Seven Deadly Stats with Cristiano Ronaldo saving his best for the Champions League after Dortmund win

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Real Madrid have surprisingly struggled in La Liga this season, and their underwhelming display in the Champions League opener against Apoel Nicosia – a game they nevertheless won 3-0 – had some wondering if they were vulnerable in the Group of Death.

Borussia Dortmund were hardly the side they would have wanted to face in this form, as Madrid had never won away to the German club in six previous attempts. But on Tuesday, Madrid were at their ruthless best, with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo leading the European champions to a 3-1 win in Dortmund.

Here are seven deadly stats from the game…

BALE FEELS AT HOME – AWAY FROM HOME

Bale has had a tough time at Real Madrid this season, especially in front of his home fans. The jeers and whistles that Madridistas directed at their club’s record signing undoubtedly have been off-putting, even if his performances do deserve some criticism.

Away from the cauldron of the Santiago Bernabeu, however, the Welshman is thriving. His superb volley to open the scoring at the Westfalenstadion was a timely reminder of his talent.

Now, if he can just do more of that at home…

CARVAJAL THE ASSIST KING

When it comes to defenders who excel going forward, Marcelo and Dani Alves are the names that first pop into mind. However, it’s Marcelo’s counterpart at Real Madrid who’s ruling the roost.

No defender has more Champions League assists since the start of last season than Dani Carvajal, whose lovely clipped ball set up Bale’s opener. In fact, across all positions, there’s only one player who tops the Spaniard’s tally – and there’s certainly no shame in a right-back being beaten to top spot on this chart by one of the world’s leading forwards and its most expensive player.

GERMANY’S NIGHTMARE

If the opposition is German, Cristiano Ronaldo is bound to score. He scored five goals against Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League quarterfinals, along with a goal against Dortmund in the group stages – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Ronaldo’s record against teams from the Bundesliga.

So it was no surprise when the Portuguese forward ran on to finish from Bale’s cross in the second half to extend Madrid’s lead.

It was his 24th goal against German opposition, and number 25 would come later on in the night.

MADRID’S BEST PLAYER THIS SEASON?

For all the criticism levied at Bale, the Welshman is actually having a fairly decent start to the season.

His struggles leading the line at home, combined with Madrid’s stuttering start in La Liga, have masked the impact he’s had so far in this campaign.

A goal and an assist against tough opposition in an away game should help calm the critics, at least temporarily.

AUBAMEYANG LOVES REAL MADRID

Although he ended up staying at Dortmund, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made no secret of his desire for a move this summer, with Real Madrid reportedly being his dream transfer.

At this rate, Los Blancos should sign him just so he stops scoring against them.

RONALDO’S FAVOURITE STAGE

Ronaldo was far behind in the La Liga Golden Boot race last season, finishing 12 goals adrift of Lionel Messi. Maybe it’s because he’s saving his best for Europe’s premier competition.

He topped the Champions League scoring charts last season with an astonishing burst in the latter stages, and he’s hit the ground running again in this year’s campaign. His second goal on Tuesday marked the second straight game in which he bagged a brace.

THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SNIPER

It’s not just that Ronaldo loves scoring in the Champions League – it’s how lethal he’s become in the competition.

The narrative that Ronaldo’s traded in being spectacular for being efficient (to spectacular effect, ultimately) has been around since the start of last season, but he’s taken it to a different level in Europe.

Just take a look:

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Antoine Griezmann vs David Luiz and other key battles as Atletico Madrid host Chelsea

Andy West 26/09/2017
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Antonio Conte will take his Chelsea side to Atletico Madrid as the pair clash for their second Champions League fixture in Group C.

Here we look at three key battles ahead of the game.

ANTOINE GRIEZMANN VS DAVID LUIZ

There’s no doubting the identity of Atletico’s key player: French frontman Antoine Griezmann, who has overcome a slow start to the season to score in his last two games.

With his combination of movement, speed, commitment to hard work and finishing, Griezmann is the complete striker and a nightmare for any opponent.

The Chelsea defender best physically equipped to handle him is David Luiz, whose assured physicality is enough to subdue any striker.

But whether Luiz has the mental capacity to manage Griezmann’s constant threat is another matter – he certainly can’t afford one of his infamous lapses in concentration on Wednesday night.

JAN OBLAK VS THIBAUT COURTOIS

OK, this is not a head-to-head battle as such as they will be at opposite ends of the pitch, but in a game which is likely to be low-scoring the heroics or (extremely unlikely but always possible) mistakes of these two world-class goalkeepers could be decisive.

Courtois, of course, was Oblak’s predecessor between the posts for Atletico, and there’s a healthy but inconclusive debate among the club’s fans over which of them deserves to be remembered as the club’s greatest ever goalkeeper.

Indeed, it’s easy to mount an argument that they are currently the best two keepers in the world – and they’ll look to prove that point in this game.

KOKE VS CESC FABREGAS

In many ways Spanish international teammates Koke and Fabregas are the heartbeat of their team’s attacking play, albeit they perform in subtly different ways.

While Koke is hard-working, physical and does a lot of his best work from wide positions, Fabregas loves to get regular contact with the ball in the centre of the park, dictating the play in a manner that Koke rarely does.

The former Barcelona player possesses the ability to deliver a killer final ball that Koke generally lacks, but the defensive aspect of his game can sometimes be lacking. Against Atletico, that could be fatal.

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Pontus Wernbloom vs Henrikh Mkhitaryan and other key battles as Man United face CSKA Moscow

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Manchester United will look to stretch their unbeaten record against CSKA Moscow this week, having won two and drawn two in their previous four meetings against Wednesday night’s opposition.

The two sides are level on points atop Group A, having won their opening fixtures, and with Benfica playing Basel in the other group game, the clash offers a good opportunity for either side to move one step closer towards qualifying for the knockout stage.

Here’s a look at three key battles which will shape the game’s outcome.

ALEKSEI BEREZUTSKI VS ROMELU LUKAKU

The 35-year-old Aleksei Berezutski, who plays alongside his identical twin brother Vasili in a three-man backline, remains one of CSKA’s most accomplished defenders, and will provide a tough challenge for United striker Romelu Lukaku.

Berezutski is strong in the air and an adept tackler, both of which will be vital traits against the Belgian who has made a phenomenal start to his United career, scoring eight times in eight games.

United manager Jose Mourinho’s preference for tight defensive displays in European away fixtures means Lukaku’s duel with Berezutski will be crucial to the final result, as the Belgian could be the difference between a 0-0 draw and a narrow win – although Mourinho would no doubt be happy with the former, or any result that isn’t a loss.

PONTUS WERNBLOOM VS HENRIKH MKHITARYAN

The 31-year-old Wernbloom will have his hands full with Manchester United’s central playmaker, especially given Mkhitaryan’s excellent start to the season and his displays in Europe last year.

Wernbloom has made a name for himself as a fearless defensive midfielder, with his hard tackling and general playing style endearing him to fans.

Those attributes will make for an intriguing battle with Mkhitaryan, whose trickery, pace, and elusiveness set up the perfect contrast to his midfield counterpart.

VITINHO VS ERIC BAILLY

Eric Bailly is coming off an excellent defensive display for United at the weekend, starring alongside colleague Phil Jones to help his side weather the storm at Southampton. It was a performance that added to his growing reputation as one of the Premier League’s toughest defenders, and yet again showed how the Ivorian has by and large been United’s best defender since he joined the side last summer.

In-form Brazilian striker Vitinho has been one of the bright sparks of CSKA’s season, tallying four goals and three assists so far. He scored on Matchday 1 against Benfica to earn the Russian side a crucial away win, and he’ll be relied upon again on Wednesday.

Bailly, who will be making his Champions League debut, will fancy his chances against Vitinho in an aerial battle, but once the ball is on the ground the duel should be a little more even. The CSKA striker’s dribbling, passing, and penchant for long-range shots will keep Bailly on his toes throughout.

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