Even if Hansi Flick's time in charge of Bayern Munich is short, he is not likely to forget his first Bundesliga match.

The 54-year-old, who was placed in interim charge of the first team after Niko Kovac agreed it was better for all concerned if he walked away, will take on Borussia Dortmund at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.

Flick oversaw a 2-0 win against Olympiacos in the Champions League on Wednesday, but his opening league match is a very different kind of fixture. Bayern are a point behind Dortmund after 10 matches and four adrift of leaders Borussia Monchengladbach, so a win really is paramount.

With Dortmund having found a bit of form recently it's a hard game to predict and, as we can see, Bayern coaches have had mixed fortunes in the modern era when it comes to their first league Klassikers...


Ottmar Hitzfeld: Bayern Munich 2-2 Borussia Dortmund, 04/10/1998

Hitzfeld had huge success in charge of each of these teams, so perhaps it's fitting his first Klassiker as Bayern coach ended in a draw.

Stephane Chapuisat put Dortmund ahead, Bayern turned it around with two goals in a minute from Giovane Elber and Carsten Jancker, but Christian Nerlinger forced a draw.

Hitzfeld took over at Bayern again in 2007 for a little over a year, and that first Klassiker ended goalless. You can't say he wasn't fair.

Felix Magath: Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Bayern Munich, 18/09/2004

Another 2-2 draw, although this one was a touch more dramatic.

Ewerthon's double had Dortmund ahead, but Lucio halved the deficit in the 88th minute and Roy Makaay snatched a point in stoppage time. It was a springboard to back-to-back domestic doubles for Magath.

Jurgen Klinsmann: Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Bayern Munich, 23/08/2008

Bayern won the DFB-Pokal final against Dortmund after extra time under Hitzfeld four months earlier, but the teams could not be separated here.

BVB, now under a certain Jurgen Klopp, took an early lead through Jakub Blaszczykowski but were pegged back by Tim Borowski in the second half. Klinsmann, meanwhile, was gone the following April.


Louis van Gaal: Borussia Dortmund 1-5 Bayern Munich, 12/09/2009

This was more like it.

Jupp Heynckes took temporary charge before Van Gaal became Klinsmann's permanent successor, and he laid down a marker with this Dortmund demolition.

Mario Gomez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery and a Thomas Muller double made sure Mats Hummels' opener was swiftly forgotten. Only Jose Mourinho's Inter stopped Bayern winning the treble that season.


Jupp Heynckes: Bayern Munich 0-1 Borussia Dortmund, 19/11/2011

Andries Jonker took temporary charge after Van Gaal's exit before Heynckes got the gig on a full-time basis.

His first Klassiker was settled by a Mario Gotze strike that helped Dortmund stay on course for a league and cup double that season. Of course, Heynckes would get substantial revenge when he won the treble by beating Dortmund in the Champions League final just 18 months later.


Pep Guardiola: Borussia Dortmund 0-3 Bayern Munich, 23/11/2013

Guardiola had big shoes to fill when he replaced the popular Heynckes. Following a 4-2 loss when the teams met in the DFL-Supercup, a convincing Klassiker win before December was a smart way to go about things.

Gotze broke the deadlock against his old club before Robben and Muller settled things late on. Almost inevitably, Bayern won the double that season.

Carlo Ancelotti: Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Bayern Munich, 19/11/2016

Despite his past achievements and his air of amiability, it just didn't click between Ancelotti and Bayern.

Losing to Dortmund courtesy of a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goal didn't help his cause, and although he won the title in his only full season, he was out the door by September 2017.

Jupp Heynckes: Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Bayern Munich, 04/11/2017

Interim boss Willy Sagnol never got to tackle a Klassiker, so Heynckes was given another chance to cement his legacy as an Allianz Arena hero.

He didn't disappoint. Robben, Robert Lewandowski and David Alaba put the game to bed before Marc Bartra's consolation, and Heynckes' fourth Bundesliga title as Bayern coach followed at the end of the season.


Niko Kovac: Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Bayern Munich, 10/11/2018

Kovac certainly served up a treat in his first Klassiker - it's just a shame it wasn't one Bayern fans could stomach.

Lewandowski goals were twice cancelled out by Marco Reus before Paco Alcacer settled a thriller. Another domestic double followed for Bayern, but Kovac would still be gone within a year.

He may be heading over 15,000 kilometres from home, but Sonny Bill Williams is back where it all began.

The 34-year-old has returned to rugby league after signing a lucrative two-year deal with Super League newcomers Toronto Wolfpack.

It is another fascinating move for the New Zealander, who has represented his country in both codes, holds a 7-0 record in professional boxing and was Googled more often than Kim Kardashian by Kiwis in 2010.

Here, we take a look at Williams' career so far.


Fifteen years ago Williams, then 18, burst onto the scene with a brilliant display in his NRL debut as Canterbury Bulldogs thrashed Parramatta Eels 48-14.

The teenager scored a try and made 184 metres that night and, one month later, he became New Zealand's youngest ever Test player.

Canterbury went on to win the 2004 NRL Grand Final, with Williams coming off the bench in the victory. A star was born.


After four seasons with the Bulldogs, Williams controversially switched codes, and countries, joining Top 14 side Toulon, despite having five years left to run on his deal with Canterbury.

A bitter court case followed, and Williams only spent two years in France before turning down an extension that would have reportedly made him the highest-paid player in union.

Williams had other ideas. He wanted to become an All Black.


Williams signed a contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union in 2010 and returned to Canterbury, this time with the region's union team, while representing the Crusaders in Super Rugby.

He made his much-anticipated All Blacks debut in November 2010, starting at outside centre against England, becoming the first man in almost a century to represent the country in both league and union.

New Zealand would end their long wait for a second World Cup title in 2011, with Williams scoring a World Cup record three tries as a substitute.


In 2009, Williams traded passes for punches when he made his debut as a professional boxer, stopping Gary Gurr in the second round.

That was thought to be a one-off but Williams clearly had a taste for the sweet science and he fought four more fights - winning them all - before taking on a title shot against Francois Botha in 2013.

Williams would walk away with the WBA International Heavyweight belt with a points win over a man who had fought Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis previously.

However, there was an element of farce to the bout as it was cut short by two rounds, with the Kiwi clearly struggling by the end of the 10th.


Five years after his last NRL appearance - and after a stint in Japan - Williams returned to league with the Sydney Roosters, scoring a try on his debut in front of a record crowd.

He would be named the Roosters' player of the year that season and won a second NRL title.

Already a World Cup winner in union, he came close to claiming league's most coveted international prize too but was part of the New Zealand side beaten by Australia in the 2013 final.

Another return to union followed, though, and Williams added another World Cup winners' medal to his collection with the All Blacks in 2015.

Some players thrive under the spotlight more than others – Liverpool will hope Sadio Mane proves his mettle against Manchester City, when the focus will be on him for more than one reason.

Mane has established himself as one of the Premier League's great entertainers and arguably Liverpool's biggest attacking threat, yet he has also earned himself a reputation as a purveyor of the dark arts – or "diving", as Pep Guardiola put it on Saturday.

Earlier that day, Mane had gone down very easily in the penalty area during Liverpool's 2-1 win at Aston Villa. Under pressure from Frederic Guilbert, the forward theatrically went to ground and was swiftly shown a yellow card for simulation by referee Jon Moss.

Jurgen Klopp and Mane have had their say since and come to the conclusion that the Senegal forward is not a "diver" – and even Guardiola appeared to backtrack – yet this weekend he will come under intense scrutiny over his conduct, performance and attitude, particularly given that this was by no means the first time the former Southampton star courted flak for diving.

Considering Mane's importance to Liverpool, Klopp will be desperate for him to harness that attention to the Reds' benefit on the big stage, something Sergio Aguero has become remarkably adept at. 

Aguero the benchmark

Since joining City from Atletico Madrid in 2011, Aguero's productivity in games against the so-called "big six" has been truly remarkable.

In 67 matches, Aguero has scored 44 goals from 241 shots with a conversion rate of 18.3 per cent. Against any standard of opposition that would be considered outstanding – to boast such a record against the Premier League's best is astonishing.

But he is yet to score in seven trips to Anfield, making it his least favourite away ground. 

Jamie Vardy is the closest to Aguero in terms of goals, with 31 in 59 matches. While that may not be as impressive, the fact that haul comes from 109 shots – giving him a startling 28.4 per cent conversion rate – suggests he relishes such occasions like few others.

Mane's record of 18 goals in 53 matches against the top sides may pale in comparison, but it remains impressive and is bettered by only six players.

Sadio the main Mane at Anfield

There is little doubt Mane has become the most influential attacker at Liverpool this season, with 12 goal involvements (nine goals, three assists). Mohamed Salah has 10 split equally between goals and assists, while Roberto Firmino is on nine (five goals, four assists).

Mane's nine goals across all competitions may not be groundbreaking, but it is only one shy of Raheem Sterling and two fewer than Aguero.

He has proven to be a vital creator for the Reds as well, laying on 29 chances for team-mates, six more than Firmino and eight better than Salah.

It is also worth pointing out Mane's 20.9 per cent conversion rate, as that too is significantly better than those posted by Salah (7.9 per cent) and Firmino (13.2 per cent).

Mane out to make a splash

Mane's reply to Guardiola after Liverpool's Champions League win over Genk suggested he is handling the situation rather comfortably.

Not only did he admit he would do what he did against Villa – what he considered to not be a dive – again, he insisted Guardiola's comments won't change him.

Given he has established himself as Liverpool's chief attacking threat, that'll be music to the ears of Klopp as he prepares his side to potentially go nine points clear at the Premier League summit.

Klopp will hope Mane can make a splash of the right kind against the champions at Anfield.

The San Francisco 49ers are the last unbeaten team remaining in the NFL, though that record will come under threat in Week 10 when they face the Seattle Seahawks and MVP candidate Russell Wilson.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Cincinnati Bengals - now the only franchise without a win in 2019 - meet the Baltimore Ravens, who will be buoyed by their win over the previously undefeated New England Patriots.

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay will look to continue his impressive record against AFC teams in Pittsburgh, while the Miami Dolphins, fresh off their first win over the New York Jets, will look to finally get a victory on the road.

Here, using Stats Perform data, we take a look at the Week 10 match-ups.

THURSDAY (all times Eastern)

Chargers (4-5) at Raiders (4-4), 8:20pm

- The Chargers have won three straight Thursday night games and are 7-3 since the league started putting games on that day in 2006.

- Los Angeles quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown at least one touchdown in 23 straight games against Oakland. Only Brett Favre (26 against the Chicago Bears) and Dan Marino (24 against the Jets) have longer streaks against a single opponent.

- Josh Jacobs has rushed for 740 yards this season, eclipsing Bo Jackson to record the most by a Raider through their first eight games.


Lions (3-4-1) @ Bears (3-5), 1pm

- Despite their record, the Lions are one of three teams (along with the Kansas City Chiefs and 49ers) to have led in every game this season.

- Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford is expected to play his 150th NFL game. He already has the most completions (3,559) and passing yards (41,025) through 150 games in NFL history.

- Stafford's counterpart Mitchell Trubisky has thrown for just 8.95 yards per completion this season. He is on course to have the fewest yards per completion of any Bears quarterback ever.

Falcons (1-7) @ Saints (7-1), 1pm

- Both the Falcons and Saints are coming off a bye. Since 2009, they are both 8-2 following a bye - the joint second-best record in the NFL in that time behind the Ravens (9-2).

- Atlanta have lost six straight games, though, and have not dropped seven in a row since 2003.

- Two weeks ago Julio Jones recorded his 14th regular-season game with at least 150 receiving yards, tied for the most of any active player along with free agent Antonio Brown.

Chiefs (6-3) @ Titans (4-5), 1pm

- Patrick Mahomes may return this week, but the Chiefs have gone 1-1 with Matt Moore filling in. The two quarterbacks have combined for 19 touchdown passes, one interception and a 109.8 passer rating this season.

- Tennessee have been shut out in the first half on four occasions this season. They are 0-5 when trailing at the break and 4-0 when not behind.

- Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been sacked on 10 per cent of his dropbacks this season - the third highest among QBs with 100 or more attempts. Marcus Mariota, now Tannehill's backup, has the highest sack rate with 13.6 per cent.

Ravens (6-2) @ Bengals (0-8), 1pm

- Baltimore have scored 40 points on opening drives this season and have yet to concede any on their opponents' first offensive series.

- Lamar Jackson has rushed for at least 60 yards in five successive games - the second time the second-year quarterback has achieved that feat in his career. Michael Vick is the only QB in the Super Bowl era to rush for 60-plus yards in more than five straight games (six).

- The only Bengal to score a rushing touchdown this year is quarterback Andy Dalton, who has found the endzone three times on the ground.

Bills (6-2) @ Browns (2-6), 1pm

- The last time the Browns beat the Bills, Rob Chudzinski was their head coach. Buffalo have won four of their previous five meetings.

- Buffalo are 3-0 on the road for the first time since 1993, the last time they went to the Super Bowl. The previous time they went 4-0 was in 1965.

- Baker Mayfield has only thrown seven passing touchdowns this season and the Browns have the second fewest scores through the air in 2019.

Giants (2-7) @ Jets (1-7), 1pm

- The Giants have given up the most points since their five-game losing streak began in Week 5 (158) and have 12 turnovers in that time - only the Jets (14) have coughed the ball up more frequently.

- Jets running back Le'Veon Bell is one of only three players with at least half of his team's touches this season (51.7 per cent). The other two are Christian McCaffrey (55.2 per cent) and Nick Chubb (51.6 per cent).

- Saquon Barkley has not had a rushing touchdown in consecutive games. He has never gone three games without a rushing score in his NFL career.

Cardinals (3-5-1) @ Buccaneers (2-6), 1pm

- Tampa Bay have lost five successive games at home. Only the Washington Redskins (eight) have a longer active winless streak on their own patch.

- Arizona are the first team to go five games without a turnover since the 2017 Chiefs. The Cardinals' four turnovers are the fewest in the NFL this season.

- Eight of the previous nine meetings between these two have been one-possession games.

Dolphins (1-7) @ Colts (5-3), 4:05pm

- Miami have lost 10 straight games on the road and will equal the franchise record, set between 2006 and 2008, if they fail to get a victory on Sunday.

- Colts veteran Adam Vinatieri is the first kicker to miss at least five field goals and five extra points over his team's first eight games since 1988.

- Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick needs two more passing touchdowns to reach 200 for his career.

Panthers (5-3) @ Packers (7-2), 4:25pm

- Kyle Allen, who will get the start again after Cam Newton was placed on injured reserve, leads the NFL with a 116.7 passer rating in the red zone.

- The future appears bright for the Panthers, who have had a combined 2,393 scrimmage yards from players aged 23 or younger - by far the biggest total in the league.

- Green Bay have gone three straight weeks without a turnover and have had six such games in total in 2019 - the joint-most along with the Arizona Cardinals.

Rams (5-3) @ Steelers (4-4), 4:25pm

- Since McVay took over as head coach in 2017, the Rams are 10-0 against AFC teams in the regular season and have a 16-4 overall record on the road - the best in the NFL over that span.

- Pittsburgh have forced three or more turnovers in four successive games. The Steelers are second in takeaways in the NFL this season, behind only the Patriots.

- On the other side of the ball, Pittsburgh have allowed the fewest sacks (eight) in 2019.

Vikings (6-3) @ Cowboys (5-3), 8:20pm

- The Vikings are looking to sweep the NFC East having won all three of their games so far by a margin of at least 10 points.

- Dallas are 4-0 against fellow NFC East foes and have scored 35 points on average, yet they are 1-3 against teams outside their division.

- Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook leads the league in games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage (seven).


Seahawks (7-2) @ 49ers (8-0), 8:15pm

- Seven of Seattle's nine games this season have been decided by one score, including six of their seven wins.

- Wilson has thrown 22 touchdowns to just one interception this season and he has had five games with a passer rating of 130.0 or higher - one shy of the all-time single-season record, held by Aaron Rodgers (2011) and Tony Romo (2014).

- Jimmy Garoppolo posted his higher passing rating of the season last time out (136.9) and did not throw an interception for only the second time in 2019.

Talk of diving and tactical fouls has only added fuel to the fire as Liverpool and Manchester City face off in a mouth-watering top-of-the-table Premier League clash at Anfield.

The unbeaten league-leading Reds needed an 87th-minute header from Andy Robertson and an injury-time winner from Sadio Mane to defeat Aston Villa 2-1 last time out and preserve a six-point cushion over City.

Champions City needed to rally themselves to overcome Southampton, after which manager Pep Guardiola stoked the fires by saying of Liverpool's star forward Mane: "Sometimes he [Mane] is diving. Sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute. He's a talent."

It was a suggestion Klopp bridled at and, although Guardiola later sought to clarify the meaning of his comments, Liverpool's German boss could not resist a cheeky jibe at past accusations his rival's side commit "tactical fouls".

It has undoubtedly added an intriguing sub-plot ahead of one of the most eagerly awaited Premier League matches in recent memory as Liverpool seek to significantly boost their bid to end a near 30-year wait for top-flight glory.

Last season, Liverpool lost just once in the league but still missed out by a solitary point to City, who it is fair to say have failed to excel when playing at Anfield.



Guardiola's record would stand up against any coach he has faced, but in Klopp he undoubtedly has a genuine rival.

Since becoming Barcelona boss in 2008, Guardiola has lost more matches across all competitions against the former Borussia Dortmund coach than any other manager, with the German triumphing on seven occasions.

City's Catalan boss is unbeaten in his past three encounters with Klopp; however, never before has he gone four games without losing against him.

In the Premier League, there is no splitting the duo with Guardiola and Klopp holding two wins apiece and a couple of draws from the six times they have faced one another in the competition.

Klopp should take solace from some home comforts. Five of the seven wins he holds over Guardiola have come when his team have been at their own stadium, including three with Liverpool at Anfield.

Under Guardiola, City have failed to score in just six of 62 Premier League away games and three of those have come on Merseyside – two against Liverpool and once against Everton.


Alisson and Ederson are not just rivals for the gloves at international level with Brazil, they are also crucial to the way Liverpool and City play.

The Reds forked out a reported £66.8million to sign Alisson from Roma in July 2018 and that outlay was repaid during a fine Golden Glove-winning debut season that yielded 21 clean sheets and saw just 22 goals conceded.

Injury has restricted Liverpool's first-choice keeper to just four league outings this term, including the opener against Norwich when he was subbed off with a calf problem, and he has an impressive minutes-to-goals-conceded ratio of 103.

Crucial to modern-day goalkeeping is the ability to play out from the back and Alisson brings that to the Reds, boasting a passing accuracy of 83.9 per cent.

Ederson has been equally crucial to City's domestic dominance under Guardiola, winning the Premier League title in his first two campaigns at the Etihad Stadium, including a league, FA Cup and EFL Cup treble in 2018-19.

This term, he has kept five clean sheets in 11 league appearances, conceding 10 goals and possessing a save percentage of 74.4.

As expected, Ederson's passing accuracy is high – 90.1 per cent – and he will have to be typically quick with his feet against the brilliance of Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.


Liverpool are unbeaten in 28 consecutive Premier League games, which represents the eighth best streak in the competition's history.

At Anfield, Klopp's side are on an even more impressive run having not tasted defeat on home soil in 45 league games – only Chelsea's 86-game run that ended in October 2008 can beat that.

City will have to go some to prevent Liverpool from finding the back of the net, with the Merseysiders scoring in 20 straight league matches – the last time they failed to register was a goalless draw with Everton in March.

Guardiola's side have lost two of their last seven league games, having been beaten just once in 23 prior to that, but they have won 13 of their past 15 away matches.

Liverpool only have one win from their most recent five league encounters with City – a 4-3 triumph at Anfield in January 2018 – but have not lost at home against the Citizens since May 2003.

Impressively, Liverpool have taken a league-high 10 points from losing positions already this season, winning their last two Premier League games despite conceding first – they have never achieved the feat in three straight matches in the competition.


Liverpool have a formidable home record against City, losing just one of their last 28 games at Anfield against this Sunday's visitors – the lone defeat being a 2-1 setback in May 2003.

Indeed, their most recent 16 encounters with City at Anfield have returned 11 wins and five draws.

However, Liverpool's only defeat in their past 50 Premier League games against all opposition came against Guardiola's side in January.

City should be wary of the fact Liverpool have won more Premier League games against reigning champions (21) than any other team in the competition's history, last losing a home match in such a circumstance against Manchester United in December 2007.

Pep Guardiola has been known to readily remind journalists in his news conferences that he understands how to cope with an injury crisis.

The Manchester City manager likes to recall his first Champions League final, when Barcelona faced a rampant Manchester United in Rome with Yaya Toure at centre-back, Carles Puyol shunted out to right-back and veteran Sylvinho in the other wide defensive position.

Barca dazzled during a 2-0 win that sent one of the greatest club teams in history on their way into the stratosphere.

So, when all Guardiola's senior City centre-backs were injured this season, no problem. Defensive midfielders Fernandinho and Rodri could play there - and they did exactly that during back-to-back wins over Crystal Palace and Atalanta.

It was the same when Benjamin Mendy missed the bulk of the past two seasons, as career midfielders Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko simply became very passable left-backs. Zinchenko still is one.

David Silva's addition to a weighty Etihad Stadium injury list last weekend meant namesake Bernardo starting in a central attacking midfield position alongside Kevin De Bruyne for Wednesday's 1-1 draw against Atalanta at San Siro.

What glorious riches, and they were cashed in as the Portugal playmaker arrowed a pass for a first-time backheel by Gabriel Jesus that fell into Raheem Sterling's stride for a first-time finish. Sterling, one of the outstanding attackers in world football, was darting in off a left flank that Leroy Sane will be unable to occupy until he recovers from cruciate ligament damage.

There are answers to most conundrums Guardiola has to address and the impression is he often revels in doing so. But the scene that unfolded from half-time onwards at San Siro will have done nothing to whet his appetite ahead of City's crunch trip to Liverpool in the Premier League this weekend.

Claudio Bravo was warming up. Fairly extensively. He was coming on.

Ederson made way as a precaution, with a thigh injury to shake off before Sunday. Guardiola will hope the injury is as minor as a miner driving a Morris Minor. And maybe a little more minor than that.

For all the exquisite talents in his outfield array, no Guardiola signing has been more pivotal to his back-to-back Premier League titles in England than his Brazil international between the posts.

It should be added that the first trophy the Spaniard won with his current employers, the 2018 EFL Cup, arrived with Bravo in goal having been a penalty shoot-out hero against Wolves and Leicester City in the earlier rounds. But what came before in his debut campaign marks the former Barcelona man's standing with the City faithful.

If Wednesday at one of European football's most famous arenas represented a fresh page for Bravo, he promptly poured some of that oil Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have been talking about this week and set it on fire.

He could do little about Mario Pasalic powering home a 49th-minute equaliser, but his first act was still to pick the ball out of the net. It recalled that mid-season spell during his nightmare 2016-17 when every shot on target seemed to herald an opposition goal. Willy Caballero was eventually called up to spare him.

There were plenty of other things Bravo might have done in the 81st minute instead of belying the experience of his 36 years and a career that has yielded two Copas America and LaLiga titles, among multiple honours.

His rash challenge on Josip Ilicic was a clear red card. Bravo became the first substitute goalkeeper in Champions League history to be sent off.

When emergency keeper Kyle Walker - apparently an enthusiast in the role during training ground penalty contests - nervously kept out the resulting free-kick from Ruslan Malinovskiy to earn harrumphing chants of "England's number one" from the City faithful, he had made more saves in the game than Bravo. It was not a statistically strong few minutes for the veteran.

The stats that loom largest over this pivotal week are Liverpool's six-point lead over the champions at the Premier League summit and the 16-and-a-half years that have passed since City last won at Anfield.

Guardiola can take heart from the resilience his depleted team showed before a baying crowd as opponents in Atalanta had the bit between their teeth.

However, if he is to be without Ederson, the inimitable thread who brought his whole tapestry together, the chances of overturning those numbers on Merseyside have shifted uncomfortably close to improbable.

We may be only 11 matches into the Premier League season, but many people are already of the opinion that the current top four are there to stay.

With runaway leaders Liverpool and champions Manchester City joined by Leicester City and Chelsea, there is little doubt those four clubs have been the most consistent so far in 2019-20.

A six-point gap has opened up between fourth-placed Chelsea and Arsenal in fifth. While Unai Emery's side possess plenty of talent, their erratic form and questionable mentality suggest they might now struggle to play catch-up.

The four clubs trailing the Gunners are Sheffield United, Bournemouth, Brighton and Hove Albion and Crystal Palace, surely none of whom can realistically be considered contenders for the top four.

At this point, it looks like only significant slip-ups from Leicester and Chelsea themselves could see them miss out on a Champions League spot, though there are reasons for trepidation despite the overriding positivity.



Brendan Rodgers' vibrant brand of football has attracted praise this season, with Leicester hitting three or more goals on three occasions in the league, most notably in 5-0 and 9-0 demolitions of Newcastle United and Southampton respectively.

But the sustainability of their form is something to be considered.

While Leicester have scored 27 times in 2019-20, their expected goals (xG) figure is significantly lower at 14.78.

That massive discrepancy suggests the Foxes are scoring almost twice as often as they would be expected to considering the quality of their chances.

As such, it is not hugely surprising to learn Leicester's shot conversion rate of 17.88 per cent is the best in the division, with City's 14.17 per cent the second highest.

By comparison, Chelsea have scored 25 and their xG is 20.2, indicating their form in front of goal might be more sustainable given the number of clear opportunities they are creating.


So much has been made of Frank Lampard's faith in youth that one would think he was applying the strategy of a visionary, but, in reality, he has had little choice given their transfer embargo.

Of course, it has helped that the young players have generally done well, with Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori playing important roles. Christian Pulisic has, too, on occasion, though some feel he cannot be judged in the same manner given his huge transfer fee.

The need to play inexperienced youngsters could go some way to explaining Chelsea's struggles in the bigger games this term.

In five matches across all competitions against Manchester United, Liverpool and Leicester, Chelsea have failed to win.

Leicester's record is little better, having only once triumphed in four matches against United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham. That victory came in controversial circumstances against troubled Spurs.


The area Chelsea need to improve on most is undoubtedly at the back, even if their xG against (13.24) suggests they have been unlucky. They have conceded 17 goals, the most of all the traditional 'top six' teams.

They could certainly learn from Leicester, whose record of just eight goals conceded is the joint-best in the league alongside Sheffield United. The Foxes' xG against (11.13) is lower than all but Liverpool (10.09) and Man United (10.99).

Both Leicester and Chelsea have generally controlled possession in their respective matches this term. Lampard's side average 58.36 per cent of the ball, while Leicester's record is slightly better at 58.39 per cent. Only City (65.63 per cent) and Liverpool (62.71 per cent) have had the ball for a greater portion of matches.

In terms of shot frequency, City (240) are way out in front, but Chelsea (181) can claim to be almost as prolific as Liverpool (187) when it comes to trying their luck. And their 13.81 per cent conversion rate is only bettered by the champions and Leicester.

On the whole, statistically, Chelsea appear more capable of sustaining their current form, given their xG and xG against figures, but Leicester are no strangers to defying the odds and will surely back themselves to build on a strong start.

Cristiano Ronaldo is chasing another slice of history when Juventus travel to Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Tottenham, meanwhile, will hope Harry Kane can continue his wonderful form in the competition against Red Star Belgrade, while Manchester City take on Atalanta at San Siro.

Elsewhere, Kylian Mbappe will be licking his lips at the prospect of facing Club Brugge again after he plundered a hat-trick against them two weeks ago.

Here is the pick of the key Opta facts for Wednesday's eight matches.


Paris Saint-Germain v Club Brugge

4 - PSG forward Mbappe scored a hat-trick as a substitute against Brugge on matchday three, becoming only the fourth player to achieve the feat in the Champions League. In three games against Belgian opposition, Mbappe averages a goal or assist every 28 minutes.

2 - Emmanuel Dennis scored both of Brugge's goals in their previous Champions League away game against Real Madrid. No player has ever found the net in consecutive matches on the road for the Belgian side in the competition.

Real Madrid v Galatasaray

50 - Karim Benzema is just two Champions League goals short of his 50th for Madrid, with only Lionel Messi (113 for Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (105 for Madrid) and Raul (66 for Madrid) reaching the milestone for a single side. However, Benzema is without a goal in his past four matches in the competition, despite attempting 16 shots across those games.

5 - Galatasaray have failed to score in their past five away Champions League matches, despite attempting 45 shots in that timeframe. The last team to fail to score in six away games in a row were Schalke in November 2010.

Bayern Munich v Olympiacos

13 - Bayern have scored 13 goals after just three Champions League games this season. The only team with more after three games are Arsenal in 2010-11 (14 goals).

10 - Olympiacos have managed just 10 shots on target across their opening three Champions League matches this term – one fewer than Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski has attempted.

Red Star Belgrade v Tottenham

6 - Red Star's Marko Marin made six chances in their 5-0 defeat against Spurs on matchday three. No player has created more in the Champions League this season (13, level with Toni Kroos).

18 - Spurs striker Kane has scored 18 goals in just 22 Champions League appearances, including four in three appearances this season. In the history of the competition, the fewest number of matches needed to reach 20 goals is 26, set by Alessandro Del Piero in April 1998.

Atalanta v Manchester City

11 - Atalanta have conceded more Champions League goals than any other team this season (11). Only two teams have conceded more in their first three Champions League games – Slavia Prague (12) and Helsingborgs (13).

5 - Sergio Aguero has found the net in each of his past five away Champions League group stage matches for City (five goals), a run stretching back to September 2017.

Dinamo Zagreb v Shakhtar Donetsk

45 - Dinamo's Mislav Orsic is averaging a goal or assist every 45 minutes in the Champions League this season, scoring four and assisting one in just 227 minutes of action. Should Orsic notch in this game, he would have reached five goals in just four appearances, with only Erling Haaland and Didier Drogba having done so in fewer games (three).

22 - Shakhtar goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov has not kept a clean sheet in any of his past 22 Champions League starts. The last goalkeeper to go on a longer such run in the competition was Igor Akinfeev (43) between November 2006 and October 2017.

Bayer Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid

3 - Leverkusen are one of two clubs to lose their three Champions League games this season, along with Atalanta. They are the first German side to lose their opening three group stage matches since Stuttgart in 2007-08.

3 - Atletico have won three Champions League games against Bayer Leverkusen; they have only won more against PSV (four).

Lokomotiv Moscow v Juventus

9 - Lokomotiv striker Eder has been on the losing side in his each of his past nine Champions League starts, dating back to October 2012 for Braga. The last player to lose on 10 consecutive starts in the competition was Junior Fernandes (11) for Dinamo Zagreb, a run that ended in December 2016.

33 - Ronaldo had eight shots without scoring in Juve's 2-1 win over Lokomotiv on matchday three. Should he score in this match, he would break the record for opponents scored against in the Champions League, with Ronaldo currently level on 33 with Raul and Messi.

The San Francisco 49ers are the last undefeated team in the NFL, having rattled off eight straight wins to start the 2019 season.

That is an enviable position to be in but not one that has typically foreshadowed Super Bowl glory.

Since 2000, the last undefeated team left standing has won the Super Bowl only once, when the Indianapolis Colts went on to defeat the Chicago Bears at the end of the 2006 season.

In that time, the final remaining undefeated team has lost in the Super Bowl on seven occasions, including the previous campaign, when the Los Angeles Rams were beaten by the New England Patriots in February.

Here we look how the last unbeaten team in the league fared since 2015, plus assess the chances of the 49ers turning their incredible start into a sixth Lombardi Trophy.

2015 Carolina Panthers - Lost Super Bowl to Denver Broncos

Behind an MVP campaign from quarterback Cam Newton, the Panthers ran roughshod over their opponents for 14 successive games before finally losing to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16. They finished the year 15-1 and appeared set for a maiden Super Bowl triumph after defeating the Seattle Seahawks and crushing the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs, only to run into a brick wall of a Denver Broncos defense as Peyton Manning finished his career with his second Lombardi Trophy.

2016 Minnesota Vikings - Missed playoffs

The Vikings won their first five games thanks to an imposing defense and the efficient passing of Sam Bradford, but they collapsed after their Week 6 bye, winning only three of their final 11 games, and had to watch the postseason from home after an 8-8 finish saw them narrowly miss out on the playoffs.

2017 Kansas City Chiefs - Lost in Wild Card Round

It was a case of history repeating itself for the Chiefs, who won their opening nine games in 2013 before losing a Wild Card thriller to the Indianapolis Colts. Kansas City and quarterback Alex Smith won their opening five four seasons later before the Pittsburgh Steelers ended that streak in Week 6, a defeat that began a run of six losses in seven games. The Chiefs recovered to make the postseason, only to lose at home in agonising fashion as Marcus Mariota inspired the Tennessee Titans to a shock 22-21 Wild Card win.

2018 Los Angeles Rams - Lost Super Bowl to New England Patriots

The Rams - led by a juggernaut offense - looked unstoppable as they began with an eight-game winning streak, and even though they lost 45-35 to the New Orleans Saints in Week 9, that shoot-out defeat provided further credence to the argument they could go blow for blow with any team. They lost just twice more before controversially getting revenge on the Saints to reach the Super Bowl, but that much-vaunted offense came unstuck on the biggest stage in a 13-3 defeat.

2019 San Francisco 49ers - TBC

San Francisco have all the ingredients of a Super Bowl frontrunner. The Niners boast a suffocating defense, an innovative and dominant running game and dependable passing game weapons in star tight end George Kittle and the recently acquired Emmanuel Sanders. With the offense helmed by a quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo who appears to relish the pressure moments and head coach Kyle Shanahan - seen by many as the most creative mind in the game - they seem perfectly set up for a deep postseason run.

Their hopes of turning an outstanding start into a title will depend heavily on how the 49ers deal with a tough second-half schedule that encompasses two games with the Seattle Seahawks as well as matchups with the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. If they can negotiate that stretch and secure a first-round bye - potentially with homefield advantage in the playoffs - then it will be extremely tough for anyone to stop them reaching Super Bowl LIV.

Liverpool produced yet another late show to beat Aston Villa 2-1 and maintain their six-point lead at the Premier League summit.

That margin could have been greater were it not for Manchester City's own fightback at home to Southampton, with Kyle Walker's goal four minutes from time sealing all three points for Pep Guardiola's side.

Manchester United reverted to type after a recent mini revival, slipping to an insipid 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth, while Chelsea were 2-1 winners over Watford at Vicarage Road.

Our Premier League Data Diary sheds some light on the detail behind the major stories from this weekend's big games.



Liverpool's stunning start to the season continued with a last-gasp win over Aston Villa.

The victory means Jurgen Klopp's side have earned 31 points from their opening 11 Premier League games. In English top-flight history, only Tottenham in 1960-61 (33, adjusted to three points for a win) have had more at this stage of a campaign.

Trezeguet looked to have sealed a famous win for Villa but Andy Robertson equalised three minutes from time. The Scotland international has now scored twice in his last six games – double the amount he scored in his first 88 appearances for the club.

That set the scene for yet another late show from the Reds, with Sadio Mane heading home deep into stoppage time. That was the 35th 90th-minute goal by Liverpool in the Premier League – 10 more than any other side in the competition's history.


City were far from their fluid best against Southampton but late goals from Sergio Aguero and Walker ensure they remain within touching distance of Liverpool at the top.

James Ward-Prowse had earlier given the Saints a shock lead, taking advantage of a rare error from Ederson. Since the start of last season, only Danny Ings (11) has scored more Premier League goals than the midfielder.

An onslaught on the visitors' goal failed to materialise after that, with Aguero's leveller in the 70th minute City's first shot on target. That was the longest they have had to wait for their first shot on target in a league match since December 2016.

That goal was teed up by Walker, who went onto to claim the winner in the closing stages. After 272 appearances in the Premier League, it was the first time he had scored and assisted in a game.  


United's miserable start to the campaign continued on Saturday, with Bournemouth registering their first win against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side since December 2015.

They were undone by Josh King's first-half goal, the Norwegian ended Bournemouth's run of 358 minutes, three games and 50 shots without a Premier League goal.

That strike means United have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 11 Premier League away games – their joint-longest run without one on the road in the competition (also 11 between August 2002 and January 2003).

United have amassed just 13 points from their opening 11 games of the campaign – their lowest tally at this stage of a league campaign since 1986-87 when they had 11 points.


Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic were on target for Chelsea as Frank Lampard's side extended Watford's winless start to the season.

The Hornets have now failed to win any of their opening 11 games to a league season for the first time in their history. They are the first team to do so in the Premier League since QPR in 2012-13.

Abraham got Chelsea on their way with yet another away goal. He has now scored seven in his six away appearances in the league this season – only Kevin Phillips in 1999-00, Edin Dzeko in 2011-12 and Sergio Aguero in 2016-17 (all eight) have scored more in their opening six away games of a Premier League season.

Pulisic then followed up his hat-trick against Burnley last weekend with the Blues' second. The American has now been involved in nine goals in all competitions this season (four goals, five assists) – only Abraham (12) has been involved in more.

Lewis Hamilton has been crowned Formula One champion once again, but there was a point at which his title defence looked under serious threat.

Having won all but four of the first 12 races this season, Hamilton could have been forgiven for going into the mid-season break thinking his sixth championship success was effectively wrapped up.

When the Briton made the most of Mercedes' decision to pit him a second time at the Hungarian Grand Prix by using his fresh tyres to overcome a 19-second gap to Max Verstappen in the final 20 laps, it looked like nothing could stop the Silver Arrows.

That all changed when the second half of the season got under way, with Charles Leclerc claiming back-to-back wins in Belgium and Italy before his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel triumphed in Singapore.

Hamilton still held a 65-point advantage over closest rival Valtteri Bottas, but Leclerc and Verstappen – who won in Austria and Germany – had made it clear they were not going to make things easy.

However, hopes of the drivers' championship turning into the sort of entertaining battle that has been absent from F1 for years were quickly scuppered when Hamilton took the top step of the podium in Russia.

The challenge was short while it lasted, but the 34-year-old Hamilton was finally forced to scrap with an opposing team again, having until then found team-mate Bottas his nearest rival.

Now, after wrapping up the championship in the United States, his sights will be set on equalling Michael Schumacher's record haul of seven drivers' titles.

Asked about his chances of reaching milestones set by Ferrari great Schumacher, Hamilton last month told Bild am Sonntag: "I'm not even anywhere near. I'm so far from his records.

"Michael's records are the summit of a huge mountain, and I'm still at base camp.

"The closer you get, the bigger your footsteps get, but of course I'm unbelievably honoured to be placed in that category and I've made it so far.

"I grew up watching Michael, and what he did is unbelievable."

The Mercedes driver's seemingly modest take may not be too far off the mark – 2020 could well prove to be Hamilton's biggest test yet.

Ferrari have made significant strides over the course of the season and proved they can outperform the Silver Arrows on high-speed tracks. Leclerc now has wins under his belt, having earlier agonisingly missed out in Bahrain and Austria, and will inevitably be a force to be reckoned with if the Scuderia are brave enough to back him.

Leclerc was denied in Spielberg by Verstappen, whose controversial move down the inside ensured it was he who triumphed – though he faced a lengthy wait to have it confirmed while the stewards investigated the contact in his overtake of the Monegasque.

That was the first of Verstappen's two victories for Red Bull this season and he will be keen for more when their partnership with Honda enters its second campaign.

Vettel cannot be discounted either, the four-time champion having ended a year-long wait for a win in Singapore, while Renault will hope to get themselves in a position to mix it with the big three.

This year, Hamilton batted down the competition to seal success. It could prove a very different story next time around.

Lewis Hamilton has been crowned Formula One world champion for a sixth time after getting the points he required to seal glory with a second-place finish at the United States Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver has won five of the last six drivers' championships, adding to his first success with McLaren back in 2008.

He now stands just one title away from the legendary Michael Schumacher, who won the last of his seven world titles four years before Hamilton's maiden championship win.

Hamilton's title-winning season has been one of the more comfortable of his career.

He fought off an early challenge from team-mate Valtteri Bottas and built up a lead too great for any of his other rivals to claw back, despite the improvement shown by Charles Leclerc, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen later in the year.

Here, we look at five key races in the Briton's successful 2019 campaign.

Bahrain: Hamilton pounces as engine woe costs Leclerc

Mercedes had dominated the first race of the season, but Ferrari looked poised to bounce back emphatically in Bahrain at the next meeting only to endure a nightmare finish.

Leclerc had qualified on pole, dropped down to third in a poor start but fought back to control the race and was leading Hamilton by eight seconds with three laps to go.

But Leclerc was cruelly denied a first career win by an engine issue that led to him being passed by eventual winner Hamilton and team-mate Bottas, with a late safety car the only reason he was able to limp home in third, while Vettel had earlier spun from second spot.

It was part of a series of technical issues, driver errors, strategy mishaps and strokes of bad luck that plagued Ferrari early in the season and meant they did not win a race until the 13th grand prix of the year.

Hamilton said: "That was extremely unfortunate for Charles, he drove such a great race.

"I had to go and see him. I'm sure it was a devastating result for him because he'd done the job to win. We were lucky. He's got lots more wins coming in the future."

Monaco: Holding off Verstappen to honour Lauda with victory

At the previous meeting in Spain, Hamilton had overtaken pole-sitter Bottas and won to halt his team-mate's early season momentum and claim the championship lead.

He then followed that up with a famous triumph around the streets of Monaco.

In a race where Mercedes' non-executive chairman and three-time world champion Niki Lauda was honoured after his death, Hamilton made the perfect tribute by winning from pole position.

Hamilton's magnificent battle with a charging Verstappen - where he held on to win despite driving for 66 laps on medium tyres that were supposed to last 50 - thrilled F1 fans and was much needed after a dour start to the season.

"That was definitely the hardest race I've had," said Hamilton, whose title hopes got a further boost when Leclerc retired from the race.

"I really was fighting with the spirit of Niki - he's been such an influence in our team and I know he will be looking down and taking his hat off."

Canada: Vettel controversy extends Hamilton lead

Hamilton's seventh win in Canada included one of the most controversial F1 moments in recent memory and led to a failed Ferrari appeal.

The 34-year-old crossed the line in second place behind Vettel, but was handed the win because of a five-second time penalty issued to the Ferrari driver.

Vettel was furious after the race in Montreal and moved the number one marker from the car of Hamilton – who was booed on the podium – to the front of his own in parc ferme, having accused stewards of "stealing" the victory on team radio.

He had led the race from pole but was being pursued by Hamilton with 22 laps left. He then went wide at turn three and re-joined the track from the grass to block his rival and hold the position in a way that stewards deemed to be unsafe.

Hamilton said: "Naturally that's absolutely not the way I wanted to win. When you come back on the track you are not meant to come back straight on the racing line. You're meant to re-join safely. I forced the error and he went wide - we nearly collided."

The win was his third in a row and was followed by a fourth in France at the next meeting. 

Mercedes won all eight of the opening races of the season, Hamilton claiming six of those to lead Bottas by 36 points and Vettel by 76.

Britain: Home victory provides major blow to Bottas

Despite Hamilton winning four straight races prior to Verstappen's victory in Austria, the lead over Bottas was only 31 points going into his home grand prix at Silverstone.

Hamilton earned a difficult victory – a record sixth win in Great Britain – after duelling with his team-mate throughout the race weekend, moving the title race decisively in his favour.

The championship leader lost out to Bottas in qualifying and came out second best in a battle for the lead over the first few laps.

But staying out longer when the Finn pitted in a different race strategy already looked like it was going to work in Hamilton's favour before a timely safety car made absolutely certain he could pit and hold onto the lead.

"It's so hard to win this grand prix," said Hamilton, who added an exclamation point to his victory by taking the fastest lap with hard tyres that were 32 laps old. 

"When you achieve something like that and you see all those British flags, I thought, 'Someone give me a flag' because one day I'll look back and have that picture of me in the car with that flag and I'll always be able to smile until my dying day."

Following this win, Hamilton pushed on and extended his lead to 65 by the time the F1 calendar had reached Monza.

Russia: Safety car luck ends Ferrari's winning streak

While Mercedes had dominated the first half of the season, their rivals fought back emphatically after the mid-season break.

Ferrari claimed three consecutive victories in Belgium, Italy and – most surprisingly – in Singapore, a track that was not supposed to be well suited to the Scuderia.

They were poised to continue that dominant run after Leclerc claimed pole position in Russia, where Mercedes had won every grand prix held since the race's return in 2014.

Despite bickering between Leclerc and team-mate Vettel over who should lead the race after Ferrari deployed team orders at the start, they still appeared to be in control of the race.

But everything changed when Vettel had to retire on lap 26 after his pit stop due to an engine issue. He was told to stop immediately, resulting in a virtual safety car that meant Hamilton - who led on track having not yet stopped - could box and still retain the lead.

Suddenly Mercedes were in control and Leclerc, the lone Ferrari left, ended up third after being unable to pass a resolute Bottas in the closing stages. 

"Ferrari are still quite dominant at the moment so it's taken quite a special job from us to come out ahead of them," said Hamilton, who ended the race 73 points clear of Bottas and 107 ahead of Leclerc.

With that win, any hopes of a dramatic late championship swing were at an end.

Niko Kovac has finally paid the price for a tough start to the season for Bayern Munich, with the head coach departing after a humiliating 5-1 defeat to former club Eintracht Frankfurt.

That result left the Bundesliga champions fourth - four points off leaders Borussia Monchengladbach - having won just one of their past four league matches.

Of course, Bayern also claimed an incredible 7-2 Champions League triumph away at Tottenham, but pressure had been building on Kovac for some time.

So where might Bayern turn next? We examine six potential candidates - including some big names.


There is scarcely an elite club Mourinho has not been linked with since departing Manchester United, so could he finally end up at Bayern?

After winning trophies and plaudits in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, the 'Special One' would surely relish the opportunity to conquer Germany, too. Mourinho passed up the opportunity to give France a go when he told Lyon he had already chosen his next club, but Bayern would be tough to turn down.


Allegri said he planned to take a year out after surprisingly leaving Juventus at the end of the 2018-19 campaign, but he might be persuaded to cut short his sabbatical if Bayern come knocking.

The 52-year-old was untouchable domestically with Juve, guiding them to five straight Serie A titles, although he was unable to secure a first Champions League title since 1996 for the Italian heavyweights.

He has a proven track record of getting the best out of high-profile names and would certainly be a safe pair of hands as Bayern look to steady the ship after a challenging start to the season.


Wenger has been out of football for over a year now, but he has repeatedly talked up the possibility of a return - and a man with his resume would expect to go back in at the top.

While there has been talk of directorial roles, few coaching gigs could appeal more than Bayern. After years of fending off the top-spending clubs as Arsenal boss, Wenger would find himself the biggest fish in the Bundesliga sea were he to take the job.


Any Bayern boss would command lots of scrutiny, leading the biggest club in the country, but Rangnick knows all about being a target for rival sides having led RB Leipzig into the Bundesliga.

Rangnick worked as sporting director for a time at Leipzig, yet he proved his coaching chops, too, and had the team third in the league as recently as last season. He is an out-of-work yet established domestic option.


Some of Kovac's public comments might have rubbed players, officials and fans up the wrong way, but it is not necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The 'baby', in this case, could be Flick. The former Hoffenheim boss returned to coaching as Kovac's assistant this season, forming part of the staff that delivered some hugely impressive results - remember Tottenham? 

Flick is familiar with the squad and a seemingly easy hire, and he will take temporary charge for the next two games.


Ajax coach Ten Hag was linked with a return to Bayern at the end of last season and, discussing a potential switch as pressure built on Kovac, he refused to rule out the possibility of joining Germany's top club, having previously worked with the team's reserves under Pep Guardiola.

Ten Hag established himself as a leading light in the 2018-19 Champions League, overseeing a pair of gripping draws against Bayern before reaching the last four. Six years on from their most recent European triumph, such a CV would appeal to Bayern.

As South Africa celebrate a record-equalling third Rugby World Cup triumph, the newly-crowned champions are among a host of top international sides heading into a new era.

Rassie Erasmus worked wonders in a short space of time to transform the Springboks from failures into the best side in the world after taking over as head coach last March.

He has now relinquished the role to concentrate solely on his position as director of rugby, having juggled both jobs, and he will be a tough act to follow.

Steve Hansen's glorious New Zealand reign also came to an end in Japan, while Warren Gatland's long Wales tenure is over and Ireland will start life without Joe Schmidt following their quarter-final exit.

Australia are in the market for a new head coach too, and France have moved on from the man who led them in Japan. We take a look at their situations.



Erasmus only agreed to fill in as head coach when Allister Coetzee's turbulent spell in charge came to an end, but he has ruled out staying on.

The 46-year-old became the first man to oversee a Rugby Championship and World Cup triumph in the same year, but will now focus on a job with a wide-ranging remit.

South Africa are reportedly expected to promote from within to replace Erasmus, with defence coach Jacques Nienaber the leading contender.

Mzwandile Stick and Matt Proudfoot are also members of the current coaching step up who could be in the running.



The All Blacks are likely to opt for continuity as they consider who should be charged with the task of succeeding Hansen.

New Zealand were unable to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for an unprecedented third time in a row, but Hansen has left a lasting legacy.

The 60-year-old spent 15 years on the coaching staff and was a huge success in the top job after earning a promotion.

Hansen championed his assistant, Ian Foster, to replace him. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and Glasgow Warriors chief Dave Rennie are other possibilities.



The under-pressure Michael Cheika quit as Wallabies coach after an emphatic quarter-final defeat to England.

Cheika's position had long since been called into question and the new man will take over a side sixth in the rankings and in need of a shake-up.

England head coach Eddie Jones has been linked with a second spell in charge of his country, but said before a defeat to the Springboks in the final that he has not been in contact with Rugby Australia.

Cheika said an Australian should replace him and Stephen Larkham could be in the reckoning, though Rennie may get the nod if they look overseas.



Wayne Pivac was confirmed as Gatland's successor last year - a reward for his success with the Scarlets.

The former policeman will have big shoes to fill, with Gatland having turned Wales into a consistent force and winning the Grand Slam in his final Six Nations.

Gatland parted by stating it would break his heart if Wales returned to the doldrums, as if his compatriot Pivac was not already aware of the standards he would be expected to maintain.



Andy Farrell gets his chance to be Ireland's main man after Schmidt decided it was time to take a break.

The experienced Englishman has made a big impact as defence coach and Irish Rugby Football Union chiefs are confident he can be a success.

One of Farrell's first jobs will be to appoint a new captain after Rory Best's retirement and he will take over a strong squad, one smarting from a World Cup quarter-final exit.



France are in need of some stability with a World Cup to come on home soil in four years' time and they will be hoping Fabien Galthie is the man to provide it.

Galthie takes over from Jacques Brunel after Les Bleus were knocked out by Wales at the quarter-final stage in Japan.

Former France captain Galthie is contracted until 2023 and could be assisted by Shaun Edwards, who has played such a big part in Wales' success under Gatland.

Manchester City's battling 2-1 win over Southampton meant they stayed in touch with Premier League leaders Liverpool ahead of a blockbusting trip to Anfield next weekend.

The gap at the summit remains six points after Sergio Aguero cancelled out James Ward-Prowse's first-half opener from a rare Ederson error, before Kyle Walker proved to be an unlikely matchwinner.

But Pep Guardiola's champions are undeniably some way short of the supreme form that saw them amass 198 points over the course of back-to-back Premier League titles, having laboured for long periods against a Southampton side that shipped nine goals eight days ago.

A repeat of Wolves' win at the Etihad Stadium last month appeared on the cards until Aguero intervened.

Liverpool retained their advantage at the top thanks to a stoppage-time winner from Sadio Mane at Aston Villa, coming after Andy Robertson set up the 2-1 win with an 87th-minute equaliser.

It means that if City's visit to Merseyside is not quite "must-win" it is almost certainly "must-not-lose". Guardiola raged at the officials during the closing stages against Saints, but here are some of the issues with his own players that will be causing concern.

Slow starts

"The intensity must be there from kick-off," Guardiola implored in vain in his matchday programme notes. Aside from the 8-0 demolition of Watford in September, the fast starts with which City frequently blitzed opponents during their title-winning seasons have been largely absent this time around.

Their goalless effort before the break in the 3-0 win over Aston Villa last weekend was dubbed a "relegation" performance by their manager. Atalanta scored first at the Etihad Stadium before being beaten in the Champions League and if the sluggishness beginnings against Wolves, Villa and Saints are on show at Anfield, City are likely to pay dearly.

Defensive stability

Since Aymeric Laporte was laid low by a meniscus injury at the end of August, City have conceded in six of 12 matches in all competitions. Not a howling record by any means, but Guardiola is still searching for solutions without his ball-playing defensive lynchpin, both in and out of possession.

Fernandinho is having to acclimatise to a new position quicker than was originally planned, while Nicolas Otamendi's nightmare showing against Wolves appears to have cost him Guardiola's trust.

John Stones and left-back Benjamin Mendy – the latter rested against Southampton – are working their way back to form and match sharpness, while Walker is only recently back from a bout of illness. Overall, the picture painted is not one of the robust unit required to repel Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

Under-performing attacking stars

If City were at their free-scoring best in attack, it would mask plenty of the defensive deficiencies. The problem is, they aren't. Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne are the only members of City's creative department who can claim to have reached top form this season, and both were way short of their best against Southampton.

Aguero pilfered the equaliser to move on to 13 goals from as many appearances this term but it is notable that Gabriel Jesus is pushing him harder for a starting place than he has for at least 18 months.

Riyad Mahrez's impressive start to the season has tailed off, while Bernardo Silva – City's player of the season in 2018-19 – was often utterly awful as Southampton's massed defensive ranks inflicted an afternoon of rain-sodden anxiety upon the champions.

Guardiola: Season four

This is only the second time the famously meticulous and intense Guardiola has entered a fourth season in charge of a club. The last time that happened in 2011-12, Barcelona were unable to hold off a relentless Real Madrid and conceded their LaLiga title.

This is a different time in a different league with a different set of players, with Guardiola older and wiser. But the common features of City's poor performances this season – predictable attacks, edginess under pressure and an endless parade of crosses (although those belatedly paid off on Saturday) – indicate the message from the dugout might be at least a little careworn.

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