March 22, 2023

Jamaica Premier League
Jamaica Premier League
Jamaica Premier League
Champions League
Champions League
Champions League
Kylian Mbappe insists his relationship with Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar is one based on deep respect, even though it can be “hot and cold”.
PSG are preparing to open their Champions League campaign in a marquee fixture at home to Juventus on Tuesday.
They go into the game having made an impressive start to the Ligue 1 season, collecting 16 points from six games and scoring 24 goals in the process.
Mbappe and Neymar have racked up seven goals each – only Erling Haaland (10) has a higher total in Europe’s top five leagues.
But Mbappe did face criticism earlier in the season for his actions during the 5-2 win over Montpellier, which included a public argument with Neymar.
“It is our sixth year together,” PSG striker Mbappe said. “Neymar and I have always had a good relationship based on respect. 
“We have had moments where it has been colder or hotter – moments where we have been best friends and other times when we have spoken less – that is how our relationship is.
“There are incidents that happen, but there is a lot of respect between us. I have huge respect for him as a player and his importance in our team. 
“When you have two players with strong characters, it’s not a linear thing, but there is always respect and it is all in the interest of PSG.”
Mbappe, who signed a lucrative new deal to stay at PSG back in May, snubbing Real Madrid’s interest, had missed a penalty earlier in that Montpellier contest.
Neymar later stepped up to take PSG’s second penalty of the game, but Mbappe felt he should have remained on spot-kick duties, and in his rush to raise the issue with Neymar, he even barged past Lionel Messi.
The Brazil star subsequently converted from 12 yards before helping himself to a second, and while Mbappe got on the scoresheet himself, he did not celebrate.

Mbappe also reacted furiously to Vitinha’s decision to pass to Messi rather than him, throwing his arms up in disgust and seemingly refusing to continue with the attack. 
PSG coach Christophe Galtier and president Nasser Al-Khelaifi have been among the key figures at the club to try to minimise the situation, with a similar tone struck by Mbappe ahead of the Juve clash.
Asked what would happen with penalties going forward, he replied: “We will see. There is always a discussion about that. We have to see how it is going during the game, we haven’t decided. 
“If the match shows that Neymar takes it, that’s fine. If it is me, also fine, there are no problems. 
“When you play with the sorts of attackers that we have, you have to know how to share. There is no issue there.”

PSG have only lost one of their past 30 home games in the Champions League group stage (W24 D5).
But glory in this competition has eluded them, with Mbappe yet to add the biggest honour in club football to his World Cup winners’ medal at international level.
He added: “The reality now is that the Champions League is very difficult; the top teams have strengthened and signed world-class players. 
“We are going to battle with what we have and try everything to have as good a campaign as possible.
“Of course, our ambition is always to win. I always want to win. Everyone knows my aim when I take to the pitch is to do everything to get the victory.
“I am the same as last season. I am trying to do the same job, which means performing on the pitch, being decisive and winning as many trophies as possible.”
Mbappe has scored in each of his past four Champions League matches, although he has never netted in five in a row. The last player to do so for PSG was Neymar in 2017.
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.
Istanbul awaits next June, and this week the journey starts as the group stage of the Champions League begins.
Of course, the ultimate goal is to reach the final and lift the trophy. Most will fail in that quest, but that’s not to say those who don’t win the competition are failures.
Every year we enjoy breakout seasons from individuals in the Champions League as they announce themselves on the biggest stage.
Whether those performances earn big-money moves or simply greater acclaim, you can expect there to be a few players you might not be very familiar with who go on to impress.
Ahead of the first round of games, Stats Perform has identified a few to keep an eye out for.
Tanguy Nianzou, centre-back, 20 – Sevilla
After coming through Paris Saint-Germain’s academy and then spending a season at Bayern Munich, France youth international Nianzou joined Sevilla as the replacement for Jules Kounde in pre-season.
It’s been a rocky start for the youngster. He’s part of a defence that’s looked extremely unconvincing, with their expected goals against (excluding penalties) of 7.5 the second-worst in LaLiga after four games, three of which Sevilla have lost.
On matchday one, Nianzou will come up against Erling Haaland and Manchester City. The defender is very highly rated, but this will be a massive test of his readiness for regular football at such a level.

Goncalo Ramos, forward, 21 – Benfica
If you believe transfer gossip, there were plenty of clubs ready to prise Ramos from Benfica in the transfer window, but ultimately he stayed put and will be considered Darwin Nunez’s replacement this season.
A well-rounded striker, Ramos works hard, is up for a physical battle and is technically proficient. Last season, he scored seven Primeira Liga goals as back-up to Nunez, although his early form in that regard this term suggests work is needed.
His two strikes from 3.9 xG show he’s getting into good situations but isn’t yet proving clinical – albeit he did net four in Champions League qualifying.
Benfica are in a group with Juventus and PSG, so they’ll hope Ramos finds a reliable streak to aid their outside chance of progression.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, winger, 21 – Napoli
The first winner of Serie A’s Player of the Month award of the new season – and in his very first month in the league – it’s been some introduction from Kvaratskhelia.
He was playing back home in Georgia in the second half of last season after being able to suspend his contract at Rubin Kazan amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. His deal was then terminated by Rubin after it emerged he was subject to death threats after leaving.
Kvaratskhelia had been linked with numerous big clubs but eventually landed at Napoli as Lorenzo Insigne’s replacement. They may not be anything alike as players, but that’s not stopped Kvaratskhelia having a major early impact with four goals in five Serie A games.
A tall winger who possesses great dribbling skills, he’s a player primed to make a statement this season.

Lorenzo Lucca, striker, 21 – Ajax
He may only be 21, but Lucca’s fledgling career has already been somewhat nomadic, finding himself registered as a senior player at six clubs – the latest being Ajax, whom he joined on loan with an option to buy from Serie B side Pisa.
Remarkably, the last of his six league goals for Pisa last season came in October, so it’s clear the jury is still out and he has a lot to prove, but he has the attributes to be a threat for any team.
Standing at just over two metres tall, Lucca is a giant, yet he also possesses a surprising turn of pace and is technically very good. The Italy Under-21 international has only played 21 minutes with the first team this season, but he has three goals in two games for the second string.
It’s unlikely he’ll be a key figure for Ajax, but given his skillset he will be a viable option at times – let’s just see if he can take his chances.
Matt O’Riley, midfielder, 21 – Celtic
Last season, O’Riley was playing in League One for MK Dons; on Tuesday, he’ll likely line-up against Real Madrid. It’s been quite a quick ascension for the gifted midfielder.
A product of Fulham’s academy, O’Riley left the Cottagers stunned when he rejected a new contract in 2020. He spent six months training with Dons and then signed for them in January 2021 – that saw him exposed to first-team football and a year later he was at Celtic.
The London-born Denmark Under-21 international has enjoyed a wonderful start to the season, with his vision and ball-playing abilities marking him out as a real creative threat and earning links to Manchester United.
How he fares in the Champions League with the step up in quality could prove crucial with respect to his short-term future.

Pep Guardiola appreciates having Erling Haaland’s “special quality” at his disposal but is adamant Manchester City will not win the Champions League by relying solely on the Norwegian.
Haaland has enjoyed a tremendous start to life at City, scoring 10 goals in his first six Premier League games to equal the division’s record for the fewest matches required to reach double-figures.
Before the season began, some suggested Haaland might require a bit of time to get up to speed, but his early form has made a mockery of his critics.
However, many feel that making a difference in the Premier League is not the reason for City signing Haaland, rather he was purchased to be decisive when the margins are much smaller – in the Champions League.
Despite massive investment ever since their 2008 takeover, the Champions League title has eluded City, who have reached the final only once.
The hope is an already exceptional City side finally have what they were missing in Haaland, but Guardiola recognises the need to not take him for granted.
“All the players, they try to make us better, otherwise it makes no sense,” he told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s Group G opener against Sevilla.
“That helps us to win titles? I don’t know. If we rely all on Erling’s shoulders, we don’t win the Champions League. We try to create chances for him to score goals.
“We convinced him to come here, we felt we didn’t have many strikers. He tries to be involved in the way we play. He settles well like Julian [Alvarez] and other players.
“I understand everyone talks about Erling, but I have three, four, five new players and it’s important they all settle.
“We don’t win just for Erling and don’t lose just for Erling. He has a special quality and might be able to solve some problems, but if we don’t play good, we aren’t going to win games.”
Few will consider City anything other than overwhelming favourites on Tuesday, however.
They face a Sevilla side who have taken just one point from their first four LaLiga games and have the worst open play expected goals against record of all teams (6.3).
The departures of Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos have proven problematic, though Guardiola still considers their European pedigree as something to behold, recognising City’s history on the continent does not compare to Sevilla’s six UEFA Cup/Europa League crowns.
“It’s a difficult competition and we are proud to be here again,” he said. “Tomorrow on the pitch, against Borussia Dortmund and Copenhagen, it depends on our performance. If we are not good, we go home and get punishments from fans and media and then after a while move forward.
“Last season we fought to be here, we know how difficult it will be. Spanish teams dominate Europe, I’d love to have a story like Sevilla has; City are far away from Sevilla in Europe.
“Tomorrow, don’t miss the spectacle in this stadium. We’ll just try to do a good game and try to get three points.”
Sep 04, 2022 LaLiga
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