How on earth would Atletico Madrid stem the rolling relentless red wave without being swept away?

On the other hand, how would Liverpool break down the most stubborn opponents of this European era, who had shoved the hardest of all noses in front in this last-16 tie?

There was no need to mention that 19 of the Reds' wins in all competitions this season have come by a solitary goal. Or, for that matter, to note Atleti's solitary clean sheet in their past five matches came in the initial encounter.

This Herculean, knife-edge tie was one played out somewhere in the deceptive gap between reality and reputation. Whose bluff would hold, who would blink with it all on the line?

For all the thoughts Atletico would come and shut up shop, they arguably should have extended their overall lead after 15 seconds. Diego Costa, the pantomime villain moving with all the nimbleness of the back end of a pantomime horse, slung a shot into the side netting after being played onside by Virgil van Dijk.

There were some unusually uncertain moments from Liverpool's defensive talisman as the rain began to lash down unhelpfully on an encounter where any slip could be terminal to quarter-final prospects.

Costa glanced another presentable opportunity wide but it swiftly became clear Atletico's key man would be an obstructive presence of a different kind.

Jan Oblak's goalkeeping display was of the very highest standard as he racked up nine saves, some of which at close quarters were truly exceptional. 

It was a time for Liverpool to chip painstakingly away against opponents bedded in for the long haul. The quickfire eviscerations of Roma and Manchester City in 2018 were never likely to be repeated.

But then came a recall from the most celebrated Anfield European night of them all. If it's a deficit against LaLiga opponents that needs wiping out, Georginio Wijnaldum is your man.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, enjoying his most productive Liverpool outing since thrashing in deliriously against City two years ago, sent a delicious cross arcing back towards the penalty spot.

Stefan Savic and Felipe acquitted themselves superbly throughout the tie, but it was tempting to wonder whether the departed Diego Godin would have allowed Wijnaldum – toast of the unforgettable Barcelona heist – to power emphatically home.

The Netherlands midfielder was there again with a wonderful centre of his own for Roberto Firmino to finally edge the hosts in front during extra time. By that stage, Wijnaldum's goal felt like it belonged to another age. Bubbling, belching tension turned minutes into days before Saul Niguez's disallowed stoppage-time goal seemed to stop time altogether.

Sadio Mane had sought the movie action hero ending with a pair of overhead kicks but Firmino seemed to have landed the knockout blow. It looked like he was their Rocky, only for Adrian to cough up the decisive plot twist.

If Oblak's display was that of a goalkeeping grand master, Adrian looked every inch the number two, the bumbling apprentice. His scuffed, unnecessarily panicked clearance found a cool Joao Felix surveying the whole picture.

The Portuguese youngster, a child when the reputations being traded upon here were cast, slotted the ball to Marcos Llorente, who unerringly picked out the bottom corner.

"You'll Never Walk Alone," howled the Kop. And yet, Adrian could scarcely have appeared more solitary.

Audaciously, Atletico sprung from their robust shell once more, substitute Alvaro Morata this time assessing the scene. No one was thinking of Steven Gerrard against Olympiacos, Istanbul or anything from the Jurgen Klopp cannon. A new page to a different book was being written, with the unusually passive Van Dijk and Joe Gomez not daring to smear the wet ink.

Those chapters include Antoine Griezmann at the Allianz Arena and Chelsea collapsing at Stamford Bridge. The inimitable Diego Simeone the eloquent author of every one. Now, in Llorente – same crisp technique, same result, game over – he had his latest lead character to celebrate.

A fired-up Morata added a succinct footnote to another Anfield night of magic and memory, only this one will be eagerly told and retold in Madrid rather than Merseyside.

Paris Saint-Germain shelled out €222million on Neymar to lead them to the Champions League trophy they covet so desperately. Against Borussia Dortmund in the last 16 he played a significant role in the club taking a step towards that objective.

Foot injuries denied Neymar the chance to take part in the knockout stages during his first two seasons in Paris, meaning he was a bystander as Real Madrid dispatched them in 2017-18 and Manchester United did the same in dramatic circumstances a year later.

History was in danger of repeating itself when the Brazil international suffered a rib injury just 17 days before the first leg – the frustration inevitably increasing with the issue only being announced after his birthday party, although PSG insisted it was sustained in a match against Montpellier the day before.

But Neymar, who won the title with Barcelona in 2015 as part of one of the most formidable attacking line-ups alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, was pivotal in PSG making the quarter-finals for the first time since 2016.

After scoring an away goal in a 2-1 first-leg loss to Dortmund, he headed home the opener at an empty Parc des Princes three weeks later to put Thomas Tuchel's team on the path to progression.

However, Neymar remains a player that splits opinion. He earned likability points for applauding the stands that were empty due to coronavirus concerns when the teams lined up ahead of kick-off, but lost them inside 10 minutes by diving to ground after a clean tackle from Mats Hummels and almost injuring himself by landing awkwardly on his shoulder.

He then showed he's more than just the one-man band he so often tries to be by celebrating with Kylian Mbappe, who was only named on the bench due to illness, after being given free rein by Achraf Hakimi to nod in Angel Di Maria's corner. Following that by trolling Erling Haaland with a replica of his lotus celebration from the first leg – and repeating it with team-mates at full-time – will no doubt have gained appreciation in some quarters and ruffled feathers in others, though.

After Juan Bernat turned in a cross from Pablo Sarabia in first-half stoppage time, PSG were able to ease off and take a more cautious approach in the second half.

Dortmund lacked the gumption to find a route back into the game and their hopes were effectively ended when Emre Can was dismissed following a confrontation with Neymar. The Brazilian went down under pressure from the Germany international and, after getting back to his feet to confront Can, was shoved straight back to the ground.

Neymar, Marquinhos and Di Maria were all shown yellow cards for their role in the ensuing melee on the touchline, but PSG appeared confident they had done enough to get over the line.

At the final whistle Neymar appeared to be trying his best to hold back the tears.

He may not be popular, but when he is fit and at the heart of a sparkling attack he looks capable of taking PSG deep into the competition as is so keenly craved in the French capital.

As Tottenham's Champions League dreams unravelled in line with Jose Mourinho's drip-drip doomsaying, it was tempting to wonder how the Spurs boss might have talked up RB Leipzig's chances were he in the stylish shoes of opposite number Julian Nagelsmann.

How could you expect success for a team looking to Manchester City's third choice left-back, who was parachuted in as a loan January signing, for a chunk of their attacking threat?

And what about your star striker being unable to train for two weeks, cruelly robbing him of match sharpness?

Oh, that's before you consider he must line up in a front three alongside a Paris Saint-Germain reject and a big money flop sent packing by Roma.

Of course, Angelino produced a rip-roaring display in this thumping 3-0 win to crown a 4-0 aggregate triumph – raiding relentlessly down the Tottenham right and setting up Marcel Sabitzer's second of the evening after seeing a fit-again Timo Werner convert his earlier low cross from an offside position.

Had Werner entered this match with ideal preparation under his belt, he might have left Eric Dier marooned permanently in another dimension. Particularly before half-time, the Spurs defender needed every ounce of his commendable grit as the Germany striker tore into him repeatedly.

Dier's attempt to clear Angelino's cross that led to the third goal from substitute Emile Forsberg was that of a performer battered and broken by thankless exertions.

Alongside Werner, Christopher Nkunku and Patrik Schick were winning duals and shuttling with creative intent. You could not spot any lingering effect from the back-to-back draws domestically that have checked Leipzig's Bundesliga title ambitions this month.

Theirs was a performance of purpose, belief and riotous swagger, at least until the final half an hour when they slowed the tempo and tightened the control, squeezing any last lingering drop of Amsterdam fuelled belief in the improbable from a forlorn Tottenham side.

Special legacy compounds ordinary present

Dayot Upamecano imperiously commanded the Leipzig backline, with the sort of performance John Terry or Marco Materazzi might have supplied in one of Mourinho's great sides.

All the Special One has now are those special memories.

It really is remarkable how quickly this latest scene in the increasingly torturous third act of his career has reverted to recent type.

Mourinho gave a sparky, twinkle-eyed news conference on November 21 last year after he succeeded Mauricio Pochettino. Following three consecutive wins - albeit with six goals conceded - in all competitions - Tottenham were beaten by Manchester United on December 4.

Thirteen days. There ended a honeymoon period shorter than many honeymoons. Spurs did not win consecutive games again until another burst of three in a row at the start of February. They have not won since, with Leipzig extending this slump to six outings.

During this time, Mourinho has played the hits no one wanted to hear. Sure, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min's injuries leave him significantly compromised in attack, but talent remains. Dele Alli, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura – the hero of that unforgettable Ajax comeback – are not woe-is-me no hopers.

To quote Alli in his interview to BT Sport immediately afterwards: "We can't use that as an excuse, we still have quality on the pitch."

No romance in tough love

Tanguy Ndombele has copped frequent public criticism, presumably because the tactic worked so well with Paul Pogba. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who clatters from one accident-prone 90 minutes to the next at the moment, should be grateful he isn't a rangy and gifted midfielder. Mourinho really would be fuming then.

But even when the old tricks had lost their shine, Mourinho was still capable of putting together robust defensive outfits.

Tottenham have kept three clean sheets in his 26 matches in charge, with just Aston Villa (42) conceding more than their 37 during this period. Villa's fellow Premier League relegation candidates Brighton and Hove Albion and Bournemouth are the only teams with fewer shutouts since Mourinho's November appointment.

Don't worry, though, because he's a serial winner, trophies in every job. Well, roll on 2020-21 for that part of the dubious bargain after Leipzig followed Norwich City in making a mockery of supposedly favourable cup draws.

This man for the big occasion is without a Champions League knockout win since April 2014. All that remains is the top-four race in the Premier League. Tottenham are eighth and host a revitalised United on Sunday.

Nagelsmann's brilliant Leipzig shone a blazing light on this uncomfortable body of evidence that begs an uncomfortable question concerning one of this century's defining football figures: if you are a club with elite ambitions in Europe, why on earth would you ever appoint Jose Mourinho?

Liverpool's Champions League defence is in the balance after a 1-0 defeat at Atletico Madrid in their last-16 first leg – and the Reds' record at Anfield against Spanish sides is not exactly inspiring.

Since 2001-02, Liverpool have played 10 matches against LaLiga opposition at Anfield and won only two of those games.

Of course, the latest such fixture was against Barcelona, when the Red overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to progress.

But at the Wanda Metropolitano in last month's first leg, Atletico showed they are still a force to be reckoned with in terms of their infamous pragmatism and defensive nous.

Ahead of Atletico's visit on Wednesday, we take a look at the past 10 examples of Spanish teams going to Anfield.

Liverpool 1-3 Barcelona, November 2001

Liverpool's poor run at home to Spanish teams began back in the days when the Champions League had two rounds of group stages. They had to come up against eventual semi-finalists Barcelona in the second stage and were comprehensively taken apart at home, with Patrick Kluivert, Fabio Rochemback and Marc Overmars eclipsing Michael Owen's opener. Two of Barca's goals should have been disallowed for offside, but it was a deserved win nonetheless. The Reds reached the knockout phase anyway, but were eliminated by Bayer Leverkusen.

Liverpool 0-1 Valencia, October 2002

After losing 2-0 at Mestalla, Liverpool were left on the brink of elimination when they lost 1-0 at home to Rafael Benitez's Valencia in October 2002. Francisco Rufete's effort in the 34th minute beat the suspect Jerzy Dudek and proved decisive, as Los Che were justified victors. Gerard Houllier's men dropped down into the UEFA Cup but were halted in the last eight by Celtic, who went on to lose 3-2 to Jose Mourinho's Porto in the final.

Liverpool 0-0 Deportivo La Coruna, October 2004

Having been within touching distance of the Champions League final in 2003-04, just a few months later Deportivo La Coruna were a shadow of the team previously referred to as 'Super Depor'. That said, Javier Irureta's side still took a commendable point away from Anfield, amounting to half of their overall haul in Group A – not that it disrupted Liverpool much. They went on to win the trophy, famously battling back to beat Milan in the final in Istanbul.

Liverpool 0-0 Real Betis, November 2005

Similar to Deportivo the previous season, the Betis of 2005-06 was nowhere near as effective as the Verdiblancos side that secured their unlikely Champions League qualification. Liverpool failed to score against them at Anfield, despite a flurry of chances, though the stalemate was enough to book the defending champions' progression to the knockout phase.

Liverpool 0-1 Barcelona, March 2007

Liverpool reached the Champions League final again in 2007, though they had a lucky escape on the way. After winning 2-1 at Camp Nou, Barca came to Anfield needing a win but just fell short of a scoreline that would have taken them through. Eidur Gudjohnsen's effort 15 minutes from time gave Frank Rijkaard's men the lead, but the holders could not add to that and went out on away goals.

Liverpool 1-1 Atletico Madrid, November 2008

Until their thrilling quarter-final elimination by Chelsea, Liverpool did not lose a single Champions League match in 2008-09. A major part of that was their 1-1 draw at home to Atletico in the group phase, as Steven Gerrard converted a last-gasp penalty after he had controversially been awarded the spot-kick following an aerial challenge with Mariano Pernia. It levelled a strike from future Red Maxi Rodriguez.

Liverpool 4-0 Real Madrid, March 2009

Against the club he was taught to loathe as a kid, it was fitting that Fernando Torres – a former Atletico captain – was the one to inspire Liverpool past Real Madrid in 2009. Already 1-0 up from the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, Liverpool ran out comfortable 4-0 winners at Anfield, with Torres opening the scoring and producing a generally thrilling individual display to help set up a last-eight clash with Chelsea, who prevailed 7-5 on aggregate.

Liverpool 0-3 Real Madrid, October 2014

Madrid got their own back in similarly one-sided fashion five years later. Prior to the 2014-15 season, Liverpool had not qualified for any of the past four editions of the Champions League – and it told. In that time, the Reds had fallen well behind the elite, as highlighted by Madrid leaving Anfield with a 3-0 win – Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema getting the goals between them. Brendan Rodgers' men ended up finishing third to Los Blancos and Basel, dropping into the Europa League, which they exited in the round of 32.

Liverpool 2-2 Sevilla, September 2017

Revenge was on the agenda for Liverpool in September 2017. Having lost 3-1 to Sevilla in the Europa League final the previous year, the visiting fans were eager to remind them of that with hand gestures before the match. Liverpool were 2-1 up at half-time, Wissam Ben Yedder's early opener cancelled out by goals from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, but Joaquin Correa secured a share of the spoils late on. They also played out another thriller in Spain for their second group meeting, Sevilla fighting back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3. Liverpool went on to lose to Madrid in the final.

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona, May 2019

A remarkable Liverpool turnaround, or a humiliating Barca collapse? Whichever way you lean, there is no denying last season's semi-final tie was as gripping as it gets. Ernesto Valverde's men had seemingly put one foot into the final with Lionel Messi-inspired 3-0 win at Camp Nou, but the Reds battled back with an epic 4-0 victory. Divock Origi's early effort was added to by a quick-fire Georginio Wijnaldum double early in the second half, wiping out the Blaugrana's lead. Origi then got a second 11 minutes from time, taking the Reds into a second successive final – this time going on to lift the famous trophy.

If a pivotal game in the Serie A title race takes place and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

As it turns out, yes it does. Plenty of them – both expected and unusually clear all at once.

There were speculative shots from Inter midfield trio Matias Vecino, Nicolo Barella and Marcelo Brozovic – ballooned unhelpfully into the Allianz Stadium stands to prompt a plastic rattle from the empty seats.

Cristiano Ronaldo's radar was in better working order as his fierce strike thudded into Samir Handanovic's gloves with a slap.

Midway through the first half Ashley Young thundered into a robust challenge on Juventus' Juan Cuadrado, producing a dead thud of boots on leather and bones against flesh.

These familiar sights in Italy's most famous game unfolded in an alien setting of isolation, with the ban on attending sporting events in the country as a means to tackle the spread of coronavirus given its most high-profile stage to date.

This was the Derby d'Italia – the grandest game of all in a football-mad country. By necessity it was reduced to incongruous spectacle that frequently jarred the senses.

It was hard not to feel for Aaron Ramsey when he pounced to net the breakthrough goal, a wonderfully instinctive piece of penalty-box play that put Juve on the way to a 2-0 win and the Serie A summit.

They are one point clear of surprise package Lazio and now nine better off than Inter, whose Scudetto race is probably run, even with a game in hand for Antonio Conte's side.

Ramsey's was the sort of strike that in normal circumstances has a chance of being a "moment" goal. The moment fans know glory is within reach, the split second where anxiety gives way to elation and the prize comes within reach.

A goalscorer in two separate FA Cup final wins for Arsenal and a midfield driving force in Wales' improbable run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, the 29-year-old already has enough dizzying career highs to sustain him when retirement arrives.

But his key contribution against Inter should have been met with pandemonium in the stands, much like Paulo Dybala's sublime point-proving solo goal from the bench, just as Ronaldo's shot should have garnered roars where Inter's wayward attempts earned goading whistles.

As it happened, the only "woo hoo" came from Damon Albarn, as Juve's in-stadium team bizarrely retained their preference of spinning Blur's Song 2 when their side score.

Of course, there are far more important things at play in Italy and beyond than the emotional experience of elite footballers, when diagnoses and death tolls continue to climb.

But if a positive can be taken from this period of closed doors in Serie A, it should be the loud and clear reminder of just how central supporters are to the whole football experience; of the inimitable meaning paying punters give to the deeds of all-star millionaires.

These are people who find their personal schedules shunted around by kick-offs moved to please international television audiences, who watch on as Super Cup encounters are staged in far-flung lands and who tolerate processional one-club dominance of domestic competitions in the super-club era.

The vacant stands of this unique and troubling moment will not be repeated in the seasons to come, but when normal service resumes we will continue to see far too many examples of supporters being taken for granted and their attachment to their beloved sport undermined to the point of apathy.

Beneath every iconic footballing moment is a soundtrack of supporter ecstasy, which is exactly why Ramsey and Dybala's goals within Juventus' best display of 2019-20 are likely to fade from the collective memory. Sunday offered a demonstration of the emptiness that would remain if you remove a soul already being chipped away at piece by piece.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made a habit – often a timely one when conjecture about his suitability for the role of Manchester United manager springs up – of claiming wins over the Premier League's big-hitters.

But Sunday's 2-0 Manchester derby triumph over City, their third in all competitions against these feted opponents this season, carried a weight of authority to suggest Ole at the wheel might yet steer the club to a prosperous destination. 

For all the thrills of their against-the-odds comeback over Paris Saint-Germain in last season's Champions League, to the 4-0 ransacking of Chelsea on the opening day of this term and a bravura counter-attacking display at the Etihad Stadium last December, there was far more substance to what unfolded at Old Trafford.

The opening 20 minutes indicated normal service on this ground, where City had won six times and lost once on their past eight Premier League visits, before considering January's EFL Cup semi-final masterclass.

Raheem Sterling forced a smart save from a plunging David de Gea, Sergio Aguero deliciously nutmegged a sprawling Harry Maguire to prompt another close shave and the visitors' possession figure tipped 71 per cent.

But United did not blink or shirk from a plan built on applying steady pressure in the City half, closing up the passing avenues that become gold-paved boulevards when Pep Guardiola's men are at their best.

Where there has been a kick, rush and hope approach in midfield in these fixtures previously from United, there was assurance.

It is hard to overstate the impact of Bruno Fernandes, whose clever chipped free-kick created Anthony Martial's breakthrough goal. United now have a game-breaker in central areas after seasons of chasing the shadows of Yaya Toure, David Silva and others in this local argument.

Kevin De Bruyne's injury absence for City was only made more yawningly obvious by Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva's wholly ineffective contributions, within a collective effort that smacked of attentions turned elsewhere to a potential clean sweep of knockout cups at home and abroad.

With the sky blue creators becalmed – and the part of a revitalised Nemanja Matic in this should not be under-stated – United could turn their attentions towards a back four never too far from ramshackle this season.

Fernandinho and Oleksandr Zinchenko were made to look like recent converts to their positions. Nicolas Otamendi, a career centre-back, rarely looks anything other than a recent convert to his position.

Fouls were coughed up, even if Gundogan's punishment for a challenge on Fred that led to the pivotal moment was highly debatable. Behind that porous backline, the usually reliable Ederson flapped over Martial's volley and saw it nestle in his net.

Either side of the goal, Fernandinho and Rodri received bookings for dissent. United were the side exhibiting smooth control, bending ratty and rattled opponents to their will.

The pay-off for Solskjaer's men controlling the middle part of the contest was they had the fresh legs and clear minds to repel what passed for a City onslaught when it arrived. Sterling added to his catalogue of horror misses against these opponents – it is now remarkably no goals in 20 outings against the Red Devils – but scares were kept to a minimum.

Old Trafford rose to acclaim its new hero when Fernandes made way to run the clock down, but this was every inch Solskjaer's triumph, one unforgettably burnished by Scott McTominay thanks to another Ederson moment to forget.

A second clean sheet in succession against the most potent attack in the land, a trio of wins over a generation-defining coach, a first league double over City for a decade and a step towards the Champions League next season – a stage on which a performance of such style and steel belongs.

Now unbeaten in 10 across all competitions, Solskjaer might just be convincing the doubters he belongs there too.

Following pre-match consternation over the fitness of Wales fly-half Dan Biggar – head coach Wayne Pivac and assistant Sam Warburton having offered mixed messages with regards to his knee complaint – Tom Curry and Manu Tuilagi decided to seek their own diagnosis.

Biggar gathered Ben Youngs' teasing kick in the second minute, only to see a white-clad freight train hurtling towards him.

Curry, as was generally the case on a full-throated late afternoon in London, got there first, splattering Wales' number 10, with Tuilagi alongside to provided added, if largely unnecessary, muscle.

England's expert meshing of brains and brawn set them apart in the opening exchanges – Maro Itoje striding imperiously through the midfield before soaring to collect the subsequent line-out. Wales were drawn in, Curry did not miss a beat with the reverse pass and the returning Anthony Watson darted over for the first try.

There were plenty more instances where this undulating 33-30 win for Eddie Jones' men looked exactly as you might expect – one side tweaking and seeking to progress again having fallen agonisingly short of their World Cup goal, with their visitors in the early and often fumbling throes of transition.

Particularly in their defensive set-piece work, Pivac's men appeared a team breaking in uncomfortably new shoes; the glorious dances of a dozen years under Warren Gatland already feeling consigned to a fading era.

Wales' chances invariably came when an England team in a rush trod on their own jet heels.

This was never more evident than in the back-to-back passages of play that saw a swaggering 20-6 lead collapse to 20-16 either side of half-time.

Despite the clock having already ticked past 40, England sought to fizz the ball through hands on halfway where Tuilagi erred and Itoje was pinged for a high tackle on Biggar. Equilibrium long restored from that early pasting, he bisected the posts.

Then, 27 seconds and a lackadaisical restart later, Twickenham was aghast as Justin Tipuric gleefully scampered over.

Now was the time for Wales to open up some old wounds. England led 10-3 at half-time in this fixture a year ago, before unravelling and losing 21-13 in a fug of antagonised indiscipline.

If captain Owen Farrell intended to help his men turn over a new leaf, scrapping with George North and putting in a high tackle on Josh Navidi for Leigh Halfpenny to slot a pair of first-half penalties did not exactly amount to leading by example.

But from the tee, Farrell was typically unerring with six from six, and his combination with George Ford for Elliot Daly's 32nd-minute score meant Joe Marler's peculiar method of introducing himself to Alun Wyn Jones was arguably not England's most notable ball-in-hand moment of the match.

Those flashes of finely grooved, frictionless quality are the preserve of teams perfectly in sync with their wider strategies. Pivac's Wales cannot expect to be at that stage of realisation, although their unflinching spirit until the last bodes well for the journey ahead.

Tuilagi went over for another glorious try after more brilliant work from Youngs and Ford, although the bulldozing centre underlined England's remaining appetite for self-destruction with a late red card tackle on North. Biggar and Tipuric's late tries consequently came against 13-man opposition, given Ellis Genge was already ensconced in the sin bin.

Triple Crown secured, Eddie Jones' England don't look likely to stop playing on the edge any time soon, where the falls can be needlessly damaging but the views are often indisputably spectacular.

Just three more wins to go.

It was not a famous performance, but it was a record-breaking result, one that should end any of that title-collapse talk before it got out of hand - and one that reminded everyone how wonderfully ruthless Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah can be.

Liverpool were certainly not brilliant against Bournemouth, the standard of their display mostly in keeping with a recent run in which they had lost three of their past five games and scored only four times, but they are back to winning ways and have surpassed their own record for consecutive top-flight home victories in England thanks to this, their 22nd in succession.

Ultimately, talk of them throwing away the most one-sided title race the Premier League has ever seen was always nonsense. But losing to Atletico Madrid, seeing their quest for an invincible league season ended at Watford and exiting the FA Cup at Chelsea in the past few weeks had certainly shaken some of the confidence out of Jurgen Klopp's previously unstoppable force.

It showed again at Anfield on Saturday. Somehow, Bournemouth went ahead - a Bournemouth side with two league wins in 12 games and on a run of five consecutive losses to Liverpool by an aggregate score of 17-0. It looked like Callum Wilson could scarcely believe it when he tapped in Jefferson Lerma's cross, although he was perhaps expecting a VAR intervention for a shove on Joe Gomez.

When Nathan Ake's header was flapped onto the crossbar by Adrian, fans in the Kop were growing restless. They needed something to calm the nerves, someone to bring precision to a disjointed Reds display. They needed Salah and Mane.

In truth, neither forward exactly had a glowing first half. Salah was as guilty as anyone when it came to Liverpool's imprecision on the ball: he completed only half of his 18 attempted passes in the Bournemouth half and gave the ball away with more than a third of his overall efforts in the first 45 minutes. Mane, too, was labouring at the same 59 per cent success rate for first-half passes, as Klopp's side seemed short on ideas against a defence that has kept one clean sheet since November 2.

And yet, when the chances came, there was never any doubt.

Jack Simpson's loose touch was all it took. Mane pounced, found Salah, and the Egyptian spun and shot through the legs of Lerma, leaving Aaron Ramsdale grasping at air. One shot, one goal.

Next, Bournemouth made a mess of things in midfield, Virgil van Dijk played Mane through, and he curled a finish beyond the Cherries goalkeeper. One shot, one goal.

It was the 16th time Liverpool have come from behind to lead at half-time of a Premier League game at Anfield. It wasn't pretty, but it was enough. It usually is when Salah and Mane are involved.

Salah has scored 70 times in 100 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, at least seven more than any other Reds player has managed in their first century of matches. Mane has scored and assisted in the same league game for Liverpool on nine occasions. Each of them has scored 27 home goals in the league since the start of last season, which is more than anyone else.

Atletico are highly unlikely to commit the same errors when they visit on Wednesday, and a 2-1 win would not be enough to keep Liverpool's Champions League defence alive. But Salah and Mane, at Anfield, are usually enough to see off anything.

Israel Adesanya has taken UFC by storm and will aim to send his stock sky high against Yoel Romero on Saturday.

Former two-weight kickboxing champion Adesanya will make the first defence of his middleweight title against 42-year-old veteran Romero at UFC 248 in Las Vegas.

A lithe, nimble athlete with pinpoint striking accuracy and an 18-0 record in MMA, the 'Last Stylebender' has proved he has the ability to be one of the leading names in the sport.

We chart Adesanya's rise from UFC debut to the leading man in the 185-pound division.

 

"The new dog"

After 11 stoppages in as many fights to start his MMA career, Adesanya made his UFC bow against Rob Wilkinson in Australia in February 2018. He was forced to defend against the takedown regularly in the opening round but came into his own in the second, landing 42 significant strikes – a right uppercut followed by a knee drew blood from his opponent – to get an overwhelming stoppage. In his post-fight Octagon interview, he sent out a warning: "Middleweights, I'm the new dog in the yard, and I just p***** all over this cage."

Moving up

Within the next five months he added the scalps of Marvin Vettori and Brad Tavares – both by decision – before facing his toughest test in sixth-ranked middleweight Derek Brunson. A pair of brutal knees to the head left Brunson groggy, and Adesanya capitalised before the first bell. A straight right dropped Brunson to his knees and the referee called a halt to the fight following a follow-up left. Next came a chance for Adesanya to test himself against an all-time great.

Beating Spider

Adesanya was clearly feeling comfortable in UFC by the time he came up against former middleweight champion Anderson Silva, who was making his first appearance in the Octagon in two years, at UFC 234 in Melbourne. The bout ended up headlining the main card when Robert Whittaker pulled out on the day of his title fight with Kelvin Gastelum and underwent surgery. Adesanya looked at home going up against an MMA legend, displaying his trademark showmanship en route to a unanimous-decision victory that proved he was ready for a title shot.

He's got Gas-telum

A date with Gastelum at UFC 236 and a chance to become the interim middleweight champion was next, and the duo delivered what was widely regarded as one of the fights of the year. Gastelum was more aggressive in the opening round but Adesanya was on top by the end of the third. After landing some heavy blows to seriously hurt Adesanya in the fourth, Gastelum was blown away in the fifth and only just made it to the final bell. The 'Last Stylebender' displayed incredible stamina in the championship rounds to take the belt.

And new...

Adesanya clearly was not fazed when it came to a middleweight unification bout against Whittaker at UFC 243 in Melbourne - the 30-year-old's walkout began included some flashy choreography and back-up dancers. He wasted little time in dispatching of the Australian, who was saved by the bell after being dropped by a right uppercut at the end of the first. A stunning left hook got the stoppage in the second round and Adesanya celebrated by climbing the cage and proclaiming: "I told you so. I did what Romero couldn't do in 10 rounds. I did it in two." He will now be hoping to make another statement against the Cuban, who has lost three of his past four fights - including two against Whittaker - and failed to make weight in two of his three previous shots at a middleweight belt.

Manchester United boast a pair of Manchester derby victories this season on enemy turf at the Etihad Stadium – triumphing 2-1 in the Premier League in December before a 1-0 win was not quite enough to overturn a 3-1 deficit from the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final.

At Old Trafford, though, the recent Premier League history of the fixture has served up a far more unpalatable reality for the Red Devils.

A 2-1 win in 2008 was City's first success at their great rivals' ground for 34 years, but a trio of United wins followed, culminating in Wayne Rooney's unforgettable overhead kick to claim three points on the way to the 2010-11 Premier League title.

Since then it has been a very different story and here we look back at the woeful run of form Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team will hope to overturn in Sunday's league clash.

 

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-6 MANCHESTER CITY (OCTOBER 23, 2011)

The game that emphatically announced a power shift in Manchester was on the cards. Mario Balotelli came, saw, conquered and had the "Why Always Me" T-shirt to prove it with goals either side of forcing Jonny Evans into a red card. Sergio Aguero capped a scintillating team move to make it 3-0 before Darren Fletcher's excellent finish persuaded Alex Ferguson's depleted side to chase the game in foolhardy fashion.

David Silva slotted in to split a brace from substitute Edin Dzeko and a derby demolition was complete. The margin of victory continued to resonate at the end of the campaign as City pipped United to the title on goal difference.

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-2 MANCHESTER CITY (APRIL 8, 2013)

Ferguson's side responded to that disappointment with a dominant campaign to earn their boss one more Premier League crown. The destination of the title was already a formality before City arrived for the derby, in which Aguero came off the bench to ram a brilliant solo strike into the roof of the net and settle the match. A Vincent Kompany own goal had briefly cancelled out James Milner's deflected second-half opener.

MANCHESTER UNITED 0-3 MANCHESTER CITY (MARCH 25, 2014)

A result that arguably marked the nadir of David Moyes' ill-fated stint as Ferguson's successor. Nine days on from Liverpool easing to a comprehensive 3-0 win at Old Trafford, City followed suit. There was little doubt over the outcome after Dzeko struck in the first minute. The Bosnian star also volleyed in a 56th-minute corner before Yaya Toure contributed to a personal 20-goal tally that proved pivotal to securing the title for Manuel Pellegrini's City.

MANCHESTER UNITED 4-2 MANCHESTER CITY (APRIL 12, 2015)

When Aguero tapped in from Silva's pass inside the first 10 minutes, another City procession looked on the cards. But United roared back in ferocious fashion. Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini ensured Louis van Gaal's team were ahead at the break before Juan Mata scampered through a scattered defence to get in on the act and Chris Smalling powered in number four. Aguero's 100th goal in City colours late on was scant consolation.

MANCHESTER UNITED 0-0 MANCHESTER CITY (OCTOBER 25, 2015)

Pellegrini and Van Gaal departed at the end of the 2015-16 season with their sides separated in fourth and fifth position respectively by goal difference, claiming hauls of 66 points after failing to win half of their matches. This forgettable stalemate was very much in keeping with that tepid overall offering. United substitute Jesse Lingard hit the crossbar late on.

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-2 MANCHESTER CITY (SEPTEMBER 10, 2016)

Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho stepped into the breach to elevate the Manchester rivalry once more and City threatened to run away with the reunion of the old Clasico foes. Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho established a first-half advantage, but an error by City debutant Claudio Bravo saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic reduce the arrears – paving the way for a tense and combative second half.

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-2 MANCHESTER CITY (DECEMBER 10, 2017)

Having competed at a distance from champions Chelsea in 2016-17, City and United were the frontrunners this time around. Set-piece frailties from the hosts saw the dominance of Guardiola's team in open play rewarded, with Silva and Nicolas Otamendi the beneficiaries. Marcus Rashford fleetingly had United level, but their rivals opened an 11-point lead at the summit and would go on to win the league with a record-breaking 100 points.

MANCHESTER UNITED 0-2 MANCHESTER CITY (APRIL 24, 2019)

City were being pushed all the way to glory by Liverpool last season and tension in the ranks was clear during a goalless first half. Bernardo Silva found the breakthrough and substitute Leroy Sane blasted through David de Gea's near-post efforts to ensure Solskjaer's first outing as a coach in the fixture ended in defeat.

Scotland go in search of another Murrayfield triumph over Grand Slam hopefuls France this weekend, and England will look to put the pressure on the Six Nations leaders with a win over Wales.

The postponement of Ireland's encounter with Italy due to concerns over the coronavirus leaves just two round-four matches to look forward to.

France passed a big test in their bid to be crowned champions for the first time in a decade when they beat Wales last time out, and now Scotland, buoyed by a win over Italy, will be the next side to try and burst Les Bleus' bubble.

England are four points behind Fabien Galthie's side after a defeat of Ireland at Twickenham and will have home advantage again when they take on the defending champions.

With Opta data, we preview the clashes in London on Saturday and Edinburgh.

England v Wales

- England have won five of their last six games against Wales in the Six Nations, the one defeat coming last year.

- The Red Rose have lost just one of their last 20 home games in the competition (against Ireland in 2018 - W18, D1) and their 18 wins in that time have been by an average margin of 17 points.

- Wales have lost back-to-back matches and have not endured a longer run of defeats in the championship since a five-game drought across the 2006 and 2007 campaigns.

- Wales prop Dillon Lewis has hit more rucks (107) than any other player at the 2020 Six Nations. Maro Itoje (103) is second on the list and the England player has also hit more attacking rucks (85) than anyone else.

Scotland v France

-  Scotland have won each of their last two home games against France in the Six Nations, but Les Bleus have won 17 of their last 20 encounters with the Scots in the championship.

- Galthie and Gregor Townsend faced off against each four times in their international playing careers, with the present France head coach coming out on top on each occasion.

- France are the only side to maintain a 100 per cent scrum success rate on their own feed (10/10) in the Six Nations and have the best gain-line success rate of any side (48 per cent).

- Scotland have missed just 46 tackles in the Six Nations this year, the fewest of any side, and subsequently have the best tackle success rate (90 per cent).

Wayne Rooney's hopes of a dream reunion lasted little more than half an hour on Thursday as Manchester United visited their record goalscorer's new employers.

Rooney was centre stage in an otherwise youthful Derby County team for the FA Cup fifth-round tie, dictating play from deep in midfield, a role that pitted him directly against Bruno Fernandes, United's latest superstar.

Former England captain Rooney, after crashing into Scott McTominay by the corner flag early on, provided the platform that allowed his younger colleagues to instead turn in the sort of energetic displays he was once renowned for in United red.

Max Bird, 19, Louie Sibley, 18, and Jason Knight, 19, hassled and harried Fernandes, who struggled to find the rhythm that has made him an instant hit at Old Trafford.

While Rooney kept passes ticking over as Derby held their own, even testing Sergio Romero with a low free-kick, Fernandes toiled.

The Portugal international ceded possession 14 times in the first 30 minutes and required treatment midway through the half after an awkward fall.

But a fortuitous opener took the game away from Rooney. Three Derby blocks in quick succession - the last from Fernandes - kept United at bay on the edge of the area, before Luke Shaw hammered a shot into the ground and the ball looped up after hitting Jesse Lingard's back on its way into the net.

Shaw, with an England place at Euro 2020 suddenly in his sights, then marched forward and slipped a pass into Odion Ighalo, who adjusted his feet to net United's second four minutes before half-time.

Rooney, an increasingly peripheral figure in his final months at United in 2018, was pushed into the background again, only to return to the fore to receive a yellow card for a foul on Fred.

The 34-year-old is still waiting for a first goal against United in seven attempts as an opposition player but has been booked in four of his five starts in such clashes.

There was more aggression following half-time, but Rooney kept his emotions in check to avoid an unseemly red card, and the Derby captain was at the genesis of bright moves that saw Martyn Waghorn and Jack Marriott go close.

Neither Rooney nor Derby could disrupt a serene night for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, though, and so the United fans launched into a lengthy serenade shortly before the hour-mark.

"He goes by the name of Wayne Rooney..."

The travelling supporters paused to acknowledge Fernandes, when an uncharacteristically sloppy outing concluded with his substitution, and then Ighalo after a ruthless third, but tributes to their 253-goal great were eventually reprised.

Rooney had vowed to celebrate if he scored against his former club, yet that only belatedly represented a serious threat as Sergio Romero touched over a stoppage-time free-kick.

There will surely be few further opportunities to soak up the United acclaim on the pitch, but the warm reception for a club legend merely meant Rooney had failed this time to end an unbeaten Red Devils run that stretches to nine matches.

Eliminated from the FA Cup, the Old Trafford favourite can at least now revert to his role as a supporter, no doubt desperate to see Solskjaer maintain a surge towards Wembley, claiming again the trophy Rooney lifted as captain in 2016.

Eric Dier clambering over rows of seats to confront a fan after Tottenham's FA Cup loss to Norwich City was an extraordinary sight.

However, the spectacle was not without precedent, as sportspeople have come into conflict with supporters several times in the past.

While the 'professional' approach is to ignore the vitriol and insults that sometimes emanate from the crowd, there are occasions when instinct takes over.

With Dier likely facing punishment for his indiscretion at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, we take a look at other sports stars who chose the direct approach in dealing with troublesome fans.

CANTONA'S KUNG-FU KICK

It is possibly the most famous incident of its kind, perpetrated by a hot-headed Frenchman on a cold January night in London back in 1995.

Manchester United's Eric Cantona had just been sent off at Crystal Palace and was heading towards the tunnel when he heard a tirade of abuse from someone in attendance at Selhurst Park.

An incensed Cantona launched into a kung-fu kick, targeting Matthew Simmons – the man who, in his limited wisdom, had chosen to share his ill-considered views – before attempting to land a flurry of punches.

The Football Association banned Cantona for eight months, while he was sentenced to two weeks in jail – later reduced to 120 hours of community service – for his display of martial arts.

 

WESTBROOK READY TO THROW DOWN

Russell Westbrook stopped short of a physical altercation when he felt he had been subjected to some vile taunts during the Oklahoma City Thunders' win over the Utah Jazz last March.

The nine-time NBA All-Star, now with the Houston Rockets, was captured on film delivering an expletive-laden rant to a man and his wife, sat court-side at the Jazz's Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Westbrook snarled: "I'll f*** you up. You and your wife."

The Jazz issued a lifetime ban to one of the perpetrators for "excessive and derogatory verbal abuse directed at a player".

Meanwhile, Westbrook was fined $25,000 by the NBA "for directing profanity and threatening language to a fan".

 

NO JOKE FOR STOKES

Ben Stokes uses controlled aggression very much to his advantage with bat and ball, but he let his anger get the better of him during a Test match in South Africa in January.

The England all-rounder was dismissed for two on the opening day at the Wanderers and was heard on a live broadcast aiming expletives at a spectator.

Stokes claimed to have been "subjected to repeated abuse", but later took to Twitter to say sorry for his "unprofessional" reaction.

He was fined 15 per cent of his match fee by the International Cricket Council match referee.

 

MALICE AT THE PALACE

No, this isn't Cantona again, but it is arguably a more remarkable incident. The brawl that broke out between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons in a 2004 NBA game was spectacular enough in itself, but then it got a whole lot crazier.

With the initial disorder beginning to calm, tensions flared again when a fan threw a drink at Pacers small forward Ron Artest, who made a beeline for his assailant. 

That prompted a wide-scale fracas involving players and spectators, with heavy sanctions for many involved.

The NBA dished out a combined 146-game ban for nine of the players, with five charged with assault, while five fans were hit by lifetime bans.

 

CLOUGH GETS TOUGH

Brian Clough was a notoriously no-nonsense football manager and he demonstrated that for all to see in memorable scenes at Nottingham Forest's City Ground in 1989.

With his Forest side having beaten QPR 5-2 to reach the last four of the League Cup, the home fans invaded the pitch to celebrate.

Clough, however, was in no mood to rejoice with them and instead chose to dish out a bit of rough justice, punching, slapping and grabbing anyone he could lay his hands on.

Two of his victims were later invited to the club for an apology – not from Clough, but for them to say sorry to him.

Goals from Willian and Ross Barkley gave Chelsea a deserved 2-0 win over runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Although those two seasoned campaigners gave Frank Lampard's men the edge in an absorbing contest and Liverpool ended the match with their celebrated front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah on the pitch, there was still a youthful edge to the contest.

Curtis Jones and Neco Williams lined up for the visitors, while Billy Gilmour was selected in the Chelsea engine room.

Here, we look at how those three talented teenagers fared with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.

 

BILLY GILMOUR

The Stamford Bridge masses quickly warmed to Gilmour, whose contributions from the base of Lampard's midfield were instantly easy on the eye.

A busy presence in front of the back four, Gilmour's range of passing and calmness under pressure meant he could be forgiven for allowing Liverpool a few too many runs at the defence he was charged with protecting.

A sprayed 33rd-minute pass out of play drew gasps, such had been the quality of the 18-year-old's metronomic display up until that point, while Mateo Kovacic and Willian's departures through injury – forcing a reshuffle - did not upset his poise.

Gilmour attempted (26) and completed (21) more passes than any other Chelsea player during the first half – numbers that dwindled in efficiency as the hosts increasingly operated on the break after Barkley bolstered their lead.

Nevertheless, the Scotland international was then able to show his combative side, be it gaining possession on nine occasions or grappling with Takumi Minamino when defending a corner. It all amounted to a man-of-the-match display.

CURTIS JONES

Jones' part in Liverpool's 2020 FA Cup campaign will live long in the memory of the Anfield faithful after his stunning goal saw off Everton in round three, while he captained a youthful side to victory in the fourth-round replay at home to Shrewsbury Town.

However, the high-octane opening at Stamford Bridge passed the 19-year-old by at times, with Adrian managing to save a stinging drive from Barkley after Jones gave away possession.

A clever flick in the 18th minute almost got Sadio Mane away down the right flank and Jones' follow-up drew the final instalment of Kepa Arrizabalaga's incredible triple save in the 20th minute.

Jones made way for the contrastingly experienced James Milner with 20 minutes remaining. Having been involved in eight Premier League matchday squads already this season, the youngster could certainly have done more to press his case, although 32 of 35 passes completed showed him to have been tidy enough in possession.

 

NECO WILLIAMS

Williams' path to the Liverpool first-team on a regular basis in complicated by Trent Alexander-Arnold's presence, yet the 18-year-old Welshman often revelled in the thick of the action.

A teasing early cross was followed by a well-judged sliding challenge on Pedro in the seventh minute. Williams remained heavily involved at both ends of the pitch, although a cool last-ditch clearance to prevent Olivier Giroud from scoring was far more assured than a pair of sliced attempts on goal.

As the game got away from Liverpool, an error by the right-back allowed Pedro to streak away on the break – Adrian standing firm to spare his team-mate.

Michael Joyce can still vividly remember being told to "hit it harder" as he put a nine-year-old Maria Sharapova through her paces.

Joyce had never met the youngster before that day in Los Angeles, where it was Sharapova's father, Yuri, who was urging the ATP Tour player not to give his daughter an easy ride.

By the time he was nearing the end of his playing career and Sharapova was in her mid-teens, Joyce was being instructed by coach Robert Lansdorp to "kill" the Russian during practice matches after being employed as her hitting partner.

Little did Joyce know he would soon be calling the shots, not only hitting them, after being appointed as Sharapova's coach in 2004.

The American saw the "eye of the tiger" in Sharapova, who retired aged 32 last week, during such one-sided hitting sessions that laid the foundation for a successful seven-year alliance.

Joyce, who helped the global icon win two grand slams and become world number one, told Stats Perform: "The first time I met Maria I think she was nine years old, I was on the tour at the time and when I was back home in LA I used to go and take a lesson with Robert, who was my coach growing up.

"One day he asked if I'd take a hit with this young Russian girl who had come in to take a lesson, he said she's awesome and tried so hard.

"She came on the court and I remember it like it was yesterday. I'd never really hit with a nine-year-old, so I was taking it easy and then her Dad, who couldn't speak English that great at the time, was telling me I could hit harder.

"Maria was diving around the court, running after the ball, I kind of developed a little bit of a relationship with her then.

"It turned out when she was 15, 16 I was playing the last couple of years on tour but my Mom was really sick with cancer, so I was spending a lot of time at home and making a little extra money as a hitter for Maria and I could still beat her pretty bad at the time.

"By the time I was travelling with her full-time, it was not like being with a complete stranger.

"Looking back, I knew she was special. Of course I didn't know at nine, I had no idea then, but by the time she was like 15, she was already trying to play some pro events.

"You could tell at 14, 15 she had this competitive drive and kind of like the eye of the tiger. I remember sometimes I'd be hitting with her and Robert would say 'play a couple of sets' and I'd say 'Robert, listen, how do you want me to play? Make it close?'

"He'd be like 'no, kill her.' I'd feel bad I'd be beating her 6-1 4-0 or something and she'd be trying so hard just to win a game. I notice that drive from her straight away, she loved to compete.

"I could see a lot of things I could improve on, so once I started working with her full-time, I could work on her taking the ball early, strategy, improving her forehand etc.

"The one thing that sticks out with her is that when she was playing from the first tournament almost until the end, I always knew whoever she was up against would have to go through hell to beat her, as she never gave up. She had this belief that she was always in it until the last point."


Joyce, now coaching Timea Babos, believes the five-time major champion will be a big loss to tennis.

"I remember going to South America to play a couple of exhibitions when she was about 21, we went to Chile and there was probably 20,000 people there. Then we went to Argentina and everywhere we went everybody knew her," he said.

"There is a certain aura about some athletes and she definitely had that. Everywhere she went there were big crowds, whether she was practicing or playing, everyone in airports would know her, walking down the street. That is special and doesn't come around often.

"There are so many girls playing now who probably look up to Maria. They might say they don't like her or this and that, but you think of a girl that is mid 20s or so, when she won Wimbledon [aged 17] they were young kids, so for sure they are looking up to her.

"They might not admit it now, but she would have been looking up to her when they were kids."

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