Welcome! We’re on matchday five of the Champions League now, and here’re all you need to know before the Tuesday matches start! Before our preview begins, please do not hesitate to subscribe to the matches you’re waiting for on our ‘Opera Football’ app, you will surely receive one of the quickest and best livescores & event pushes once the match starts!
Villarreal vs Manchester Utd
Both teams are on seven points at the top of this UEFA Champions League (UCL) group, and depending on Atalanta’s result, Group F can be won with a matchday to spare. Villarreal enter this clash with something to prove, having dropped two points despite leading at half-time in their weekend match at Celta Vigo, although that was a fourth game unbeaten across their last five (W2, D2, L1).
A Villarreal win would see them equal the ten-point tally that was sufficient to win a group containing Manchester United back in their debut UCL campaign (2005/06). History awaits if the hosts can utilise home advantage from the start, as the ‘Yellow Submarine’ are yet to win a H2H (D5, L1) or score before half-time in a UCL clash against the ‘Red Devils’.
The sole defeat in that record came via a devastating stoppage-time winner from Man United’s Cristiano Ronaldo in the reverse clash on matchday two. Times have changed though, and United travel after a bruising 4-1 defeat to Watford on Saturday. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked following, after a third defeat by a 2+ goal margin in five matches.
A win here at the Estadio de la Cerámica should all but secure top spot for United, given their relatively easier finish to this group stage with a game at home to Young Boys on the final matchday. That said, the three-time European champions have conceded 2+ goals in each of their last four UCL away games (D1, L3), illustrating the task that lies ahead for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s replacement.
Players to watch: Villarreal’s Arnaut Danjuma has seen two of his last four goals come in stoppage time of either half. Ronaldo could be ready to haunt Villarreal again though, as he’s closed the scoring in each of Man United’s last three UCL outings (W2, D1).
Hot stat: Each of Villarreal’s UCL games this term have seen at least one goal beyond the 80th minute.
Our prediction: Villarreal 1-1 Manchester Utd
Dyn. Kyiv vs Bayern Munich
A 6-1 victory at the weekend pushed Dynamo Kiev top of the Ukrainian Premier League by virtue of goal difference (W12, D2, L1) although the hosts need to improve upon their UEFA Champions League (UCL) form if they’re to qualify from Group E. Sat five points behind second-placed Barcelona with two matches to play, that’s likely to prove a tall order but a third-placed finish and potential Europa League campaign could prove a handy consolation.
The hosts’ attacking output will need to improve drastically if that’s a possibility though. That’s because Dynamo have failed to score in their four UCL matches this campaign (D1, L3) whilst they’ve mustered just nine shots on target, three less than Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski has managed on his own (12)!
Visiting Bayern suffered a shock 2-1 Bundesliga loss to Augsburg last time out, but with the German champions already guaranteed qualification from UCL Group E after four wins from four outings, the pressure is off for this long trip to Ukraine. In fact, top spot in the group will be secured with a game to spare if Bayern can avoid defeat here.
What will be a cause for concern though, is Bayern’s poor recent away record against Ukrainian opposition. The visitors are winless in their last three such matches (D2, L1) and were defeated 2-0 in their last away H2H in 2000. They’re unlikely to be held goalless again here however, as Julian Nagelsmann’s outfit are currently averaging a whopping four goals per match across all competitions this season.
Players to watch: Dynamo’s Vitaliy Buyalskyi has eight goals in 13 league outings this campaign after netting a brace in his last match. Bayern’s Lewandowski has scored in his last eight UCL appearances and is looking to become the first player in competition history to net in nine straight matches on more than one occasion.
Hot stat: Bayern could become the first ever team to score four or more goals in four straight UCL matches.
Our prediction: Dyn. Kyiv 1-4 Bayern Munich
Barcelona vs Benfica
A season record 74,418 fans at the Camp Nou witnessed club legend Xavi Hernández’s Barcelona managerial bow in a 1-0 win over Espanyol last weekend. As Xavi etches his name into the record books as the fifth individual to both play for and manage the ‘Blaugrana’ in the UEFA Champions League (UCL), the need for three points supersedes emotion as a win will guarantee progress from the group stages for an 18th season in a row, something which looked beyond reach after starting with consecutive 3-0 losses.
While back-to-back 1-0 UCL wins have put them in pole position for second place, Barça remain shot-shy with only Malmö (four) having fewer shots on target in the competition than their six. Yet, their 11 first-half shots over the weekend vs Espanyol (four on target) is Barça’s season-best for the first period in all competitions, hinting at a change of focus and possibly fortunes.
The scars of a 3-0 loss to Benfica are still fresh though, with that win ending the Portuguese side’s 60-year wait for a win over Barcelona. Back-to-back domestic wins before this trip just plaster over their diminishing UCL form, as Benfica have conceded nine goals across their last two matchdays after starting the group stage with two clean sheets.
Benfica last progressed from the UCL group stages in 2016/17, with the ‘Eagles’ winning just once across their last 13 UCL competition proper away games (W1, D3, L9), and conceding an average of 2.85 goals per game. Whilst a win here would see them leapfrog their hosts – with an easier final matchday ahead – the fanfare surrounding the homecoming of Xavi will make this a difficult assignment for the visitors.
Players to watch: Memphis Depay’s match-winning penalty over the weekend for Barcelona made it a joint-league high seven La Liga points won via his goals (seven) this season. Meanwhile, Benfica’s history-chasing Darwin Núñez has three UCL goals this season and can become just the third player to net three against Barcelona in a single group stage, after his brace in Lisbon.
Hot stat: The team scoring first has lost only once in Barcelona’s 17 competitive matches this
Our prediction: Barcelona 1-0 Benfica
Chelsea vs Juventus
It’s going swimmingly in the Premier League for Chelsea who currently sit at the top of the table, yet there’s work to be done if they want to finish top of UEFA Champions League (UCL) Group H (W3, L1). Their one defeat, which came against Juventus in the reverse fixture (1-0), was also the only game in which they conceded in this competition. Consequently they’re three points off the Italian giants with two rounds to play, making this a real six-pointer.
With qualification into the knockout stage all but secure, it’ll be revenge and finishing first that will be the driving motivation heading into this clash. Not only did the ‘Blues’ suffer their first UCL defeat since April against the ‘Old Lady’, but that fixture also extended their winless H2H run against the two-time competition winners to four matches (D2, L2), the last two of which ended in defeat ‘to nil’.
Another win for Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus would create history. Not only would his team become the first to record three consecutive UCL victories against Chelsea, but they’d also be the first to win four consecutive UCL/European Cup away matches against English opponents. This is a feat they’ll surely be backing themselves to do given their 100% record in the competition so far.
Whilst success on the continent has masked their domestic woes this season – they currently sit outside Serie A’s top six – overall form does look to be on an upward trajectory. They’ve lost only two of their last 11 competitive matches (W8, D1), restricting their opponents to one goal or less in seven of those clashes.
Players to watch: Chelsea’s ever-present creative threat Reece James has registered an assist in three of his last four matches for club and country, whilst Juventus’ Federico Chiesa scored second-half goals in the last H2H and in his team’s most recent UCL win.
Hot stat: Chelsea have won just one of their last ten UCL matches vs Italian opposition (D3, L6).
Our prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Juventus
Lille vs Salzburg
After domestic stalemates over the weekend, Lille and Salzburg turn their attention to their penultimate Group G fixture of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League (UCL). Starting this matchday occupying the top two places in the group, both clubs could almost certainly book their place in the next stage of the tournament if they get a result, a welcome surprise given that neither team has advanced from a UCL group stage for 15 years!
Lille have hosted two scoreless draws in this group stage against the other two Group G clubs to date (Wolfsburg and Sevilla) and after registering a further three draws from their last four Ligue 1 fixtures – albeit with goals scored in all three – the hosts will be challenging for the title of biggest forearms in Europe after all the arm wrestling they’ve participated in!
Salzburg’s attackers are in need of an energy drink after the team registered just two goals across their last three matches in all competitions (W1, D1, L1). Whilst consecutive clean sheets in the league has kept their enormous lead at the top of the Austria Bundesliga intact, both teams have scored in all six of their UEFA matches this season and thus their recent solid defending appears unlikely to continue.
They’ll even do well to keep Lille off the scoresheet in the first half, having registered three 1-1 results at the break across their four group stage games so far, although the exception did come in their 2-1 home win in the reverse fixture. With an inaugural Round of 16 place to be secured with victory, there’ll be no shortage of both nerves and motivation for the Austrian outfit.
Players to watch: Lille striker Jonathan David has scored first for his club or country in five of his last six appearances of at least 20 minutes, whilst Karim Adeyemi has found the back of the net in three of his last seven Salzburg games in all competitions.
Hot stat: The half-time result has been replicated at full-time in just one of the last eight competitive matches involving either team.
Our prediction: Lille 1-1 Salzburg
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Sevilla vs Wolfsburg
With only four points separating those at the top and bottom of UEFA Champions League (UCL) Group G, an enticing climax is in store with any outcome possible heading into the penultimate round. Even last-placed Sevilla have destiny in their own hands. They’ve been involved in both a fiesty and fruitless campaign so far, with two of their matches producing a red card (D3, L1), but a pair of victories in their last two group games would be enough to secure progression to the next round.
Home was a sanctuary for ‘Sevillistas Rojiblancos’ this season, until Lille handed them their first defeat of the campaign on their own turf in all competitions last round (W5, D2). A visit from Wolfsburg will have the Sevilla faithful on the edge of their seats, with their team only previously securing two wins in their nine UCL fixtures against German opposition (D4, L3 – excluding qualifiers).
Wolfsburg know they need a positive result in order to avoid requiring favours from others come the final round of the group stages. Anything but a loss will set up what will essentially be a playoff with Lille on the final matchday, as the visitors are currently deadlocked on five points with the reigning Ligue 1 champions.
Manager Florian Kohfeldt will be instructing his troops to focus on their concentration here given that they dropped two valuable points against Sevilla in the 87th minute in the reverse fixture. But winning only three of their previous ten UCL road games shows the magnitude of the task that awaits the ‘Wolves’ should they wish to progress (D1, L6).
Players to watch: Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitić, who scored in the reverse, has never lost a UCL game when getting on the scoresheet (W7, D2). Opposing him is Lukas Nmecha, who has seen five of his last seven goals come away from home for Wolfsburg.
Hot stat: Sevilla have failed to win any of their last five UCL group games on matchday five (D1, L4).
Our prediction: Sevilla 2-2 Wolfsburg
Young Boys vs Atalanta
On this penultimate matchday of the UEFA Champions League (UCL) group stage, things are looking wide open in terms of qualification in Group F. All four teams can technically still finish in the top two, although Atalanta would condemn Young Boys to bottom spot if they win here at the Wankdorf Stadium after the Swiss outfit lost all of their group games following their shock matchday one victory vs Manchester United.
Another defeat here for the hosts would give Swiss Champions Young Boys an unwanted record too – their first set of four consecutive defeats in a major European competition. Indeed, a four-game winless run in all competitions coming into this game doesn’t give David Wagner’s men much confidence (D1, L3), although they do hold a solid home record vs Italian opposition (W3, L1).
While Atalanta didn’t make their debut in Europe’s premier competition until 2018/19, they have progressed to the knockout stages in both of their prior group stage appearances. As such, the Bergamo-based outfit will want to make it three for three this time around and they will likely set up a straight shootout for qualification with Villarreal on the final day if they can win here.
It’s been tough for Atalanta on their European travels this season, as they’ve failed to win both of their away group games this term despite scoring twice in both. However, this game is certainly the easiest on paper after travelling to Man United and Villarreal prior, so a callback to last season’s perfect away group return would be welcome here.
Players to watch: With their league top scorer injured, Young Boys may rely on Jordan Siebatcheu for a goal here – but just three of his ten competitive strikes this term were match openers. Atalanta’s Duván Zapata has contributed to more goals in this UCL group (G1, A3) than Young Boys have scored altogether (three).
Hot stat: Just four of the 32 UCL group sides have received fewer than Atalanta’s six yellow cards so far.
Our prediction: Young Boys 0-2 Atalanta
Malmo FF vs Zenit
Rooted to the foot of Group H in this season’s UEFA Champions League (UCL), Swedish champions Malmö will need a drastic change of fortune to avoid finishing dead-last this time round. They’ve collected the wooden spoon in their previous two UCL group stage appearances, but managed to pick up a win in both those previous campaigns too.
The Eleda Stadium has played host to both of Malmö’s prior UCL victories, with those results including their only clean sheets kept in the continent’s showpiece club competition. A rare feat indeed for ‘Di blåe’, who have lost all their other 14 UCL group games by an astonishing aggregate of 48-2.
One of those heavy defeats came against Zenit Saint Petersburg, who registered their largest ever margin of victory in the UCL (excluding qualifiers) with their 4-0 trouncing of the hosts in the reverse fixture. A win here for Zenit would at least guarantee them entry into the preliminary knockout round of the UEFA Europa League, while keeping alive their slim hopes of snatching second place if results elsewhere also go their way.
The Russian side are looking for a first victory on their UCL travels since securing back-to-back victories in the 2015/16 season, losing nine of their ten away games since. They’ll be favourites in their first-ever trip to Sweden, as the champions of the Russian Premier League battle it out with the champions of the Allsvenskan.
Players to watch: Malmö’s Veljko Birmančević has scored his last five domestic goals in the first half. Albeit in qualifiers, two of Birmančević’s four UCL goals have proven decisive. Often key to the opposition’s best attacking moves, Artem Dzyuba has contributed seven goals in his last five appearances for Zenit (G5, A2).
Hot stat: Zenit have seen nine of the 12 total goals scored in their UCL games this season come beyond half-time.
Our prediction: Malmo FF 1-3 Zenit