After more than a two-month pause, top-level European football returns on Saturday with the Bundesliga's resumption – and EA Sports have released their 'Team of the Season So Far' on FIFA Ultimate Team ahead the German top-flight's return.

Undoubtedly the highlight of the first weekend back will be the Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, while pacesetters Bayern Munich go to Union Berlin.

For many football fans out there, gaming will have played a significant role in filling the void left behind by the real thing over the past two months – and FIFA 20 is giving Bundesliga fanatics extra reason to stick around with its boosted cards.

Featuring the likes of Jadon Sancho, Kai Havertz, Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski and Timo Werner, all of whom have boosted ratings in the 90s, fresh TOTSSF cards are now available in FUT.

Check out the full release below.

TEAM OF THE SEASON SO FAR

GK: Yann Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach) – 94

RWB: Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund) – 91

CB: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund) – 96

CB: Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig) – 93

LB: Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich) – 92

RF: Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) – 96

CDM: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich) – 96

CAM: Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen) – 94

ST: Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) – 97

ST: Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) – 95

ST: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) – 99

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Lukas Hradecky (Bayer Leverkusen) – 91

CB: Martin Hinteregger (Eintracht Frankfurt) – 88

CB: Matthias Ginter (Borussia Monchengladbach) – 92

CM: Suat Serdar (Schalke) – 88

CM: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) – 95

RW: Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich) – 93

LM: Filip Kostic (Eintracht Frankfurt) – 94

CAM: Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund) – 95

ST: Florian Niederlechner (Augsburg) – 89

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

 

At long last, football is almost back. After a hiatus of more than two months, top-level European club action returns on Saturday with the resumption of the 2019-20 Bundesliga season.

With nine rounds of the season still to be completed, there remains much to play for in Germany's top flight and it all kicks off once again this weekend, with the Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke undoubtedly the highlight.

Given there are precious few other sporting events around the world allowed to resume yet, the Bundesliga could be set for an influx of new viewers and fans.

While most followers of ffootball will be well aware of the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Erling Haaland, Timo Werner, Jadon Sancho and the Bundesliga's other leading stars, there are other players perhaps not quite at that level of exposure yet but also worth keeping an eye on.

We identified six who were either enjoying impressive seasons before the suspension, or have shown significant promise.

Amine Harit (22), attacking midfielder – Schalke

To seasoned viewers of the Bundesliga, Harit won't be a new name – after all, he was Rookie of the Year in 2017-18. But after a difficult 2018-19, Harit is enjoying his finest season in professional football. With six goals and four assists, the Morocco international has been a key player for David Wagner's Schalke this term – the skilful and creative attacking midfielder a threat to any defence on his day. However, all of his goal involvements came before Christmas, and if Schalke are to hold on to a Europa League spot, the 22-year-old rediscovering his 2019 form could be vital.

Christopher Nkunku (22), central midfielder – RB Leipzig

A product of Paris Saint-Germain's academy, Nkunku broke into their first-team squad last term but couldn't hold down a place in the starting XI. Leipzig had seen enough of him to feel compelled to part with a reported €15million for the French midfielder, however, and it looks great business. After scoring with his first touch in Bundesliga football, he has contributed another three goals and 12 assists – a haul bettered by only Sancho and Thomas Muller. A wonderful technician, Nkunku is a dead-ball specialist, a fine striker of the ball and a supreme midfield athlete.

Marcus Thuram (22), forward – Borussia Monchengladbach

There aren't a huge amount of similarities between Marcus and his dad Lilian, one of the greatest centre-backs of his generation, but physical presence is one. Marcus Thuram is a handful for defences in virtually every way possible; quick, strong, tall, athletic and a good dribbler. Capable playing anywhere in attack, Thuram is particularly useful coming in off the left on to his right foot, and he has played a role in 14 league goals this term, eight of which were assists. Gladbach are looking to secure Champions League qualification – if they fail, keeping Thuram could be a challenge.

Dayot Upamecano (21), centre-back – RB Leipzig

You won't find many more-complete centre-backs than Leipzig's Upamecano. Strongly linked with a move to Bayern Munich at the end of the season, the France Under-21 international seems to have it all. His excellent distribution is highlighted by the fact his 66 per cent long-pass success is better than Mats Hummels (58), Manuel Akanji (55) and Benjamin Pavard (61), while his 35 interceptions is more than Virgil van Dijk has managed. Potentially the next superstar-in-waiting off the Red Bull production line, Upamecano has a big future in front of him.

Giovanni Reyna (17), attacking midfielder – Borussia Dortmund

The son of former Manchester City and United States midfielder Claudio Reyna, Gio appears destined to go on to bigger things than his old man. The 17-year-old made his debut as a substitute in the 5-3 win over Augsburg on January 18 and has played another seven Bundesliga matches since. Although mostly making cameo appearances, his direct approach to dribbling, upright running style and effortless elegance on the ball bear resemblance to Brazil and Milan great Kaka. It's only a matter of time before he gets his first Bundesliga start.

Jean-Clair Todibo (20), centre-back – Schalke

A newcomer to the Bundesliga, having joined on loan from Barcelona in January, the jury is still out on Todibo. Schalke accept it's unlikely they'll be able to trigger his purchase clause – reportedly worth €25m plus €5m in add-ons – due to the financial consequences of the pandemic, but a loan extension is said to be a possibility. A technically gifted centre-back who is comfortable on the ball and a solid passer, Todibo, 20, was perhaps unlucky to not get more opportunities at Camp Nou. He made five league appearances after joining Schalke, and although only two were starts, he is considered a real prospect.

Bayern Munich will approach Sunday's Bundesliga trip to Union Berlin like any other match, but Hansi Flick knows the league leaders will have the eyes of the world on them.

Germany's top flight will become the first major football competition to resume amid the coronavirus pandemic this weekend.

The Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke is the highlight of Saturday's schedule, but defending champions Bayern - four points clear of BVB at the summit - will return to action in Sunday's only late kick-off.

Speaking at a remote news conference ahead of facing 11th-placed Union, Flick backed Bayern to deal with the weight of expectation and impress.

"Not much will change except for the face masks in the dugout," he told reporters. "We discussed with the players what they can and will expect.

"More than 200 countries will watch the players, so we have a huge audience to whom you can show yourself. We want to deliver a top performance."

Flick will be granted an extra two substitutions - five in total - following an IFAB rule change, and the head coach acknowledges he does not yet know how his players will handle the return to a 90-minute match.

"It's a good question because we don't know if the team can do anything over 90 minutes," he said.

"We trained well and had an internal friendly with three periods of 20 minutes on Sunday. We had a very high intensity there.

"But clearly we all don't know where we are. We have to deal with the situation and let there be no doubt."

Bayern are without injury absentees Philippe Coutinho, Corentin Tolisso and Niklas Sule, yet Javi Martinez is the only other doubt.

"If a player had had concerns, they could have decided not to play - without consequences," Flick said. "But we are all there except for the injured."

He added of Barcelona loanee Coutinho: "In the last few weeks before the break, Philippe has already shown what qualities he has.

"You noticed in training that he arrived differently in the team. He is very sensitive and an excellent football player.

"I really enjoy working with him. We hope that he can be involved again soon."

Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic is a player in demand.

The Bosnia-Herzegovina international has been linked to Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester United.

But Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly interested in signing the former Lyon star.

 

TOP STORY – PSG MAKE PJANIC OFFER

Paris Saint-Germain are rivalling Barcelona and Chelsea for Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic, according to RMC Sport.

Pjanic's future is dominating headlines, with the Bosnian star linked to LaLiga champions Barca, while he has been the subject of reported swap deal involving Chelsea's Jorginho.

But Pjanic has a contract offer from PSG, who are also reportedly eyeing either Houssem Aouar of Lyon or Chelsea midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail claims Gareth Bale could leave Real Madrid for free due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Welsh star has been linked to Newcastle United recently.

Inter are putting pressure on Barca to complete a deal for Lautaro Martinez, reports Sport. The Serie A side have told Barca to wrap up a transfer this month amid reported negotiations with possible replacements Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal).

- Sky Sport says Liverpool's interest in Werder Bremen star Milot Rashica has faded.

- Calciomercato reports Juventus continue to observe Mauro Icardi but PSG remain in pole position to sign the Argentina international, who is on loan from Inter.

- Bayern Munich have decided not to take up their option to buy Ivan Perisic from Inter, according to Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira. Perisic is on loan at the Bundesliga champions.

Robert Lewandowski advised Borussia Dortmund prodigy Erling Haaland to stay in the Bundesliga for longer before "taking the next step" amid continued links with Real Madrid.

Haaland, 19, only joined Dortmund in January, hitting the ground running with 12 goals in 11 competitive matches having netted 28 times in the first half of the season with Salzburg.

The Norway international has swiftly become one of the most sought-after players in world football, and although Dortmund were successful in securing his services earlier this year, another move in the near future does not seem implausible.

Despite Haaand's insistence that he is remaining focused despite the speculation surrounding Madrid's apparent interest, the reports have been persistent, with Los Blancos rumoured to be setting their transfer efforts on bringing in another forward following Luka Jovic's underwhelming adaptation.

But Lewandowski, a Bundesliga title rival of Haaland and Dortmund with Bayern Munich, has urged the teenager to consider a longer stay in Germany before thinking about such a move.

"He has huge potential, but still has time," Lewandowski, whose first club in Germany was Dortmund, told reporters. "I don't want to put any pressure on him with my statements.

"If he works hard, he can become a better player and eventually reach the top level. Therefore, it might be good for him if he was to stay in the Bundesliga longer before taking the next step."

Both players are set to return to the pitch this weekend following the Bundesliga's two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Haaland's Dortmund host Schalke in the Revierderby on Saturday, as they hope to close the four-point gap at the top, while Lewandowski should spearhead the attack of pacesetters Bayern as they go to Union Berlin the following day.

Kai Havertz should resist the urge to leave Bayer Leverkusen for Bayern Munich at least for the time being, according to Germany great Michael Ballack.

Havertz, 20, has long been considered a future pillar of German football, having broken into the Leverkusen starting XI as a 17-year-old, smashing numerous records in the process.

The midfielder appears to be outgrowing Leverkusen and has been identified as a reported target for many of the world's biggest clubs, including Bayern.

Leverkusen are said to be holding out for at least €100million for the Germany international, who is contracted to the club until 2022, but Ballack – who left Die Werkself for Bayern in 2002 – had a word of caution for Havertz.

"Players with his quality are in demand everywhere, but I think he's in good hands in Leverkusen," the former midfielder told SportBild.

"The general conditions there are perfect for top young players and their further development. Leverkusen play attractive football, the training opportunities are very good. Leverkusen also offers a cautious environment.

"As a player [at Leverkusen] you can sometimes make mistakes without being the focus of criticism - you should appreciate that.

"Of course, a player like Havertz would also like to play in the Champions League, so it would be important for Leverkusen to qualify."

Ballack does not doubt Havertz's ability. On the contrary, he considers the 20-year-old to be lacking very little from his game.

But he feels a player must be ready to make the step up, as Bayern is a more demanding and challenging place to play.

"As a footballer he'd bring everything with him," he said. "If we talk about Bayern, if you want to take the next step as a player, you also have to be prepared for such a challenge in order to survive in such a robust environment.

"That will really weigh up his surroundings – [determine] when the right time has come to take the next step."

Prior to the Bundesliga's suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, Havertz scored six goals and set up another five, with Leverkusen fifth in the table.

The DFB-Pokal semi-finals will take place on June 9 and 10, with the final scheduled for July 4.

The new dates were confirmed by the DFB presidential board on Monday, with the competition having been indefinitely suspended last month.

German football is set to return behind closed doors on Saturday following a long shutdown enforced by the coronavirus pandemic.

Holders Bayern Munich are due to host Eintracht Frankfurt in one semi, with FC Saarbrucken taking on Bayer Leverkusen in the other last-four clash.

The final was initially slated for May 23 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.

Hansi Flick remains hopeful Philippe Coutinho can still play a part in the final games of Bayern Munich's season after it was reported he would sit out the rest of the campaign.

The Bundesliga is set to be the first of European football's major leagues to resume its season this weekend following the suspension of the top flight as a result of the coronavirus.

Bayern playmaker Coutinho underwent surgery on April 24 to remove loose fragments in his right ankle joint and it was originally suggested he would need a recovery period of two weeks.

However, reports in Spain said the Barcelona loanee may not feature again this season due to a complication in his recovery, meaning he could have played his last game for Bayern, who are said to be unlikely to pay the purchase fee they agreed for Coutinho.

Bayern boss Flick remains optimistic he can still play some part, though.

"Perhaps he can still be there in the final games of the season," he told Kicker.

Coutinho's long-term future remains shrouded in doubt, with Barcelona said to be keen to find a permanent buyer.

Several Premier League clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham and Leicester City have been among those rumoured to be interested in Coutinho, who previously starred in England's top flight for Liverpool.

The Bundesliga is back and the new schedule has been confirmed by the German Football League (DFL).

After the German government on Wednesday granted permission for the top two tiers to return behind closed doors, DFL chief executive Christian Seifert confirmed games will get back under way on May 16.

The Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke will headline the first group of matches, while league leaders Bayern Munich are in action next Sunday and Bayer Leverkusen will travel to Werder Bremen the following day.

The rest of the Bundesliga season has also been mapped out, with the eight rounds of fixtures – and Werder's game in hand against Eintracht Frankfurt – to be contested before the final day on June 27.

 

Matchday 26 (all times local):
May 16 – 15:30: Borussia Dortmund v Schalke
May 16 – 15:30: RB Leipzig v Freiburg
May 16 – 15:30: Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin
May 16 – 15:30: Fortuna Dusseldorf v Paderborn
May 16 – 15:30: Augsburg v Wolfsburg
May 16 – 18:30: Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Monchengladbach
May 17 – 15:30: Cologne v Mainz
May 17 – 18:00: Union Berlin v Bayern Munich
May 18 – 20:30: Werder Bremen v Bayer Leverkusen

Matchday 27 (from May 22-24):
Bayern Munich v Eintracht Frankfurt
Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayer Leverkusen
Wolfsburg v Borussia Dortmund
Hertha Berlin v Union Berlin
Mainz v RB Leipzig
Freiburg v Werder Bremen
Schalke v Augsburg
Cologne v Fortuna Dusseldorf
Paderborn v Hoffenheim

Matchday 28 (May 26-27):
Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich
RB Leipzig v Hertha Berlin
Bayer Leverkusen v Wolfsburg
Eintracht Frankfurt v Freiburg
Werder Bremen v Borussia Monchengladbach
Hoffenheim v Cologne
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Schalke
Augsburg v Paderborn
Union Berlin v Mainz

Matchday 29 (May 29-June 1):
Bayern Munich v Fortuna Dusseldorf
Borussia Monchengladbach v Union Berlin
Wolfsburg v Eintracht Frankfurt
Hertha Berlin v Augsburg
Mainz v Hoffenheim
Freiburg v Bayer Leverkusen
Schalke v Werder Bremen
Cologne v RB Leipzig
Paderborn v Borussia Dortmund

Matchday 24 (June 2/3):
Werder Bremen v Eintracht Frankfurt

Matchday 30 (June 5-8):
Borussia Dortmund v Hertha Berlin
RB Leipzig v Paderborn
Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich
Eintracht Frankfurt v Mainz
Werder Bremen v Wolfsburg
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Hoffenheim
Freiburg v Borussia Monchengladbach
Augsburg v Cologne
Union Berlin v Schalke

Matchday 31 (June 12-14):
Bayern Munich v Borussia Monchengladbach
Wolfsburg v Freiburg
Hoffenheim v RB Leipzig
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Borussia Dortmund
Hertha Berlin v Eintracht Frankfurt
Mainz v Augsburg
Schalke v Bayer Leverkusen
Cologne v Union Berlin
Paderborn v Werder Bremen

Matchday 32 (June 16-17):
Borussia Dortmund v Mainz
RB Leipzig v Fortuna Dusseldorf
Bayer Leverkusen v Cologne
Borussia Monchengladbach v Wolfsburg
Eintracht Frankfurt v Schalke
Werder Bremen v Bayern Munich
Freiburg v Hertha Berlin
Augsburg v Hoffenheim
Union Berlin v Paderborn

Matchday 33 (all at 15:30 local time on June 20):
Bayern Munich v Freiburg
RB Leipzig v Borussia Dortmund
Hoffenheim v Union Berlin
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Augsburg
Hertha Berlin v Bayer Leverkusen
Mainz v Werder Bremen
Schalke v Wolfsburg
Cologne v Eintracht Frankfurt
Paderborn v Borussia Monchengladbach

Matchday 34 (all at 15:30 local time on June 27):
Borussia Dortmund v Hoffenheim
Bayer Leverkusen v Mainz
Borussia Monchengladbach v Hertha Berlin
Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich
Eintracht Frankfurt v Paderborn
Werder Bremen v Cologne
Freiburg v Schalke
Augsburg v RB Leipzig
Union Berlin v Fortuna Dusseldorf

Miroslav Klose has been named as a new assistant to Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick.

The former Germany striker has signed a one-year contract and will move into the role from July 1.

Flick's current assistant Danny Rohl has extended his own deal until June 30, 2023.

"Hansi Flick and I have known each other very well since our years together with the German national team, we trust each other both professionally and personally," said Klose, who has been coaching Bayern's Under-17 side for the past two years.

"For me, this is the next step in my career as a coach. I hope that with my experience I can make an important contribution to Bayern achieving its sporting goals."

Flick added: "With his experience as a former professional at the highest international level, Miro is the perfect addition to our team of trainers.

"We have known and esteemed each other for a long time and have had great success together with the national team. The fact that Danny Rohl will remain with us in the long term is also great news for my team and me."

Klose, who retired in 2016, won two Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal doubles during four years with Bayern.

He won 137 caps and scored a record 71 goals in a distinguished Germany career, in which he reached the finals of the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2008, before winning the World Cup in 2014.

The winner of the Golden Shoe at the 2006 tournament on home soil, Klose is the leading goalscorer in World Cup finals history with 16.

Common Goal reached a milestone on Tuesday – 150 players or managers signed up to the charity movement.

Manchester City and Scotland star Caroline Weir made the pledge to commit one per cent of her income to sporting charities.

Led by Manchester United's Juan Mata and Street Football World, Common Goal was launched in 2017 – a project used to fund charities across the globe, which has raised more than €2million.

Mata, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, Bayern Munich forward Serge Gnabry, Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels are among the high-profile footballers to have joined the cause, while Danish outfit FC Nordsjaelland are the first professional club involved.

But it is the women – the likes of Weir, United States female stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe – female leadership and the new generation, led by 16-year-old Real Madrid youth-team player Bruno Iglesias and Wolfsburg's Xaver Schlager, shining through.

And while Common Goal has come a long way since its launch, the organisation is not resting on its laurels as it tackles the "greatest social challenges of our time" and eyes a collective effort.

"We reached 150 and it's a female, a 24-year-old, playing for Manchester City, she already has more than 70 caps for her country, she is doing her degree, she is a very smart woman, an extraordinary footballer," Ben Miller, one of the founding team of Common Goal, told Stats Perform. "It's very significant but again it's a woman or the female leadership that's shining through Common Goal.

"There's a huge diversity of players in this team of professionals and it's really reflective of football. Yes, Chiellini, Hummels, Gnabry and Klopp are there, and Casey Stoney, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe but there's players from second and third divisions and that's what it's like.

"Football is like a triangle, not many are at the top of it. Interestingly in the female membership, most of the women are at the top of their profession, at the top of the triangle. If you look at the male membership, there are a significant number of high-profile players who have shown a great deal of faith in the model.

"If we work as a team, we can actually have a significant contribution to making the world a better place through football itself, with a mechanism which is transparent and high-impact and aligned to the UN sustainable development goal, so it has a clear track towards 2030. We're all very ambitious to see this work but we have a way to go before we reach a tipping point, where it really becomes a normal thing to do if you're an athlete."

"To start with a single player, and now it's 150, yes, it's amazing," he added. "But, one per cent of what the football industry generated last year would be €400million and there are a lot of football players. I'm happy but we have to continue to grow this and explain how simple it is. It's not one thing or the other. The way this will work is the power of the collective. I'm happy but we still have a long way to go and I think these landmarks are important because they give us a boost to keep going.

At a time of crisis as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc globally, Common Goal has set up the COVID-19 Response Fund – supported by the UEFA Foundation for Children.

"It's not reinventing the wheel, it's using the existing network of football-based community projects that are in the heart of the communities that will be hardest hit by COVID-19," Miller said. "Caroline Weir for example, her donation will go towards the response fund. Existing members, who are coming up to the end of the year and will do another donation, they can choose to put that in the COVID-19 fund as well. You don't have to be a Common Goal member to participate, anyone can donate.

"The idea is to give immediate response but to give the mid- to long-term support that the organisations will need to re-establish themselves. All the programs are on hold, people need access to food and medicine, survival basics… help empower the young boys and girls."

Common Goal, though, is not without its challenges amid cynicism and a lack of trust within the football world towards charity organisations. Klopp made the pledge in front of a star-studded crowd during The Best FIFA Football Awards in September. However, no one made contact or wanted to find out about Common Goal following the announcement in Milan.

But with 90 per cent of donations going directly to charities, compared to 50 per cent in a lot of cases with other charities, Miller has faith in what Common Goal is building, thanks to its members – with several players donating significantly more than one per cent.

"You have a 16-year-old kid [Iglesias], who has made the decision, not to wait until he gets in Real Madrid's first team and the senior Spain team but he is going to do it now. He is going to make this part of his journey, no matter where he goes," Miller continued.

"This just gives me an incredible amount of faith in the future, that this new, younger generation of players who are embracing this from the word go. They're not going to wait until they reach a certain level and allow people to make these kinds of decisions for them. Because making this decision is a fundamental part of who they are as a human being."

Miller added: "It's the first time in our lifetime that a crisis that's happening in the real world has actually penetrated the bubble of elite football players. They've never been affected by anything before. The ones that are in touch are still in touch of what's happening – they're aware that there are 70 million displaced people because of the refugee crisis. But a lot simply aren't and it's not a criticism to them, it's just the world in which they live, it's very insular.

"We're all in the same boat. We're all the same – that's the fundamental message. If I don't care about you, you don't care about me, we don't care about what's happening in Australia, Spain or the UK, then we don't stand much of a chance of tackling any of the crises we face."

Lautaro Martinez has been tipped to swap Inter for Barcelona.

Martinez, though, has emerged as a target for Paris Saint-Germain.

But, LaLiga champions Barca reportedly remain calm about the situation.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA DON'T FEAR PSG AMID LAUTARO PURSUIT

Barcelona remain confident in their bid to sign Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Martinez has been heavily linked with a move to the LaLiga champions, who view the Argentina international as a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

Recent reports have claimed Ligue 1 holders Paris Saint-Germain have emerged as suitors but Barca believe Martinez is committed to moving to Camp Nou.

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato says Milan have contacted Real Madrid about signing Luka Jovic. The Serbia forward has struggled since arriving from Eintracht Frankfurt at the start of 2019-20. The report claims Milan are ready to spend €40million, while a two-year loan deal with a redemption obligation could happen. Meanwhile, Tuttomercato says Milan are eyeing a €20m move for Lyon star Memphis Depay, who is out of contract in June 2021.

Mauricio Pochettino is poised to become Newcastle United's next manager, according to Le10Sport. The former Tottenham boss has been linked amid Newcastle's prospective takeover.

- The Telegraph reports Manchester City and Bayern Munich are set to clash over Leroy Sane. The Germany international has reportedly agreed to join the Bundesliga champions, however, City are insulted by the £35m (€39.9m) valuation.

Juventus have opened talks with Jorginho as Maurizio Sarri looks to reunite with the Chelsea midfielder in Turin, says ESPN.

Manchester United are considering the prospect of delaying their move for Borussia Dortmund sensation Jadon Sancho due to the coronavirus pandemic, reports The Mirror.

The Bundesliga has been given the green light to resume later this month, having been on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic since March.

With nine rounds of the season still to be completed, there remains much to play for in Germany's top-flight and play is set to re-commence in the second half of May.

And given there have been precious few other sporting events around the world allowed to resume yet, the Bundesliga could be set for an influx of new viewers and fans.

While most football fans will be well aware of the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Erling Haaland, Timo Werner, Jadon Sancho and the Bundesliga's other leading stars, there are other players perhaps not quite at that level yet who are also worth keeping an eye on.

We identified six who were either enjoying impressive seasons before the suspension, or have shown significant promise.

Amine Harit (22), attacking midfielder – Schalke

To seasoned viewers of the Bundesliga, Harit won't be a new name – after all, he was Rookie of the Year in 2017-18. But after a difficult 2018-19 Harit is enjoying his finest season in professional football. With six goals and four assists, the Morocco international has been a key player for David Wagner's Schalke this term – the skilful and creative attacking midfielder a threat to any defence on his day. However, all of his goal involvements came before Christmas, and if Schalke are to hold on to a Europa League spot, the 22-year-old rediscovering his 2019 form could be vital.

Christopher Nkunku (22), central midfielder – RB Leipzig

A product of Paris Saint-Germain's academy, Nkunku broke into their first-team squad last term but couldn't hold down a place in the starting XI. Leipzig had seen enough of him to feel compelled to part with a reported €15million for the French midfielder, however, and it looks great business. After scoring with his first touch in Bundesliga football, he has contributed another three goals and 12 assists – a haul bettered by only Sancho and Thomas Muller. A wonderful technician, Nkunku is a dead-ball specialist, a fine striker of the ball and a supreme midfield athlete.

Marcus Thuram (22), forward – Borussia Monchengladbach

There aren't a huge amount of similarities between Marcus and his dad Lilian, one of the greatest centre-backs of his generation, but physical presence is one. Marcus Thuram is a handful for defences in virtually every way possible; quick, strong, tall, athletic and a good dribbler. Capable playing anywhere in attack, Thuram is particularly useful coming in off the left on to his right foot, and he has played a role in 14 league goals this term, eight of which were assists. Gladbach are looking to secure Champions League qualification – if they don't, keeping Thuram could be a challenge.

Dayot Upamecano (21), centre-back – RB Leipzig

You won't find many more-complete centre-backs than Leipzig's Upamecano. Strongly linked with a move to Bayern Munich at the end of the season, the France Under-21 international seems to have it all. His excellent distribution is highlighted by the fact his 66 per cent long-pass success is better than Mats Hummels (58), Manuel Akanji (55) and Benjamin Pavard (61), while his 35 interceptions is more than Virgil van Dijk has managed. The next superstar-in-waiting off the Red Bull production line, Upamecano has a big future in front of him.

Giovanni Reyna (17), attacking midfielder – Borussia Dortmund

The son of former Manchester City and United States midfielder Claudio Reyna, Gio appears destined to go on to bigger things than his old man. The 17-year-old made his debut as a substitute in the 5-3 win over Augsburg on January 18 and has played another seven Bundesliga matches since. Although mostly making cameo appearances, his direct approach to dribbling, upright running style and effortless elegance on the ball bear resemblance to Brazil and Milan great Kaka. It's only a matter of time before he gets his first Bundesliga start.

Jean-Clair Todibo (20), centre-back – Schalke

A newcomer to the Bundesliga, having joined on loan from Barcelona in January, the jury is still out on Todibo. Schalke accept it's unlikely they'll be able to trigger his purchase clause – reportedly worth €25m plus €5m in add-ons – due to the pandemic, but a loan extension is said to be a possibility. A technically gifted centre-back who is comfortable on the ball and a solid passer, Todibo, 20, was perhaps unlucky to not get more opportunities at Camp Nou. He made five league appearances after joining Schalke, and although only two were starts, he is considered a real prospect.

The Bundesliga has been given the green light by the German government to return in May, so football fans across the globe can look forward to live, top-level football matches once again.

The suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic means there are nine full rounds of fixtures left to play – Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen will contest their game in hand against one another – and the German Football League is set to announce a resumption date on Thursday.

Can Bayern Munich, who sit four points clear of Borussia Dortmund at the summit, hold off their challengers and win the Bundesliga for the eighth year in a row? Which team from the top five will fail to qualify for the Champions League? Who is destined for the drop?

We take a look at the key remaining fixtures - all of which will take place behind closed doors - that could provide the answers to those questions, though it remains to be seen if they will be played on the matchdays they were initially scheduled for.

 

MD26: Borussia Dortmund v Schalke

The Revierderby is always a match to look forward to and Schalke would no doubt take great pleasure in denting Dortmund's title ambitions by securing a positive result at Signal Iduna Park.

MD27: Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayer Leverkusen

It seems unlikely Leverkusen or Gladbach will be able to gain enough ground on Bayern to launch a late title challenge, though stranger things have happened. This clash could well be key to deciding who earns a spot in the top four and consequently next season's Champions League.

MD28: Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich

It does not get much bigger than Der Klassiker in the Bundesliga. Lose this match and Dortmund will essentially be kissing goodbye to their hopes of winning the league for the first time since 2012.

MD31: Bayern Munich v Borussia Monchengladbach

Regardless of how Bayern do against Dortmund, they will need a positive result against Gladbach, who, along with RB Leipzig, could still be in the hunt for the title. Marco Rose's side won the reverse fixture this season and claimed a shock 3-0 victory in their previous visit to the Allianz Arena.

MD31: Paderborn v Werder Bremen

Rooted to the foot of the table, Paderborn look destined for an immediate return to the 2. Bundesliga. A win over Bremen could change that, but this is huge too for the four-time Bundesliga champions. Bremen will know they cannot afford to lose this match if they are to avoid suffering relegation for the first time since 1980.

MD33: RB Leipzig v Borussia Dortmund

If Bayern are still within reach when Leipzig and Dortmund go head to head at the Red Bull Arena, this game could prove pivotal to keeping title ambitions alive. For the losers, their hopes of Champions League qualification could be placed in doubt.

MD33: Wolfsburg v Schalke

Breaking into the top five looks out of reach for Wolfsburg and Schalke, who are separated by just one point. With Freiburg level with Wolfsburg on 36 points and Hoffenheim one back in ninth, this game will likely have Europa League qualification riding on it.

MD34: Mainz v Werder Bremen

Bremen will be hoping to pull off a great escape when the season resumes and a victory over Mainz, who are eight points ahead of Florian Kohfeldt's side and four clear of the relegation play-off spot, will likely be essential if survival remains a possibility. It could be a very nervy encounter at Opel Arena.

For a player who has had to deal with speculation over his future since attracting attention as a 16-year-old for Valenciennes, it is little wonder Dayot Upamecano is so relaxed about recent links with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

"Even though I know there are clubs that want me - that is certain - I am keeping my feet on the ground," he told Foot Mercato last month. "We will discuss my future at the end of the season with my agents and my family."

Upamecano has a habit of making the right choices, seeing him make a name for himself in the Bundesliga and star on the biggest club stage of them all, the Champions League.

With a pick of Europe's top teams to choose from, as well as the option of extending his stay at his current side, Upamecano faces a big decision at the end of the campaign as he enters the final year of his Leipzig deal.

With the Bundesliga now poised to return later in May after the coronavirus pandemic halted the season, we have used Opta data to examine just why the Frenchman is attracting so much interest from across the continent and look at his next possible career step.


The story so far

Despite supposed interest from Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal at the time, Upamecano opted for Salzburg in 2015 and soon got a taste for first-team football at feeder club Liefering.

Given the links between the clubs, it came as little surprise when the centre-back opted for Leipzig in January 2017, quickly adapting to a new country and a new league with 12 Bundesliga appearances in the remainder of the season.

Upamecano's displays over the course of the next year saw him nominated for the 2018 Golden Boy award, won by then-Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt, but his game has since gone up another level under the stewardship of Julian Nagelsmann.

The Evreux-born defender has been a mainstay at the back, making 29 appearances in all competitions during the current campaign, which has been halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Leipzig have the joint-best defensive record in the Bundesliga this term, alongside leaders Bayern, with Upamecano playing his part in six of their clean sheets, making the most interceptions and clearances in the side.

Pace, power, passing and positioning

Upamecano boasts a short-pass accuracy of 92.24 per cent in the Bundesliga - an impressive figure - but it is his long passing that sets him aside from the division's other elite players at his position.

Nearly 66 per cent of the 199 long passes he has attempted this season have been successful, compared to 61 per cent for Benjamin Pavard at Bayern, with Borussia Dortmund duo Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji and 58 and 55 per cent respectively.

As impressive as his strength, pace and passing ability may be, the most notable aspect of Upamecano's game is his ability to take the ball off opponents and start attacks from deep.

He has intercepted the ball 35 times this season, five more than Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk - widely considered to be the best central defender on the planet.

They play in different leagues, of course, but Upamecano has also transferred his domestic displays onto the European stage.

Already arguably the most coveted defender around after stifling Bayern's Robert Lewandowski a few weeks beforehand, Upamecano once again stepped up in Leipzig's impressive 3-0 win over Tottenham last month, each of his enduring traits were on display.

With Leipzig successfully overcoming Tottenham to book a place in the quarter-finals, he will now have an even bigger audience to showcase his skills to when the competition eventually resumes.

What have they said and where next?

A number of current and former stars have heaped praise on the 21-year-old, with team-mate Timo Werner comparing him to Jerome Boateng, for a long time a player many youngsters would mould their game on.

During the enforced break in action amid the COVID-19 outbreak, German football legend Lothar Matthaus talked up the youngster while at the same time warning him that he cannot afford to get carried away.

"He's a young player, highly rated, fast, has a good positional game and uses his body well for a 21-year-old. But a year or two in Leipzig would not hurt him," Matthaus told Sky Sport Germany.

"I can still see one or two per cent where he can learn, but he's a huge player and that's why I'm not surprised that top clubs in Europe are after him."

Upamecano would arguably suit a side that looks to get the ball forward quickly, given that is what a large part of his game centres around at Leipzig, but his defensive abilities and dribbling skills means he would not be out of place at any club.

If the rumours are to be believed and Bayern are weighing up an end-of-season move for Upamecano, it may be too big an opportunity to turn down for a player in control of his own destiny.

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