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November 18, 2018
Ronaldo, Dybala, Firmino, Sancho: Champions League lessons so far
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Ronaldo, Dybala, Firmino, Sancho: Champions League lessons so far

Halfway through the Champions League group stage and only Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona and Juventus (without much help from Cristiano Ronaldo so far) seem to be serenely heading towards the real hostilities in February.

The good news is that 2018-19 seems unusually rich in sub-plots and subtle narratives, and here are just a few of them.

Blank Ronaldo

The last season in which Cristiano Ronaldo scored fewer than 10 goals in the Champions League was 2010-11. Heading into matchday four he is yet to net for Serie A champions Juve, hampered of course by his suspension which meant missing the game with Young Boys on matchday two.

Ronaldo’s team Year CL goals in Sep/Oct
Manchester United 2008 0
Real Madrid 2009 4
Real Madrid 2010 1
Real Madrid 2011 1
Real Madrid 2012 5
Real Madrid 2013 7
Real Madrid 2014 3
Real Madrid 2015 5
Real Madrid 2016 2
Real Madrid 2017 5
Juventus 2018 0

Even so, it means he goes into November without a Champions League goal for the first time since his final season with Manchester United, when he appeared in five group games without scoring, before waking up in the spring as United progressed to their second successive final.

So far in 2018-19, Ronaldo has an expected goals (xG) figure of 0.25 in 119 minutes of Champions League football and, in showreel terms, brought an exquisite save from David de Gea at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo v Dybala in front of goal
Ronaldo Dybala
Shots 5 10
Shots on target 2 6
Expected goals 0.248 3.253
Actual goals 0 4

His team-mate Paulo Dybala, in contrast, has had chances with an xG of 3.25 in 168 minutes, the highest figure in the competition this season, so it’s not like Juventus aren’t serving up quality.

All of which begs the question: is this just a bad autumn for Ronaldo, or is this Ronaldo’s autumn?

Firmino – Brazilian’s goals maths add up

Firmino moved to Liverpool in 2015 for £29m

The Liverpool transfer committee’s decision to buy Roberto Firmino might just be working out.

Since the start of last season he has scored or assisted 19 goals in the Champions League, more than any other player in that period and three more than Manchester United have scored.

Just his basic goal total of 12 in barely 14 months is as many as the combined might of Diego Maradona and Bobby Charlton managed in the European Cup.

Yes, those players from older generations got fewer opportunities in a more streamlined competition, with the go-to example here always: Titus Bramble has played as many European Cup/CL games as Maradona.

But once you’ve got a taste for Firmino maths it’s hard to let go, so here are some more sums: Firmino’s 12 European Cup goals for Liverpool are as many as Michael Owen + Pep Guardiola ever scored, or Just Fontaine + Vincenzo Montella, or just Everton Football Club, or Philippe Coutinho + Kevin Keegan, or Dennis Bergkamp + Ruud Gullit.

I mean, I could go on…

Sancho the noughties player to beat

Sancho played a key role for Dortmund against Wolfsburg on Saturday

Jadon Sancho’s footballing recreation of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet