victories in Serie A, which they lead, and three in the Champions League, where they head Group A as one of five sides with maximum points. They have put four goals past Liverpool and, even more remarkably, six past Ajax in Amsterdam last week – the heaviest European loss for the Dutch side.

Il Mattino, the Naples newspaper, described that feat as “Divine” the next morning but Luciano Spalletti sounded more grounded in the aftermath of Napoli’s joint-biggest European success, observing: “It's just one game and it doesn't change our lives.”

At 63, Spalletti has experienced the flipside – he was coach of the Roma side ravaged 7-1 by Manchester United in a Champions League quarter-final in 2007. After a two-year sabbatical after leaving Inter, he is back with a spring in his step, and the same goes for his attack-oriented team. Never mind Manchester City: it’s Napoli who have the most shots (69), the most shots on goal (32) and the most goals (13) in the group stage so far.

A symbol of their bold approach at Ajax was their captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo, a right-back who was constantly on the offensive and featured among the scorers. Others have stood out too. Kvicha Kvaratskhelia, 21, has proved one of the group stage’s most effective and exciting wingers: to cite one metric, after three matches of his debut campaign, the left-sided forward ranks joint-second for carrying the ball forward after taking on an opponent (12).

With three goals, meanwhile, creative midfielder Piotr Zieliński has displayed a rare precision with his shooting: from nine shots, he has seven on target. Another midfielder, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa ranks joint-first for assists, meanwhile, with three alongside João Cancelo and Ángel Di María

It's not just the pretty stuff they are doing well either. Zambo Anguissa also ranks third in the entire competition for recoveries (30) and his team have recorded the highest percentage of tackles won in their three games to date (53.8%).

As for Ajax, they ended a four-match winless run with victory at Volendam on Saturday and their own knack of finding the net on the road in Europe – they have scored in 19 of their last 20 Champions League away fixtures – suggests it would be unwise to forecast a goalless draw as the action switches from the Johan Cruijff Arena to the Diego Armando Mardona.

Spanish trio look to steady the ship  

Holders Real Madrid have maximum wins in Group F but it’s been far from plain sailing for the competition’s three other Spanish sides.

Ahead of their weekend showdown with Madrid, Barcelona host Group C rivals Internazionale looking to make amends for a 1-0 defeat at San Siro which was their second loss in the section. It’s surprising to think that the Blaugrana have not scored in six of their last nine Champions League matches. Yet the reality is that without a positive result this week Barcelona risk a second straight early exit from the competition.

On the bright side, Xavi’s men have won four in a row at Camp Nou in all competitions. And Inter’s recent record in Spain is poor: they have lost their last six Champions League away games against Spanish clubs  

Like Barcelona,  Atlético de Madrid are aiming to avoid a three consecutive defeats in the group stage when they host Club Brugge. And like Barcelona, they have their own curious recent record of underperformance in front of goal: the Rojiblancos have not scored in four of their last six games in the competition. Moreover, they have lost five of their last seven in the group stage.  

Coach Diego Simeone will hope his compatriot Ángel Correa can pick up where he left off against Girona on Saturday; an injury to Marcos Llorente gave him his chance and he took it with both goals in a 2-1 victory. On the subject of goalscorers, it could be worth keeping an eye on Club striker Ferran Jutglà at the Metropolitano. The man who scored one goal and set up the other when these teams met in Belgium will playing his first game back in Spain since leaving Barcelona for Brugge in the summer … and he and his team will not be lacking confidence after three straight Group B wins.

Finally, to Sevilla who visit Borussia Dortmund with a new coach in charge in Jorge Sampaoli, the Argentinian called in for a second spell after Julen Lopetegui’s departure immediately after Dortmund’s 4-1 triumph in Andalusia last Wednesday. On that evening Jude Bellingham highlighted the fact Dortmund operate on a different physical plane to Sevilla. It is not the only problem facing Sampaoli. His new side have been struggling to put the ball in the net – they have the competition’s third-lowest shot-on-target ratio (24.3%) – and a defence still adjusting to the summer exits of Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé.  

Fortunately for Sampaoli, Brazilian centre-back Marcao was finally fit to make his first appearance for the club in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao. It is too early to say that result stopped the rot – Sevilla sit third bottom of La Liga and with Dortmund buoyed by their snatching of a late draw with Bayern München at the weekend, this is one Spanish side that could end the week consigned to an early exit for the second year running.

30 up for Haaland?  

Copenhagen’s last three home matches in the Champions League group stage have all finished 0-0. The odds on a fourth must be pretty long. After all, Manchester City are the visitors, which could well mean a fresh episode of The Erling Haaland Show. The Norwegian has scored in each of City’s five away matches this season. He has found the net in his last 10 club appearances. He got two when City hit five against Copenhagen in Manchester on Matchday 3. Another double would take him to 30 goals in the UEFA Champions League matches. What’s Danish for ‘You might want to look away now’?

NB: Each player develops at his own pace but just for the record, Cristiano Ronaldo – the competition’s record scorer – hit his first goal in the competition (between group stage and final) on his 27th appearance. Haaland the Hungry has made 22 appearances so far.

Penalty Pedigree

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