It might have taken a long time to be completed, but Manchester United's signing of Bruno Fernandes is beginning to look like one of this season's best pieces of business.

While the player himself insists he is not responsible for an upturn in form that has seen the Red Devils go 11 games unbeaten in all competitions, few can deny the impact he has made since joining in January for an initial fee of £46.5million (€55m).

In fact, his form saw him rewarded with the Premier League Player of the Month award for February, making him the first United player since Anthony Martial to win the prize for the month of his debut.

The 25-year-old is also the first Portuguese player to win the award since Chelsea midfielder Deco in August 2008.

As Opta data shows, Fernandes deserves the plaudits for his first five Premier League performances...

- Since his debut on February 1, Fernandes has been involved in five Premier League goals, scoring twice and assisting a further three. No other player can match that tally over the same period. The closest are Mohamed Salah (four goals), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (three goals, one assist), Diogo Jota (three goals, one assist), Robert Snodgrass (two goals, two assists), Sadio Mane (three goals, one assist) and Nicolas Pepe (one goal, three assists).

3 - Indeed, no player has managed more Premier League assists since February 1 than Fernandes. Pepe, Roberto Firmino and Ross Barkley are the other players on three.

19 - Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fernandes is top of the charts for attempted shots since his debut. He has recorded 19, as many as Raul Jimenez and Jay Rodriguez and more than Calvert-Lewin and Salah (both 17).

11 - Fernandes has created 11 chances for team-mates (including assists), the same number as Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Ondrej Duda and Andrew Robertson. Only three players have recorded more since his debut: Joao Moutinho (12), Dwight McNeil (13) and James Maddison (16).

20 - Fernandes is the 20th different United player to win a Premier League Player of the Month award. That tally is the joint-best in the competition, alongside Arsenal.

The 2019-20 Premier League campaign has been suspended at least until April 3 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There have been 1,372 confirmed cases of the virus and 35 deaths in the United Kingdom, prompting a pause in the football season.

The disruption comes with Liverpool just two wins away from a first league title in 30 years, while Manchester United are improving in pursuit of Champions League qualification.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at the most interesting facts relating to England's 'Big Six' and their campaigns so far.


LIVERPOOL

- Jurgen Klopp's side are top of the pile but do not look as defensively solid as they did in the 2018-19 season. Liverpool have conceded 21 times in the league so far this term, just one goal fewer than in their entire previous 38-game campaign.

- Roberto Firmino finally ended a long wait for an Anfield goal against Atletico Madrid this week. It was his first home Liverpool strike in 20 games in all competitions since netting against Porto in April 2019, 337 days earlier.

- The Reds were just starting to wobble slightly. With the reverse at home to Atletico, Liverpool have lost four of their past six matches in all competitions – as many defeats as in their previous 67 games.


MANCHESTER CITY

- Manchester City have lost seven Premier League games this season, one more than they had in their previous two campaigns combined.

- Heading into the break, Sergio Aguero had scored 180 Premier League goals for Manchester City. Only Wayne Rooney - 183 for United - has scored more for a single team in the competition's history, with Aguero passing Thierry Henry - 175 for Arsenal - earlier this term.

- Kevin De Bruyne has become the first player to register 15 or more assists in three different Premier League seasons. Only Cesc Fabregas had previously done so in more than one campaign.


CHELSEA

- Chelsea have lost five Premier League home games already this season. Only in 1994-95 - seven times - have they been beaten more often at Stamford Bridge.

- The Blues are also still winless away from home in the league in 2020, drawing three and losing one of their four matches. They last endured a longer such run in the 2015-16 season, failing to taste victory over seven straight away trips.

- Frank Lampard has been reliant on homegrown talent this season. Only Leicester City (31) and Southampton (24) have more goals from English players than Chelsea's 21 - level with United.


MANCHESTER UNITED

- United are unbeaten in 11 in all competitions, but their points return of 45 is still their lowest through 29 games of a Premier League season.

- Bruno Fernandes has inspired their change in fortunes, though, and he has been involved in more Premier League goals (five - two goals, three assists) since his February 1 debut than any other player.

- At 25 years and 86 days old, United have the youngest average starting XI in the Premier League this season.


TOTTENHAM

- No side have kept fewer clean sheets in the Premier League than Tottenham's four this season. The last time they kept so few in the first 29 matches of a campaign was in 2006-07 (also four).

- Spurs are missing Harry Kane (131.18 minutes per goal), Son Heung-min (152.31 mins per goal) and now January signing Steven Bergwijn (280.5 mins per goal) through injury. Dele Alli has the best minutes per goal ratio - 298 - among the rest of the squad in all competitions this season.


ARSENAL

- Arsenal have drawn 13 Premier League games this season - already their highest such tally since 17 in 1993-94.

- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's 17 goals have been worth 16 points to Arsenal this season. Only Sadio Mane's 14 goals have been worth more (18 points) to a single club.

Wales and Scotland go head to head in the final round of the Six Nations on Saturday, and the Scots still have the slimmest chance of winning the title.

The tournament will not finish on schedule, with three matches yet to be rescheduled after being postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, so the wait goes on to learn who finishes as champions.

The Scots would be looking for whipping boys Italy to avoid defeat against both Ireland and England in two of those postponed matches, and for Ireland to do likewise against France, so their championship prospects appear merely mathematically possible.

Whether Scotland can beat Wales also remains to be seen, but Gregor Townsend's XV are the form side heading into the Principality Stadium clash, having won their last two matches while Wayne Pivac's side have lost three in a row.

With Opta data, we preview the weekend's lone Six Nations match:

Wales v Scotland

- Wales have won 14 of their last 16 Six Nations games against Scotland (L2), including their last eight in a row at the Principality Stadium, with Scotland’s only victory in Cardiff in the championship this century coming in 2002.

- Wales have lost their last three Six Nations games, their worst run in the championship since a five-game losing streak spanning the 2006 and 2007 editions.

- Scotland come into this match having won back-to-back games in the Six Nations, but they have not won three in a row in the Five Nations or Six Nations since 1996 when they beat Ireland, France and Wales in succession.

- Wales have scored four tries originating from inside their own half in this year’s Six Nations, the joint most of any side, with France having also scored four, while 50 per cent of Scotland’s tries (three of six) have come from that range, the highest ratio of any side.

- Scotland have won 7.8 turnovers per game on average in the tournament this year, more than any other side, while Wales have won the fewest (5.5). Scotland also boast the best tackle success rate this campaign (89 per cent) having missed a tournament-low 18 tackles per game.

- Wales have recorded the best goal-kicking success rate so far, with Leigh Halfpenny (100 per cent, 5/5) and Dan Biggar (94 per cent, 15/16) boasting the best individual rates of anyone to attempt more than one kick at goal.

- Stuart Hogg (Scotland) has gained the most metres of any player in the championship (305), averaging 76 metres per game. Another 76 metres in this match would see him become just the second player in Six Nations history to gain 3,000 metres, after Sergio Parisse (Parisse reached 3,088, Hogg is currently on 2,924).

- Hamish Watson (Scotland) has made 62 of 62 tackles in the championship, the second most of any player.

Lewis Hamilton heads into the new Formula One season on the brink of history, but he is not the only one.

The campaign gets underway with the eagerly anticipated Australian Grand Prix this weekend, with the traditional curtain-raiser setting in motion a year that could see a number of F1 records broken.

Along with Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen also have significant milestones in their sights.

With the help of Opta, we pick out five significant benchmarks that could be reached in 2020.

 

ALL-TIME GREATS

Mercedes driver and reigning champion Hamilton will equal Michael Schumacher's record of seven F1 titles if he tops the drivers' standings for a fourth year in succession.

A NEW ERA OF DOMINANCE

Hamilton bringing home the championship again would significantly improve Mercedes' chances of setting a new benchmark in F1. If they claim a seventh constructors' crown in succession they will surpass Ferrari's unprecedented six straight from 1999 until 2004.

THE TIME FOR YOUTH

Sebastian Vettel holds the record as the youngest F1 champion, having been 23 years, four months and 11 days old when he triumphed in 2010. His Ferrari team-mate Leclerc and Red Bull's Verstappen made significant strides in 2019 and will better the German's mark if they dethrone Hamilton this year.

FOUR-FIGURE FERRARI

F1 celebrated its 1,000th race in China last year and Ferrari will become the first team to hit the same milestone in the ninth event of the year, which is scheduled to be the French Grand Prix.

REELING IN RUBENS

Former world champion Raikkonen, who is entering his second season with Alfa Romeo, is 11 grands prix away from surpassing Rubens Barrichello's all-time F1 record of 323 race appearances. He is set to achieve the feat at Silverstone in July.

Liverpool's Champions League title defence is in the balance ahead of Wednesday's last-16 second leg with Atletico Madrid, but Jurgen Klopp's home record with the Reds highlights the task facing Los Colchoneros.

The Spanish side won 1-0 thanks to an early Saul Niguez effort at the Wanda Metropolitano, with Atletico producing a quintessential Diego Simeone display as they fought to cling on to a slender win.

Their approach is unlikely to change at Anfield, but Klopp boasts an impressive record on Merseyside.

In the other of Wednesday's games, Borussia Dortmund take a 2-1 lead over Paris Saint-Germain to Parc des Princes, setting the second leg up tantalisingly with Erling Haaland eying a slice of history - though there will not be any fans in attendance due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Below are the key match facts, courtesy of Opta, ahead of the two finely-poised contests.

Liverpool v Atletico Madrid

2 - On each of the previous two occasions Liverpool have lost away from home in the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie, they have progressed to the next round; the Reds eliminated Chelsea and Barcelona in the semi-finals in 2006-07 and 2018-19, respectively.

0 - Klopp is yet to lose a home Champions League game with Liverpool (W11 D4). His most recent two home defeats in the competition have been in last-16 matches with Borussia Dortmund in 2013-14 (1-2 v Zenit) and 2014-15 (0-3 v Juventus).

1 - Atletico have won just one of their previous nine away Champions League knockout games (W1 D2 L6), a 4-2 win at Bayer Leverkusen in February 2017.

7 - Roberto Firmino has been directly involved in seven goals in five Champions League knockout appearances at Anfield (3 goals, 4 assists), averaging a goal involvement every 54 minutes.

37 - Atleti's Jan Oblak has conceded just 37 goals in his first 49 Champions League appearances. The record for the fewest goals conceded by a goalkeeper in his first 50 appearances is held by Dida (35), followed by Victor Valdes (38).

Paris Saint-Germain v Borussia Dortmund

0 - PSG have never progressed to the next stage of the Champions League after losing the first leg of a knockout tie, going out against Milan in 1994-95, Barcelona in 2014-15 and Real Madrid in 2017-18.

4 - Borussia Dortmund have always progressed to the next stage of the Champions League after winning the first leg of a knockout tie, doing so on all four previous occasions. The only team with a better 100 per cent progression rate after winning the first leg is Juventus (11/11).

5 - PSG have lost five of their previous six Champions League knockout matches (W1), losing each of their past two at the Parc des Princes against Real Madrid in March 2018 and Manchester United in 12 months later.

10 - Haaland is one of only five players to score 10 or more goals in their debut European Cup/Champions League campaign. The only player to score more than 10 was Claudio Sulser, who netted 11 goals in six appearances in 1978-79 for Grasshopper Zurich. Haaland also has the best minutes-per-goal ratio (one every 46 minutes) of any player in the competition's history to feature for at least 250 minutes.

37 - Neymar has been directly involved in 37 goals in 27 home Champions League appearances (20 for Barcelona, seven for PSG), scoring 25 goals and assisting 12. The Brazilian has never ended on the losing side in a home game in the competition (W24 D3).

Liverpool's Champions League defence is in the balance after a 1-0 defeat at Atletico Madrid in their last-16 first leg – and the Reds' record at Anfield against Spanish sides is not exactly inspiring.

Since 2001-02, Liverpool have played 10 matches against LaLiga opposition at Anfield and won only two of those games.

Of course, the latest such fixture was against Barcelona, when the Red overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to progress.

But at the Wanda Metropolitano in last month's first leg, Atletico showed they are still a force to be reckoned with in terms of their infamous pragmatism and defensive nous.

Ahead of Atletico's visit on Wednesday, we take a look at the past 10 examples of Spanish teams going to Anfield.

Liverpool 1-3 Barcelona, November 2001

Liverpool's poor run at home to Spanish teams began back in the days when the Champions League had two rounds of group stages. They had to come up against eventual semi-finalists Barcelona in the second stage and were comprehensively taken apart at home, with Patrick Kluivert, Fabio Rochemback and Marc Overmars eclipsing Michael Owen's opener. Two of Barca's goals should have been disallowed for offside, but it was a deserved win nonetheless. The Reds reached the knockout phase anyway, but were eliminated by Bayer Leverkusen.

Liverpool 0-1 Valencia, October 2002

After losing 2-0 at Mestalla, Liverpool were left on the brink of elimination when they lost 1-0 at home to Rafael Benitez's Valencia in October 2002. Francisco Rufete's effort in the 34th minute beat the suspect Jerzy Dudek and proved decisive, as Los Che were justified victors. Gerard Houllier's men dropped down into the UEFA Cup but were halted in the last eight by Celtic, who went on to lose 3-2 to Jose Mourinho's Porto in the final.

Liverpool 0-0 Deportivo La Coruna, October 2004

Having been within touching distance of the Champions League final in 2003-04, just a few months later Deportivo La Coruna were a shadow of the team previously referred to as 'Super Depor'. That said, Javier Irureta's side still took a commendable point away from Anfield, amounting to half of their overall haul in Group A – not that it disrupted Liverpool much. They went on to win the trophy, famously battling back to beat Milan in the final in Istanbul.

Liverpool 0-0 Real Betis, November 2005

Similar to Deportivo the previous season, the Betis of 2005-06 was nowhere near as effective as the Verdiblancos side that secured their unlikely Champions League qualification. Liverpool failed to score against them at Anfield, despite a flurry of chances, though the stalemate was enough to book the defending champions' progression to the knockout phase.

Liverpool 0-1 Barcelona, March 2007

Liverpool reached the Champions League final again in 2007, though they had a lucky escape on the way. After winning 2-1 at Camp Nou, Barca came to Anfield needing a win but just fell short of a scoreline that would have taken them through. Eidur Gudjohnsen's effort 15 minutes from time gave Frank Rijkaard's men the lead, but the holders could not add to that and went out on away goals.

Liverpool 1-1 Atletico Madrid, November 2008

Until their thrilling quarter-final elimination by Chelsea, Liverpool did not lose a single Champions League match in 2008-09. A major part of that was their 1-1 draw at home to Atletico in the group phase, as Steven Gerrard converted a last-gasp penalty after he had controversially been awarded the spot-kick following an aerial challenge with Mariano Pernia. It levelled a strike from future Red Maxi Rodriguez.

Liverpool 4-0 Real Madrid, March 2009

Against the club he was taught to loathe as a kid, it was fitting that Fernando Torres – a former Atletico captain – was the one to inspire Liverpool past Real Madrid in 2009. Already 1-0 up from the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, Liverpool ran out comfortable 4-0 winners at Anfield, with Torres opening the scoring and producing a generally thrilling individual display to help set up a last-eight clash with Chelsea, who prevailed 7-5 on aggregate.

Liverpool 0-3 Real Madrid, October 2014

Madrid got their own back in similarly one-sided fashion five years later. Prior to the 2014-15 season, Liverpool had not qualified for any of the past four editions of the Champions League – and it told. In that time, the Reds had fallen well behind the elite, as highlighted by Madrid leaving Anfield with a 3-0 win – Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema getting the goals between them. Brendan Rodgers' men ended up finishing third to Los Blancos and Basel, dropping into the Europa League, which they exited in the round of 32.

Liverpool 2-2 Sevilla, September 2017

Revenge was on the agenda for Liverpool in September 2017. Having lost 3-1 to Sevilla in the Europa League final the previous year, the visiting fans were eager to remind them of that with hand gestures before the match. Liverpool were 2-1 up at half-time, Wissam Ben Yedder's early opener cancelled out by goals from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, but Joaquin Correa secured a share of the spoils late on. They also played out another thriller in Spain for their second group meeting, Sevilla fighting back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3. Liverpool went on to lose to Madrid in the final.

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona, May 2019

A remarkable Liverpool turnaround, or a humiliating Barca collapse? Whichever way you lean, there is no denying last season's semi-final tie was as gripping as it gets. Ernesto Valverde's men had seemingly put one foot into the final with Lionel Messi-inspired 3-0 win at Camp Nou, but the Reds battled back with an epic 4-0 victory. Divock Origi's early effort was added to by a quick-fire Georginio Wijnaldum double early in the second half, wiping out the Blaugrana's lead. Origi then got a second 11 minutes from time, taking the Reds into a second successive final – this time going on to lift the famous trophy.

Tottenham and Valencia each face uphill battles ahead of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second legs.

Spurs, rocked by injuries in attack, go to RB Leipzig trailing 1-0 from their home leg at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium three weeks ago.

Valencia's hopes of progression are even more remote after a thumping 4-1 defeat at Atalanta. They will play the home second leg without the backing of supporters, too, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

We take a look at the key Opta statistics ahead of the two fixtures.
 

RB Leipzig v Tottenham

1 - Tottenham have only lost one of their five away Champions League games in Germany (W2 D2), although that defeat came earlier this season at Bayern Munich.

8 - Spurs have been eliminated in eight of their past 10 major European knockout ties when they have lost the first leg. But they overturned a deficit the previous time this happened against Ajax in last season's Champions League semi-finals.

4 - Four of Leipzig's past five Champions League goals have been penalties. Only Barcelona in 2011-12 (five) have ever scored more than four spot-kicks in a single campaign.

6 - Timo Werner is yet to find the net in six home Champions League appearances, attempting 22 shots without success. In away games, he has seven goals from 14 shots. Werner has scored more Champions League goals without netting at home than any other player in the competition's history.

7 - Jose Mourinho has lost more away Champions League games in Germany (seven) than in any other country.

Valencia v Atalanta

4 - Only four of the previous 36 teams to lose the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie by three or more goals have then progressed. However, two have been Spanish sides – Deportivo La Coruna in 2003-04 versus Milan and Barcelona in 2016-17 versus Paris Saint-Germain.

3 - In the first leg, Atalanta became only the third team to score four goals in their first ever Champions League knockout match, after Manchester United (4-0 versus Porto in 1996-97) and opponents Valencia (5-2 versus Lazio in 1999-00).

9 - Valencia are winless in nine Champions League knockout matches (D5 L4) and have not scored three goals in such a game since winning 3-0 against Leeds United in May 2001.

0 - The Serie A side are yet to have an Italian scorer in the Champions League this season. But their 12 goals have been scored by 10 different players of nine different nationalities. Only Arsenal in 2009-10, Manchester United in 2010-11 and Borussia Dortmund in 2016-17 have had 10 different nationalities net in one campaign.

6 - Atalanta scored with six of their first 29 shots on target in the Champions League this season but have since found the net with six of their previous eight, including their four most recent shots on target in their 4-1 win in the first leg.

Just three more wins to go.

It was not a famous performance, but it was a record-breaking result, one that should end any of that title-collapse talk before it got out of hand - and one that reminded everyone how wonderfully ruthless Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah can be.

Liverpool were certainly not brilliant against Bournemouth, the standard of their display mostly in keeping with a recent run in which they had lost three of their past five games and scored only four times, but they are back to winning ways and have surpassed their own record for consecutive top-flight home victories in England thanks to this, their 22nd in succession.

Ultimately, talk of them throwing away the most one-sided title race the Premier League has ever seen was always nonsense. But losing to Atletico Madrid, seeing their quest for an invincible league season ended at Watford and exiting the FA Cup at Chelsea in the past few weeks had certainly shaken some of the confidence out of Jurgen Klopp's previously unstoppable force.

It showed again at Anfield on Saturday. Somehow, Bournemouth went ahead - a Bournemouth side with two league wins in 12 games and on a run of five consecutive losses to Liverpool by an aggregate score of 17-0. It looked like Callum Wilson could scarcely believe it when he tapped in Jefferson Lerma's cross, although he was perhaps expecting a VAR intervention for a shove on Joe Gomez.

When Nathan Ake's header was flapped onto the crossbar by Adrian, fans in the Kop were growing restless. They needed something to calm the nerves, someone to bring precision to a disjointed Reds display. They needed Salah and Mane.

In truth, neither forward exactly had a glowing first half. Salah was as guilty as anyone when it came to Liverpool's imprecision on the ball: he completed only half of his 18 attempted passes in the Bournemouth half and gave the ball away with more than a third of his overall efforts in the first 45 minutes. Mane, too, was labouring at the same 59 per cent success rate for first-half passes, as Klopp's side seemed short on ideas against a defence that has kept one clean sheet since November 2.

And yet, when the chances came, there was never any doubt.

Jack Simpson's loose touch was all it took. Mane pounced, found Salah, and the Egyptian spun and shot through the legs of Lerma, leaving Aaron Ramsdale grasping at air. One shot, one goal.

Next, Bournemouth made a mess of things in midfield, Virgil van Dijk played Mane through, and he curled a finish beyond the Cherries goalkeeper. One shot, one goal.

It was the 16th time Liverpool have come from behind to lead at half-time of a Premier League game at Anfield. It wasn't pretty, but it was enough. It usually is when Salah and Mane are involved.

Salah has scored 70 times in 100 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, at least seven more than any other Reds player has managed in their first century of matches. Mane has scored and assisted in the same league game for Liverpool on nine occasions. Each of them has scored 27 home goals in the league since the start of last season, which is more than anyone else.

Atletico are highly unlikely to commit the same errors when they visit on Wednesday, and a 2-1 win would not be enough to keep Liverpool's Champions League defence alive. But Salah and Mane, at Anfield, are usually enough to see off anything.

David de Gea is no stranger to scrutiny at Old Trafford.

There were serious concerns over De Gea when he was lured to Manchester United by former boss Alex Ferguson as a lean 20-year-old goalkeeper in 2011.

De Gea, though, answered questions about his physique – the Spaniard repaying Ferguson's faith and going on to win a Premier League title, as well as FA Cup, Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield silverware.

He cemented himself as one of the world's best keepers. However, those concerns have emerged again and they are growing louder following his latest mistake in Sunday's 1-1 draw away to Everton.

De Gea's attempted clearance was blocked by Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin into the net in just the third minute. United manager to salvage a point, but those errors are occurring more frequently.

Unlike previous seasons, De Gea has serious competition in the form of Dean Henderson – who is excelling on loan at Sheffield United in England's top flight.

England youth international Henderson is widely viewed as the future of United, but the 22-year-old is reportedly unwilling to return to Manchester next season unless he is the number one.

So, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a decision to make. Stick with De Gea or cash-in on the rumoured Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus target, while turning to Henderson?

Using Opta stats, we compare the form of De Gea and counterpart Henderson in the Premier League this season.

 

Games played
De Gea: 28
Henderson: 26

Shots Faced (inc. blocks)
De Gea: 297
Henderson: 295

Goals Conceded
De Gea: 30
Henderson: 22

Clean Sheets
De Gea: 7
Henderson: 9

Saves
De Gea: 72
Henderson: 66

Saves (from inside the box)
De Gea: 44
Henderson: 39

Saves (from outside the box)
De Gea: 28
Henderson: 25

Save Percentage
De Gea: 70.59
Henderson: 74.42

Clearances (inc. Punches)
De Gea: 12
Henderson: 20

Goals Conceded (in box)
De Gea: 26
Henderson: 21

Goals Conceded (out box)
De Gea: 4
Henderson: 1

Errors Leading to Goals
De Gea: 3
Henderson: 1

Errors Leading to Shots (inc. goals)
De Gea: 4
Henderson: 1

Drops
De Gea: 1
Henderson: 3

Real Madrid went into Sunday's El Clasico fully aware that defeat could have proven ruinous to their season, leaving a five-point gap at the LaLiga summit after they suffered a massive midweek blow in the Champions League.

Zinedine Zidane and Madrid were tactically outclassed in their own stadium on Wednesday, with Manchester City coming away from the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with a potentially vital 2-1 win.

Pep Guardiola exposed their weaknesses with a switch of formation and system to focus on troubling Madrid behind their attack-minded full-backs – chiefly with Gabriel Jesus on the left. It proved decisive.

Barca coach Quique Setien confirmed in his pre-match news conference that he met with City boss Guardiola after that match, acknowledging there were elements of City's set-up that Barca would look to expose, aware they could "come in handy".

But there's little doubt Zidane learned his lesson, and his tweaks inspired Madrid's 2-0 Clasico win.

ZIZOU GETS IT RIGHT

He set Madrid up proactively with two holding midfielders, and Vinicius Junior and Federico Valverde out wide, the latter two sat deep off the ball to essentially form a flat midfield.

The lung-busting Valverde's presence on the right ensured Jordi Alba had little luck in attack and plenty to think about at the back.

Pragmatic? Perhaps, but Madrid's formation undoubtedly contributed to limiting Barca's supply of chances, with Messi kept uncharacteristically quiet.

Toni Kroos' restoration to the starting XI after missing out against City was arguably the real key for Madrid, though.

KROOS CONTROL

The German's exclusion in midweek came as something of a shock and without him Madrid's overall pass completion was 86.5 per cent, and that increased to 88.2 per cent with him. Although minor in those terms, every little helps in matches of fine margins.

Against City, Madrid rarely looked in control and their move construction from midfield when transitioning was rather scattergun, Kroos' composure and vision obviously missed.

Upon his return, Kroos barely put a foot wrong all match. Suddenly Madrid seemed far more effective at picking their way through a press, as evidenced by the numerous counter-attacks they were able to launch on Sunday.

Kroos was accurate with 99 per cent of his passes and then played the decisive ball for Vinicius to put Madrid ahead, slipping the Brazilian into the left side of the box and he beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen with a little help from a Gerard Pique deflection.

MESSI FAILS TO SLICE THROUGH MADRID

Like Kroos, Messi was also tidy in possession, hitting his mark with 95 per cent of his passes. But he laid on only a single goal-scoring chance, while he was thwarted by Thibaut Courtois for his most presentable opportunity in the first half.

Messi set a new record for Clasico appearances by a Barca player – it was set up for a fittingly devastating performance to put one hand on the title.

But Barca's talisman simply failed to instigate effectively against Madrid's packed midfield, potentially leading to questions about his fitness after he was spotted seemingly limping earlier in the day.

And therein lies Barca's biggest problem: if Messi fails to turn the screw, they have no one else capable to rising to that level.

With Cristiano Ronaldo watching on in the stands, Messi's magic was in disappointingly short supply – but masterful Kroos validated Zidane's decision to recall him by steering Madrid to a potentially season-defining victory as they returned to LaLiga's summit.

David de Gea has played himself back into form in the past few weeks, but Sunday was something of a mixed bag for Manchester United's number one.

In only the third minute, he dithered over a kick for so long that, when he finally tried to send the ball forward, Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin was able to block it into the United net.

De Gea did go some way towards making amends, saving well low to his left two minutes later to stop Calvert-Lewin scoring a second before producing a brilliant block with his leg to deny Gylfi Sigurdsson in the dying moments. That save earned a slice of luck, with Calvert-Lewin then seeing a potential winner disallowed for offside.

Still, United fans could argue De Gea cost them a victory, and the Spain international has now made seven errors leading to Premier League goals since the start of last season*. No goalkeeper has been responsible for more.

In fact, during the relative wilderness of the post-Alex Ferguson years, De Gea has committed 10 mistakes leading to league goals, which is not a brilliant statistic for a man who has won United's player of the year award four times since Fergie retired in 2013.

However, as you will see below, De Gea is far from the top of the list of erring goalkeepers since the start of 2013-14...

THE MOST ERRORS LEADING TO GOALS BY GOALKEEPERS IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE SINCE THE START OF 2013-14

Asmir Begovic: 18
Hugo Lloris: 17
Simon Mignolet: 14
Lukasz Fabianski: 12
Jordan Pickford: 12
Joe Hart: 12
Petr Cech: 11
David de Gea: 10
Brad Guzan: 10
Artur Boruc: 10

*For context, Opta define an 'error' as a mistake from a player that leads to a shot or a goal. For goalkeepers, the definition is extended to 'spills and attempted claims or saves by a goalkeeper which directly leads to a second attempt to score'.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are level on 72 LaLiga wins each in El Clasico, but Zinedine Zidane's side are facing an unwanted record on Sunday.

Madrid are winless against their rivals in seven league matches, meaning failure to beat Barca at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend will set a new worst record for the club in Clasico history.

Not only that, but the Catalans are on a four-game winning streak in league trips to Madrid, and they have a man in charge who could be well placed to extend that run.

Quique Setien has faced Madrid eight times as a head coach in LaLiga and, as history shows, he has something of a knack when it comes to giving Los Blancos a tough time.

MADRID ARE SICK OF THE SIGHT OF SETIEN

"I'm blown by the north wind; I don't go down easily," Setien said last month amid growing unrest behind the scenes at Barca, as Eric Abidal and Lionel Messi began to play out a row in public.

That was not a problem of Setien's making, but Madrid would do well to heed his words - not that they need reminding about his pedigree.

In his eight previous visits to the Santiago Bernabeu as a coach, Setien has won two, drawn two, and lost four. That might not sound hugely impressive for a team such as, say, Barcelona - but what about Las Palmas and Real Betis?

In 2015-16, Setien's Canary Islanders went down 3-1 to Rafael Benitez's Madrid. The following season, with Zinedine Zidane in the opposite dugout, the scoreline was reversed, Las Palmas on the brink of a stunning victory only for Cristiano Ronaldo to score twice in the closing minutes.

His next visit came with Betis in September 2017, when Antonio Sanabria scored in the dying seconds to snatch a famous win. Then, on the final day of last season, Setien was celebrating again at the Bernabeu, this time as Loren Moron and Jese Rodriguez sealed a fully deserved 2-0 triumph.

"To the teams that I have been to lately," he said, "I have guaranteed only one thing, and that is that my team is going to play well." Madrid need no reminders.

STANDING UP TO BARCA SCRUTINY

One of the reasons behind Setien's appointment was to ensure a return to a Johan Cruyff-esque brand of football, removed from Ernesto Valverde's pragmatism.

Setien's method might just bring the boldness Barca will need to beat a Madrid team still smarting from the way they lost to Manchester City.

Setien has lost only half of his trips to the Bernabeu, the same ratio as Luis Enrique, who won two and lost two of his four games there. It's also a notable improvement on Valverde's record: he won nine of his 29 visits with Barca, Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol, losing 15 times and conceding 52 goals.

If there was any greater argument for Setien to stick to his principles of attacking, possession-based football, he need look no further than the man who made the approach his own in the modern game. Pep Guardiola has won 10, drawn four and lost only four of 18 games at the Bernabeu as a head coach.

Batten down the hatches – the north wind is coming.

Two titans collide in the Champions League on Wednesday when Real Madrid host Manchester City, while Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to continue his remarkable goal-scoring record in the knockout phase.

Ronaldo has come a long way since the days critics suggested he did not perform in the biggest matches, as he now boasts an astonishing record in the latter stages of Europe's elite competition.

He will fancy his chances of being decisive yet again in this tie, with Juve firm favourites against Lyon.

Nevertheless, most eyes will be on the Santiago Bernabeu, as Pep Guardiola takes City to the setting of some of his most chaotic matches as a coach, having previously been in charge of Barcelona.

Ahead of those two matches, we take a look at the key data below.

Real Madrid v Manchester City

4 - Madrid have prevailed in their previous four Champions League knockout ties against English opposition: 5-0 on aggregate v Tottenham (2010-11 quarter-finals), 3-2 v Manchester United (2012-13 last 16), 1-0 v Manchester City (2015-16 semi-finals), 3-1 v Liverpool (2017-18 final).

23 - Los Blancos are into the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 23rd consecutive season, the longest run in the history of the tournament and a streak that began in 1997-98.

22 - Madrid have scored in each of their previous 22 home games in the knockout stages of the Champions League; the last team to stop them from scoring were Pep Guardiola's Barcelona in the 2010-11 semi-finals (0-2). However, they have failed to win their past three knockout matches at the Santiago Bernabeu (D1 L2); Madrid have never gone four matches in a row without a victory.

3 - City boss Guardiola is facing Madrid in a Champions League knockout tie for the third time, with a third different club – he won 3-1 on aggregate with Barcelona in the 2010-11 semi-finals and he lost 5-0 on aggregate with Bayern in the 2013-14 semi-finals.

10 - Sterling has scored 10 goals in his previous 13 Champions League appearances, one more goal than in the 34 matches in this competition (nine) prior to that run. Only Lionel Messi (six) and Ronaldo (five) scored more times than Sterling in last season's knockout stages (four).

Lyon v Juventus

11 - Lyon have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League more times than any other French club (11). However, it has been 10 years since they progressed past the round of 16 (2009-10). They have scored only three goals in their previous nine knockout games in this competition (W1 D2 L6).

6 - Juve are in the Champions League knockout stages for the sixth straight season, their longest ever run. In the past five campaigns, they have made it past the last 16 on four occasions, only failing to do so in 2015-16 when they were eliminated by Bayern Munich (4-6 on aggregate).

2 - Lyon won two of their six group games (D2 L2), the lowest tally alongside Atalanta among the remaining 16 teams.

45 - Memphis Depay (six goals, four assists) has been directly involved in 45 per cent of Lyon's Champions League goals since the start of last season (10/22), however they will be without the Dutch forward for this match due to injury.

65 - Among the seven players with 50+ goals in the Champions League, Juve striker Ronaldo is the only one to have scored more goals in the knockout stages (65) than in the group phase (63). He has also registered more assists in the competition against Lyon (four) than any other side.

Robert Lewandowski equalled a Champions League best set by Cristiano Ronaldo as he led Bayern Munich to an emphatic win at Chelsea.

Lewandowski scored once and assisted another two goals as the Bundesliga leaders claimed a 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday.

The Bayern striker combined with Serge Gnabry to devastating effect to set up two goals in the space of three minutes for the Germany winger, before tapping in a cross from the electric Alphonso Davies to secure a potentially unassailable first-leg advantage.

Lewandowski moved onto 11 goals in seven Champions League games, his best record in a single season, while he also matched Ronaldo's record of nine away goals scored in Europe's top club competition in the same campaign set back in 2013-14.

Remarkably, the Poland star had gone 672 minutes without a goal in the Champions League knockout phase until his simple finish.

Bayern's win means they have scored three or more goals away from home against four separate English sides in the competition since 2013 - Arsenal twice, Tottenham, and now Chelsea.

The margin of defeat was Chelsea's heaviest at home in any European competition in their history.

While Lewandowski and Gnabry were responsible for the goals, it was the performance of young converted full-back Davies that particularly caught the eye.

The 19-year-old was a menace down the left with his pace and also kept Chelsea wing-back Reece James on the fringes of the action with some superb defensive work.

As well as creating two chances overall, including Lewandowski's tap-in, Davies regained possession eight times in the 90 minutes. Only Thiago Alcantara (17) did so more often for Hansi Flick's side.

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to make his 1,000th appearance for club and country when Juventus face SPAL in Serie A on Saturday.

The Portugal superstar was named in Maurizio Sarri's starting XI after being rested for the 2-0 win over Brescia last weekend.

Providing the 35-year-old comes through the warm-up unscathed, he will bring up his incredible landmark and seek to add to his tally of 724 goals. 

It will be the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's 73rd outing for Juve, with the bulk of his matches having come for Real Madrid (438).

Manchester United sit second on that list (292), with 31 of his games coming for Sporting CP, a further two for Sporting B and 164 for his country. 

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.