Timo Werner's agent has hit back at those criticising the Germany international for his imminent move from RB Leipzig to Chelsea.

It was confirmed on Thursday that, subject to a medical, Werner will join Frank Lampard's Chelsea at the end of the season in a deal reportedly worth £48million (€53m).

The idea of Werner leaving will not have surprised many given links with Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Chelsea had long been prominent.

However, Chelsea's statement confirmed Werner will join up with the Blues once the Bundesliga season is over at the end of June, meaning he cannot play for Leipzig when the Champions League resumes in August.

Although Leipzig managing director Oliver Mintzlaff showed support for Werner, he has not been spared criticism and his agent is angry with anyone calling his sportsmanship into question.

"What annoys me is that Timo is now being put in a corner and portrayed as a bad sportsman who lets his team-mates down," Karlheinz Forster said to Sport1.

"I have to contradict that very clearly and I can only agree with what Oliver Mintzlaff said yesterday [Saturday] before the [Borussia Dortmund] game.

"It would have been anything but a good start for Timo at his new club if he had to return to Leipzig for the preparation and the Champions League after the break.

"It was the joint vote of all parties involved - and not just Timo's decision - that he should move to Chelsea on July 1, rather than mid or late August."

Neymar is determined to "make history" for Paris Saint-Germain when the Champions League returns in August. 

The world's most expensive player has been unable to lead the Ligue 1 champions to European glory since his €222million move from Barcelona in 2017. 

Neymar scored twice in the 3-2 aggregate victory over Borussia Dortmund in the last 16 before the 2019-20 competition was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

UEFA plans to stage this season's quarter-finals onwards in a 'mini-tournament' format in Portugal, by which time PSG will not have played for nearly six months, with the Ligue 1 season having been concluded early on a points-per-game basis. 

Having won the French title for the third time, Neymar now wants to deliver the Champions League to the capital. 

"This period was atypical, but the main focus was to keep safe, with steady body and mind," the Brazil star said via his official website. 

"I am ready and excited to return, thinking a lot about the Champions League, of course. We have a strong group, conquered a historical qualification, with the same intensity and dedication, but I miss the heat of the game. I can barely wait to enter the pitch and to, if it's God's will, make history." 

Neymar's fitness coach Ricardo Rosa has been impressed with the player's dedication to keeping in shape during months of inactivity. 

"The main emphasis was Neymar's dedication, effort and performance he had, his focus," Rosa said. 

"I've never had the possibility of being three months straight with him and he demonstrated dedication and commitment, excited to do his job, showcasing trust and respect for my work." 

RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann has launched a staunch defence of Timo Werner after the Germany striker completed his move to Chelsea.

Werner agreed terms on a deal that reportedly takes him through to 2025 at Stamford Bridge, with the Blues said to have paid a reported £47.5million for his services.

The 24-year-old will become a Chelsea player in July, meaning he will not feature for Leipzig when their Champions League campaign resumes, with the tournament due to be completed in a shortened format in Lisbon in August.

Werner's decision to make the move to London while Leipzig are still in Europe's premier competition has drawn condemnation among some quarters in Germany.

But Nagelsmann had sympathy for his departing superstar in the context of the unprecedented complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic and is convinced Werner will give his all for Leipzig's final two Bundesliga games.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of Leipzig's clash with Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, Nagelsmann said: "I would like to defend him. 

"I don't like the way he's portrayed right now. I read some reports yesterday where it was said that he was not a sportsman, since he does not want to play in the Champions League for us anymore.

"He is a great sportsman who will give his all for us in the last two matches and who certainly will score in the last two matches. 

"If he stays healthy he will play for sure and be a normal member of our team even though he will leave us. 

"Regarding the Champions League, I would have loved to have him on board and would have liked it if he'd play for us. Simply because he is great player who scores a lot of goals. 

"But I can understand his and his team's side. He's coming to another city in a different country with a foreign language. 

"It's an unusual situation due to COVID, we never had something like this in football, with all competitions being spread out, everything being different and different measures need to be taken."

Nagelsmann believes Werner would have wanted to see out the Champions League campaign and says he must not be judged negatively by the unusual situation.

"I don't think one should judge from a far distance what kind of player or human being Timo Werner is. It is his right," he added. 

"It's a pity and sad and I believe he would have liked to play. However, it is a transfer that ends a big chapter of his life and where a new one with a lot of changes begins. 

"It's normal that during this time he does not want to take the risk of being injured, even though that rarely happens with him. 

"He wants to make his move together with his girlfriend so I can completely understand. It's not right that he is being blamed for his decision. 

"That does not mean I would not have liked him to take part in these matches. Timo knows this. He still is a good guy and a great player, so you must not criticise him in every TV show and claim that he is not a good sportsman."

UEFA has called on all its member associations to adopt an October 5 deadline for the upcoming transfer window.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused mass disruption across the world of sport, and top-level football has been no different, with virtually all leagues shut down for at least three months and Euro 2020 pushed back a full year.

UEFA delayed the Euros in order to facilitate domestic leagues and the top-tier European competitions being concluded, but the three-month delay for most competitions has also impacted the transfer and registration windows.

Many leagues would usually allow for transfers to be completed in June, but due to the delay, those windows have had to be pushed back to avoid the 2019-20 season being further compromised.

UEFA wants all its leagues to implement a transfer deadline of October 5, with the governing body confirming it has set October 6 as the final opportunity to register players for next season's Champions League and Europa League.

Following a video conference of UEFA's executive committee, a statement read: "The deadline for player registration for the group stage of the 2020-21 UEFA club competitions has been set to October 6, 2020.

"As a result, the UEFA executive committee called on all member associations to adopt a harmonised end date to the upcoming summer transfer window, with this date set as October 5, 2020."

UEFA also revealed new temporary emergency Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, taking into account the adverse effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on economic stability in the sport.

Among the alterations, UEFA says it is "providing flexibility" by allowing clubs to adjust break-even calculations for revenue shortfalls in 2020 and 2021, ensuring "equal treatment" of clubs where the impact of COVID-19 may be felt in different reporting periods, and acknowledging revenue shortfalls will be due to the pandemic rather than financial mismanagement.

Nevertheless, it affirmed its commitment to FFP's main goal, as it will still ensure clubs are meeting transfer and salary obligations on time, while also protecting the system from "potential abuses".

Barcelona boss Quique Setien has called for UEFA to allow the Catalans to face Napoli at Camp Nou in their unresolved Champions League tie.

A 1-1 draw in Naples on February 25 should have been followed on March 18 by the second leg in Barcelona, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the match to be called off.

That left the last-16 tie hanging in the balance, and UEFA said on Wednesday the second leg will be played on August 7 or 8.

Barcelona feel it would only be fair for the Napoli match to be played on their own pitch, given the Italians had home advantage for the first game.

UEFA has held off making a ruling so far but could tell the clubs to play at a neutral ground in Portugal, given the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final of the competition will all be hosted in Lisbon from August 12-23.

"What I hope is that against Napoli we can play here," Setien said on Thursday. "They already played at home with a lot of people cheering on their team."

Napoli showed their improvement under coach Gennaro Gattuso by edging out Juventus on penalties to win the Coppa Italia on Wednesday, and they pose a major threat to Barcelona's hopes of progressing.

Setien is also wary of the format that UEFA has imposed from the quarter-finals onwards, albeit conscious they had little other option than to compress the rest of the competition to one-off matches, given time constraints.

He said: "I think it is worse, but not only for Barca, for everyone. With two games you have the possibility of solving a mistake in one of them.

"We all would like to play a two-leg game, but the circumstances are what they are, and you have to adapt. There are many new circumstances and this is going to be another."

Federico Balzaretti welcomed the introduction of an eight-team tournament in Lisbon for the return of this season's Champions League and called for the format to be an annual event on the football calendar.

There will be a condensed finish to the 2019-20 Champions League after the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Champions League will be completed in Portugal's capital city in August – the quarter-final and semi-final ties to be just one-off matches as opposed to the traditional two legs.

Quarter-final matches will take place across four nights from August 12-15, with last-four games contested on August 18-19, and the showpiece to be held at Benfica's Estadio da Luz on August 23.

"This kind of match of competition, new competition for Champions League, just one direct match. Great surprise because in one match you can beat or lose against everyone," former Juventus full-back and Italy international Balzaretti told Stats Perform News.

"Also Atalanta, they could win against anyone in a single match. I'm waiting for a big, big surprise in this kind of Champions League and I'm happy about that.

"I think it's great to have a final eight every year. In one city, it's like a mini European Championship every year.

"Why not [every year]? I'm very curious about it. I think it's good. There's less matches and you create Euros every year, with big surprise.

"It could be interesting. Also because FIFA would like to introduce a World Cup for clubs every two years. So, with one competition and more matches, this is a question of money, eh?"

The outstanding last-16 games will be completed on August 7-8, though a decision has not yet been taken on whether they will be played at the home stadiums without fans or in Portugal. The Estadio do Dragao in Porto and the Estadio Dom Afonso Henriques in Guimaraes will be added as venues if need be.

Juventus' last-16 clash with Lyon is one of the remaining ties after the Serie A champions lost 1-0 on the road in February prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

Since then, the Ligue 1 campaign was cancelled and Paris Saint-Germain were crowned champions, much to the anger of Lyon.

Meanwhile, Serie A leaders Juve – eyeing their first Champions League title since 1996 after finishing runners-up in 1997, 1998, 2003, 2015 and 2017 – are preparing to restart their season away to Bologna on Monday following Wednesday's Coppa Italia final defeat to Napoli.

"I think for Lyon it will be very hard because they didn't play for six months," Balzaretti, who spent two years at Juve, said. "So this is incredible. You play your most important match of the year and after six months you haven't played.

"And Juventus, they'll play 14 matches for this game. It is a big advantage for sure. I think [Lyon president Jean-Michel] Aulas is not happy about that. It will be very difficult.

"Everything is possible of course. But it's a big advantage."

Zinedine ZIdane has no issues with adapting to the new, condensed Champions League format to take place in August, should Real Madrid progress past Manchester City.

Madrid were defeated 2-1 by City at Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of their last-16 tie in February, before football across Europe was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Matches in Europe's top leagues – bar France, with the Ligue 1 season having been cancelled – is now returning, with the Bundesliga having restarted in May and the Premier League, Serie A and LaLiga also returning to action this month.

On Wednesday, UEFA officially confirmed the Champions League campaign would be concluded with an eight-team competition to be held in Lisbon in August.

Quarter-final matches will take place from August 12-15, with the semi-finals on August 18 and 19 before the final at Estadio da Luz on August 23. The outstanding last-16 fixtures – including Madrid's tie with City – are to be held on August 7-8, though it is yet to be decided where these games will take place.

And Zidane believes the solution proposed by UEFA is the best way to complete this season's competition.

"We are living a special moment and everything will be special," Zidane told a news conference ahead of Madrid's LaLiga clash with Valencia.

"We know the format, how it will be, but we still do not know where we will play the return leg against City.

"We will adapt. If it has to be in Lisbon or Manchester, we will play. First we are going to try to progress against City.

"The important thing is to play again and we are happy, but this formula for the Champions does not seem bad to me.

"I like it. It's okay to decide everything in the same place."

Madrid resumed their LaLiga campaign with a 3-1 defeat of Eibar on Sunday, though Zidane acknowledged there was plenty of room for improvement.

However, Zidane does not believe Madrid have an issue upping their game against the lesser sides in LaLiga.

"We had a game where we started very well, we scored two or three goals in half an hour," he added.

"We found it difficult afterwards to maintain throughout the game, which is what happened against Eibar. 

"This is a very difficult league. I have emotions and I can be a bit upset when things don't go well, but we scored three goals and we played with intensity."

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has praised UEFA for confirming the 2019-20 Champions League will resume and be concluded.

Europe's elite club competition was halted in March, along with most other sports leagues and cups across the world, due to the global coronavirus crisis.

However, on Wednesday UEFA's Executive Committee approved plans for the campaign to restart in August, with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final all taking place in Portuguese capital Lisbon.

PSG had already booked their passage to the last eight having overturned a 2-1 first-leg deficit against Borussia Dortmund with a 2-0 victory on March 11, which proved to be their final fixture before their season was suspended.

"I would like to salute the work put in by UEFA in order to permit the clubs involved to finish the Champions League, which remains the most popular and prestigious club competition in the world," Al-Khelaifi told his club's website.

"I am also very satisfied with the organisation of another finals tournament for the Women's Champions League, in which our team will take on Arsenal in the quarter-finals.

"In recent weeks I have had the chance to reiterate the extent to which the Champions League is important to the finances of clubs and broadcasters, but above all is important to the supporters, who love this competition.

"This unprecedented formula will be exciting and full of emotions. Our players and the coaching staff, who will be back in training next Monday, will do everything, with the talent and professionalism they are renowned for, in order to be ready for the start of August and the European challenge that awaits them."

PSG are one of four teams, along with RB Leipzig, Atletico Madrid and Atalanta, that have confirmed their place in the last eight already.

Real Madrid and Manchester City, Lyon and Juventus, Napoli and Barcelona, and Chelsea and Bayern Munich must still play the second legs of their last-16 encounters.

The quarter-finals, which will take place from August 12, and the semi-finals will only be one-leg affairs rather than two matches.

The cancelling of the Ligue 1 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic means PSG - who were awarded the domestic title on a points-per-game basis - will have gone five months without playing a competitive game when they play their quarter-final.

There was plenty to digest following UEFA's Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday.

European football's governing body finalised decisions for the completion of its 2019-20 club competitions, as well as details for its international competitions.

With so much to take in, we have broken down the key outcomes for the Champions League, Women's Champions League, Europa League, Euro 2020 and the Nations League.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE:

- Lisbon will host an eight-team tournament between August 12 and 23, with the final to take place at Benfica's Estadio da Luz.

- The remaining last-16 ties will take place at venues yet to be determined. If Portugal hosts these matches as well, Porto and Guimaraes will host games if necessary.

- Quarter-final and semi-final contests will be played as single-leg ties as opposed to the traditional two-leg showdowns.

- The draw for the quarters and semis will take place at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon on July 10.

- Extra time and penalties will be used as deciders for matches ending in a draw and teams will be allowed to make five substitutions (as will those in the Europa League) in line with temporary changes to the Laws of the Game.

- Istanbul, which was supposed to host the showpiece game, will now be the final venue for 2021.

- Newly transferred players will not allowed to be registered for the remaining rounds.

- The group stages of the 2020-21 Champions League will be begin in October, with September traditionally the start date for the competition proper.

- Qualifying rounds for next season's Champions League and Europa League will be played as single-leg fixtures, bar the play-off round of the Champions League.

EUROPA LEAGUE:

- Europe's secondary competition will take place as a straight knockout tournament from the quarter-finals onwards, with Germany to host matches between August 10 and 21.

- Matches will be played in Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen.

- The six last-16 ties that have a second leg to be played will take place a venue yet to be concerned. 

- The last-16 contests between Inter and Getafe, and Sevilla and Roma will be single-leg affairs.

- Gdansk will host the 2021 Europa League final, having been originally slated to put on this year's showpiece.

- The 2020 Super Cup will take place at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on September 24. Porto was originally supposed to have the game.

- As with the Champions League, the Europa League group phase starts in October.

WOMEN'S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE:

- Like the men's tournament, the Women's Champions League will be completed as a straight knockout tournament from the quarter-finals.

- Matches will take place in Spain, with the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao and the Anoeta Stadium in San Sebastian putting on games between August 21 and 30.

- The draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals will be held in Nyon on June 26.

- Gothenburg will be the host venue for the 2021 final.

EURO 2020/NATIONS LEAGUE:

- All 12 original host cities for Euro 2020 will remain in place for the rescheduled tournament taking place next year.

- The updated match schedule was also approved by the ExCo and UEFA said all existing tickets purchased by supporters will remain valid.

 - International windows in October and November 2020 will feature triple-headers so that postponed Euro 2020 play-off qualifiers can be played at the beginning of the respective windows on October 8 and November 12.

- Group-stage games for the 2020-21 Nations League will take place on the following dates: September 3/4/5 and 6/7/8; October 10/11 and 13/14; November 14/15 and 17/18.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has not ruled out fans being able to attend the final stages of this season's Champions League and Europa League competitions.

European football's governing body confirmed on Wednesday that the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of both competitions will be staged as mini-tournaments in August.

The Champions League will conclude in Lisbon between August 12-23, with Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen to host the closing states of the Europa League from August 10-21.

At present, the plan is to hold all of the single-leg ties behind closed doors, although Ceferin told a virtual news conference that the situation remains fluid and an improvement in the coronavirus outlook across the continent could see games played in front of supporters.

"If I would answer today, then we don't think we can have spectators at the Europa League and Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals," he said.

"But things are changing. Theoretically, a month ago I couldn't even answer if we could play the competition. Now we will play it, hopefully.

"We haven't decided yet about no spectators or spectators because we will assess the situation at the beginning of July and then we will see what the situation will be.

"It would be incompetent for us if we were to decide in advance about a situation that is so unsure at this moment.

"We don't know if only the local fans, if no fans or even the fans from different clubs can travel to the venue.

"The beginning of the Champions League final eight is almost two months from now. Remember what the situation was in Europe two months ago. Things are changing, we have to wait but we will decide, of course, before the draw."

That draw will take place on July 10, by which time the clubs with last-16 ties to conclude in the Champions League and Europa League will know whether those matches are to be played at the originally intended venues or on neutral ground.

"We think there is still a bit of time to understand the situation about travelling, boarders and quarantine, etcetera before we need to know where they will be played," UEFA's deputy secretary general Giorgio Marchetti said.

"In principle, these are return matches – not like the quarters and semis, which have been decided to be played over one leg."

Juventus v Lyon, Manchester City v Real Madrid, Bayern Munich v Chelsea and Barcelona v Napoli are the outstanding Champions League matches in the first knockout round and will take place on August 7 and 8. RB Leipzig, Atalanta, Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain have already secured their places in Lisbon.

In the Europa League, six second legs will be completed across August 5 and 6, with Inter v Getafe and Sevilla v Roma to be staged as one-off games.

Ceferin added: "For sure, the clubs would prefer to play at home but for now we don't have enough information to decide. For us, health and security is first.

"But when you speak to the clubs, of course clubs would prefer playing at home, even without spectators, rather than on a neutral ground."

The Champions League will be completed with an eight-team tournament hosted in Lisbon, UEFA has confirmed.

UEFA's Executive Committee gave the green light for Portugal's capital to host a condensed finish to Europe's premier club competition on Wednesday, with the tournament having been halted by the coronavirus pandemic in March.

Quarter-final matches will take place across four nights from August 12-16, with last-four games contested on August 18-19, and the showpiece to be held at Benfica's Estadio da Luz on August 23.

The quarter-final and semi-final ties will have just one leg as opposed to the traditional two, Sporting CP's Estadio Jose Alvalade also hosting fixtures.

The outstanding last-16 games will be completed on August 7-8, though a decision has not yet been taken on whether they will be played at the home stadiums without fans or in Portugal. The Estadio do Dragao in Porto and the Estadio Dom Afonso Henriques in Guimaraes will be added as venues if need be.

"I am delighted that we are able to resume almost all of our competitions. I am confident that we will not have to endure the fans' absence for long and that they will be allowed into stadiums sooner rather than later," UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said.

"The football community has worked together and shown tremendous unity during this unprecedented crisis. I would like to thank FIFA, our sister confederations, national associations, clubs, leagues, players and the relevant authorities for their continuous support and commitment and I am convinced that we come out of this crisis stronger and with closer links than ever before."

Istanbul's Ataturk Olympic Stadium was originally scheduled to host the final in May but the outbreak of COVID-19 meant that was no longer a possibility.

UEFA confirmed Istanbul will now be the venue of the 2021 showpiece, with the three subsequent final hosts of St Petersburg, Munich and London (Wembley) all agreeing to move back by a year.

Spain, Germany and Russia were touted as potential replacements for this year, yet Lisbon's location coupled with the fact the Primeira Liga – which resumed behind closed doors this month and is yet to run into complications – has no teams remaining in the competition saw it favoured.

Reports suggest all teams will have hotels away from the public to maintain social distancing, with Portugal having an abundance of accommodation options and no quarantine rules in place.

It was also announced that Germany will be the venue to complete the Europa League from the quarter-finals onwards, with Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen the cities putting on games from August 10-21.

Six last-16 contests still have a second leg to be played, with UEFA yet to take a decision on where they will take place. Inter's tie with Getafe and Sevilla's against Roma will be played as one-off games at a venue yet to be determined.

Gdansk was meant to host the Europa League final, which will now take place in Cologne, and will instead do so in 2021, with Sevilla and Budapest moving to 2022 and 2023 respectively.

UEFA confirmed a couple of amendments to its club competition rules for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, including the use of five substitutes in accordance with the temporary change to the Laws of the Game. It will return to a maximum of three subs in 2020-21.

Teams remaining in competitions can register three new players to their List A, providing they were eligible at the previous deadline of February 3. Clubs will not be permitted to add newly transferred players to their squads.

The Champions League will be completed with an eight-team tournament hosted in Lisbon, UEFA has confirmed.

Robert Lewandowski wants to see even more from Bayern Munich in the Champions League after sealing another Bundesliga title.

Lewandowski's first-half goal lifted Bayern to a 1-0 victory over Werder Bremen on Tuesday, securing an eighth straight league title despite Alphonso Davies' late red card.

Hansi Flick's men are on track to reach the Champions League quarter-finals after a 3-0 away win over Chelsea in the last-16 first leg, with the tournament set to be completed in August.

Lewandowski, who has scored 46 goals this season, hopes Bayern can reach another level in Europe's top club competition.

"We are German champions. Of course it is a bit complicated without celebrating fans. That certain extra, this passion is missing," the striker said, via the club's website.

"We are still very satisfied. It was not an easy season, we fought for the title for a long time. I hope that we can celebrate with the fans in the stadium soon.

"Werder played a little more defensively but well in the first half. In the second half we should have scored a goal, then it would have been a little easier.

"We showed that we are the best team in Germany and we want to play even better in the Champions League."

Bayern still have two Bundesliga games remaining this season, hosting Freiburg on Saturday before taking on Wolfsburg a week later.

Hansi Flick did not shy away from a potential treble bid after Bayern Munich clinched the Bundesliga title on Tuesday.

Bayern have been in outstanding form since Flick's November appointment, winning 26 of their 29 matches in all competitions.

And their first major silverware of the campaign was delivered with two matches to spare as Robert Lewandowski's first-half goal secured a decisive 1-0 win at Werder Bremen.

But Bayern's season is far from over as they now turn their attention towards a DFB-Pokal final against Bayer Leverkusen and then the Champions League.

The German champions hold a 3-0 first-leg lead over Chelsea in the last 16 of Europe's elite club competition, their performance in that match and subsequent fixtures prompting talk of a stunning sweep of the prizes on offer.

"We have now taken the first step and achieved our first big goal by winning the champion," head coach Flick told Sky Sport. "But we still have the DFB-Pokal as our next goal. 

"Of course, there is also the Champions League. It is clear it cannot be planned. It will be difficult enough to come through the game against Chelsea first.

"Then we'll see what's going to happen. It will be difficult and we have to be fit."

Bayern were below their brilliant best against Werder but held on for the victory following Alphonso Davies' contentious red card with 11 minutes to go.

Flick added: "With the red card, Bremen were a bit braver. We had to defend and did it sensationally. That is why there is no criticism today.

"I am very, very happy and can only say it again and again: you never succeed alone. We are just one unit and I really enjoy being here."

Flick suggested the title-clinching triumph epitomised his team and their spirit.

"The football we have played in the last few months has been sensational," he said. "You can feel the passion, enthusiasm and fighting spirit, even today after the red card."

One down, two to go.

For the eighth time in a row, Bayern Munich are Bundesliga champions. For the seventh time in nine years, they are in the DFB-Pokal final. And yet, as it has been for the best part of a decade, their season will mostly be defined by how well they do in the Champions League.

They are surely favourites to win that, too.

Bayern's Bundesliga triumphs often feel like processions, but 2019-20 has been a real fight. They suffered five defeats in the first half of the season, two of which came after a 5-1 November thrashing by Eintracht Frankfurt that cost head coach Niko Kovac his job. They have been winter champions seven times since 2009 but were four points behind leaders RB Leipzig at the turn of the year, with free-scoring Borussia Dortmund also threatening to pull away.

They turned to Hansi Flick more out of desperation than a long-term vision, handing the former assistant a temporary deal to steady the ship while high-profile names were courted, but his record in 2020 would be the envy of every coach in the world and proves why his new full-time contract was wholly deserved.

Since December 14, Bayern have won 17 of 18 Bundesliga matches, the sole blot coming in a goalless home draw with Leipzig in February. They have scored at least twice in all but three games. They have scored five goals in a game three times and twice hit six, keeping 10 clean sheets in the process. Even the two-month coronavirus lay-off has done nothing to shake them from their stride. A 1-0 win at Dortmund on May 26 gave them a seven-point cushion at the top, and that, realistically, was that.

In all competitions, Flick won 24 of his first 27 games in charge, beating Pep Guardiola's mark of 22. Bayern became the first team to score 90 Bundesliga goals in the first 30 rounds and have hit 132 in all matches this term, a record for a German team.

Flick has found the Midas touch with his players, both the rising stars and the established elite. He has turned 19-year-old Alphonso Davies into a devastating attacking full-back and helped Leon Goretzka find his feet in midfield. Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng look full of renewed vigour, having had their Bayern futures questioned last year.

In attack, Thomas Muller has equalled Kevin De Bruyne's record of 20 assists for a season - a spectacular tally for a number 10 who does not take set-pieces. Robert Lewandowski is on 31 league goals for the season and 46 in all competitions, a personal record.

In fact, you would struggle to find an out-of-form Bayern player from among their fully fit options. Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry are a menace, particularly with Joshua Kimmich pulling the midfield strings, his old right-back role firmly in Benjamin Pavard's hands. Thiago's latest muscle injury has been offset by Goretzka's rise to prominence. With Lucas Hernandez and Ivan Perisic fit again and Philippe Coutinho to come back, there is a depth to Bayern that is hard to beat.

It all means Bayern will be the best-prepared team once the Champions League returns, most likely in August. Their domestic league started earlier and finished quicker than their rivals, save Paris Saint-Germain, who will not have kicked a ball in anger for five months when the competition resumes. They have had the strongest 2020 of any of the remaining sides in the last 16 and, presently, have the fewest injury concerns.

They also boast a commanding 3-0 first-leg lead over Chelsea ahead of the return game at the Allianz Arena, easing the pressure ahead of the restart. Meanwhile, Real Madrid and Manchester City face a tense battle at the Etihad Stadium, Barcelona are level at 1-1 with Napoli, Juventus are a goal down to Lyon and Liverpool were knocked out by Atletico Madrid, who have only won four matches since January 9. What's more, they have a DFB-Pokal final against Bayer Leverkusen to come on July 4 - a perfect chance to raise spirits further before three weeks of intensive training for the continental games to come against opponents who are well short of Bayern's present standards.

Bayern's last European triumph came when they won the treble under Jupp Heynckes in 2012-13. If the Champions League really does define their season, there is every chance 2019-20 will be one to remember.

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