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Champions league

Hakim Ziyech to Chelsea? The Opta numbers behind Ajax star and reported Blues target

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Chelsea appear destined to sign Hakim Ziyech and we have taken a closer look at the Ajax’s star’s numbers.

Hakim Ziyech will need little introduction to Chelsea fans if the Morocco international does complete his move to Stamford Bridge from Ajax.

Ziyech was one of the best players on the pitch during a barnstorming 4-4 draw in November’s Champions League clash.

Kepa Arrizabalaga may have been credited with an own goal but it was Ziyech’s sensational bending free-kick from the right touchline that did the damage as the visitors opened up a 3-1 half-time lead.

Next season, the 26-year-old appears destined to play much more regularly at the Bridge, with reports claiming the Blues have agreed a £38million deal for the attacking midfielder.

Predominantly employed on the right, Ziyech can also play as a number 10 and here we have used Opta data to take a closer look at an exciting talent.

 

THE EREDIVISIE’S MASTER CREATOR

Ziyech has been one of the Eredivisie’s top performers since breaking into the first team at Heerenveen in 2012 having risen through the club’s youth teams.

After a two-year stop at Twente, Ziyech moved to Ajax in August 2016 where his performances domestically and in Europe have seen his star continue to rise.

Since his switch to the Johan Cruijff ArenA, only four players can boast a higher goals return than his 38 while his sensational tally of 51 Eredivisie assists is 16 better than the 35 of Steven Berghuis, the next highest on the list.

Indeed, his combined 89 goal involvements is in the best in the league during this time, seven more than Berghuis, while Bryan Linssen (who has the most goals with 52) is way behind with 66.

To really emphasise Ziyech’s attacking brilliance, his 421 chances created since September 2016 is a whopping 134 more than second-place Berghuis.

MIXING IT WITH MESSI AND MBAPPE IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Ajax were the great entertainers of the of the 2018-19 Champions League and only a last-gasp goal from Tottenham’s Lucas Moura denied Erik ten Hag’s men a place in the final.

Ziyech was typically influential in that run to the last four and since August 2018 he has provided seven assists in Europe’s premier competition.

That is as many as team-mate Dusan Tadic and just one fewer than the best of eight achieved by Kylian Mbappe and Riyad Mahrez – and one more than Barcelona great Lionel Messi.

His five goals are 13 fewer than the sensational 18 scored by Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski in the same time, with Messi registering 14.

Messi tops the list of goal involvements at 20, with Lewandowski (18), Mbappe (17), Raheem Sterling (14), Tadic and Mohamed Salah (both 13) above Ziyech’s combined goals and assists tally of 12.

In terms of chances created, Ziyech scores highly as well. His 39 is the same as Christian Eriksen and beaten only by Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos (51), Tadic (47) and Messi (41).

 

THE STATS

– Since the 2012-13 season, Ziyech has made 217 Eredivisie appearances, scored 79 goals and contributed 87 assists.

– Ziyech has at least 10 assists in each of his previous six Eredivisie seasons, no player has managed to do so in more than two campaigns in the same period.

– No players has more assists (51), shots (528), created chances (421), completed dribbles (288) or recoveries (752) than Ziyech in the Eredivisie since he joined Ajax.

– Over the past two seasons, only Mohamed Salah (79) and Messi (77) have taken more Champions League shots than Ziyech (75 same as Cristiano Ronaldo).

 

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Champions league

Zidane issues update on Eden Hazard’s injury ahead of Manchester City clash

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With only a few hours left before Real Madrid take on Manchester City in the first leg of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League round-of-16, Zinedine Zidane has issued a worrying update on Eden Hazard’s injury.

Speaking in the pre-match press conference ahead of the Manchester City game, Zidane said that he is unsure if Hazard will play for Real Madrid again this season.

The former Chelsea star is set for a second injury lay-off this season, after fracturing his ankle during Real Madrid’s defeat to Levante in the La Liga last weekend.

The Levante game was only his second appearance for Los Blancos since November 2019, after he recovered from another injury to the same ankle.

Hazard’s injury and his subsequent lay-off is definitely a big blow for Zidane and co, as they gear up for a crucial week in both the UCL and the La Liga.

“He [Hazard] loves playing football and while I can’t tell you what is in his eyes, I can see he is not happy,” the Real Madrid boss said.

“It’s important he stays positive but, of course, it’s difficult. It’s a bad moment, it won’t be easy and he will feel like that for a while. I do not know if he will have to go through an operation. It is not my area and I don’t know if his season is over, but I hope not,” he went on.

“I am not the right person to say what should have been done or shouldn’t have.”

“We are not happy about his injury, it comes at a bad moment. He wanted to play and help us but now he is out again, which is sad of course,” the Frenchman added further, before concluding:

“I hope when he’s back again he is completely fit. That’s what everyone wants and that’s it.”

Quotes via Mirror.

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Dries Mertens suffers bruised ankle after equalling Napoli record

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Dries Mertens suffered a bruised ankle in the Champions League draw against Barcelona after equalling Marek Hamsik’s goalscoring record for Napoli.

Mertens scored his 121st goal for Napoli in all competitions on Tuesday as the Italian side drew 1-1 with LaLiga champions Barca in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

The 32-year-old forward matched the record with a stunning 30th-minute opener at Stadio San Paolo, where Barca salvaged a draw thanks to Antoine Griezmann approaching the hour.

Mertens, who leapfrogged Diego Maradona (115) into second place on the all-time list in October, was substituted in the 54th minute at home to Lionel Messi’s Barcelona.

 

Afterwards, Napoli released a statement which read: “Dries Mertens sustained bruising to his right ankle during a collision which forced him to leave the pitch early in the second half of tonight’s match against Barcelona.”

Mertens joined Serie A side Napoli from PSV in 2013 and the Belgium international has flourished.

Of Mertens’ 121 goals, 90 have come in Serie A, with another 26 via European competition.

This term, Mertens – who is out of contract at the end of the season amid links to the likes of Inter and Chelsea – has scored 12 goals across all competitions for Napoli.

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Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s birthday gift to Hansi Flick hints at Bayern Munich stay

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Karl-Heinz Rummenigge delivered a birthday present to Hansi Flick which suggested he will stay long-term as Bayern Munich coach.

Hansi Flick appears to have a long-term future as Bayern Munich head coach after a not-so-cryptic clue from CEO Karl-Heinze Rummenigge.

Bayern appointed Flick as interim boss following the dismissal of Niko Kovac in November and a month later announced he would stay in charge until the end of the season.

Under Flick, Bayern have returned to the top of the Bundesliga and a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Chelsea in Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first-leg tie at Stamford Bridge means they have one foot firmly in the quarter-finals.

Flick celebrated his 55th birthday a day before Bayern’s fixture in west London and received a gift at a banquet after the game from Rummenigge, who hinted it was a sign of an extended stay.

“Our coach turned 55 yesterday [Monday],” Rummenigge said.

“This is a good age. We’ll give you a pen in this red packet. Sometimes you sign papers with pens.”

 

He added: “Stay how you are. We are very, very happy with how the team is playing, as well as with the results and the football they are playing.”

Bayern have lost just twice in the Bundesliga under Flick and sit one point clear of RB Leipzig after 23 matches.

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