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Who are the all-time top group stage scorers?

Lionel Messi is this season’s top scorer with five UEFA Champions League group stage goals, and is now five points clear of an old friend at the top of the competition’s group stage goals rankings – while his record for goalscoring consistency at this level is the envy of his peers.

Most UEFA Champions League group stage goals

Messi's European goals: 2005-2018

Messi’s European goals: 2005-2018

65: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
60: Cristiano Ronaldo (Man. United, Real Madrid, Juventus)
53: Raúl González (Real Madrid, Schalke)
50: Ruud van Nistelrooy (PSV, Man. United, Real Madrid, Hamburg)
40: Karim Benzema (Lyon, Real Madrid)
38: Zlatan Ibrahimović (Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris, Man. United)
38: Thierry Henry (Monaco, Arsenal, Barcelona)
33: Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus)
30: Andriy Shevchenko (Dynamo Kyiv. AC Milan, Chelsea)
30: Didier Drogba (Marseille, Chelsea, Galatasaray)

• Five goals in his first two group stage games of 2018/19 have enabled Messi to scamper clear of Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the group stage scorers chart.

Best goals per game ratio (minimum 20 scored)

Van Nistelrooy: My top three goals

Van Nistelrooy: My top three goals

1.00: Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 65 goals in 65 games
0.83: Ruud van Nistelrooy (PSV, Man. United, Real Madrid, Hamburg) – 50 goals in 60 games
0.76: Cristiano Ronaldo (Man. United, Real Madrid, Juventus) – 60 goals in 79 games
0.73: Edinson Cavani (Napoli, Paris) – 27 goals in 37 games
0.68: Karim Benzema (Lyon, Real Madrid) – 40 goals in 79 games
0.64: Didier Drogba (Marseille, Chelsea, Galatasaray) – 30 goals in 47 games
0.63: Robert Lewandowski (Dortmund, Bayern München) – 27 goals in 37 games
0.59: Filippo Inzaghi (Juventus, AC Milan) – 30 goals in 51 games
0.57: Roy Makaay (Deportivo, Bayern München) – 27 goals in 47 games
0.56: Sergio Agüero (Atlético. Manchester City) – 27 goals in 48 games

Edinson Cavani: challenging for top spot

Edinson Cavani: challenging for top spot©AFP/Getty Images

• Messi’s goal-a-game strike rate is astounding, while Ronaldo’s early years as a winger rather than out-and-out forward might explain why he lags a little behind the Argentinian. To match Messi’s ratio, Ronaldo would need to score 30 goals in his next 11 group stage games.

• Edinson Cavani would seem a more realistic contender for Messi’s place at the top of this particular table; if the Uruguayan hit a hat-trick in each of his next five games, he would join Messi at the summit.

Most UEFA Champions League group stage appearances

Iker Casillas: still stretchy at 37

Iker Casillas: still stretchy at 37©AFP/Getty Images

111: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid, Porto)
96: Raúl González (Real Madrid, Schalke)
95: Xavi Hernández (Barcelona)
92: Ryan Giggs (Man. United)
86: Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid, Fenerbahçe)
81: Paul Scholes (Man. United)
81: Gary Neville (Man. United)
79: Cristiano Ronaldo (Man. United, Real Madrid, Juventus)
77: Luís Figo (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan)
77: David Beckham (Man. United, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain)

Goalkeeper Casillas’s record for group stage appearances looks safe for the time being; his only active rival in the top ten, Cristiano Ronaldo, has made 32 fewer outings.

• Even if Casillas – still on active duty for Porto aged 37 – retires before matchday three, Ronaldo would not have a chance to catch him until matchday five of the 2024/25 season, by which time he will be 39.

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U21 EURO qualifiers, play-off contenders confirmed

Nine teams won their qualifying groups to join hosts Italy in next June’s UEFA European Under-21 Championship, while Austria, Greece, Poland and Portugal go into next month’s play-offs for the remaining berths.

QUALIFIED: Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy (hosts), Romania, Serbia, Spain

PLAY-OFFS: Greece v Austria, Poland v Portugal



Croatia sealed top spot on Monday, a 4-0 win at San Marino meaning they edged out second-placed Greece on head-to-head record. Greece advance to November’s play-offs.

Qualified: Croatia
In play-offs
: Greece


Mikel Oyarzabal seals progress for Spain

Mikel Oyarzabal seals progress for Spain©Getty Images

Spain qualified with three games to spare and subsequently lost to Northern Ireland – who promptly eliminated Iceland and then beat Slovakia 1-0 on Tuesday to pip them to second. However, before that game was over, both teams realised they were out of play-off contention.

Qualified: Spain


Denmark drew 1-1 with Poland last Friday to stay a point above their guests, and then felled the Faroe Islands 3-0 in Aalborg on Tuesday to secure a finals place. Poland defeated Georgia 3-0 to clinch a play-off slot.

Qualified: Denmark
In play-offs: Poland


England’s 7-0 thrashing of Andorra last Thursday booked a record-breaking seventh straight U21 EURO berth. The next day Ukraine saw off Scotland 3-1 to end the visitors’ hopes and move into second; yet they still required a final-day win to sustain their play-off bid and eventually missed out by losing 3-0 in the Netherlands, a team already out of the reckoning.

Qualified: England


Watch how Germany won the 2017 U21 title

Watch how Germany won the 2017 U21 title

Holders Germany overcame Norway 2-1 last Friday to rubber-stamp their finals ticket. Norway still finished second but a play-off spot eluded them.

Qualified: Germany


In Tuesday’s dramatic group finale, Belgium took a three-point lead to Sweden and won 3-0 to ensure their qualification. The result caused runners-up Sweden to miss out on the play-offs.

Qualified: Belgium


Serbia’s 0-0 draw with Austria last Friday witnessed their first dropped points in the group, but also made sure of their pole position and finals berth. With Russia going level on points with Austria in second, everything then hinged on Tuesday’s decider for the runners-up place. Here Austria beat Russia 3-2 to enter the play-offs.

Qualified: Serbia
In play-offs: Austria


Who will lift the trophy in Italy next summer?

Who will lift the trophy in Italy next summer?©Sportsfile

Having earned a two-point cushion over Portugal by defeating Wales last Friday, Romania needed just a last-day draw yet in the event won 4-0 against Liechtenstein to qualify for the first time since 1998. Portugal brushed aside Bosnia and Herzegovina 4-2 to wrap up a play-off berth.

Qualified: Romania
In play-offs: Portugal


France qualified with plenty to spare. Slovenia drew 1-1 with Bulgaria last Friday to confirm second, but then had to win in France to have a play-off chance; sadly for the Slovenes, Tuesday’s game finished 1-1. Those were the only points dropped by France, who had the best record in the field.

Qualified: France

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