Roberto Mancini and his Italy side broke new ground in their comfortable 3-0 win at Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday.

The victory in the Euro 2020 qualifier not only ensured they maintained a 100 per cent record in Group J but also saw the Azzurri rack up a 10th consecutive triumph.

No Italy side has ever achieved such a feat and they will look to stretch the streak in their final qualifier against Armenia on Monday.

Below, we take a look back at Italy's record-breaking run.


Italy 1-0 United States: Nov 20, 2018

The run started with an unconvincing 1-0 victory over USA in Genk a little under a year ago. Italy dominated proceedings but needed Matteo Politano's 94th-minute strike to secure the win.


Italy 2-0 Finland: Mar 23, 2019

Euro 2020 qualifying started in convincing fashion for Mancini's men in Udine. Nicolo Barella's deflected effort and a first Azzurri goal for Moise Kean did the damage.


Italy 6-0 Liechtenstein: Mar 26, 2019

Fabio Quagliarella became Italy's oldest international scorer at the age of 36 as Liechtenstein were hammered in Parma. The veteran scored two penalties in the rout - the latter after Daniel Kaufmann was sent off on the stroke of half-time - while Stefano Sensi, Marco Verratti, Kean and Leonardo Pavoletti were also on target. 


Greece 0-3 Italy: Jun 8, 2019

A flying start to qualifying continued in Athens in a match that was essentially over thanks to a three-goal 10-minute salvo in the first half. Barella's thumping opener was added to by Lorenzo Insigne's sumptuous strike, before Leonardo Bonucci headed in the third. 


Italy 2-1 Bosnia-Herzegovina: Jun 11, 2019

In one of the trickiest encounters during Italy's run, the hosts fell behind to Roma striker Edin Dzeko's close-range effort after 32 minutes. Insigne levelled shortly after the break, but it took until the 86th minute for Verratti to curl home the winner.


Armenia 1-3 Italy: Sep 5, 2019

Italy again had to come from behind after Aleksandre Karapetian put Armenia in a surprise lead, but he was sent off after Andrea Belotti's leveller. Still, it was not until the 77th minute that Lorenzo Pellegrini headed the visitors ahead, and an unfortunate own goal from goalkeeper Aram Ayrapetyan rounded out the win.


Finland 1-2 Italy: Sep 8, 2019

A hectic final 30 minutes saw Teemu Pukki cancel out Ciro Immobile's header to draw Finland level from the penalty spot. However, a spot-kick of their own from Jorginho after a handball from Sauli Vaisanen maintained Italy's 100 per cent record in qualifying.


Italy 2-0 Greece: Oct 12, 2019

A month later, another Jorginho penalty set Italy on their way against Greece in Rome and Federico Bernardeschi added a second as the Azzurri booked their place at Euro 2020.


Liechtenstein 0-5 Italy: Oct 15, 2019

It was another luckless night for Liechtenstein, who were turned over in Vaduz. Belotti scored twice, while Bernardeschi, Alessio Romagnoli and Stephan El Shaarawy put their names on the scoresheet.


Bosnia-Herzegovina 0-3 Italy: Nov 15, 2019

The record-breaking day arrived in Zenica as Italy controlled proceedings. Francesco Acerbi's first goal for his country and Insigne's strike after 37 minutes had the visitors coasting at the break. Belotti struck a fine third to ensure a new landmark was set.

MotoGP icon Jorge Lorenzo on Thursday announced he will retire following this weekend's Valencia Grand Prix.

The three-time world champion has endured a frustrating debut campaign with Repsol Honda, for whom Marc Marquez surged to a sixth title in the premier class.

Lorenzo admitted a crash in Assen ahead of the Dutch TT that left him with a fractured vertebrae and kept him out of four races took a significant toll on his desire to continue in the sport.

With the help of Opta, we look at some of the standout statistics from the 32-year-old Spaniard's illustrious career.

2 – Lorenzo has won five world championships across all categories (three in MotoGP, two at 250cc); Angel Nieto (13) and Marc Marquez (8) are the only Spanish riders with more.

3 – Only Valentino Rossi (5) and Randy Mamola (4) have finished a MotoGP season second in the standings more often than Lorenzo (2009, 2011 and 2013).

8 – Only Giacomo Agostini (8), Rossi (7), Marquez (6), Mick Doohan (5), Geoff Duke (4), Mike Hailwood (4), Eddie Lawson (4) and John Surtees (4) have won more titles in the premier class than Lorenzo.

1 – Lorenzo won 44 MotoGP races with Yamaha, a tally bettered onlu by Rossi (56).

5 – The Spaniard ranks fifth for wins in the premier class with 47. He is sixth across all categories with 68.

6 – Lorenzo was most successful at Mugello, a track at which he won six MotoGP races.

114 – Only Rossi (198) has more podiums than Lorenzo in MotoGP/500cc history.

383 – Lorenzo held the record for the most points in a single season in the premier class until Marquez surpassed his benchmark in 2019. The reigning champion heads into the Valencia Grand Prix on 395 points – 12 more than Lorenzo recorded in 2010.

4 – Lorenzo holds the fastest lap record at four of the 19 circuits on the current MotoGP calendar: Barcelona (2018), Motegi (2014), Valencia (2016) and Motorland Aragon (2015).

MotoGP champion Marc Marquez will be aiming to cap another extraordinary season with yet another record in the final race of the campaign in Valencia.

Marquez had his sixth world title wrapped up with four races to spare after triumphing in Thailand last month, and has since gone on to set a new points record in MotoGP.

The Repsol Honda rider is now just five shy of becoming the first rider to reach 400 points in a single season.

Meanwhile, Valentino Rossi needs a podium finish in the season finale to avoid equalling his longest run without one in MotoGP.

Using Opta numbers, we take a look at the best facts ahead of the final race of 2019.

395 – Marquez's tally of 395 is a MotoGP record for a single season, while the Spaniard has also achieved 17 podium finishes.

23 – Excluding abandonments, Marquez has finished in first or second place in each of his last 23 races, his best such run in MotoGP.

7 – Maverick Vinales has finished on the podium seven times in 2019. He has never tallied eight podiums in a MotoGP season.

15 – Rossi, who has not won in his last 45 Grands Prix appearances, has not finished on the podium in his last 15 races, meaning he needs to do so on Sunday to avoid matching his poorest run of 16 between 2011 and 2012.

8 – There are some good omens for the Italian, however, with Rossi having triumphed eight times at the Ricardo Tormo circuit – more than any other rider.

12 – Andrea Dovizioso won the last Valencia Grand Prix, breaking a 12-year run without a victory for an Italian rider in the traditional season finale.

50 – Alex Rins will be bringing up a half-century of MotoGP races; he has two wins, eight podium finishes and two fastest laps in the top category.

244 – Marquez, who has won in only one of his six appearances at Valencia, has led for 244 laps this season in MotoGP – 51 more than the rest of the riders combined.

0 – Jorge Lorenzo could finish without a win, podium or pole position for the first time in his 12 seasons in MotoGP.

Lewis Hamilton may have wrapped up the Formula One drivers' title last time out, but he will have a personal milestone in his sights at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Mercedes driver Hamilton clinched his sixth championship and third in succession by finishing second at the United States Grand Prix, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas claiming the win.

Bottas will be seeking to break new ground in his F1 career with another victory at Interlagos, a circuit at which Red Bull's Max Verstappen has shown great pace in recent years.

With the help of Opta, we look at the standout statistics ahead of this weekend's race in Brazil.

 

11 - Hamilton has 10 wins this season and can equal his personal best of 11 in a single year with victory in Brazil.

2 - Bottas has won two of the past three F1 races but has never secured back-to-back victories.

4 - The drivers' championship has been decided at the Brazilian GP six times – more than at any other track. However, the title has been sealed before this race in four of the past five seasons.

15 - Kimi Raikkonen's 2007 success at Interlagos was the only time in the past 15 Brazilian GPs that a driver has triumphed having not started from the front row of the grid.

312 - Alfa Romeo driver Raikkonen will take part in his 312th grand prix in F1, joining Fernando Alonso in second on the all-time appearance list. Only Rubens Barrichello (323) has more.

6 - Mercedes will equal Williams' record of six successive pole positions at this race if Hamilton or Bottas qualify first.

33 - The Silver Arrows can match their F1 record of 33 podiums in a single season from 2016 by getting both drivers to finish in the top three.

9 - Ferrari have taken as many pole positions as Mercedes this season (nine each); the last time the Scuderia topped this ranking across a season was in 2008 when they secured eight, level with McLaren. However, Charles Leclerc will take a new power unit and is expected to receive a grid penalty of at least 10 places.

2 - Verstappen has recorded two of the past three fastest laps at the Brazilian GP, more than in any other race in his F1 career.

Raheem Sterling will sit out of England's Euro 2020 qualifier on Thursday after a bust-up with international team-mate Joe Gomez.

Sterling admitted his emotions got the better of him when he confronted Gomez, after the pair also clashed on the field during Liverpool's 3-1 win over Manchester City on Sunday.

Gareth Southgate has sought to act quickly and decisively to draw a line under the matter, but the England manager can at least take comfort from the fact he is far from the first boss to have to try to defuse a team-mates' tiff.

Here we look through some examples of when presumed footballing friends became – however briefly – the best of enemies.

Neymar v Nelson Semedo

Neymar's world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain dominated Barcelona's preparation for the 2017-18 season, and all was not well on the training ground in the weeks leading up to the €222million switch.

Recent arrival Nelson Semedo became involved in a skirmish with the wantaway star in what proved to be an unseemly coda to his time at Camp Nou.

"I just arrived and one of the most important players in the team got in a fight with me," Semedo told Sport five months on from the July 2017 fracas. "It annoyed me at the time, but I also understood he was in a difficult moment, he wanted to leave."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Oguchi Onyewu

Never a shrinking violet, Zlatan Ibrahimovic boasts a career of confrontation in football. The taekwondo black-belt seemingly came close to meeting his match in USA defender Oguchi Onyewu when both played for AC Milan.

"I head-butted him, and we flew at each other," Ibrahimovic wrote in his autobiography. "We wanted to tear each other limb from limb. It was brutal. We were rolling around, punching and kneeing each other. We were crazy and furious – it was like life and death.

David Beckham v Alex Ferguson

Many a Manchester United player felt the heat of Alex Ferguson's infamous 'hairdryer' during the Scot's historic Old Trafford reign but – as far as we're aware – his ferocious words never actually drew blood.

The same could not be said for a stray boot in the United dressing room, though, when David Beckham was given a rocket by his boss in the aftermath of a February 2003 FA Cup defeat to Arsenal during the midfielder's final season at the club.

"He was around 12 feet from me. Between us on the floor lay a row of boots. David swore. I moved towards him and, as I approached, I kicked a boot. It hit him right above the eye," Ferguson explained. The resulting cut and butterfly plaster predictably dominated as the UK tabloids gorged on the fallout. 

Mario Balotelli v Micah Richards

Mario Balotelli was rarely far away from behind-the-scenes controversy at Manchester City, allegedly throwing darts at youth team players and once even grappling with his manager and mentor Roberto Mancini.

However, things reached boiling point in 2011 due to the unexpected multi-lingual talents of one of his team-mates.

"We were playing five-a-side and we were losing because he didn't work, which is evident,' Micah Richards told Sky quiz show 'A League of Their Own' in 2016. "He swore at me in Italian and he thought I didn't understand. But I know a bit of Italian lingo, so I said, 'Who you talking to?' He said it again, so we squared up and I offered him out. But he said no."

Craig Bellamy v John Arne Riise

Balotelli's arrival at City in August 2010 came around the same time as Craig Bellamy was tying up a loan move to Cardiff City, leaving us all to wonder what might have happened had the combustible duo shared a dressing room for any period of time. John Arne Riise, perhaps, has a fair idea.

In an infamous incident before a Champions League game at Barcelona in 2007, where both players went on to score in a Liverpool win, Riise drew Bellamy's terrifying wrath when he refused demands to sing karaoke on a team night out.

Later on, Riise found an unexpected visitor in his hotel room. "Craig Bellamy at the foot of my bed with a golf club in his hands," he reported in his autobiography. According to the Norway full-back's version of events, he managed to avoid Bellamy striking his shins by jumping out of bed but took blows to his hip and thigh.

Aboubakar Kamara v Aleksandar Mitrovic

While the risks of a rowdy team karaoke session might seem obvious in hindsight, sometimes even yoga isn't safe.

Aboubakar Kamara had not appeared particularly zen when he grabbed the ball off Aleksandar Mitrovic to take and miss a penalty during Fulham's December 2018 Premier League game against Huddersfield Town.

A fight then reportedly broke out between the pair at a yoga session and an eventful few weeks for Kamara concluded with him being arrested on suspicion of actual bodily harm and criminal damage after an incident at Fulham's training ground.

Alan Shearer v Keith Gillespie

Famously incisive in front of goal, the Premier League's all-time record goalscorer Alan Shearer once became involved in an argument about dropped cutlery with Newcastle United team-mate Keith Gillespie that escalated sharply.

"We ended up going outside, and I took one swing and missed, and he hit me - and that was goodnight," Gillespie told talkSPORT of the scrap during a 1997 team trip to Dublin. "I did actually spend a night in hospital. Because when he hit me, I fell and hit my head on a plant pot. I was unconscious."

Apparently, Shearer visited his stricken team-mate and they "had a laugh about it". They weren't the only ones.

Stig Tofting v Jasper Gronkjaer

A tough-tackling midfield enforcer, you might expect any training ground row featuring Stig Tofting to have followed a bone-crunching challenge. However, there was more shivering than shuddering when a pre-2002 World Cup jape involving Jasper Gronkjaer got out of hand.

During some stretching exercises, Tofting and partner-in-crime Thomas Gravesen sprayed the then-Chelsea winger with water bottles and put ice cubes down his shorts. Gronkjaer hurt his eye during the prank, which concluded with him wrestling Tofting and being grabbed by the throat.

Danish FA official Jim Stjerne-Hansen told reporters: "These players need a kindergarten teacher to sort them out."

Lionel Messi is seemingly in no rush to extend his Barcelona contract.

Messi's future is regularly talked about after it was revealed earlier this year the superstar can leave the LaLiga giants for free at the end of any season.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is contracted at Barcelona until 2021, though it remains to be seen if he wants to stay on beyond his current deal.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI IN NO RUSH OVER BARCELONA CONTRACT

Messi has no intention of discussing a contract extension at Barcelona until next season, according to Marca.

The 32-year-old plans to be at the club next season, the report says, but will not open talks regarding a new deal.

Messi has been at Barcelona during his entire professional career, winning 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies.

ROUND-UP

- Paris Saint-Germain are looking to the future. Sport reports the Ligue 1 giants are seriously considering a move for Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior. Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have been linked with moves away from PSG and the 19-year-old could help the French club going forward.

- Manchester City and Real Madrid could be set for a transfer battle. The clubs are interested in Real Sociedad and Spain forward Mikel Oyarzabal, according to CalcioMercato. The 22-year-old has scored 29 LaLiga goals since the start of 2017-18.

- Unai Emery has some time. The Sun reports the under-fire Arsenal head coach will be given until 2020 to turn the club's form around. It also reports Manchester City would allow assistant Mikel Arteta – an ex-Arsenal midfielder – to head to Emirates Stadium, should his former club want to appoint the Spaniard.

- Liverpool could strengthen in January. TalkSPORT reports the Premier League leaders are in advanced talks with Bournemouth over a deal to sign winger Ryan Fraser, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Bournemouth may want Harry Wilson – who is on loan from Liverpool – as part of a deal.

- Struggling in ninth in Serie A, Fiorentina may be ready to move on from Vincenzo Montella. The club are ready to make an approach for former Inter coach Luciano Spalletti, according to Firenze Viola.

In isolation, scrappy wins over Lokomotiv Moscow and AC Milan in the space of five days hardly scream significant moments in Juventus' season.

But it is the bold measure taken by Maurizio Sarri to achieve those victories that make this week seem particularly important in the wider picture for the Bianconeri and their legendary forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

Needing a goal against Lokomotiv in midweek with the score locked at 1-1, Sarri made the audacious call to hook Ronaldo in the 82nd minute.

Juve huffed and puffed and finally blew the door down thanks to Douglas Costa in the third minute of added time.

After the game, Sarri insisted he made the decision because Ronaldo had been suffering with a knee injury in the build-up, a line he repeated after Sunday's game. The hunched shoulders, sullen face and refusal to shake his coach's hand suggested it was a decision that did not have the approval of the Portugal captain. 

It was an infinitely more drastic call against Milan on Sunday. Spare for a decent disguised pass into the area for Gonzalo Higuain and a long-range effort shortly before half-time, it was unquestionably another subdued performance from Ronaldo, who stormed straight down the tunnel after being withdrawn.

But to haul off one of the greatest goalscorers of all time after 55 minutes with your team needing a goal is brave at best, reckless at worst.

And yet, Sarri's decision was again entirely justified as Ronaldo's replacement Paulo Dybala jinked and weaved his way through the Milan defence and coolly picked out the bottom-left corner with 13 minutes left to play to seal a 1-0 victory.

What feels so pertinent about all this is the way Sarri is considering ordinary decisions for a player who throughout his career has been out of the ordinary.

It is worlds apart from the Sarri we saw nine months ago during the EFL Cup final, where his then Chelsea side were eventually beaten on penalties by Manchester City.

On that occasion, Sarri's authority was left in tatters by goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga's shocking act of insubordination when he seemingly refused to be substituted at Wembley.

The sight of a seething Sarri trudging down the tunnel, only to return to the dugout moments later was an uncomfortable one.

Perhaps that moment has instilled in Sarri a take-no-prisoners attitude that even a player of Ronaldo's history and calibre cannot escape. Perhaps he genuinely, and justifiably from the fact they won both games, felt others were more capable of earning his team the result. 

What is certain, is that none of Ronaldo's coaches during his record-breaking days at Real Madrid, regardless of personal relationship, would have had the nerve to make such calls.

Ronaldo has clashed with coaches who boast far superior records to the one major honour Sarri has won in his career and one wonders how long he is willing to accept being the fall guy if Juve continue struggling to fire.

But the fact remains whether you consider Sarri to be inspired, brave or reckless, ultimately the decision to replace Ronaldo in two straight games with his side chasing a goal has proven to be the right one.

And that absolutely seems like a significant moment.

Liverpool's unbeaten Premier League season continued in some style as they turned on the style in a 3-1 win over Manchester City, who they have not lost to at Anfield in the top flight since May 2003.

Meanwhile, it was another tough weekend for Premier League fans across North London, with Arsenal and Tottenham both dropping points as the dark clouds continue to gather around both clubs.

Arsenal's defeat at high-flying Leicester City left the Gunners winless in their last four top-flight outings, while Spurs are without a victory in five attempts after their 1-1 draw at home with Sheffield United.

With Arsenal failing to win, Manchester United had the opportunity to narrow the gap between sixth and seventh to just one point and they did just that, bringing Brighton and Hove Albion's two-game winning streak to an end in a 3-1 victory.

All four games produced a feast of milestones and telling stats, the best of which are brought to light below.

DEFEAT LEAVES GUARDIOLA WITH LOWEST CITY POINTS HAUL

Trips to Liverpool have rarely been kind to Pep Guardiola during his time at Manchester City and Sunday's defeat was his fourth during his time in the Premier League.

City have amassed 25 points this season - Guardiola's lowest return after 12 games of a Premier League season - and he is more than three points behind the league leaders for the first time at this stage of a season.

Liverpool sit eight points clear of second-placed Leicester City and only Manchester United in 1993-94 have been further ahead after 12 games in the Premier League era.

The Reds prospered courtesy of goals from Fabinho, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, the latter scoring at Anfield in the league for the 22nd time since August 2018.

No other top-flight player has scored more at a single venue in the same period.

RASHFORD REVELS IN UNITED'S HOME IMPROVEMENTS

Marcus Rashford gave the Old Trafford crowd a rare moment to savour in a difficult season when his shot ricocheted off the underside of the crossbar to put Manchester United 3-1 up against Brighton.

It was the 22-year-old's 30th goal on home turf for the Red Devils, six of which have come in 2019-20, and he needs three more to equal his best goal return in home matches (nine in 2017-18).

Rashford's form has been key to United's recent upturn in fortunes at Old Trafford, where they are unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches and their last seven across all competitions - their longest run under the same manager since March 2018 (eight unbeaten under Jose Mourinho).

Solskjaer named his youngest Premier League starting line-up of the season, averaging 23 years and 350 days, and his side extended Brighton's miserable run on the road against the top flight's "big six": the Seagulls are winless in 15 such games.

ARSENAL IN WORST START FOR 37 YEARS

Unai Emery might be running out of chances after a 2-0 loss to Leicester City condemned Arsenal to their worst record at this stage of a top-flight season since 1982-83.

The Gunners accumulated 17 points from 12 games in 2014-15, as many as they have now, but could at least lay claim to a positive goal difference of +5 at that time, unlike the -1 that resides next to their disappointing points tally this term.

Saturday's trip to the King Power Stadium marked Emery's 50th Premier League match in charge and his 13th defeat.

He has overseen 25 victories and led the club to 87 points, two fewer than Arsene Wenger accrued over his final 50 matches as manager.

The contrast could not be greater to electrifying Leicester, who have now won five successive Premier League home games and boast one more point (26 in total) than they did at this point of their title-winning 2015-16 campaign.

SON SHINING BUT SPURS STILL STUCK IN DARKNESS

If there is some comfort to be found for Arsenal, it is in the malaise affecting north London rivals Tottenham.

Mauricio Pochettino's men could only draw 1-1 with Sheffield United, who became the third promoted side – after Blackburn Rovers (1992-93) and Nottingham Forest (1994-95) – to go unbeaten through their opening six away games of a Premier League season.

George Baldock's goal earned a share of the spoils and means Spurs have dropped a league-high 12 points from winning positions this season.

Worse still, the Champions League finalists have banked only 14 points, their lowest tally after 12 games since 2008-09, a season that cost Juande Ramos his job.

Son Heung-min, scorer of the opener, is one player pulling his weight. The South Korea star has netted five times in his past five appearances in all competitions.

Unai Emery reached the milestone of 50 Premier League matches in charge of Arsenal on Saturday in the 2-0 defeat at Leicester City, but an overriding sense of disappointment is all he has managed to establish at the club.

Emery arrived in 2018 as Arsene Wenger's replacement, with the Frenchman ultimately paying the price for going 14 years without winning the title.

In fairness to Wenger, spending at the club was significantly reduced in the wake of their move to the Emirates Stadium, particularly when compared to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool over the same period.

It was hoped Emery's introduction would bring a fresh approach and winning mentality after years of stagnation at Arsenal. However, despite his trophy successes in previous spells with Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain, some – justifiably – had doubts about the Spaniard's style of play and training methods often criticised as boring.

After reaching 50 Premier League games, it is difficult at present to see him lasting much longer and his record compared to the division's best highlights the gulf in class.

Going backwards after Wenger

Emery's Arsenal have averaged 1.74 points per game across his 50 matches in the top flight. Of those in charge of the traditional 'big six', that figure is only better than Mauricio Pochettino (1.7) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (1.30) over their 50 most recent Premier League games – though the latter's figures are obviously skewed by his spell at Cardiff City.

That's where the positives end in terms of points per game for Emery, however.

Jurgen Klopp (2.62) and Pep Guardiola (2.52) are way out in front over their past 50 matches, while Frank Lampard – who has only taken charge of 12 in the Premier League – has accumulated a respectable 2.17 points per outing.

Similarly, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has done significantly better, averaging 1.84 points per game across his last 50 matches in the Premier League with Liverpool and the Foxes.

But the real kicker is the comparison with the much-maligned Wenger, whose 1.76 average means he too collected more points over his final 50 games at Arsenal than Emery has in his first 50.

Way behind the most prolific scorers

Wenger's Arsenal also scored more than Emery's side. During the Frenchman's final 50 games, they scored 96 times, seven more than they have with the Basque coach.

City have set the bar in terms of scoring over the period in question, netting 130 times, 12 more than Liverpool.

Defensively it is the other way round. While City's record of 33 allowed is exceptional, Liverpool's is even better at just 31.

Arsenal's defensive woes have been well-documented under Emery, with Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Sokratis Papastathopoulos hardly convincing.

As such, they have conceded 68 times since the start of last season, more than double both City and Liverpool and four more than in Wenger's final stretch.

Emery's already had enough time to solve issues

Emery can at least point to the fact he has lost fewer matches (13) than Wenger (16) did over the periods highlighted, though it's a pretty hollow victory.

Klopp and Liverpool again set the standard here, having lost just one of their past 50 Premier League matches, though even Rodgers has been beaten fewer times than Emery over his 50 most recent games, losing 12.

The overarching issue for Arsenal and Emery is a complete lack of identity, something one can certainly argue they still had even in Wenger's latter days.

While these statistics highlight how far behind the Premier League's leading pair Arsenal are, their lack of a discernible style and direction is arguably the main problem, one Emery probably will not get much more time to fix.

After all, there is little doubt they have regressed under his stewardship.

Here they are again: Liverpool and Manchester City. The Premier League's leading protagonists primed for another high-paced, highly important battle, both determined to make a statement ahead of an international break.

It is 10 months since these two previously lined up against each other in the league. Back on January 3, the Reds went into the fixture at the Etihad Stadium knowing a win would open up a double-digit lead at the summit.

Success would not have secured the crown, of course, but it would have left their rivals with substantial ground to make up and with less than half a season remaining. City knew as much too, leading to a performance full of spirit to go with their undoubted skill.

"We knew that it was a final today, if we lose it is almost over," Pep Guardiola said after a hard-fought 2-1 triumph secured by Leroy Sane’s 72nd-minute goal.

For Jurgen Klopp's side, it was a first defeat in their 21st league outing. It also turned out to be the only one, yet they still could not end the club's long, agonising wait for title number 19.

So near, yet so far.

Victory in the Champions League final helped soften the blow to a degree, but the league is undoubtedly the trophy the fanbase craves the most. Their bread and butter, as the legendary Bill Shankly once so wonderfully described it. Liverpool have been starved of it since 1990.

They have gone close on three occasions to ending the drought in the Premier League era, finishing second to Manchester United under Rafael Benitez in 2009, then missing out again five years later during Brendan Rodgers' reign, City on that occasion pipping them to the post. Those second-place finishes offered hope, albeit history shows they were false dawns in terms of climbing back on their perch.

There were reasons for the pessimists to fear the same might happen again this season, too. International commitments led to a disjointed return to club duty - Sadio Mane did not make it back until August 5, four days before the opener against Norwich City – while the transfer window was all about trimming the fat from the squad, rather than making major additions.

But, if anything, the disappointment of coming up short just a few months ago has fuelled a determination among a group of players clearly inspired by their manager.

Familiarity has not led to a lack of focus. The heavy metal football may have been toned down, yet Klopp has ingrained in them a cold, steely edge. No cause ever feels lost - just ask Barcelona from last season's European semi-final second leg, as well as Leicester City and Aston Villa more recently. These Reds have developed a ruthless, relentless streak, something that will be required if they want to stay ahead in a gruelling race.

These are the same faces, only this feels different. Fabinho was a second-half sub at the Etihad at the start of the year, a big-money signing still bedding in. Now he is a key cog, the anchor surrounded by attacking intent. There are few - if any - better than the Brazilian in the defensive midfield role across Europe. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, meanwhile, was not involved. He is quickly getting up to speed again after his lengthy injury lay-off, adding an alternative option to slot into the engine room. As for the defence, Klopp has the kind of options available to him that his opposite number would welcome right now.

While there is still time for tiredness amid a crowded fixture list (enjoy the Club World Cup, everybody!) to kick in, this not-new-but-still-improved Liverpool have charged out of the gate with such ferocity that City are left trying to hang on to their coattails again. The going will get tougher, but a sizeable lead would give them some much-needed breathing space.

So, with a six-point cushion and with home advantage this time around, Klopp's warriors get a chance on Sunday to do something they could not quite manage at the start of 2019.

As was the case in Manchester, this weekend’s clash at Anfield will not decide the destiny of the trophy, despite the hyperbole surrounding it. While City have shown signs of vulnerability with two defeats on their record already, it should not be forgotten that they had also lost twice just prior to the previous meeting.

On that occasion, the fine margins that can define a football game amounted to 1.12 centimetres, the distance John Stones had to spare when clearing Sadio Mane's goal-bound effort with the score at 0-0.

This time, Liverpool will hope to get across the line against City. If they do, the early front-runners will become the firm favourites, even if there are still plenty of hurdles to clear.

Borussia Dortmund endured another grim Klassiker experience at the Allianz Arena on Saturday as Bayern Munich ran out 4-0 winners.

Bayern were only a week out from a 5-1 thrashing at Eintracht Frankfurt that cost head coach Niko Kovac his job, but Dortmund were still unable to lay a glove on them in a one-sided encounter.

Dortmund last won in Munich in April 2014, with the caveat that their rivals had already been crowned Bundesliga champions before succumbing to a 3-0 loss.

At the start of the decade Bayern-Dortmund was one of the most compelling rivalries in world football. Now, at least when the game takes place in Bavaria, a procession feels somewhat inevitable – as the past five Bundesliga editions show.

November 9, 2019 - Bayern Munich 4 Borussia Dortmund 0

Robert Lewandowski's was his old employers' inevitable tormentor, moving on to 23 goals for the season in all competitions as interim head coach Hansi Flick enjoyed a dream start in the job.

Serge Gnabry was also on target, while ex-Bayern defender Mats Hummels put through his own goal. Jadon Sancho was substituted before half-time for a listless Dortmund, with boss Lucien Favre stating the England winger was "not good enough" on his return from injury.

 

April 6, 2019 – Bayern Munich 5 Borussia Dortmund 0

Hummels – in Bayern colours for the last time in this fixture – opened the scoring as Lewandowski inevitably got in on the act. Goals from Javi Martinez and Gnabry meant it was 4-0 before half-time.

Lewandowski completed a rout that was particularly sapping, given Dortmund had arrived at the Allianz Arena two points ahead in a gripping race for the title, which Bayern and Kovac would retain on the final matchday.

 

March 31, 2018 – Bayern Munich 6 Borussia Dortmund 0

There was no close Bundesliga battle to speak of here, as Bayern moved to the brink of glory by humiliating their rivals.

Lewandowski was a hat-trick scorer on this occasion, with Thomas Muller, James Rodriguez and Franck Ribery in on the act to the delight of veteran coach Jupp Heynckes, who had returned to eek out one more title after Carlo Ancelotti's sacking the previous September.

Far from being able to capitalise, Dortmund entered their own state of flux when Peter Stoger replaced Peter Bosz at the helm midway through the campaign.

 

April 4, 2017 – Bayern Munich 4 Borussia Dortmund 1

Dortmund were unable to match their impressive form of Thomas Tuchel's maiden 2015-16 season in charge and headed to the Allianz Arena fourth, 15 points behind the champions elect.

Bayern surged into a 2-0 lead through Ribery and Lewandowski and, although Raphael Guerreiro's free-kick reduced the arrears, Arjen Robben and a Lewandowski penalty ensured Ancelotti had no real cause for alarm.

 

October 4, 2015 – Bayern Munich 5 Borussia Dortmund 1

Tuchel's first Klassiker was hardly a more pleasant experience. The ever-prolific Lewandowski scored twice for Pep Guardiola's Bayern.

Another man with Dortmund ties, Mario Gotze completed the scoring – Muller having netted a first-half brace before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back.

Leicester City have produced better performances this season.

Saturday's 2-0 win over Arsenal saw the Foxes show flashes of their best, but in reality they could have humiliated their visitors had they been as good as they can be.

That's a damning indictment of the standard this Arsenal team is playing at.

Brendan Rodgers' men wasted some fine opportunities, lacking perhaps the clinical nature that often typifies them in attack, while defensively Arsenal were afforded few chances of their own.

But Arsenal's incompetence saw them unable to raise their level to Leicester's. In the end, a 2-0 defeat ultimately flattered the Gunners.

Early positivity dissipates

Emery came under fresh criticism after their previous Premier League game, a 1-1 draw with Wolves, for getting his tactics completely wrong, setting the team up narrowly despite Nuno Espirito Santo's penchant for playing with plenty of width.

This week Emery could be spared such criticism, with the line-up seeing him appear to give in to the fans' desires - there was a back three, two wing-backs offering much-needed width and more attacking intent. There was Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi in midfield too, plus Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all started.

But there was precious little to be encouraged about by the performance. After a bright start, they failed to match Leicester in any department.

Gunners have lost their identity

Arsenal had a total of eight shots over the course of the contest, albeit just two in the second half. Only one hit the target and Lacazette was guilty of a woeful miss in the same move that Wilfred Ndidi was fortunate to escape unpunished when handling in the box.

Even suggestions of defensive solidity before the break could only be put down to Leicester's wastefulness. On another day, the Gunners could have been trailing by at least two at the interval.

Emery's inability to project an identity on this Arsenal team has fans still clinging on to the days when they were renowned for their eye-catching style as the Premier League's pass-masters.

Those days are long gone – this Leicester is the team Arsenal think they should be.

Foxes like the Arsenal of old

In Ndidi, Leicester have an impressive midfielder who effectively shields the defence while also proving reliable in possession. The Nigerian won 61.9 per cent of his 21 duels, conceded just one foul and completed 90 per cent of his attempted passes.

Youri Tielemans was excellent once again. Perhaps criticised for his inability to dictate matches, his influence in attack was undeniable. Of his 62 passes, 51 were in the Arsenal half, while he created three chances and set up Jamie Vardy's opener.

And then there is James Maddison. His finish for the second goal was sublime, but again he was a creative force, crafting three opportunities and playing a vital role in Vardy's goal with an outrageous flick.

Even Leicester's defenders were impressive on the ball, a hallmark of previous Arsenal backlines. Caglar Soyuncu completed 86.5 per cent of his passes in the visitors' half while Jonny Evans' success rate was 82.8, comfortably better than all three of the centre-backs in the opposing XI.

But away from statistics, there is an incisiveness and flow to Leicester's play – especially in the second half on Saturday – that is akin to some of Wenger's most entertaining Arsenal teams.

Their first goal was particularly notable in that respect, as Ricardo Pereira played the ball into Maddison, he flicked it to Tielemans, whose first-time pass picked out Vardy to sweep home and round off a fluid move.

Right man in the wrong dugout?

Rodgers has managed to implement his style impressively despite only taking charge in February. Emery has been at Arsenal for considerably longer, yet it is still difficult to work out what he has changed for the better.

Arsenal were linked with Rodgers when they hired Emery, but they ultimately went for the man who had won trophies with Paris Saint-Germain, with reservations over the former's time at Liverpool hanging over him.

But, if the decision-makers at Arsenal had the idea of playing up-tempo football similar to Wenger's peak years after the Frenchman departed, the choice of Emery is a baffling one. Rodgers, for his 'philosophy', would have made a more natural replacement. 

Now it appears Rodgers' Leicester are the real deal, while Emery's Arsenal are a real dud.

There is no doubt Claudio Bravo has the full backing of his manager ahead of Manchester City's clash with Liverpool.

"Why should I doubt any player in my team? Why do you ask these questions?" a spiky Pep Guardiola said on Friday.

"It's a team game and sometimes you make a mistake; sometimes you make a good save and sometimes not. But why should I not have any confidence with one player in my team? He wouldn't be here otherwise."

It was a staunch defence of a player whose errors in his first season in England were highly scrutinised, before he then lost his place to £35million man Ederson.

Bravo came on against Atalanta after Ederson sustained an injury, but his outing only lasted 36 minutes until a rash run from goal ended in a red card.

Still, with Ederson not fit to start at Anfield, Guardiola will be turning to Bravo again on Sunday. He insists he has no doubts about the former Barcelona man, who was the hero in the Community Shield penalty shoot-out win over Liverpool in August. But should he?

EDERSON IS STILL THE SHOT-STOPPING SUPREMO...

Exploring what might be called the basic elements of goalkeeping, there is little to argue against Ederson having the edge over Bravo.

The Brazilian has made 85 Premier League appearances, keeping 41 clean sheets – almost one every two games. Bravo, in 24 games, has managed six shut-outs, or one in four.

Ederson, of course, has been playing behind a stronger defence than Bravo did in 2016-17, when he made all but three of those appearances. Dig deeper, though, and the numbers are still not on Bravo's side.

The Chile international has faced 64 Premier League shots on target, saving 37 of them, giving him a save percentage of 57.8. Ederson, with 145 saves from 202 shots on target faced, is at 71.8 per cent.

 

...AND HE IS DEFYING EXPECTATIONS

Going further, Ederson outperforms Bravo when it comes to Expected Goals on Target Conceded (xGOT) – Opta's measure of the quality of a chance created by a team, and therefore a good indicator of how many goals a keeper can reasonably be expected to have conceded.

Excluding own goals, Ederson has conceded 57 times in the Premier League, with an xGOT rating of 62.9. Bravo, who has conceded 27 times, has an xGOT of 19.9.

In other words, Ederson should realistically have conceded six more goals than he has in England's top flight, given the quality of chances his opponents created. As for Bravo, he has let in seven more goals than he should. 

 

KLOPP'S RIGHT – EDERSON CHANGES HOW CITY PLAY

Speaking to Sky Sports, Klopp said this week: "If he wouldn't play then [City's game plan] would change, because Ederson is an important part of their game, 100 per cent. Bravo can do similar things, but exactly the same? Nobody can do [that]. That's how it is."

Although he didn't specify what makes Ederson so crucial to City, it's reasonable to assume Klopp was referring to his sweeper-keeper tendencies. And he has a point.

Ederson is a critical part of City's possession play. He boasts a passing accuracy of 84.7 per cent, and he has completed 26.2 per cent of all passes ending in the final third – a hugely important ploy when it comes to escaping the Liverpool press.

He also has a massive 'keeper sweeper' accuracy of 95.1 per cent. Opta defines a keeper sweeper as any time that a goalkeeper rushes out at least to the edge of his area, under some pressure from an opposing forward racing to the ball, in which he reacts quickly and reads the play.

As for Bravo, his passing accuracy is down at 74 per cent, with his 'keeper sweeper' accuracy at 79.3 per cent. As for those long passes into the last third, he has completed only one in 10. Klopp does not need telling that those are significant drops.

To give Bravo his due, though, perhaps Guardiola is right not to be worried about the risk of mistakes, at least. Bravo has only twice committed an error leading to a shot or goal in the Premier League. Ederson has done so nine times.

When Mateo Kovacic re-joined Chelsea in a reported £45million deal after spending last season on loan at Stamford Bridge, it's fair to say the news wasn't met with much more than a shrug from most.

A tidy player, undoubtedly, but Kovacic's debut campaign at Chelsea did little to hush those who have expected more from him since moving to Real Madrid after very promising spells with Dinamo Zagreb and Inter earlier in his career.

Fading in and out of matches, struggling to dictate play and seemingly unable to completely convince Maurizio Sarri, Kovacic generally looked like a square peg in a round hole.

Although he made 21 Premier League starts, he completed 90 minutes just twice and failed to dislodge Ross Barkley, whose own tale of somewhat unfulfilled potential is perhaps comparable.

But under Frank Lampard this season, Kovacic looks to be on the right track and showed evidence he is stepping out of Jorginho's shadow in Saturday's 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.

For all the praise Lampard's young team – which on Saturday was the youngest it, or any previous Chelsea starting XI, has been in the Premier League – has received this season, their first-half showing highlighted deficiencies.

Vicente Guaita in the Palace goal was barely worked despite Chelsea's dominance, with three of their first eight shots coming from free-kicks, while there were also a couple of long-distance efforts.

A lack of impetus in the final third was laid bare without the suspended Jorginho, as Tammy Abraham only had a solitary shot before half-time.

While Kovacic caught the eye with some powerful runs from deep and Christian Pulisic's trickery on the ball left Palace defenders in knots on a couple of occasions, their general build-up play was a little predictable and the final pass unable to cut through the visitors' packed defence.

Chelsea would have been well aware of how Palace planned to set up. They are notoriously effective away from home, with their record of 11 Premier League wins on the road since the start of last season bettered by only Liverpool, Manchester City (both 18) and Chelsea (14).

Jorginho's usual influence was particularly notable by its absence.

Having been a frequent target of Chelsea fans last season, often booed and jeered by Blues supporters, he has gone about his business very effectively this term.

No player had attempted or completed more passes (865/765) than the Italian in the Premier League in 2019-20 before Saturday, while his 125 passes into the final third was also unmatched, proving there is far more to his game than simply nudging possession on to a team-mate five yards away.

Without Jorginho's vision and incisiveness, Chelsea's attackers were already at a disadvantage.

But, while it wouldn't have been fair to expect Kovacic to fill exactly the same role, he did exhibit solid evidence of his own marked improvement and was crucial in breaking Palace down.

His unique spin on the deep-lying playmaker position ultimately proved vital as Chelsea ended Palace's resistance in the 52nd minute – he darted in off the left flank, skipped past two defenders and prodded a pass through to Willian, whose clever flick released Abraham for an easy finish.

For all Jorginho's ability, it was an action one almost certainly wouldn't have seen from the former Napoli schemer.

Kovacic's role in Chelsea's second was rather more Jorginho, however.

Receiving the ball from the back and just inside his own half, Kovacic noticed Pulisic in space on the left and drove an inch-perfect cross-field pass right to him. He cut inside and found Michy Batshuayi, whose deflected shot sat up kindly for the American, who nodded past Guaita.

Although it wasn't Kovacic's name on the scoresheet, he finished the match leaving little doubt of his growing influence.

If he continues on his current trajectory, the only shrugging from Chelsea fans will come after inspirational performances - he has the capability for such effectiveness to be his norm.

There is simply no stopping Robert Lewandowski right now, despite Bayern Munich's relative struggles.

Bayern were fourth in the Bundesliga heading into the weekend and have sacked coach Niko Kovac, yet Lewandowski has 21 goals in 17 games in all competitions.

Even after caretaker boss Hansi Flick revealed on Tue Lewandowski requires groin surgery, the striker went out the next day and scored against Olympiacos.

Now, as he prepares to face former club Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker, the latest incredible record of a sensational career is within sight.

With the help of Opta data, we break down Lewandowski's ridiculous goalscoring form.
 

THE BEST FORM OF HIS CAREER

Lewandowski has been a prolific goalscorer throughout his Bayern career but never has he netted at the frightening rate he is currently maintaining.

The Poland international's best minutes-per-goal rate in a season for Bayern prior to this campaign was a strike every 92 minutes in 2017-18. His foremost conversion rate across a season was previously 27 per cent in both 2016-17 and 2018-19.

This term, Lewandowski has scored every 69 minutes, hitting the net with a staggering 31 per cent of his shots.

He had never previously scored 21 goals - his present tally - in fewer than 21 matches at the start of a campaign, doing so in that number last season, while his best haul after 17 games of a single season was 18 in 2015-16.

THE BEST FORM IN EUROPE

It is not just that Lewandowski is blowing away his previous career bests, he is the standout striker in European football right now.

Lewandowski's 21 goals are comfortably the most by a player in Europe's top leagues in all competitions this term, with Ciro Immobile next on 15. Raheem Sterling has 14, with Timo Werner and Sergio Aguero next on 13 each.

That outstanding minutes-per-goal rate of one every 69 minutes is the best around, too, although Immobile is pushing Lewandowski close with a goal every 70 minutes.

Aided by his remarkable total so far this term, Lewandowski has netted 212 goals since joining Bayern at the start of the 2014-15 season - the third most in that time behind Lionel Messi (255) and Cristiano Ronaldo (232). Not bad company to be keeping.
 

HISTORY-MAKER, RECORD-BREAKER

Between a 2-0 DFL-Supercup defeat to Dortmund on August 3 and a substitute DFB-Pokal appearance against Bochum on October 29, Lewandowski struck in 13 consecutive Bayern games - two matches short of Gerd Muller's club-record streak.

His run of Bundesliga games with goals remains unbroken, though, as Lewandowski became the first player in league history to net in the first 10 matches of a campaign.

Klaus Allofs and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have each scored in 10 straight games across two seasons, but another goal against Dortmund on Saturday would make Lewandowski the first to extend such a streak to 11 matches.

There appears to be no end to the 31-year-old's form and he continues to climb the all-time Bundesliga goals list, reaching fourth with his haul of 216 in 300 games for Bayern and Dortmund. Former coach Jupp Heynckes (third) is next in his sights on 220.

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