Sporting great and global icon Muhammad Ali died four years ago on June 3.

Here we take a look back at some of the most memorable moments of the boxing legend's career.


CLAY-LISTON I

Ali – then known as Cassius Clay – went into his first clash with Sonny Liston as the huge underdog, with the defending WBA and WBC heavyweight champion having picked up two emphatic first-round victories over Floyd Patterson. However, Liston failed to emerge from his corner for the beginning of the seventh round, handing Ali victory. The bout, as well as the re-match won by Ali, was dogged by allegations of fixing, although the claims were never substantiated.

THE FIGHT OF THE CENTURY

Ali had won 31 fights on the bounce by the time he came to face Joe Frazier for the first time in 1971. Ali, having been stripped of his titles and served a three-and-a-half-year ban for rejecting military service, was looking to win back the titles he had been forced to vacate prior to his suspension. However, it was Frazier who eventually emerged as victor by unanimous decision, dropping Ali with a crunching left hook in the 15th and final.


RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE

Victory over Frazier in a non-title rematch was the ideal morale-booster for Ali ahead of a showdown with feared champion George Foreman in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). Foreman had beaten Frazier in 1973 and successfully defended his belts in subsequent fights against Jose Roman and the Ali-conquering Ken Norton, heading to Africa as favourite. However, Ali employed what became known as his rope-a-dope tactic of leaning on the ropes, allowing Foreman to punch himself out and directing straight punches at his opponent's face. The approach worked, as Ali stopped an exhausted Foreman in the eighth.


THRILLER IN MANILA

The third and final bout between Ali and Frazier lived up to and beyond the promise of the earlier two, delivering a brutal and at times horrifying classic for the ages. Frazier's team spent the build-up warning against the underhand tactics they felt Ali used to emerge victorious in their second meeting. However, it was the champion who eventually came out on top, battered but victorious after 14 savage rounds.

THREE-TIME CHAMPION

There remains a strong argument that Ali should have disappeared off into the sunset after that final Frazier epic, but on he went. By the time he lost his crown to Leon Spinks – the 1976 light-heavyweight Olympic champion but a seven-fight novice as a professional – he was a shadow of his former self. Nevertheless, Ali retained enough wily ring smarts to win their 1978 rematch in New Orleans, becoming the first fighter in history to reign as heavyweight champion three times.

Rafael Nadal is usually on course for yet another French Open title on his birthday but the legendary Spaniard has an opportunity to let his hair down this year.

Nadal has become accustomed to celebrating becoming a year older in Paris, yet he was unable to continue his love affair with Roland Garros on his 34th birthday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While French Open organisers are hoping the tournament can start in September, 19-time grand slam champion Nadal is among the players who have doubted whether there will be any more tennis at the highest level this year.

Nadal revealed last year that he partied harder on the rare occasions he was not en route to winning his favourite major on his special day.

As the 'King of Clay' celebrates in his native Mallorca rather than the French capital, we look at some of the numbers from what has been an astonishing career to date.

 

0 - Nadal has never been taken to five sets in a French Open final.

2 - The number of defeats the left-handed great has suffered at Roland Garros compared to an astonishing 93 victories.

5 - The tally of major successes he has achieved since turning 30.

11 - He was the first player to win 11 titles at three different tournaments as a result of his domination in Paris, Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

12 - The record number of French Open titles Nadal has to his name. Also a record for any Tour-level event. 

17 - Nadal has won a set with a double bagel on as many as 17 occasions at Roland Garros. 

19 - He was only 19 when winning his maiden grand slam title on his French Open debut.

24 - It is a decade since Nadal became the youngest man in the Open Era to complete a career Grand Slam.

33 - Nadal went on to end last year at the top of the rankings aged 33, the oldest player to achieve that feat.

50 - The Spanish superstar broke John McEnroe's record by winning 50 consecutive sets on clay before Dominic Thiem ended that run at the Madrid Open two years ago.

Real Madrid have made a habit of European success down the years, winning the ultimate prize more times than any other club, and in 2017 they did what no one else could.

But June 3, 2016 will be remembered by many for contrasting reasons, as Muhammad Ali – one of the greatest athletes ever – died, leaving the sporting world in despair.

This day is also notable for South African cricket, and specifically an historic captaincy announcement.

We take a look at the major sporting events to have happened on this day through the years.

2017 – Los Blancos continue their European reign

When Real Madrid and Juventus went head-to-head in Cardiff for the 2017 Champions League final, the omens appeared to be in favour of the Old Lady – no team had ever defended their title in the competition.

But Madrid are no ordinary club and history was theirs in Wales, as they became the first club to retain the Champions League.

Although Mario Mandzukic cancelled out Cristiano Ronaldo's well-taken 20th-minute opener with an outrageous over-the-shoulder volley, Madrid romped to a 4-1 victory in the second half.

Casemiro's deflected long-range effort put them back in front, Ronaldo turned in from close range to increase the deficit and Marco Asensio finished Juve off after brilliant work from Marcelo – they would go on to win the competition for a third successive season the following year.

2016 – Sport loses an icon

Arguably the most iconic boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali, died exactly four years ago.

His achievements in the ring were plentiful, Ali's most famous victories came in the Thrilla in Manila (1975) against Joe Frazier, and the Rumble in the Jungle (1974), in which he stunningly defeated George Foreman. The latter attracted an estimated one billion TV viewers.

Ali was renowned for his charisma, showmanship and quick wit, while he also wrote poetry and enjoyed success as a musician.

However, his impact as an activist is what he is best remembered for by many. Ali was stripped of his heavyweight titles after refusing to be drafted to the Vietnam War in 1966 and spent over three years away from the ring as he fought his conviction for draft evasion, which was overturned in 1971. His stance saw him grow into an inspirational figure in the civil rights movement.

He succumbed to Parkinson's syndrome in 2016, 32 years after making his diagnosis public. He continues to be regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated athletes in history.

2014 – An historic appointment for South African cricket

With Graeme Smith recently retiring from international cricket, in June 2014 South Africa made an historic appointment for his replacement as Test captain.

Batsman Hashim Amla got the nod despite many suspecting AB de Villiers – Smith's deputy – to have been the leading candidate for the role.

Durban-born Amla, who is of Indian descent, became South Africa's first non-white permanent Test captain in the process.

Amla retired from all forms of international cricket in August last year following the Cricket World Cup.

1999 – Malone named NBA MVP again

After a stellar 1998-99 season, Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz claimed the Maurice Podoloff trophy as he was named NBA MVP.

It was the second time he claimed the prize, making him – at that point – only the ninth player in NBA history to win it more than once, having also been a standout star two years earlier.

In 1998-99, which had a shortened calendar due to a lockout, Malone averaged 23.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists as the Jazz went 37-13, but the San Antonio Spurs ended the season victorious.

Sergio Aguero might struggle for somewhere to put his birthday cards, given his living room cabinets are liberally decorated with hat-trick balls and man-of-the-match trophies.

But if the social media window into the home life of Manchester City's all-time leading scorer has shown he is unlikely to be celebrated for his approach to interior design any time soon, fans can relish one of the modern game's elite goal-getters soon returning to action.

Aguero brought up a double landmark at the end of January – completing a record 12th Premier League hat-trick with his 250th City goal in a 6-1 demolition of Aston Villa.

Eric Brook's previous best mark of 177 was overhauled in a Champions League win at Napoli in 2017 and, as he turns 32, Aguero has considerable daylight between himself and the rest in the club record books.

Alan Shearer, whose hat-trick mark he surpassed, is still the division's leading scorer by some distance with 260, although Wayne Rooney (208) in second and third-placed Andy Cole (187) are vulnerable to Aguero, who is fourth on 180.

Going back to when he first moved to Atletico Madrid from Independiente as a teenager, Aguero has 254 league goals in 376 starts across LaLiga and the Premier League.

Since joining City in 2011-12, his top-flight haul places him seventh among all players in Europe's top five leagues.

Naturally, Lionel Messi (319) and Cristiano Ronaldo (287) are way ahead over that period, but how does Aguero compare to the best of the rest?

Using Opta data, we compared Messi's Argentina colleague with a group of his contemporaries who might also lay claim to being the finest out-and-out number nines of their era.

Record in Europe's top five leagues since 2011-12

GOALS

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) - 180
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Saint-Etienne, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal) - 182
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) -139
Edinson Cavani (Napoli, Paris Saint-Germain) - 190
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Milan, PSG, Manchester United) - 161
Harry Kane (Tottenham) - 136
Robert Lewandowski (Dortmund, Bayern Munich) - 223
Luis Suarez (Liverpool Barcelona) – 207

Like Aguero, a striker to have thrived despite the particular demands Pep Guardiola places upon his centre forward is Bayern star Robert Lewandowski. He is out in front within this elite group and showing no signs of slowing down. Luis Suarez is the only other man through the 200 barrier during the period in question, which Messi and Ronaldo handily obliterated.

MINUTES PER GOAL

Aguero – 106.9
Aubameyang – 130.8
Benzema – 146.5
Cavani – 110.4
Ibrahimovic – 101.3
Kane – 120.6
Lewandowski – 106.4
Suarez - 114.4

While he is outscored by an esteemed handful of his counterparts, few can match Aguero when it comes to efficiency. His 106.9 goals per minute is another all-time Premier League best (for players with a minimum of 20 goals) and is almost identical to Lewandowski's figure. Zlatan Ibrahimovic sits atop this metric – as the man himself would no doubt expect – thanks largely to a brutally prolific four-year spell at PSG.

SHOT CONVERSION PERCENTAGE

Aguero – 18.2
Aubameyang – 20.1
Benzema – 18.2
Cavani – 21.1
Ibrahimovic – 18.7
Kane – 18
Lewandowski – 19.8
Suarez – 18.6

There is little to choose between them here, although Aguero ranking second-bottom is a little surprising given his superb goals-per-minute record. Within the group, only Harry Kane scores with a lower percentage of his shots. Edinson Cavani, who has dutifully performed in the shadow of other star turns in Paris, is the most lethal.

ASSISTS

Aguero – 46
Aubameyang – 46
Benzema – 71
Cavani – 31
Ibrahimovic – 50
Kane – 20
Lewandowski – 43
Suarez – 88

Aguero's involvement in City's all-round game has unquestionably improved under Guardiola and he is closing in on a half-century of assists – matching Aubameyang's number in 31 fewer appearances.

Playing alongside Messi and Ronaldo looks a good way to feather your stats in this regard, with only CR7's old Madrid foil Karim Benzema coming close to Suarez, the S in the MSN forward line that delighted under Luis Enrique. Ibrahimovic might not be noted for his selflessness as Suarez and Benzema are, but he again ranks impressively, while Lewandowski's all-round game is to the fore once more.

Jose Mourinho knows how to make a grand entrance and he proved that at his unveiling as Chelsea manager.

Though June 2 is the date 'The Special One' first arrived on the scene in the Premier League, it was also a day that saw a significant change at FIFA.

Meanwhile, in motorsport, Formula One icon Michael Schumacher got off the mark for Ferrari.

We take a look at the major sporting events to have happened on this day through the years.

 

2004 – The Special One lands in London

Having won the Champions League with Porto, Jose Mourinho arrived at Chelsea with the reputation as one of the world's best up-and-coming coaches.

And - as a sign of what was to come - the Portuguese wasted little time in creating the headlines, declaring himself 'The Special One' during his unveiling as the Blues' new boss.

"We have top players and, sorry if I'm arrogant, we have a top manager. Please don't call me arrogant, but I'm European champion and I think I'm a special one."

He was proved right, his Chelsea side going on to win the Premier League with a then-record 95 points in his first season, also winning a record number of matches (29) during the campaign.

2015 – Blatter's reign comes to an end

A matter of days after he had been re-elected, Sepp Blatter stepped down as the president of FIFA on June 2, 2015.

Blatter's resignation came amid a huge corruption scandal, with the U.S Attorney General Loretta Lynch having announced an investigation into FIFA the previous week.

The Swiss was ultimately cleared of corruption charges, though he was banned from FIFA for eight years for a "disloyal payment" of two million Swiss francs to the then-UEFA president Michel Platini.

He appealed in 2016, managing to get the ban reduced to six years from the initial eight.

1996 – Schumacher clicks into gear for Ferrari

On June 2, 1996, Michael Schumacher put in what is widely considered to be one of the finest performances of his career.

Having to recover from a poor start in adverse weather, Schumacher took the lead in lap 13, going on to dominate the race and win for the first time in a Ferrari.

The German ultimately finished over three seconds a lap faster than the remainder of the field. However, it would be another four years until he claimed his first F1 Championship crown in a Ferrari seat.

1935 – Baseball legend Babe Ruth calls it a day

An iconic figure of American sports, one of baseball's all-time greats - Babe Ruth - retired on this day 85 years ago.

However, his incredible career ended on something of a sour note.

Having signed for the Boston Braves from the New York Yankees, in a role that would also see him serve as the vice-president and assistant manager, Ruth announced his retirement midway through the season.

His reason was a disagreement with Braves owner Judge Emil Fuchs, with Ruth saying: "Judge Fuchs is a double-crosser. His word is no good. He doesn't keep his promises. I don't want another damn thing from him—the dirty double-crosser."

After four NBA championships, an MVP award, two scoring titles, 15 selections to the All-Star Game and All-NBA First Team honours on eight occasions, Shaquille O'Neal called time on his illustrious career on June 1, 2011.

Nine years on and the Hall of Famer remains one of the most dominant centers the league has ever seen.

After being drafted first overall in 1992 by the Orlando Magic, O'Neal was named Rookie of the Year and went on to provide the focal point of a team that reached the NBA Finals in 1995.

The Magic failed to go one better the following year and lost him to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he teamed up with Kobe Bryant and three-peated under Phil Jackson.

He was traded to the Miami Heat and won one more NBA championship there, before stints at the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and, finally, the Boston Celtics.

O'Neal had his jersey numbers retired by the Heat and the Lakers, while the latter also erected a statue of him outside of Staples Center.

Using Stats Perform data, we look at some of the most notable aspects of O'Neal's career.

 

Controlling the paint

From his first year in the league until 2004-05, O'Neal averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in each of those seasons. That is 13 straight and is more than anyone else in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon each accumulated 12 in succession.

During that run, there were 10 consecutive seasons (from 1993-94 until 2002-03) in which O'Neal averaged at least 25 points and 10 rebounds per game. Abdul Jabbar's run of nine from 1969-70 until 1977-78 is the next best.

He is one of just four players in NBA history to score more than 25,000 points and block over 2,500 shots.

A man for the big occasions

While he shared the spotlight with Bryant at the Lakers, O'Neal showed how important he was to the team when needed.

He was named the NBA Finals MVP in 2000, 2001 and 2002. The only other player to win the award in three straight years is Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan.

O'Neal also holds the record for the most offensive rebounds in postseason history, with his 866 comfortably outstripping second-placed Tim Duncan's 778.

 

Struggles from the stripe

While he may have had the beating of most opponents in the paint, O'Neal found life much harder from the free-throw line.

He was often subjected to intentional fouls, with opposing coaches looking to manage the game clock and limit his team's scoring by sending him to the stripe. The strategy was dubbed the Hack-a-Shaq.

O'Neal missed 5,317 free throws across his entire career, the second-most all time in the NBA; only Chamberlain (5,805) missed more.

Of players to have made at least 1,200 free throws in the NBA, O'Neal has the fourth-worst percentage (52.7). Chamberlain is third with a 51.1 per cent success rate, with DeAndre Jordan (47.4) second only to Andre Drummond (46.1 per cent).

O'Neal also holds the single-game record for the most free-throw attempts without making one, failing to hit any of his 11 against the Seattle SuperSonics in December 2000. He still finished the game with 26 points.

Elite sport is gradually returning to our screens amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Germany's Bundesliga, the UFC and the NRL were among the first top-level events to forge a route back last month after pausing due to the global crisis.

A clutch of Europe's other top football leagues, cricket, motorsport and the United States' major competitions all have designs on behind-closed-doors resumptions in the near future, too, which could create a significant backlog of crucial fixtures.

One positive is that sports fans might now be treated to a number of colossal match-ups back-to-back on the same day at some point over the coming months.

That prospect gives us the opportunity to reflect on five similar occasions with the greatest sporting days since the turn of the century - including one exactly a year ago.

 

JULY 23, 2000

The US had a day to remember as two of their most prominent stars bolstered their still burgeoning reputations with big victories on foreign soil.

The paths of Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong have subsequently diverged a little, however.

Woods became the youngest player to complete golf's career grand slam with a record-breaking victory at The Open in 2000, while Armstrong wrapped up a second straight Tour de France title.

The American duo stood at the top of the world, yet history will recall Armstrong's achievements rather differently now he has been stripped of each of his seven successive yellow jerseys for doping.

Woods at least maintained his high standards and held all four major titles after the 2001 Masters, winning again at Augusta as recently as last year.

FEBRUARY 1, 2004

Two more sporting greats shared the same special page in the calendar early in 2004.

It was a long day for anyone who took in both Roger Federer's performance in Melbourne's Australian Open final and Tom Brady's Super Bowl display in Houston, but they were duly rewarded.

Twenty-time grand slam champion Federer had won just one major before facing down Marat Safin in Australia, also becoming the ATP Tour's top-ranked player for the first time. He stayed at number one for a record-shattering 237 weeks.

Brady similarly then doubled his tally of Super Bowl rings by delivering a second triumph in three years for the Patriots, in what was a classic encounter against the Carolina Panthers.

Brady threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns, before Adam Vinatieri's field goal secured a 32-29 win with four seconds remaining.

AUGUST 4-5, 2012

One would struggle to find a greater array of star-studded athletes of various sports than those who congregated in London across the penultimate weekend of the 2012 Olympic Games.

On the Saturday evening, at the Aquatics Centre, swimming prepared to say goodbye to its greatest name. Michael Phelps and the United States won the 4x100m medley, clinching his 18th gold medal in what appeared set to be his final race.

Indeed, Phelps confirmed his retirement following the Games, only to return in predictably dominant fashion in 2016.

Across the city that same night, Team GB athletes were capping a stunning run of medals that would see the day dubbed "Super Saturday". There were six home golds in all, including big wins for Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah in quick succession.

The drama only continued the next day, too, as Andy Murray finally sealed a Wimbledon win over Federer in the tennis event, while Usain Bolt lit up London Stadium in the 100m.

JUNE 1, 2019

It is 12 months to the day since another epic sporting stretch, one that concluded in stunning fashion with one of boxing's great modern upsets.

Rugby union and football each had their respective turns in the spotlight earlier, with Saracens following up their European Champions Cup success - a third in four years - by retaining the Premiership title with victory over Exeter Chiefs.

In Madrid, two more English teams were in action as Liverpool edged past Tottenham in the Champions League final.

But as Sarries and the Reds celebrated, focus turned towards Madison Square Garden where Anthony Joshua was expected to make light work of Andy Ruiz Jr, a replacement for Jarrell Miller following a failed drugs test.

The heavyweight title match did not go to script, however, as Ruiz floored Joshua four times and forced a stoppage to claim his belts, albeit only until the rematch where the Briton saved face.

JULY 14, 2019

These crazy spectacles have largely seen sport spread throughout the day, but three sets of eyes were required to keep up with the action on an epic afternoon last July.

With England hosting and then reaching the Cricket World Cup final, the scene-stealing decider fell on the same day as the Wimbledon men's final and the British Grand Prix, ensuring the United Kingdom was the focus of the sporting world.

The cricket started off several hours before either the tennis or the F1 but still managed to outlast its rival events, with Ben Stokes determined to put on a show as England won via a dramatic Super Over at the end of a nine-hour saga against New Zealand.

Novak Djokovic was battling Stokes for attention as he was taken all the way by that man Federer at the All England Club before finally prevailing 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 13-12 (7-3) in the tournament's longest singles final.

The respective classics made the British GP, completed earlier in the day, something of an afterthought - but not for Lewis Hamilton, who claimed a record sixth victory.

Roger Federer and Anthony Joshua have become accustomed to winning in their respective sports, but both suffered notable defeats on June 1 through the years.

Federer saw his hopes of a second successive title at the French Open dashed in 2010, while nine years later Joshua lost his heavyweight titles - and his perfect record - to Andy Ruiz.

The date has better memories for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, plus it is also memorable for marking the end of Shaquille O'Neal's stellar NBA career.

Take a look back at some of the great sporting moments to happen on this day.

 

2008 – Royals overcome Kings to be crowned

The inaugural IPL season concluded with a last-ball thriller. 

Rajasthan Royals, who were the top seeds at the end of the round-robin stage, just about overcame Chennai Super Kings in Mumbai, Sohail Tanvir the unlikely hero with the bat as he hit the single they required from the final delivery of the match.

Captain Shane Warne was also out in the middle for the winning run but Yusuf Pathan was the star performer for the Royals in the final, following up figures of 3-22 with the ball by making 56 in their successful chase. 

2010 – Federer's slam streak comes to an end

For a second successive year, Robin Soderling caused a huge upset at Roland Garros. 

The Swede had sensationally knocked out Rafael Nadal in the fourth round in 2009, though he went on to lose in the final to Federer. However, 12 months on, he gained revenge in the French capital, ending the champion's reign with a 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4 win in their last-eight meeting.

With the loss, Federer saw his impressive run of reaching 23 consecutive grand slam semi-finals come to an end. 

2011 – Shaq stops: NBA legend announces retirement

After a 19-year career that saw him score 28,596 points, O'Neal decided the time was right to retire. The man nicknamed 'The Big Diesel' had come to the end of the road.

Drafted by the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick in 1992, the center won three successive titles after moving to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he teamed up with Kobe Bryant.

O'Neal - voted the league's MVP in 2000 - won a further championship after switching to the Miami Heat. There were also stints with the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the latter stages before a final stop in Boston with the Celtics.

2019 – Replacement Ruiz stuns AJ in New York

Ruiz was not even originally due to be in the opposite corner to Joshua in Madison Square Garden.

The challenger was called in as a replacement when Jarrell Miller was removed from the headline act - and he seized the unexpected opportunity by producing a stunning result that sent shockwaves through the boxing world.

Joshua had won 22 straight as a pro and came into the bout as the IBF, WBA and WBO champion. However, he was dropped and stopped by Ruiz, who climbed off the canvas in the third round to sensationally turn the fight around. 

A testing week for Borussia Dortmund ended on a positive note on Sunday.

After the disappointment of losing to Bayern Munich in midweek, they took out their frustrations on Paderborn. The Bundesliga's bottom club were hit for six with Jadon Sancho the undisputed star of the show.

The England international - centre of much transfer speculation amid reports of a return to the Premier League - registered a hat-trick to take his Bundesliga tally for the season to 17. In doing so, he helped his current employers pick up a victory that, for now, will silence some of their doubters.

These were three much-needed points as well, and not just to boost morale after the midweek defeat to Bayern had seemingly dashed their Bundesliga title dream for another season and raised questions over Lucien Favre's suitability to lead the team beyond the current campaign. 

Instead of being tucked in behind the leaders, Dortmund's Klassiker setback had them looking worryingly over their shoulder.

Borussia Monchengladbach's 4-1 thrashing of Union Berlin on Sunday had pulled them into BVB's rear-view mirror, as they joined Bayer Leverkusen – 1-0 winners at Freiburg on Friday – on 56 points. RB Leipzig, meanwhile, can leapfrog the pair and reclaim third place by beating Cologne on Monday.

With the chasing pack sensing an opportunity to attack a wounded rival, a win – any type of win – was all that mattered for Dortmund against opponents propping up the rest in the table. Still, they had drawn 3-3 against Paderborn in their previous meeting, while they were without the injured Erling Haaland. 

The Norwegian's absence was keenly felt during a scoreless first 45 minutes, too. Thorgan Hazard was nominated to be the replacement up top, but no Haaland left Dortmund without a battering ram to knock down the door. Instead, they had to patiently pick at the lock, eventually opening Paderborn up. 

Leopold Zingerle helped their cause admittedly, the hospitable goalkeeper gifting Hazard the chance to score the opener as he dropped a cross straight into the path of the Belgian.

After that, however, it was all about Sancho. 

The 20-year-old had not started a game since the resumption of a campaign held up by the coronavirus pandemic, a calf injury leading to cameo roles off the bench. In each of the three previous games his time on the field had increased, including playing all of the second half in the 1-0 defeat to Bayern. 

Now, though, Favre was happy to give him top billing again. Even with the game long over as a contest, the Dortmund boss left Sancho out there to demonstrate just why he is so coveted by clubs in his homeland, suggesting there are no long-term concerns over his fitness for the remainder of the run-in. 

He capitalised on the extended opportunity, sealing his hat-trick and with it a place in the Bundesliga history books.  

A tap-in from Julian Brandt's square pass to double Dortmund’s advantage and was followed by revealing a shirt with the words "Justice for George Floyd" written across it, in reference to the black American who died while in Minneapolis police custody. 

His second was a well-placed finish when teed up by Hazard, quickly ending Paderborn's comeback hopes after Uwe Hunemeier's penalty halved the deficit. Sancho's third, however, was the pick of the bunch.

There was clearly still plenty left in the tank as proceedings drifted into added time, allowing him to race clear on the counter down Dortmund's right before clinically slotting the ball inside Zingerle's near post. 

The treble makes him the youngest player to reach 30 goals in the competition’s long history. How many more he will add to that tally, considering the rumours surrounding his future, is unclear, but this was a day when he made a clear statement – and not just with his performance, either.

There are some days in English football history that stand out as turning points.

On May 31, 1995 – a full 25 years ago – Chelsea agreed a deal to sign Ruud Gullit from Sampdoria. And the face of the game changed.

The fledgling Premier League had experienced a sprinkling of overseas talent already, with Eric Cantona making a staggering impact at Leeds United and Manchester United, and Jurgen Klinsmann coming off a season-long cameo at Tottenham.

Superstar Gullit's arrival at Stamford Bridge was the cue for a transfer-market melee, a spectacular flurry of deals that still take the breath away.

To this day, a host of players recruited in the wake of Gullit's arrival, many imported from overseas, are revered in the top bracket of talent that graced their clubs and the Premier League.

Dennis Bergkamp came to Arsenal with a lofty reputation. But David Ginola, Juninho and Georgi Kinkladze joined Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Manchester City as near-unknowns in England, destined to join the pantheon of club greats.

Euro 96 was on the horizon, lads and ladettes were supping Hooch and bathing in a summer of Britpop battles, and there was feverish optimism about the state of the nation.

Here is a look at the biggest deals of that heady few months.

RUUD GULLIT ​– SAMPDORIA TO CHELSEA

A world star, who was arguably the finest player on the planet at his peak, Gullit may not have been at the height of his career by the time he arrived in London on a free transfer, but there was no disguising the 32-year-old's star quality.

He rivalled Klinsmann as the most famous arrival since the Premier League launched in 1992, and was arguably in a higher bracket.

British television audiences had watched Gullit every week on Channel Four's popular Football Italia shows, firstly with Milan and then Sampdoria, and Chelsea manager Glenn Hoddle was smitten.

Hoddle reportedly made two trips to Italy to meet Gullit before the stunning deal went through, and the Netherlands maverick was recruited to feature as a sweeper in the new high-culture Chelsea side.

"I am very fit and by playing sweeper I can control the speed of the game," said Gullit, quoted in the Independent the following day. "If you have possession of the ball you don't have to run around chasing after it."

The sweeper experiment was soon abandoned, however, Gullit moving into a better-suited midfield role where he proved predictably majestic, going on to succeed Hoddle as Chelsea manager in 1996.

DENNIS BERGKAMP ​– INTER TO ARSENAL (and David Platt – Sampdoria to Arsenal)

Bergkamp was a real eye-catcher, joining for a then British record fee of £7.5million, albeit with question marks over his suitability for the Gunners, particularly after a rocky season at Inter.

Platt had been captain of England, and was a guaranteed solid midfield presence, but new Arsenal boss Bruce Rioch appreciated he was perhaps getting something special when Bergkamp became the first signing of his reign.

That overwhelmingly proved to be the case, and although Rioch only lasted one full season at Highbury, he could always point to his nurturing of Bergkamp as being instrumental in shaping Arsenal's future.

The non-flying Dutchman played 423 games for the Gunners, scoring 120 goals and winning a hatful of medals. Today, a bronze statue of Bergkamp stands outside Arsenal's Emirates Stadium home.

DAVID GINOLA ​– PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN TO NEWCASTLE (and Les Ferdinand – QPR to Newcastle)

Newcastle had surprisingly allowed Andy Cole to join Manchester United for £7m in January 1995, but Kevin Keegan's team went from strength to strength nonetheless.

The £2.5m arrival of Ginola proved a masterstroke, the French winger magnificent on the left wing while Keith Gillespie, a makeweight in the Cole deal, dazzled on the right.

Ferdinand was the ideal targetman and proved to be another exceptional buy, but Ginola was the fans' favourite, his trickery, pace and personality lighting up the league.

Newcastle were almost champions, Ginola at the heart of some of the most cavalier football of the decade.

GEORGI KINKLADZE ​– DINAMO TBILISI TO MANCHESTER CITY

City fans are accustomed to success nowadays, brought to them by a foreign legion featuring the likes of Pep Guardiola, Sheikh Mansour, Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany.

But there will always be a special place for Kinkladze in the hearts of City fans who saw him play in the Maine Road era, when Franny Lee was chairman and Uwe Rosler the star imported striker.

City were relegated from the Premier League in Kinkladze's first season, and he left in 1998 after a second relegation into the third tier, but the Georgian was a bright spark in dark times, his dribbling skills and free-kick ability never to be forgotten. A particularly memorable solo strike came against Southampton, a lasting gift.

STAN COLLYMORE ​– NOTTINGHAM FOREST TO LIVERPOOL

The British transfer record was broken twice in June 1995, firstly with Arsenal's swoop for Bergkamp and then when Liverpool paid £8.5m for Nottingham Forest striker Collymore.

He and Robbie Fowler formed an often menacing partnership, particularly in Collymore's first season at Anfield, but the big-money recruit lasted just two seasons with Liverpool in the 'Spice Boys' era before moving to Aston Villa for £7m.

PAUL INCE ​– MANCHESTER UNITED TO INTER

Pipped to the 1994-95 Premier League title by Blackburn Rovers, Manchester United cleared the decks and allowed star men Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis to leave Old Trafford.

It was a stunning gamble by Alex Ferguson, with Hughes and Kanchelskis joining Premier League rivals Chelsea and Everton respectively, while midfield general Ince floated off to Italy with Inter for £7.5m.

But Ferguson knew his Class of 92 youngsters were pushing for a chance at first-team level, and with the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt emerging, the old guard were barely missed, United going on to win a league and cup double.

JUNINHO ​– SAO PAULO TO MIDDLESBROUGH

This £4.75m move went through slightly later in the year, in October 1995, back when clubs could strike autumn deals.

Bryan Robson would bring in Fabrizio Ravanelli in the following close-season, but none of the Middlesbrough manager's signings are remembered quite so fondly as Juninho.

The little Brazilian was a marvel of an attacker, a low centre of gravity helping him to ride the wildest of tackles from defenders who could not handle his dribbling ability.

On Teesside, they adored the Brazilian, who began brightly enough but truly dazzled in his second season, helping Boro to reach both the FA Cup and League Cup finals.

They lost both and suffered the pain of relegation. Juninho left too, but returned for two later spells with the club that loved him best of all, winning the 2004 League Cup.

...MEANWHILE, NORTH OF THE BORDER

PAUL GASCOIGNE ​– LAZIO TO RANGERS

Chelsea had reportedly wanted Gascoigne to join Gullit in west London, but it was Scottish champions Rangers who prised the England international from Lazio, a massive coup for the Ibrox club.

'Gazza' was adored on the blue side of Glasgow and scored a raft of dazzling goals as Rangers won their eighth and ninth successive league titles.

Forgiveness even came quickly after his stunning strike past club-mate Andy Goram for England against Scotland at Euro 96.

Robert Lewandowski finally completed the Bundesliga set on Saturday, registering a goal against Fortuna Dusseldorf at long last.

The prolific striker had tallied 25 unsuccessful shots in five previous meetings with Dusseldorf, making them the only current top-flight team he had failed to score against in his career.

However, Lewandowski's wait came to an end with his first attempt at the Allianz Arena - and it could not have been more straightforward.

Excellent build-up work by Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Muller set up the Poland international for a simple finish to make it 3-0 for the hosts just before half-time.

Lewandowski, who added another with a cheeky back-heeled finish after the break in Bayern's 5-0 victory, has now recorded a goal against all 18 Bundesliga clubs - including the one he currently plays for.

So, who suffers the most when coming up against him? Opta is able to provide the answer...

HUNGRY LIKE A WOLFSBURG

Poor Wolfsburg top the table of Lewandowski victims; he has scored 20 times against them in 18 appearances, though did draw a blank when they met in December.

Augsburg sit second on the list but at an even better strike-rate, having managed 19 goals in just 15 games.

Lewandowski has bolstered his tally against Schalke this season, grabbing a hat-trick in a 3-0 away triumph back in August before adding another in a 5-0 thrashing after the turn of the year. His exploits in 2019-20 has lifted his total to 17 in 20.

Mainz and Werder Bremen have both conceded 16 in 19 and 18 fixtures respectively when in opposition to the frontman, who sits third on the all-time Bundesliga scoring list.

FAMILIAR FACES MADE TO SUFFER

Before Bayern, there was Borussia Dortmund of course.

Lewandowski started his Bundesliga career at Signal Iduna Park, joining from Lech Poznan for a reported fee of €4.5million back in 2010. It was a bargain buy for Dortmund as they went on to win back-to-back league titles under Jurgen Klopp.

Now, though, BVB are often on the receiving end as the player they helped turn into a superstar shines for their rivals. Lewandowski left on a free to move to Munich in 2014 and has been making his former employers pay ever since.

In 12 league outings against his old club, he has 16 goals. That total includes notching twice in the last two league clashes at the Allianz Arena, games which Bayern have won by an aggregate score of 9-0.

LEW RATIO AGAINST CURRENT CLUB

In contrast to his exploits against Dortmund, Lewandowski found it tougher to score when coming up against the team he now plays for.

His eight Bundesliga contests when facing Bayern yielded a solitary goal - albeit that was the late winner in an April 2012 victory that proved pivotal in the title race.

The following month, he was once again the hero for Dortmund with a hat-trick in a resounding 5-2 triumph in the DFB-Pokal final against the same opposition, in the process completing a domestic double for Klopp's crop.

These days, it is Bayern fans who celebrate Lewandowski's goals - and there have been plenty of them to enjoy this season. With 43 to his name in all competitions, he has already equalled the most productive season of his career.

Steven Gerrard enjoyed plenty of success during his illustrious playing career. 

As a youngster, he was part of Gerard Houllier's Liverpool squad that completed a cup treble in the 2000-01 season, including beating Deportivo Alaves 5-4 after extra time in the UEFA Cup final. 

Then there was the Miracle of Istanbul under Rafael Benitez in 2005, followed a year later by an equally unforgettable FA Cup win. Gerrard was the talisman on both occasions, playing his part in the comeback against Milan before going on to deny West Ham at the death in Cardiff.

With fellow club legend Kenny Dalglish there was a third EFL Cup success, but a league title eluded Gerrard. The Reds ran Manchester United hard in the title race in 2008-09, then came up agonisingly short five years later with Brendan Rodgers at the helm. 

But Gerrard is not alone in missing out. As the ex-England international turns 40, take a look at 10 other notable names who never got their hands on the Premier League trophy.

 

Gareth Bale 

After a slow start, Bale eventually blossomed into a superstar at Tottenham. The left-back signed from Southampton benefited from a switch into a more advanced position, scoring 39 goals in all competitions in his final two seasons with Spurs. However, the best finish he managed in a Premier League campaign before joining Real Madrid in 2013 was fourth. 

Marcel Desailly 

Frenchman Desailly became accustomed to winning during his time with Milan. He just so happened to win the World Cup in 1998 with Les Bleus – then followed that up two years later by adding Euro 2000 to his list of honours. Yet there was no Premier League crown during a lengthy Chelsea stint, instead having to make do with the FA Cup in 2000. 

David Ginola 

A winger renowned for his flair (and his hair), Ginola was part of the Newcastle United squad that succumbed under pressure from Manchester United in 1995-96. Kevin Keegan's swashbucklers led by 10 points at Christmas, only to end up as bridesmaids. At Spurs, the Frenchman was named PFA Players' Player of the Year, while he also played for Everton and Aston Villa.

Juninho 

Middlesbrough certainly made a splash when promoted to the top tier in 1995, bringing a touch of Samba flair to their new Riverside home by signing Juninho from Sao Paulo. It was a transfer coup at the time and the diminutive Brazilian made a big impact, too. He left for Atletico Madrid in 1997 and, after returning on loan for the 1999-2000 season, he came back for a third stint, though his only trophy was the EFL Cup in 2004. 

Harry Kane

Will Kane overtake Alan Shearer as the Premier League's all-time leading scorer? Can he win the competition if he stays at Spurs? You would be forgiven for feeling one of those is more realistic than the other, particularly after the near misses of the Mauricio Pochettino era. That 2015-16 season for Tottenham must feel like the one that got away.  

Matt Le Tissier 

A one-club man in the top flight, Le Tissier became more accustomed to battling against relegation than getting involved in title fights. Southampton relied on his goals to help stave off the threat of the drop some years, but rumours of a move elsewhere never materialised during his peak. He finished up with 100 Premier League goals, plenty of them penalties.  

Mesut Ozil 

Perhaps epitomising Arsenal as a whole during his time in north London, Ozil has both delighted and frustrated fans. His playmaking abilities are not in doubt, but is he a luxury you can afford in your XI? A three-time FA Cup winner with the Gunners, the former Germany international's best league result is second to surprise winners Leicester City in 2016. 

Luis Suarez 

A former team-mate of Gerrard's at Liverpool, Suarez was an integral part of the 2013-14 Reds that seemed destined to end the club's long wait for glory. The Uruguayan scored 31 goals in 33 league games, yet a late slump left their top scorer in tears as Manchester City pipped them to the post. The following campaign, the forward had moved on to Barcelona. 

Fernando Torres 

Torres formed an outstanding partnership with Gerrard during their time together at Anfield. The pair were influential in a memorable 4-1 triumph at Old Trafford in 2009, yet United had the last laugh that season, ending up four points clear of their rivals. The Spaniard also finished second again two years later with Chelsea, although by then he was a shadow of the striker he once was. 

Gianfranco Zola 

A hugely popular signing by Ruud Gullit in November 1996 who later returned to work at Chelsea as assistant to Maurizio Sarri, Zola scored 59 Premier League goals and grabbed the winner off the bench in the 1998 Cup Winners' Cup final triumph over Stuttgart. There was also FA Cup and EFL Cup success during his time in England, just no league crown.

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.

 

Although he didn't know it at the time, March 2017 was a momentous month in the career of Mohammed Salisu, the Ghanaian centre-back who is now interesting many of the world's biggest clubs.

In the town of Nsawam, south Ghana, the African Talent Football Academy (ATFA) first began operating, coaching hopeful young footballers who dreamed of a career in Europe.

With a brand new facility – comprising of pitches and a club house that included a common area, dining space and accommodation – and connections to European clubs, the ATFA began to mark itself as potential gateway for Ghanaian youngsters chasing a better future.

Just six months after opening, the ATFA had its trailblazer, their first 'graduate'. Director Fran Castano travelled with one teenager to Spain.

Salisu was signed then and there – his journey to the top had begun.

Destined for the top

Life at the ATFA didn't start particularly well for Salisu.

"I remember my first time meeting him – he came without his boots and was late. I was very, very angry and I was close to telling him to go home," Castano, speaking to Stats Perform News, recalled. It proved a wise decision to hold that thought, however.

"He took some boots from the goalkeeper and after 10 minutes playing we saw something different. I talked to him and told him that if he can be serious and work, I promised him in half year I could send him to Spain."

Sure enough, in October 2017 Salisu was signed by Real Valladolid, with the ATFA earning a small fee and a percentage of any future sale. That could be cashed in sooner rather than later as well, with reports in Spain suggesting Rennes are very close to completing a deal in the region of his €12million release clause.

That would be considered a significant coup for the French side, as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Atletico Madrid are all said to have considered a move for Salisu in the past six months.

It's even claimed the latter were willing to pay €11m, but curiously wouldn't stretch to the full release clause. It's an oversight they could come to regret.

"I told him he would make it [to the top]," says Castano, who previously held many roles in youth coaching and analytics for the Niger and Mauritania national teams, Real Jaen, Leganes and Hearts of Oak, Ghana's biggest club, before setting up the ATFA.

"You always have doubt because it's not only about talent. To come and live in Europe was a big change for him, but I knew he would make it [on the talent side] because I saw his level compared with others in Spain at the same age and the way he can develop. You could see from the beginning he was different. The body, the technique, the winning mentality, the confidence and how he developed faster than anybody. If you increased the challenge, he increased his level."

Persistence and a friend's trust lead to vindication

Castano estimates Salisu played just 10 youth matches for Pucela before being promoted to their B team in the third tier, and then at the start of this season he became an undisputed starter for the senior side – indeed, he's one of just four defenders to play all 27 LaLiga matches in 2019-20.

A former student of sport performance analysis at the University of Granada, Castano's pride in Salisu is obvious – joining Valladolid wasn't just a big deal for the defender, but also vindication for Castano.

"I offered Salisu to a lot of teams, nobody gave us a chance. Nobody knew Salisu or me. I was just starting and it wasn't easy," he said. "I was lucky. My friend Victor Fernandez, who was a great striker in LaLiga for Valladolid and Villarreal, was coaching Valladolid's Under-19s. I called him and told him about Salisu. He told me he trusted what I say and my eye for scouting players.

"After one training exercise, just a few minutes, he [Victor] told me: 'Fran, are sure you know the kind of player you have?' He said he [Salisu] could be a very important defender in professional football. I had thought so, but I wasn't that sure of it until he told me."

Salisu's adaptation to LaLiga was impressive. In October, less than two months after his top-flight debut, he was being championed as a "star" on the league's official Twitter account after impressing in a 0-0 draw with Atletico.

Jordi Masip has been a fixture behind Salisu in goal. The experienced goalkeeper applauded the youngster's capacity to learn and is convinced a big future lies in wait.

"He's a player with an enviable physicality, he gets very fast when it comes to interceptions," Masip told Stats Perform News. "He's very young and he can grow a lot. He's a person that wants to improve and listen to us.

"He has always had a little difficulty with the language, but he is adapting very well, he understands everything, he asks questions and his adaptation is going well. To be so young, his characteristics are very good, he still can give far more than he is already giving."

A dominant defender

It's easy to argue that Pucela would be in even worse shape this season if they didn't have Salisu. After all, when LaLiga resumes they will start in 15th place, just four points above the bottom three.

But being in a team that has to spend longer stretches of time defending, Salisu's quality really shines through and it's clear he's making a difference, with only seven teams – all of whom are in the top half of the table – conceding fewer than Valladolid this term.

When watching Salisu, you really get the impression he loves defending. A real unit with long, gangly legs, he has a habit of pulling off blocks or last-ditch tackles that one wouldn't expect.

His 67 aerials won is bettered by just eight defenders, while Sevilla's Diego Carlos – widely regarded as one of the standout centre-backs in LaLiga this term – is the only player to make more headed clearances (71) than Salisu (67).

Diego Carlos – and every other defender, for that matter – trails in Salisu's wake with respect to total clearances, however. The 21-year-old has completed 136, with the experienced Raul Albiol (131) boasting the next most.

Salisu also ranks very high in terms of blocks with 22. Gabriel (26) is the solitary defender to have halted more shots. His 31 interceptions is also a decent figure, though the league-high among defenders of 48 is a fair way ahead of him.

What's clear is Salisu's enjoying a wonderful season. Despite his age and lack of experience, he is marking himself out as a consistent and committed performer.

While his technical attributes may not yet be at the required level for, say, Barcelona, he models himself on Blaugrana centre-back Samuel Umtiti and has already shown himself to be a quick learner on the pitch.

Either way, one can certainly see why Diego Simeone and Atletico are said to be keen, but time appears to be running out for El Cholo. With Rennes seemingly circling, a defensive jewel could be about to slip through the fingertips of LaLiga's elite.

Babe Ruth knew time was up on his baseball playing career on May 30 in 1935, but his name lives on and many consider him the greatest player to have swung a bat.

Liverpool supporters may look back fondly on memories of 1984 at the Stadio Olimpico, where Joe Fagan's team rocked Roma in the European Cup final.

The brilliant and brute force of Mike Tyson was felt on this day in 1987 by Pinklon Thomas.

And Alastair Cook, the great England opening batsman, made history not once but twice in successive years on this date.

Here is a look at those famous moments in sporting history.

 

1935 – Babe Ruth struck out for the last time

Nothing that happened in his short spell at the Boston Braves could stain his name, yet Ruth's move from the New York Yankees turned out to be an almighty flop. Arriving in February 1935, Ruth – baseball's biggest draw of the era and a player whose name resonates to this day – offered just glimpses of his glory days. On May 25, he thundered three home runs, albeit in a losing cause against Pittsburgh. That feat took his career haul to a then-record 714 homers, and there would be no more, Ruth playing his final game five days later against the Phillies. At the age of 40, out of shape and a shadow of his former self as a player, Ruth called it quits, his retirement announced days later.

1984 - Liverpool stun Roma - in Rome

Liverpool's fourth European Cup, like their fifth 21 years later, came thanks to a penalty shoot-out win against Italian opposition. In 2005, Liverpool had their 'Miracle of Istanbul' against Milan, but in 1984 the English giants had the nerve to beat Roma in Rome, in what was the first shoot-out in a European Cup final. Phil Neal's early strike for Liverpool was matched by Roma's Roberto Pruzzo before half-time and there would be no further goals. Fagan's Liverpool were the team that proved steadiest under pressure in the penalty shoot-out, despite Steve Nicol's early miss. Neal, Graeme Souness and Ian Rush stepped up to score, and after Bruce Grobbelaar's wobbly-legged wind-up routine put off Francesco Graziani, who skied his shot, Alan Kennedy stepped up to fire home and clinch the trophy.

1987 - Tyson takes down Thomas

Thomas was a more-than-useful American heavyweight in the mid-1980s, a fighter who had held the WBC belt before and fancied getting it back. The only problem for Thomas was that Tyson owned the belt, and the latter felt it suited him rather better than it suited Thomas. That theory was put to the test on a Saturday night in Las Vegas, and despite Thomas' jab keeping Tyson busy, trouble was soon brewing for the challenger. A thundering left hook from Tyson had Thomas wobbling in the sixth round and was followed by a flurry of punches that sent the 29-year-old to the canvas. Thomas just about managed to get to his feet but trainer Angelo Dundee stepped in, taking his man out of harm's way, Tyson retaining the WBC and WBA titles.

2015 and 2016 - Cook's England landmarks

Cook, born on Christmas Day in 1984, was the gift that kept on giving for England. Plucked from the county circuit as a prodigy who already had a double century for Essex against Australia, Cook piled on the Test runs for his country, including a ton on his debut in 2006 against India. On this day in 2015, the then-captain Cook passed his Essex mentor Graham Gooch to become England's all-time leading Test run-scorer during an innings of 75 against New Zealand at Headingley. Not content with overtaking Gooch's mark of 8,900 runs, Cook went on to achieve another May 30 feat 12 months later, becoming the first Englishman to tally 10,000 Test runs. He reached that total on the way to England securing a nine-wicket win over Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street.

Over three months after the ball was last kicked, the Premier League is set to restart on June 17.

There have been major doubts over whether the 2019-20 season could be finished amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the action is set to resume in less than three weeks - subject to government approval.

Liverpool were cruising their way to becoming champions of England for the first time in 30 years when the campaign was halted and are poised to lift the trophy behind closed doors.

There may be no title race to look forward to, but it is all to play for in the battle to stay up and European qualification is there for the taking.

We look at the season so far and what is to come in a hectic schedule, with all but four teams having nine matches to play.

 

What is the state of play?

leading the defending champions - who have a game in hand - by a mammoth 25 points.

Watford are the only side to have beaten the European champions, who have had the champagne on ice for months and may have to play higher profile matches at neutral venues.

Norwich City, Aston Villa and Bournemouth are in the relegation zone, with Watford, West Ham and Brighton and Hove Albion also in danger of being consigned to the drop.

Bottom side Norwich are six points adrift of Watford and West Ham, who are only out of the bottom three on goal difference.

Fifth place will be good enough for Champions League qualification if City fail to overturn a ban from the competition and several sides are in the hunt to play in Europe's premier club competition.

Third-placed Leicester City look to be heading for the Champions League, while Chelsea are fourth and three points ahead of Manchester United.

Six points separate seven clubs from United down to Crystal Palace, with Sheffield United the surprise package and one of the stories of the season in seventh place.

 

What have been the big controversies?

A two-year Champions League ban imposed on City by UEFA for allegedly breaching Financial Fair Play rules in February rocked Pep Guardiola's side.

City have appealed against the verdict and June 8-10 is when the case will be heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with concerns for Guardiola that he could lose key players if they are unsuccessful.

Tottenham's decision to sack Mauricio Pochettino came as a shock in November and the north-London club swiftly appointed Jose Mourinho as his successor.

It came as no surprise when Unai Emery was fired by Arsenal soon after Pochettino's departure, with the Gunners turning to Mikel Arteta to replace his fellow Spaniard.

 

Who had momentum before everything stopped?

United were on a roll before the hiatus, putting together an unbeaten run of 11 games in all competitions to stand well poised for a Champions League berth.

Arsenal had gone eight without defeat in the top flight, winning three in a row prior to the season being suspended, while Burnley had not lost in seven games to move up to 10th.

 

Which clubs have had it toughest during the COVID-19 months?

Liverpool and Tottenham were among the teams who were strongly criticised for using the government furlough scheme for non-playing staff and duly changed their mind.

Jack Grealish, Kyle Walker and Moise Kean were among the players who were caught flouting lockdown regulations.

Spurs and Arsenal players also hit the headlines for the wrong reasons for breaching social distancing rules.

The league was suspended after Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi contracted COVID-19, while three rounds of coronavirus testing at Premier League clubs in the past fortnight have returned 12 positive results.

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