NRL Opta facts: Farah looks to mark milestone in style

By Sports Desk July 24, 2019

Robbie Farah is expected to join the NRL's 300-appearances club when Wests Tigers face Newcastle Knights this weekend.

The 35-year-old will become the 39th player to reach the milestone if he features for Wests at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday.

Newcastle start the 19th round in eighth place, but they will be hoping to get back on track after losing three in a row.

We take a look at the week's key statistics, courtesy of Opta.

Thursday

Cronulla Sharks (7-10) v North Queensland Cowboys (7-10)

- The Sharks have won six of their last eight NRL games against the Cowboys and are bidding for a third successive success after scoring 70 points in the past two victories.

- No other forward has made more line breaks than Cronulla's Briton Nikora, who has managed 11 this season.

Friday

Newcastle Knights (8-9) v Wests Tigers (7-10)

- Farah scored a try and provided an assist in his last game against the Knights.

- His team-mate Luke Brooks has been in fine form against the Knights having been directly involved in 10 tries (four tries and six assists) in his previous eight appearances.

South Sydney Rabbitohs (12-5) v St George Illawarra Dragons (6-11)

- After a run of just three wins in 17 against the Dragons, the Rabbitohs have now won 12 of their last 15 meetings.

- South Sydney's Cameron Murray has scored the opening try on four occasions in 2019, the joint-most of any player along with Sydney Roosters star Latrell Mitchell.


Saturday

Parramatta Eels (9-8) v New Zealand Warriors (7-1-9)

- The Warriors are bidding to avoid defeat for a fifth straight game away from home, a sequence they last managed in 2002.

- However, the Eels have won five of their six NRL matches at Bankwest Stadium by an average margin of 22 points per game.

Gold Coast Titans (4-13) v Brisbane Broncos (7-1-9)

- Bryce Cartwright is set to play his 100th NRL game for Gold Coast, who have won two of their last three games against the Broncos.

- Brisbane's Tevita Pangai Junior has made 48 offloads this season, five more than any other player.

Melbourne Storm (15-2) v Manly Sea Eagles (10-7)

- Melbourne claimed a thrilling one-point victory in the last clash between the two in 2018, the fourth time in the past five matches they have been victorious.

- The Storm's back three have made only 36 errors in 2019, five fewer than the back three of any other team in the NRL.


Sunday

Canterbury Bulldogs (5-12) v Sydney Roosters (11-6)

- While the Roosters have scored 11 opening tries this season, the Bulldogs (five) have the fewest in the NRL.

- Sydney are on a five-game winning sequence against the Bulldogs and have won nine of the last 11.

Penrith Panthers (9-8) v Canberra Raiders (11-6)

- Penrith will equal a club record set in 2003 if they can beat Canberra and record an eighth straight win.

- Brent Naden has scored six tries in as many games since making his NRL debut in round 12. Only Josh Dugan and Ken Maumalo (seven each) have touched down more often in that time.

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    Champions League holders Liverpool need at least a point against Salzburg to secure their progression from Group E, though they will come up against an Erling Haaland in sensational form.

    Salzburg's youngster has found the net in all of their group games so far this season and will become the first player to convert in his first six Champions League appearances should he score for Salzburg against the Reds.

    Barcelona have top spot in Group F secured but Inter still have it all to play for on Tuesday as they look to edge out Borussia Dortmund, and Antonio Conte's side have no Lionel Messi to worry about, with Ernesto Valverde resting Barca's talisman.

    Chelsea will look to end a five-match winless run at home in the Champions League to ensure their place in the last 16, while Dortmund are aiming to reach the second round in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2015.

    Salzburg v Liverpool 

    8 - Salzburg's Haaland has scored eight goals from five appearances in this season's Champions League. No player has ever scored in their first six matches in the competition.

    11 - Since the start of the 2017-18 campaign, the two players with the most Champions League assists are Liverpool duo Roberto Firmino and James Milner, with 11 each.

    16 - Only Tottenham (17) and Bayern Munich (21) have scored more goals than Salzburg's 16 in this season's competition.

    2 - Liverpool have only won two of their 11 most recent Champions League away group stage games, losing four of the past five. The Reds last won consecutive group matches on the road in the competition back in September 2008.

    Napoli v Genk

    6 - Carlo Ancelotti appears to be under pressure at Napoli, though his side are unbeaten in their past six home matches in the Champions League.

    14 - Dries Mertens, who wears number 14 for Napoli, has been involved in 14 goals in his past 14 Champions League starts, scoring 10 times and providing four assists.

    Inter v Barcelona

    0 - Inter have never lost a home game against Spanish teams in the Champions League or European Cup.

    5 - Lautaro Martinez is aiming to become the first Inter player to score in five successive Champions League/European Cup appearances.

    0 - Barca have failed to score in two Champions League matches this season. Never before in the competition have they fired blanks in three group games in a single campaign.

    Borussia Dortmund v Slavia Prague

    13 - Dortmund are unbeaten in 13 of their past 15 Champions League group stage matches at Signal Iduna Park, winning eight times.

    3 - Julian Brandt already has three assists for Dortmund in Group F. The playmaker failed to assist a single Champions League goal for Bayer Leverkusen in 21 appearances between 2014 and 2017.

    22 - Slavia have failed to score with each of their 22 most recent shots from open play in the Champions League, with their goal in a 3-1 defeat to Inter on matchday coming via a penalty by Tomas Soucek.

    Benfica v Zenit

    1 - Victory for Zenit would see the Russian side reach the knockout stages in successive appearances in the Champions League for the first time.

    29 - Both teams have scored 29 per cent of their Champions League goals from outside of the box so far this season.

    Lyon v RB Leipzig

    88 - Leipzig have scored 88 per cent of their Champions League goals this season in the second half of matches, while their only goal in the first half came in added time against Zenit.

    80 - Dayot Upamecano has made 80 progressive ball carries upfield this season in the UEFA Champions League - more than any other player.

    Chelsea v Lille

    5 - Chelsea are winless in their past five Champions League games at Stamford Bridge. It is their longest run without a home win in the competition.

    10 - Willian has netted 10 goals for Chelsea in the tournament. If he scores against Lille, it would make him their outright fourth-highest scorer in the competition, behind Didier Drogba (36), current coach Frank Lampard (23) and Nicolas Anelka (12).

    1 - Lille have taken just one point in the Champions League this season. Under the current group stage format, the only French side with fewer in a single campaign in the competition was Marseille in 2013-14 (0).

    Ajax v Valencia

    9 - Since the start of last season, only three teams have managed more wins in the Champions League than Ajax, who have nine victories under their belts in that time.

    52 - Excluding own goals, Hakim Ziyech has either scored or assisted 52 per cent of Ajax's goals in the Champions League in 2019.

    143 - Quincy Promes averages a goal every 143 minutes in the Champions League, placing him behind only Ruud van Nistelrooy (109) in terms of Dutch players in the competition.

  • Guardiola's lowest points haul, clean sheet joy for Liverpool – the Premier League Data Diary Guardiola's lowest points haul, clean sheet joy for Liverpool – the Premier League Data Diary

    Liverpool maintained their charge for a first Premier League title with a 3-0 win over Bournemouth, keeping just a third top-flight clean sheet of the season in the process.

    The Reds remain eight points ahead of Leicester City, who saw off Aston Villa 4-1 to make it eight league victories in a row – their best winning run in their top-flight history.

    But defending champions Manchester City are now 14 points adrift of top spot after tasting defeat in their derby showdown with a rejuvenated Manchester United.

    Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho made it three league wins out of four as Tottenham thrashed Burnley to close to within six points of fourth-placed Chelsea, who lost 3-1 at Everton.

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    DERBY DEFEAT LEAVES GUARDIOLA WITH LOWEST POINTS HAUL

    Pep Guardiola admitted City could not cope with the pace of United's attacking trio of Daniel James, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in Saturday's clash.

    City fell two goals behind inside half an hour and, despite Nicolas Otamendi pulling one back late on, they fell to a defeat that surely ends their hopes of retaining the title.

    The loss leaves the reigning champions with 32 points - the lowest return of Guardiola's managerial career after 16 matches.

    Kyle Walker refused to wave the white flag, but no English top-flight side has ever gone on to win the title after being as many as 14 points behind the top side at the end of a day.

    As for United, who beat Tottenham 2-1 on Wednesday, they are now unbeaten in five Premier League games and have won back-to-back matches for the first time since March.

    CLEAN SHEET BONUS FOR RUNAWAY REDS

    Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp had extra reason to celebrate his side's win at Bournemouth, having kept a first clean sheet in 14 games in all competitions.

    In fact, toothless Bournemouth - now beaten in five successive games for the first time in their top-flight history - managed zero shots on target at the Vitality Stadium.

    Klopp's men have won 24 of their past 25 Premier League matches, including 15 out of 16 this term, and have scored two or more goals in 23 of those past 25 fixtures.

    Naby Keita marked his first league start of the season with a goal and an assist, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mohamed Salah were also on target.

    Salah's goal took him to 63 in 100 Premier League outings, with Alan Shearer (79), Ruud van Nistelrooy (68) and Sergio Aguero (64) the only players to score more in their first century of games.

    SENSATIONAL SON INSPIRES MOURINHO'S FREE-SCORING MEN

    Tottenham produced a five-star display in their emphatic triumph against Burnley, who suffered their joint-biggest margin of defeat in the Premier League.

    Mourinho saw Tottenham score five goals in his fourth Premier League game in charge, something Manchester United failed to achieve in 93 league matches under the Portuguese.

    Harry Kane bagged a brace, Lucas Moura scored a sitter and Moussa Sissoko netted for the second home game running, but it was Son Heung-min who stole the show.

    Having earlier set up Kane's opener, Son ran from one box to the other and found the net to make it 15 goal involvements in 15 appearances at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

    Dele Alli may not have registered in the one-sided contest, though he provided two assists in a Premier League game for the third time and the first since December 2017.

    VARDY CLOSING IN ON HIS OWN RECORD

    Leicester appear to be the only side standing between Liverpool and a maiden Premier League title success after coming out on top in their Midlands tussle with Aston Villa.

    Jamie Vardy helped himself to a couple of goals as the Foxes inflicted a heaviest home league defeat on Villa since they lost 4-0 to Chelsea in April 2016.

    The 32-year-old became the first player to score in eight consecutive Premier League matches since Vardy himself did so in November 2015 when netting 11 in a row.

    Only one player other than Vardy has scored in eight successive fixtures, in fact - Van Nistelrooy, who did so in 2002 and again in 2003 during his time at Manchester United.

    Kelechi Iheanacho and Jonny Evans also registered at Villa Park for Leicester, who have won their past four away Premier League matches by an aggregate score of 17-1.

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    Manchester United had been held to a 2-2 draw at home by promoted Aston Villa and the Red Devils' performance was utterly rancid for much of the game. Solskjaer appeared helpless at full-time.

    Ahead of a particularly bleak run of mid-winter fixtures, reports suggested Solskjaer could join Santa in expecting to be burdened with the sack for Christmas. Two games to save his job, some said, with Mauricio Pochettino looming large.

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    Much of the build-up was dominated by 'we're back' talk among both sets of supporters. City had crushed Burnley comprehensively, while United produced arguably their best display under Solskjaer in a 2-1 win over Tottenham.

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    So much of the Norwegian's time at the helm has been mired by worryingly erratic form – one week they barely manage to salvage a draw against Villa, showing a concerning lack of desire, and then follow that up with a genuinely laudable performance at home to a resurgent Spurs.

    Such inconsistency has understandably led to questions over Solskjaer's game-management, with United frequently struggling against opposition that sit back despite boasting a solid record of only two defeats in 11 meetings with 'big-six' opponents and Leicester City before the derby.

    Solskjaer did little wrong on Saturday, however.

    A devastating first half an hour showed just how good this United team can be, particularly going forward.

    The fluid front three of Daniel James, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial was electric, while the much-maligned Jesse Lingard showed the kind of technique and drive not seen from him for a long, long time.

    United's strengths are by no means a secret – they are blessed with immense pace in attack and are at their best hitting teams on the counter.

    City fell into a trap entirely of United's making.

    The midfield pair of Scott McTominay and Fred sat extremely deep, while the front four also dropped well back, essentially becoming a second midfield. As such, the gap between United's defence and attack was often minimal, allowing them to break as a unit.

    The dynamism and agility of United's attack was plain to see for both goals – firstly Rashford driving into the box and winning the penalty that he converted, before James and Martial linked for the Frenchman's well-worked goal.

    But United's effectiveness was about more than just three players running really, really fast. Defensively they had several players who were imperious.

    Aaron Wan-Bissaka dealt with Raheem Sterling impressively, making five tackles and seven clearances in a fine display, while McTominay was similarly impressive. The Scotland international won possession back via three tackles, three interceptions and came out on top in 81.3 per cent of the 16 duels he was involved in.

    Added to that, Fred enjoyed his best match for United, creating two chances and showing a general awareness that could rarely be associated with the Brazilian previously. On this evidence, you can begin to understand why Pep Guardiola had been so keen to bring him to City.

    City's second-half desperation predictably saw United come under pressure and, for a moment it looked like the Red Devils would yet again cave and throw away a lead after Nicolas Otamendi pulled one back.

    But it wasn't to be.

    While reservations over Solskjaer's suitability for the role will remain as long as his team continue to falter against teams they should beat, there's no doubt in his ability to squeeze every last drop out of his players in the big games.

    And in the biggest of matches, United rose to the occasion to leave City 14 points adrift of the summit, their title hopes torn to shreds like so much festive wrapping paper. 

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