When Barcelona were in danger of losing to Arsenal in the 2009-10 Champions League quarter-finals, Lionel Messi – as he so often does – turned the game on its head.

Monday marks 10 years since Messi took that game against Arsenal by the scruff of the neck and produced one of the stand-out displays of his illustrious career.

The Argentina great has lifted the Champions League trophy on four occasions and is the second-highest scoring player in the competition's history, sitting 14 adrift of all-time leader Cristiano Ronaldo's haul of 128 goals.

We take a look back at some of Messi's greatest performances in the Champions League

 

April 6, 2010 – Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal (6-3 agg)

After they came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 in the first leg at Emirates Stadium, Nicklas Bendtner put Arsenal ahead for the first time in the tie after 19 minutes in the return game at Camp Nou.

Messi ensured it was Barcelona who progressed to the semi-finals, though.

He slammed a stunning finish past Manuel Almunia two minutes later and slotted home a pass from Pedro to double his tally.

A stunning chip over Almunia gave Messi his hat-trick before half-time, and he rounded off the 4-1 victory by grabbing a fourth at the second attempt after the Arsenal keeper stopped his initial effort at the end of a fine solo run.

 

April 27, 2011 – Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona

A semi-final Clasico made for a mouth-watering prospect and, of course, Messi delivered on the grand stage.

No list of his greatest goals would be complete without his second against arch-rivals Madrid. A one-two with Sergio Busquets enabled him to race free of Lassana Diarra and he shifted through the gears to skip away from Sergio Ramos and Raul Albiol.

He then darted in front of Marcelo and slid the ball beyond Iker Casillas to silence the Santiago Bernabeu.

A 1-1 draw in the second leg sent Barca into the final to face Manchester United…

 

May 28, 2011 – Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United

In a repeat of the 2009 final, the outcome at Wembley proved the same.

Messi caused Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic problems from the off and, with the game locked at 1-1 after Wayne Rooney cancelled out Pedro's opener, he found the back of the nine minutes after half-time.

After dropping deep from his centre-forward position, he received a pass from Andres Iniesta and drove forward before unleashing a powerful effort into the bottom-right corner.

David Villa completed the scoring as Barca came out on top against Alex Ferguson's side again.

 

March 7, 2012 – Barcelona 7-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Leverkusen were on the receiving end of the greatest individual goalscoring display in Champions League history.

Messi became the first player to score five in a single game in Europe's premier club competition, enrapturing Camp Nou with a supreme performance in the second leg of this last-16 tie.

He got the ball rolling by scooping a long pass from Xavi beyond Bernd Leno, while his second came in trademark fashion – dribbling across the box from the right and firing a left-footed shot into the corner.

After a delightful chip to secure his hat-trick in the 49th minute, a stunning exchange of passes with Pedro preceded an error from Leno that Messi nipped in to punish.

A cool 18-yard finish left coach Pep Guardiola with an astonished look on his face. He had witnessed a performance for the ages.

 

May 6, 2015 – Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich

Guardiola returning to Camp Nou as Bayern boss was the big story ahead of kick-off, but Messi was the only subject of conversation after the final whistle.

It took 77 minutes for Messi to find the breakthrough, and his second three minutes later likely still gives Jerome Boateng nightmares.

He sent Germany international Boateng to the deck by turning inside and back out on the right side of the box. He then sent a wonderful dink over Manuel Neuer.

To cap things off Messi fed Neymar for a counter-attacking third in the 94th minute, and Barca went on to beat Juventus in the final and claim the trophy.

Bayern Munich players made their return to training in small groups at Sabener Strasse on Monday.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the club's return to training is in line with the German Football League's (DFL) recommendation that teams took a break until April 5.

The Bundesliga was suspended on March 13 initially until April 2, but a meeting of clubs on March 31 extended the suspension to April 30 at the earliest.

Bayern will be training in the meantime, though they have asked fans to stay away from the club facilities as the players return to work.

Ahead of the session, which began in glorious sunshine, the club confirmed they would follow strict guidelines on hygiene and the distance kept between players.

"This will be done in coordination with government policy and the relevant authorities," read their statement on Sunday.

"It goes without saying that all hygiene regulations will be strictly observed."

Bayern are top of the Bundesliga table, four points clear of second-placed Borussia Dortmund.

 

Bayern Munich defender David Alaba called the suggestion that a COVID-19 vaccine should be trialled first in Africa as "a kind of racism I could never imagine".

During a debate on television channel LCI last Wednesday about plans to see if a tuberculosis vaccine would be effective against coronavirus by trialling it in Europe and Australia, two French doctors sparked controversy.

Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at the Cochin hospital in Paris, and Camille Locht, head of research at the Inserm health research group, suggested the method should first be tested in Africa.

Former Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba and ex-Cameroon attacker Samuel Eto'o spoke out against the comments, with Alaba joining them on social media.

Alaba tweeted: "Trying a #Covid19 [vaccine] in Africa??? Are these two guys doctors or clowns?

"This is a kind of racism I could never imagine. Disgraceful and unacceptable! We all have to stand together and work hand in hand to fight this virus."

Africa is the continent that has been least affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but the total number of cases reported has now exceeded 9,000, with 444 people dead.

Hansi Flick has brought the same harmony to Bayern Munich as iconic head coach Jupp Heynckes created, according to Lothar Matthaus.

Flick on Friday signed a contract to be Bayern's head coach until 2023, having taken over from Niko Kovac on an interim basis in November and guided the club into a four-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga.

Matthaus, who won seven Bundesliga titles with Bayern, has backed that decision, comparing the atmosphere under Flick to that seen under Heynckes, who masterminded Bayern's famous treble in 2012-13 and returned to win the Bundesliga in 2018.

Heynckes himself said over the weekend it was the right choice to appoint Flick on a permanent basis and Matthaus is in agreement.

"Definitely [the logical decision], it would have been incomprehensible if Bayern hadn't extended with him," Matthaus said to AZ.

"Hansi absolutely deserves this. FC Bayern are on the right track with him. It's a harmony like last seen under Jupp Heynckes, the team plays great football.

"He has improved the team overall, their football and tactically. In addition, there is his human dealings. Thanks to him, players like Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller have once again reached their top level. 

"And Hansi also relies on young players like Alphonso Davies or Joshua Zirkzee. This is important because FC Bayern wants to ensure that the young players find their way from the youth centre [to the first-team] as often and regularly as possible. Hansi can shape an era in Bavaria."

Matthaus also hopes there will be another benefit to Flick's appointment.

He added: "It could be a sign to all players who have not yet renewed their contract: Thiago Alcantara, Thomas Muller, David Alaba, Manuel Neuer.

"Flick has raved enormously about Neuer in recent weeks, calling him the world's best goalkeeper." 

There will be no Olympic Games in 2020, but 124 years ago saw the rebirth of the great sporting spectacle.

Arsenal were swept aside by the brilliance of Lionel Messi in a thrilling Champions League game at Camp Nou, while Bayern Munich brought an end to Borussia Dortmund's hopes of dethroning them in the Bundesliga.

Robert Parish set a record for the most NBA games appeared in, and Sri Lanka got their hands on the World Twenty20 trophy at the expense of India.

We look back at some of the standout sporting moments that have happened on this day.

 

1896 – The start of a new Olympic era

The ancient Greek tradition of the Olympic Games got back under way 1,500 years after they were outlawed by Roman Emperor Theodosius I in a bid to suppress paganism.

Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin was pivotal to their revival, spearheading the formation of the International Olympic Committee in 1894 and subsequently the first Games of the modern era, which were held in Athens.

A crowd of 60,000 people turned up for the start of a spectacle that saw 280 participants from 13 nations take part in 43 events.

 

1996 – 'The Chief' makes NBA history

In a meeting between the Charlotte Hornets and the Cleveland Cavaliers, towering center Parish played his 1,561st NBA game to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and set a new record.

He had 14 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the 93-89 win over the Cavaliers.

Parish made his name with the Boston Celtics, with whom he won three NBA championships, and had made 1,611 appearances across 21 seasons when he called it quits after claiming his third ring with the Chicago Bulls in 1997.

 

2010 – Messi fires against Gunners

Arsenal came back from 2-0 down to draw the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona 2-2, and Nicklas Bendtner put the Gunners ahead in the return match at Camp Nou.

However, Messi flashed a stunning effort past Manuel Almunia two minutes later and, after slotting home a pass from Pedro, he had a hat-trick before the break thanks to a brilliant chip over the Arsenal goalkeeper.

An excellent solo effort sealed a 4-1 triumph in the 88th minute that sent Barca through to a semi-final with Jose Mourinho's Inter, who stunned them at Camp Nou and went on to claim the treble.

 

2014 – A T20 first for Sri Lanka

Some excellent death bowling from Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara limited India to a below-par 130-4 in a thrilling World T20 final in Dhaka.

Despite slipping to 65-3 in their chase, Sri Lanka surged to their first title by securing a resounding six-wicket victory with 13 balls remaining.

Kumar Sangakkara made an unbeaten 52 in his final T20I and Thisara Perera blasted 23 off 14 deliveries, which included three sixes.

 

2019 – Dortmund obliterated in Der Klassiker

Bayern's chances of clinching a seventh straight Bundesliga title were in danger of being blown apart when Dortmund arrived at the Allianz Arena for the 28th round of matches with a two-point lead at the top, though their advantage had stood at nine points in December.

The Bavarian giants made light work of Lucien Favre's side in a brutal display of supremacy, storming into a four-goal lead by half-time thanks to efforts from former Dortmund duo Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski, as well as Javi Martinez and Serge Gnabry.

Lewandowski tapped in a cross from Thomas Muller with a minute remaining to complete BVB's 5-0 humiliation, a result that ended their hopes of dethroning Bayern.

Bayern Munich will train "in small groups" on Monday after the club confirmed Hansi Flick's first-team squad would follow the German government's guidance on coronavirus precautions.

The Bundesliga was suspended on March 13 initially until April 2, but a meeting of clubs on March 31 extended the suspension to April 30 at the earliest.

A statement on Bayern's official website on Sunday urged supporters to stay away from the training ground as the players return to work.

"The FC Bayern Munich first team will return to training at Sabener Strasse in small groups from Monday, 6 April," said the statement.

"This will be done in coordination with government policy and the relevant authorities. It goes without saying that all hygiene regulations will be strictly observed."

Bayern are top of the Bundesliga table, four points clear of second-placed Borussia Dortmund.

The club's return to training is in line with the Deutsche Fussball Liga's (DFL) recommendation that teams take a break from training until April 5.

Bayern's statement continued: "Training will take place with no members of the public present.

"In order to further slow the spread of the coronavirus, FC Bayern asks fans to continue to follow the instructions of the authorities and therefore please do not come to the FC Bayern training ground."

Bayern Munich president Herbert Hainer expects a significant decrease in transfer fees following the coronavirus pandemic.

Deals worth in excess of €100million have been commonplace in the past four years, with Neymar becoming the world's most expensive player when he joined Paris Saint-Germain for €222m in August 2017.

Bayern have been more conservative but broke their transfer record by splashing out €80m on Lucas Hernandez last year.

Links to Leroy Sane and Timo Werner led to suggestions the Bavarian giants were willing to break the bank again, but Hainer believes the inflation in the market will have been stemmed by the proliferation of COVID-19.

Revenues have dried up for clubs across the world, with players at Bayern, Barcelona, Juventus and Atletico Madrid among those to take pay cuts while football is on hiatus.

Asked about the potential impact of the coronavirus crisis on transfer fees, Hainer told Bayern's 51 magazine: "As I said, although serious predictions are difficult to make, it's obvious there'll be changes. I agree with Uli Hoeness' assumption that transfer fees will decrease. That's just logical.

"When income decreases, there's less money in circulation. And given the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis on people's everyday lives, outrageous sums in the millions are even less justifiable than they already were.

"My hope is that more common sense will be applied here as well. I have to take my hat off to Hasan Salihamidzic and our sporting leadership. They're handling the coronavirus situation very well."

Bayern players agreed to a 20 per cent wage reduction during the Bundesliga suspension, which is scheduled to last until at least April 30.

Hainer acknowledged the situation has put clubs in precarious financial positions, but he is confident Bayern will be able to get through the crisis without "any major damage".

"Of course, the situation is very tense. It's about the existence of individual clubs. And even FC Bayern faces a major financial challenge – that's no secret," said Hainer.

"But our club is in an excellent position. We work day after day to ensure that FC Bayern can navigate through this phase without any major damage.

"Despite this immense task, we're looking to the future with confidence."

Bayern Munich have made "a wise decision" by appointing Hansi Flick on a permanent basis, says Jupp Heynckes.

It was announced on Friday that Flick had signed a contract to be Bayern's head coach until 2023, having taken over from Niko Kovac on an interim basis in November.

Flick, Joachim Low's former Germany assistant, rejuvenated the struggling Bundesliga champions and guided them back to the top of the table, opening up a four-point advantage over second-placed Borussia Dortmund before the coronavirus pandemic brought action to a halt.

He has also led the Bavarian giants into the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal and secured a 3-0 aggregate lead over Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Heynckes, who masterminded Bayern's famous treble in 2012-13, believes keeping Flick on permanently was the right choice.

"Bayern made a wise decision by signing Hansi Flick as head coach," Heynckes told DPA.

"For me, he is the ideal coach because he has already had a lot of experience in various positions in football in the past.

"His qualities are professional competence, leadership in all areas, seriousness, solidity and an excellent public demeanour.

"I wish him and Bayern the greatest success in all three competitions."

Robert Lewandowski has made himself the "most complete striker in the world", according to former Borussia Dortmund team-mate Ilkay Gundogan.

The pair were together at Dortmund from 2011 until 2014, before Lewandowski hopped across Germany to join Bayern Munich.

Gundogan left BVB in 2016 for Manchester City, where he plays with Argentina striker Sergio Aguero and Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus.

But he has kept a close eye on Lewandowski's development and now sees the Poland international as being unparallelled in world football.

This season had seen 31-year-old Lewandowski score 25 goals in 23 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern, and 39 goals across all competitions, before the coronavirus pandemic hit Europe.

He was on his way back to fitness after a tibia fracture when the Bundesliga was put on hold.

"It was a huge joy to play with him. He improved again and again," Gundogan told DAZN.

"Technically he was always great, now he also has the coldness. The way he scored the goals is phenomenal.

"For me [he is] currently the best, most complete striker in the world."

Lewandowski recently revealed Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo tried to persuade him to sign for Real Madrid after a Champions League game three years ago.

Achraf Hakimi's agent has denied reports the on-loan Borussia Dortmund full-back's Real Madrid contract has been extended until 2023.

The Morocco international is in the second season of a two-year loan at Dortmund and has impressed in the Bundesliga, particularly this term.

Achraf has scored three times and set up another 10 goals in 25 Bundesliga matches in 2019-20, making him one of the league's most productive creators despite being a defender.

Prior to joining Dortmund on a temporary deal, Achraf made nine LaLiga appearances for Madrid during the 2017-18 season and showed promise.

He has built on that in Germany and reportedly attracted interest from other clubs, with Juventus and Bayern Munich said to be admirers, but claims from Spain that Madrid have already managed to extend his contract until 2023 are apparently false.

"There is no basis at all [for such stories]," Achraf's agent Alejandro Camano told Goal/SPOX. "His contract at Real Madrid is still the same one we negotiated in 2017, which runs until 2022.

"We have to wait. After this misery [the coronavirus pandemic] we will sit together with Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund."

Dani Carvajal has been Madrid's first-choice option at right-back this term, making 22 LaLiga appearances.

The club's depth in that position is otherwise limited, while Achraf can also fill in at left-back.

 

 

 

Bayern Munich's contract negotiations with a quartet of key players will not be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, insists CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, David Alaba and Thiago Alcantara are all out of contract in 2021 and are mulling over the offer of fresh terms from the Bundesliga champions, who extended Hansi Flick's stay as head coach on Friday.

Rummenigge reassured Bayern fans that any economic impact from the spread of COVID-19 would not play a part in how those talks played out.

"Our offers are extremely fair and serious - without a 'corona discount'," he told Bild

"I think that not many clubs around the world handle [it like] this in this crisis."

Flick signed on for three years after impressing in interim charge at the Allianz Arena.

He took over from Niko Kovac in November before being appointed head coach on a full-time basis until the end of the season.

Having appeared in danger of failing to mount a title challenge under Kovac, Flick has since restored the winning habit, returning Bayern to the top of the Bundesliga.

However, he is likely to face a rebuilding job during his tenure as the nucleus of a squad who have inspired a decade of dominance are reaching the end of their contracts.

Hansi Flick has done enough to convince Bayern Munich to make him their permanent head coach, with the club confirming on Friday he had signed a contract until 2023.

A former assistant to Germany coach Joachim Low, Flick steadied the ship in the wake of Niko Kovac's sacking and has gone on to gain the second-best points-per-game record in Bundesliga history at 2.47 – only Pep Guardiola's 2.52 is better.

Bayern have scored 67 goals in their 21 games in all competitions since he took the helm and were on a 15-game unbeaten run when the coronavirus outbreak brought the majority of football in Europe to a halt.

We take a look at the games that may well have convinced Flick's superiors to keep him in the top job for the next three years.

 

November 9, 2019 - Bayern Munich 4-0 Borussia Dortmund

After overseeing a 2-0 Champions League win over Olympiacos in his first game at the helm, Flick's first taste of Bundesliga action came in Der Klassiker against Dortmund.

Despite the change of coach, Robert Lewandowski continued his fine scoring streak by taking his Bundesliga tally to 16 with a double – one goal either side of an effort from Serge Gnabry early in the second half.

An own goal from former Bayern defender Mats Hummels capped a resounding victory.

Lewandowski said: "Hansi Flick did a great job in just a few days to set us up tactically very well. The players believed directly in him and his words, he has breathed a new life into us."

During the international break that was followed it was confirmed Flick would stay on until at least Christmas.

 

December 11, 2019 – Bayern Munich 3-1 Tottenham

Flick went on to rack up four straight wins to start his tenure, but back-to-back defeats to Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach left Bayern seventh in the Bundesliga and seven points off top.

They quickly got back on track with a 3-1 win over Tottenham in a Champions League group-stage clash at the Allianz Arena.

Kingsley Coman scored the opener but was forced off in the 27th minute with a knee injury that kept him out for two months.

Thomas Muller and Philippe Coutinho made sure of the win after Ryan Sessegnon's equaliser, with Lewandowski remaining an unused substitute as Bayern reached the last 16 with maximum points.

 

February 1, 2020 – Mainz 1-3 Bayern Munich

Bayern confirmed Flick would see out the campaign during the mid-season break and this victory over Mainz made it seven straight successes in all competitions.

The reigning Bundesliga champions effectively put the game to bed within 26 minutes – Lewandowski, Muller and Thiago Alcantara scoring during a rampant first-half showing.

Most importantly, though, it sent the Bavarian giants to the top of the table and there has been no moving them since.

 

February 25, 2020 – Chelsea 0-3 Bayern Munich

A last-16 tie with Chelsea in the Champions League looked sure to provide plenty of entertainment and the first leg at Stamford Bridge was tightly poised at half-time.

Gnabry struck twice in the space of three minutes early in the second half to break the game open and Lewandowski's instinctive finish in the closing stages ensured Bayern left west London with a healthy aggregate lead.

The result carried even more weight given that it was the first time the teams had met in Europe's premier club competition since Chelsea defeated Bayern in the final at the Allianz Arena in 2012.

 

February 29, 2020 – Hoffenheim 0-6 Bayern Munich

Lewandowski suffered a broken tibia in his left leg against Chelsea and was consequently ruled out for approximately one month.

The Poland international had scored 39 goals in 33 appearances in all competitions for Bayern in 2019-20, but his team-mates stepped up to the mark in their first game without him.

In a match that was overshadowed by demonstrations against Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp that forced a stoppage in play, Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich and Joshua Zirkzee – who was making his first Bundesliga start – struck inside the opening 15 minutes and Coutinho made it 4-0 by half-time.

Coutinho doubled his tally early in the second half and Leon Goretzka rounded off a triumph that sent out a message to Bayern's title rivals.

Hansi Flick has signed a three-year contract as Bayern Munich's head coach, the Bundesliga champions confirmed on Friday.

Flick took over from Niko Kovac in November in an initial interim role, before being appointed head coach on a full-time basis until the end of the season.

Having appeared in danger of failing to mount a title challenge under Kovac, Flick has since restored the winning habit, returning Bayern to the top of the Bundesliga.

Prior to the forced hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bayern had gone four points clear of Borussia Dortmund at the summit, crushed Chelsea away in their Champions League last-16 first leg and booked a place in the DFB-Pokal semi-finals.

Club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told Bayern's website: "FC Bayern is very happy with Hansi Flick's work. The team has developed very well under him and plays attractive football, which is also reflected in the results.

"We are the only German club that is still represented in all three competitions. I also like the way he leads the team, his human qualities are convincing, his empathy speaks for him.

"FC Bayern trusts Hansi Flick and we are convinced that we will continue to achieve our goals with him in the future."

Speculation since Germany's mid-season break suggested Flick's work with Bayern was earning him admirers elsewhere, with reports claiming he had received offers from top-level clubs in Germany and England.

Such stories seemed to be applying pressure to Bayern, although sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic insists the club were working to a plan all along when it came to the former national team assistant coach's future.

"From day one when Hansi took over the team, we had a plan for how we would deal with the situation," Salihamidzic said.

"First, Hansi took over for two games, then until Christmas, then there was an agreement that he would be our coach until the end of the season.

"Hansi has been loyal and disciplined to this, that is a quality. Another is the results that Hansi achieved with our team. These results speak for themselves.

"Hansi and I know in which direction we want to develop the team. Football faces great challenges. We believe that Hansi is also the right head coach for this time."

Liverpool were set to emerge at the Etihad Stadium this weekend, either with the scent of triumph in their nostrils or the delicious addition of a guard of honour from Manchester City.

The coronavirus pandemic has placed elite sport across the globe on hold, meaning the latest episode of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp's captivating rivalry must wait.

Nevertheless, given their former employers Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund were also due to meet in Der Klassiker, it feels like a good time to run the rule over two men whose tactical approaches and high levels of achievement have – and it does not feel too grandiose to suggest this – changed football in the 21st century, as well as one another.

THE BUNDESLIGA YEARS

Guardiola's arrival to take the reins of a treble-winning Bayern for 2013-14 came shortly after their rivalry with Klopp's Dortmund reached its peak.

Arjen Robben's 89th-minute winner saw Bayern down BVB 2-1 in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley – a game played out against a backdrop of Dortmund's star playmaker Mario Gotze agreeing terms to move to Bavaria.

In hindsight, Klopp's gegenpressing machine – winners of back-to-back Bundesliga crowns in 2010-11 and 2011-12 – were coming off the top of their curve, having finished 25 points behind a relentless Bayern domestically that season.

The decline continued over the next two seasons. Dortmund were remarkably in relegation trouble halfway through 2014-15, before a post-Christmas recovery preceded Klopp's emotional farewell.

Nevertheless, there was still time for telling blows to be landed. Guardiola's first competitive game in charge saw Bayern beaten 4-2 in the 2013 DFL-Supercup at a delirious Signal Iduna Park.

Stung by that loss, Guardiola sprung a notable surprise in the first league encounter between the sides that November, where he broke Dortmund's rabid press by playing Javi Martinez as an attacking midfielder and repeatedly targeting the rangy Spain international with long balls.

The high priest of tiki-taka (a label Guardiola famously loathes) had presided over "more long balls than in the last three years combined" from a Bayern team, according to Klopp, who bristled after Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller added to Gotze's inevitable second-half opener in a 3-0 win.

A depleted Munich were similarly reactive when they won the DFB-Pokal final 2-0 in extra-time, even if flooding midfield numbers was a more recognisably Guardiola tactic.

Diverting from his dizzying 4-3-3 of swirling triangles has remained something the Catalan tactician has frequently done across his meetings with Klopp, and not always with the success he enjoyed in Germany.

HOLLOW VICTORIES AND THE PHONEY WAR

Klopp ended his homeland head-to-head against Guardiola with three victories, making it back-to-back Supercup triumphs in 2014, having claimed a 3-0 Bundesliga result at Allianz Arena earlier that year – the authority of which was dimmed by the fact Bayern had already cantered to the title.

Guardiola had four victories to his name, with one draw ultimately falling in Dortmund's favour as Bayern failed with all four of their penalty attempts in a 2015 DFB-Pokal semi-final shoot-out.

However, Klopp was denied a glorious farewell as his team lost in the final to Wolfsburg and the fact Robert Lewandowski had followed Gotze to Munich by this point underlined a deck stacked against him.

Liverpool came calling for Klopp in October 2015 and he helmed helter-skelter runs to the EFL Cup and Europa League finals. Manchester City and Sevilla prevailed respectively.

That was Manuel Pellegrini's final honour as City boss as he made way for Guardiola, who collected a third successive Bundesliga title in 2015-16. Thomas Tuchel's Dortmund finished closer in terms of position and points (second, 10 behind) than Klopp's version had managed when in direct competition.

With the stage presumably set for renewed hostilities between Guardiola and incoming Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, the similarly newly installed Antonio Conte did not read the script as Chelsea romped to 2016-17 Premier League glory.

Klopp got the better of his head-to-heads with City as a Georginio Wijnaldum goal sealed a 1-0 New Year's Eve win at Anfield before Sergio Aguero rescued a point for the hosts in the return game.

Guardiola laid it on thick after that 1-1 draw, declaring it to be "one of the most special days of my life".

"He is Spanish. They are a little bit more emotional than the Germans," Klopp chuckled in response.

TON-UP BUT NOT INVINCIBLE AND THE ROAD TO KIEV

Liverpool beat City three times in 2017-18, when most other teams could barely lay a glove on Guardiola's record-breaking side.

But the game where City prevailed, an unusual 5-0 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium where Liverpool subsided meekly after Sadio Mane's red card for clattering Ederson with a high boot, arguably had the biggest influence on the campaign.

When that game was 11 v 11, Guardiola's back three was horribly exposed. Aguero's opener arrived against the run of play, with an unusually wasteful Mohamed Salah having tormented Nicolas Otamendi.

City never used 3-5-2 in the league again that season, reverting to a swashbuckling 4-3-3 that churned out 19 consecutive wins and made the second half of the schedule a virtual procession.

Liverpool halted their designs on invincibility however, claiming a raucous 4-3 Anfield win in January. Klopp hailed "pressing from another planet" by his front three as Roberto Firmino, Mane and Salah were all on target in a euphoric nine-minute spell after half-time.

Guardiola had again seen a swift avalanche of goals bring the roof in during a big match and his tweak to a 4-4-2 diamond, eyeing avenues around those Liverpool pressing lanes, backfired in that season's Champions League quarter-final.

A 3-0 first-leg loss at Anfield, with all the goals arriving during the first half, left City with a mountain to climb and a death-or-glory approach in the return fixture – deploying a formation probably best described as 3-CHARGE!!! – eventually ran out of steam in a 2-1 loss.

But it was Liverpool who came up short in the Kiev final on Loris Karius' nightmare outing against Real Madrid, while City sauntered to a 100-point haul as dominant Premier League champions. Sitting 25 points back in fourth, the Reds had a considerable gap to bridge.

CHASING PERFECTION

Despite that deficit, their efforts in going blow-for-blow with City over 90-minute periods left the impression Liverpool were the best placed of the pretenders to overthrow the champions.

Both teams reconvened on Merseyside undefeated in October 2018 and remained that way as the free-flowing nature of recent meetings gave way to a cagey 0-0 draw.

Reprising the theme of those early Klassiker meetings, Guardiola took his foot off the throttle as City played at a controlled tempo – an approach that would have ended the club's Anfield hoodoo but for Riyad Mahrez's ballooned late penalty.

Fire and brimstone returned the following January, though, with a wobbling City recovering their poise and avoiding a 10-point deficit at the top. Aguero and Leroy Sane were on target either side of Firmino in a bravura display, where Aymeric Laporte took on the unfamiliar role of left-back to stifle Salah.

That was Liverpool's only loss of the season as they finished on 97 points, agonisingly one shy of City. However, their subsequent Champions League final win over Tottenham improbably propelled them further along.

Just as Guardiola has tempered some of his more cavalier tendencies when faced with Klopp, the challenge of an unrelenting City also forced the Liverpool boss into subtle and decisive tweaks.

In bringing in Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, he spent big for what many see as the finest goalkeeper and centre-back on the planet. Their very presence means risk can be reduced.

Heavy metal football has given way to a steady pulsing beat that never wavers. In the city of Merseybeat, Klopp has gone electro.

Amid their steamrollering of the opposition this season, Liverpool have 19 wins by a solitary goal in all competitions. They are frighteningly and ruthlessly clinical. A profligate City trail in their wake, although Guardiola has used this relative freedom from pressure to thumb intriguingly through his tactical playbook in 2020.

Both men have inspired the other to reach beyond their comfort zones and the result is the two best teams in world football. With Klopp contracted to Liverpool until 2024 and Guardiola talking up an extended stay, the thought occurs that they are each other's motivation for sticking around. There is nowhere better to measure their greatness than against one another.

Manuel Neuer will be number one at Bayern Munich next season and will help Alexander Nubel to develop, according to Oliver Kahn.

Neuer's contract expires in 2021 and there are reports of an impasse in talks over a new deal, leading to suggestions the 34-year-old could be moved on at the end of the season.

Bayern have already signed Nubel on a five-year deal, with the Schalke goalkeeper to switch to the Allianz Arena on a free transfer ahead of the next campaign.

However, Bayern board member and former keeper Kahn expects Nubel to be second choice next term, as he predicts Neuer will continue at the highest level for some time.

"In general, as I have shown myself, goalkeepers can of course play into old age, but maintaining a high level is a great challenge," Kahn, who retired at 38, told Sport Bild.

"In Alexander Nubel, we get a highly talented goalkeeper, who has the chance to develop and learn behind Manuel Neuer. Not many have the opportunity to work with the best goalkeeper in the world every day."

While 2019-20 is on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bayern are said to be putting transfer plans in place ahead of next season.

Interim boss Hansi Flick said this month that he believes coaches should have the power to veto transfers proposed by club managers, amid suggestions he has been at odds with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic over Bayern's planning.

Kahn admits it is important that Bayern "march in one direction in order to develop the team further".

He added: "Of course, the coach is a very important factor in terms of transfer plans. Hasan Salihamidzic, Hansi Flick and I discussed and coordinated this and other topics intensively.

"The coach can and should put forward his ideas."

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