Lionel Messi delivered a moment of history for Barcelona on this day in 2009, as Manchester United lost the Champions League final in Rome.

Arsene Wenger also has fond memories of May 27 from his Arsenal career, having achieved an unprecedented FA Cup feat at Wembley three years ago.

Shane Watson powered Chennai Super Kings to 2018 IPL glory, while back in 1995, the great Jonah Lomu scored the first tries of a famous New Zealand career.

Join us in looking back on some memorable moments from this day in years gone by.

 

1995 – Jonah Lomu scores his first tries for New Zealand

One of rugby union's all-time most famous faces made his mark on this day back in 1995.

Lomu scored his first two tries for New Zealand as they claimed a 43-19 win over Ireland in a Pool C clash at the Rugby World Cup in Johannesburg.

He finished the tournament as joint-top try-scorer on seven as the All Blacks reached the final, where they were famously beaten by hosts South Africa.

Lomu tragically died at the age of 40 in November 2015.

2018 – Shane Watson scores unbeaten century as Chennai Super Kings win the IPL

It is two years since a spectacular innings from Watson secured Indian Premier League glory for Chennai Super Kings.

Questioned for putting their faith in a squad of players approaching the end of their careers, it was fitting that Chennai's triumph would be sealed by 36-year-old Watson's unbeaten 117 from 57 balls.

Watson hit eight sixes and 11 fours to dominate the contest, the Super Kings easing to an eight-wicket win with nine balls remaining.

 

2009 – Barcelona beat Manchester United in the Champions League final

Barcelona became champions of Europe on this day 11 years ago, denying Manchester United a piece of history and securing their own place in the record books.

Holders United were looking to become the first team to win back-to-back Champions Leagues in the modern format but were dealt an early blow when Samuel Eto'o squeezed a 10th-minute shot past Edwin van der Sar.

A header from Lionel Messi – a goal he still considers the most important of his career – made it 2-0 in the second half as Barca won the treble for the first time in their history in Pep Guardiola's first season in charge.

2017 – Arsenal beat Chelsea in FA Cup final as Wenger wins the trophy for a seventh time

Arsene Wenger became the most successful manager in FA Cup history three years ago when he lifted the trophy for a seventh time.

Premier League champions Chelsea were favourites, but a fourth-minute goal from Alexis Sanchez set the tone for the final.

Victor Moses' red card 68 minutes in made life tougher for the Blues and, although Diego Costa grabbed an equaliser, Aaron Ramsey struck what proved to be the winner three minutes later.

Aside from Wenger's feat – his 10th major trophy as Gunners boss – it was a final fondly remembered by fans for the performance of Per Mertsesacker, who was outstanding at the heart of defence.

After Borussia Dortmund saw their Bundesliga title hopes seemingly end with defeat to Bayern Munich in the Klassiker, Lucien Favre's side could slide to third place on Wednesday.

A victory for RB Leipzig over Hertha Berlin would take Julian Nagelsmann's team up to second spot in the table.

There are some growing winless runs in the German top flight, with worrying times for the likes of Union Berlin and Hoffenheim.

Alarm bells will be ringing at Schalke, however, if their fruitless streak stretches to 10 games. David Wagner's side tackle third-bottom Fortuna Dusseldorf.

RB LEIPZIG V HERTHA BERLIN

- Leipzig usually enjoy this fixture, having won six of their previous seven Bundesliga matches against Hertha – losing the other 3-2 at home in December 2017. They have won more Bundesliga games against Hertha than against any other side, and have scored 26 goals in those seven previous clashes.

- Leipzig have taken 54 points from 27 matches this Bundesliga season, just shy of the 55 they had at this stage of their debut top-flight campaign in 2016-17.

- Striker Timo Werner has had a hand in 31 Bundesliga goals for Leipzig this season, with 24 goals and seven assists, including a hat-trick against Mainz at the weekend. Since detailed data collection began in 2004-05, no other player has been involved in as many goals at this stage of a season.

- Hertha have been rejuvenated under new boss Bruno Labbadia, with a 3-0 win over Hoffenheim followed by a 4-0 victory against city rivals Union Berlin last Friday. Curiously, every goal in those two games came between the 51st and 77th minutes.

UNION BERLIN V MAINZ

- Mainz parted company with head coach Sandro Schwarz after losing 3-2 when these two teams met in November. It was just Union's second win in seven competitive matches against Mainz.

- Union sit 13th in the Bundesliga but have not won in their past four Bundesliga matches, losing their past three, including a 4-0 derby loss to Hertha. It is their longest winless run in the Bundesliga, albeit this is their first season in the league.

- Mainz must set aside their latest Leipzig humiliation. Their 5-0 loss at the weekend followed an 8-0 defeat to the same opposition earlier in the season. The last Bundesliga team to concede 13 goals in a single season against one team were Ulm in 1999-2000 against Bayer Leverkusen.

- Mainz sit 15th and have conceded a league-high 60 goals this season, more than in any previous season in their existence.

AUGSBURG V PADERBORN

- Augsburg have won four of their past six competitive matches against Paderborn (D1 L1), including a 1-0 success earlier this season when Philipp Max's goal made the difference.

- A 3-0 win at Schalke last time out ended Augsburg's run of four Bundesliga defeats in a row and gave them a first clean sheet in 2020.

- Augsburg have a rocky recent record at home against promoted teams, winning five and losing five of their past 10 such fixtures. The last promoted team they beat at home were Paderborn – 3-0 in November 2014.

- Paderborn sit bottom of the Bundesliga with 18 points from 27 matches. No team with 18 points or fewer at this stage of a season have ever avoided relegation from the league.

HOFFENHEIM V COLOGNE

- Rather a favourite fixture for Hoffenheim, they have won each of their past three Bundesliga games against Cologne and are unbeaten in the past seven in their rivalry. They have only managed to string together a longer sequence of Bundesliga wins against one team – winning five in succession against Hannover from 2013 to 2015.

- Hoffenheim will need to buck the trend of their recent 2019-20 season results, however, having not won in their past seven Bundesliga matches (D3 L4), their longest winless run since going eight games without a victory from October to December in 2015.

- Cologne's Jhon Cordoba scored his 11th goal of the season on matchday 27, a late equaliser against Fortuna Dusseldorf on Sunday. He has now netted more goals in his 23 appearances this term than in his previous three Bundesliga campaigns combined (10 goals in 69 games).

FORTUNA DUSSELDORF V SCHALKE

- Schalke have lost only one of their past six competitive matches against Fortuna (W3 D2), but that 4-0 home setback in March 2019 will be fresh in the memory.

- Fortuna sit precariously in 16th place but are unbeaten in their past five games (W1 D4) under Uwe Rosler. They have drawn six of eight games under Rosler – the only other coach in Bundesliga history to draw six of his first eight matches was Thorsten Fink with Hamburg in 2011.

- If Fortuna go ahead, they might not stay ahead, having thrown away a league-high 22 points from winning positions this season. However, they face a slumping Schalke side who have gone nine games without a Bundesliga win, scoring just twice in that dismal run.

In the eerie quiet of Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday, the joyous yells of Bayern Munich players will have been more noticeable than ever.

With no crowd noise to drown them out, Bayern players screamed in celebration as they beat Borussia Dortmund for a second time in 2019-20, the shouts echoing around BVB's iconic home as Die Roten effectively sealed an eight successive title.

The build-up to Der Klassiker was dominated by talk of what the contest meant for the Bundesliga crown, and the consensus was failure to win would doom Dortmund's hopes.

Even sporting director Michael Zorc acknowledged this in the pre-match news conference on Monday: "If we want to keep competing for the title, we have to win the match. It's as simple as that."

Dortmund's start suggested that was the exact line Lucien Favre put across to his players before the match – they began with real verve and purpose, Erling Haaland having an effort cleared off the line by Jerome Boateng inside the first 40 seconds.

A continuously notable element of a gripping first period was the quality of the hosts' build-up play, with Julian Brandt, Mahmoud Dahoud and Thorgan Hazard playing some fine football between them.

But the final pass was too often found wanting, with Hazard and Brandt culpable on two particular occasions when the right ball would have surely left Haaland with a simple finish.

Bayern's cautious set-up in the first half probably contributed to Dortmund being in the ascendancy, but Hansi Flick's starting XI contained the right balance to allow them to be both solid at the back and still a threat in attack.

Joshua Kimmich and Alphonso Davies encapsulated that perfectly, with the latter in particular producing yet another gutsy display.

The story of the Canada international's season is well-documented – he's gone from being a back-up winger, to left-back cover to arguably the most exciting attacking full-back in the world.

All of his immense qualities were on display again on Tuesday.

Given his lack of experience in the position, there have still been those questioning his defensive capabilities, but it's difficult to see how any such subjects will be discussed with any real vigour after this.

Up against Davies, Achraf Hakimi struggled to have the sort of influence he has become accustomed to in the right wing-back role for Dortmund, failing to create a single chance, while Hazard simply wasn't good enough to exploit any occasions it looked like he might get the better of the 19-year-old.

Even Erling Haaland got to experience the full ferocity of Davies' pace and power, as the former Vancouver Whitecaps talent darted back with remarkable speed in the first half to deny the Norwegian a certain goal.

But then he also showcased his ability going forward, one mazy run seeing him somehow slalom through a crowd of four players, before eventually running into the Yellow Wall that was Mats Hummels, who didn't deserve to be on the losing side.

But he was, once again, against his former team, the effortlessly classy Kimmich proving decisive.

In a moment of real frenzy, with the ball pinging off Bayern players just outside the box late in the first period, the German produced an incredibly composed finish that seemed to stop time – his intricate chip looping over Roman Burki and finding the net with a little help from the goalkeeper's hand.

At the base of Bayern's midfield he was typically influential, his 104 touches of the ball more than any other Bayern player.

Kimmich also attempted more passes (81) than the rest of his team-mates, completing 89 per cent of them, while defensively he was astute, making three clearances, two interceptions and eight ball recoveries.

On top of all that, he ran 13.75km during the match, the most by any Bayern player in a Bundesliga match since Opta began recording such data in 2013-14.

Dortmund threw bodies forward towards the end, but there was a hopeless, aimless nature to their attacks once Haaland – their focal point – had been forced off with an apparent injury.

BVB had been urged to cut loose before the match, embrace the occasion and take the game to Bayern. While one can argue they did, Flick wisely recognised his side had more to lose and his team's mentality reflected that.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, and Bayern once again got the better of Dortmund, a fact that will now surely be reflected in the final standings as Flick's men went seven points clear.

From an optimist's perspective, Dortmund's squad is young and, should they manage to keep it mostly intact, trophies will surely come their way – potentially even Bundesliga titles.

But Kimmich and Davies could be dominating Der Klassiker for the next 10 years, and given their level at this point, that is a frightening thought.

At least there will likely be some crowd noise to drown out their celebrations next time.

The debate over who is basketball's G.O.A.T has been reignited.

The release of 'The Last Dance' - ESPN's docuseries on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls - has brought Michael Jordan's exploits back to the forefront of people's minds.

And the suspension of the current NBA season due to the coronavirus pandemic means current superstar LeBron James has, for the time being at least, been unable to respond on the court.

However, this week marks three years since James, then with the Cleveland Cavaliers, sunk a deep three-pointer in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals to pass Jordan and become the NBA's all-time playoff points leader.

Stats Perform has crunched the numbers on the two icons of the game to look at how they compare when the spotlight shines brightest.

 

PILING ON THE POINTS

That record-breaking shot from beyond the arc against the Boston Celtics moved James beyond Jordan's all-time haul of 5,987 points in his 212th game.

However, his boyhood hero's tally came in just 179 games, with Jordan having averaged a staggering 33.4 points per game, compared to James' 28.9.

There are still multiple postseason records Jordan holds too, including most points in a game (63 - which he accrued in the Bulls' incredible double-overtime loss to the Celtics in 1986) and consecutive games with at least 20 points (60).

Despite having seven-time All-Star Scottie Pippen also on the roster, Jordan was clearly the go-to guy for the Bulls on offense and he led them in scoring in 168 of his 179 playoff appearances.

James has led his teams in scoring (including ties) in an NBA-record 189 playoff games - out of 239 appearances - despite calling Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving team-mates at specific points.

 

JAMES: AN ALL-AROUND THREAT

While Jordan comes out on top in points per game, James has the edge in most other categories.

The current Los Angeles Lakers star averages more rebounds (8.9 to 6.4), assists (7.1 to 5.7) and blocks (0.97 to 0.88) per playoff game than Jordan, who does average more steals (2.10 to 1.75) - and it was robbing Karl Malone of the ball that famously helped MJ deliver championship number six 22 years ago.

James is, marginally, a more efficient postseason shooter, scoring from .491 of his attempts compared to Jordan's .487, though the two are neck and neck (.332) from three-pointers.

The all-around threat of James is perhaps best highlighted by the fact he has 23 playoff triple-doubles - second only to Magic Johnson's 30 - while Jordan made just two across his illustrious career.

 

COUNT THE RINGS

Of course, the ultimate goal for any successful team is to end the NBA Finals holding aloft the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, something Jordan has done on six occasions, twice as many as James.

Jordan went 6-0 in Finals - and was named MVP of each series - while James has a 3-6 record - and three Finals MVP awards - across stints with the Cavaliers and Miami Heat.

The Bulls' success in the 1990s - when they twice three-peated - means Jordan won 66.5 per cent of the playoff games he appeared in, a number that James (currently 65.3 per cent) will surely soon eclipse with his Lakers team primed for a deep playoff run when this season resumes.

Would another three rings see James surpass Jordan in the eyes of many? For now, it remains a fascinating debate.

Alex Ferguson was joined by coaching staff at Manchester United's training base, The Cliff, as normal at 9am on Friday May 28, 1999.

It was like any other pre-season planning meeting, as the men looked ahead to the 1999-2000 campaign over bacon sandwiches and cups of tea.

But, really, it wasn't like any of the planning sessions to have come before for Ferguson and his staff.

Less than 24 hours earlier they had all been on an open-top bus parade around Manchester, showing off an unprecedented treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League to an estimated 700,000 supporters.

The crowning achievement of that treble came the night before the parade, on May 26, 1999 in Barcelona – it was Ferguson's masterpiece, the iconic victory of his association with United.

The Road to Barcelona

United's route to the 1999 Champions League final was by no means straightforward – they were grouped with eventual runners-up Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Brondby, with the Catalans ultimately the one of the three giants to fall before the knockout phase.

A 3-1 aggregate win over Inter followed in the quarter-finals, helped massively by Dwight Yorke's brace in the 2-0 home-leg triumph, before a chaotic showdown with Juventus in the semis.

Ryan Giggs salvaged United a 1-1 draw with an emphatic late strike at Old Trafford in their first meeting, but United appeared to be crashing out in comprehensive fashion when Filippo Inzaghi netted a brace inside the first 11 minutes in Turin – his second taking a wicked deflection off Jaap Stam and looping over Peter Schmeichel.

But a satisfying glancing header from Roy Keane put United back in it, before Yorke's diving header levelled it on the night and gave them the away-goals advantage.

Andy Cole rounded things off late on, tucking in from an acute angle after Yorke had been felled by Angelo Peruzzi. United were in the final for the first time in 31 years.

'That night in Barcelona'

Ferguson stood on the Camp Nou touchline in the build-up to kick-off. He turned back towards the crowd and just stared as a mass of photographers swarmed in front of him.

He was a picture of calm, pure zen, as he gazed into the seemingly endless maw of seats in Barcelona's gigantic stadium. What was going through his mind? Who knows, but the idea of what would unravel before his eyes was surely not in his wildest dreams.

"My lack of vanity precludes me from being gutted about it," Ferguson had said in his pre-match news conference, as he was reminded of the fact rivals and detractors used his previous lack of Champions League success as a stick to beat him with. "I think what I've achieved stands for itself, and I'm lucky to be able to do that. What I've won as a manager – I'm blessed, so why should I look upon failure to win a European Cup as a tragedy for me?"

Anyone suggesting United were already at a disadvantage at kick-off might've had a point, as they were without the suspended Keane and Paul Scholes, and within six minutes Mario Basler's free-kick found its way into the bottom-right corner.

The many chances continued to come and go for a dominant Bayern, who had Samuel Kuffour marshalling Cole expertly. United were fortunate to be only 1-0 down at the break.

"[Ferguson] then said to us, 'This is the European Cup final - some of you may never get here again - make sure when you come in at full-time knowing that you have given your all and left nothing on the pitch'," Cole recalled of his manager's half-time team talk years later.

The Bayern onslaught continued. Mehmet Scholl's delicate chip hit the post and fell into Schmeichel's arms, before a Carsten Jancker overhead kick came back off the crossbar.

"When the chip hit the post, I didn't turn around at first because I knew that was 2-0 – when I saw it hit the post and come straight back to me, I knew we'd win," Schmeichel told UEFA in 2018.

And United duly rallied.

'Football. Bloody hell.'

Teddy Sheringham had been introduced from the bench for Jesper Blomqvist, leaving United with a single central midfielder – Nicky Butt – as David Beckham moved back towards the right and Giggs to the left.

Lothar Matthaus' withdrawal 10 minutes from time, he felt, emboldened United. Soon after, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Cole, leaving Ferguson's men with three up top – they were not about to give up without a final push.

"On the bench, we all thought we'd won. There was nothing to suggest United would score. What followed was unbelievable – it was like watching a horror film," Matthaus reflected.

As United enjoyed a late flurry, a Denis Irwin cross in the 90th minute was deflected behind. The corner could only be cleared as far as Giggs on the edge of the box, and his scuffed shot was turned in by Sheringham in similarly scruffy fashion, sparking scenes of disbelief on both benches – Oliver Kahn's half-hearted offside appeal falling on deaf ears.

Another attack up the left, this time led by Solskjaer, brought a second corner in the third minute of stoppage time.

Another tantalising Beckham delivery was this time met cleanly by a United head, Sheringham glancing it on, and before anyone could work out whether it was heading wide or not, the now iconic sentence was uttered on British commentary: "And Solskjaer has won it!"

With Kuffour getting drawn towards the centre of the box, Solskjaer was left in space and he stuck out his right foot to divert Sheringham's flick-on into the roof of the net.

Even in a match as unpredictable as this, United knew there was no way back for the German champions after two goals in 103 seconds. "All the Bayern players were on the floor - they didn't even want to kick off again. We knew we'd won it," Ferguson's assistant at the time, Steve McLaren, once said to the Daily Mail.

Bayern players, officials and sympathisers weren't shy in their lambasting of United and their luck afterwards – though Ferguson's succinct appraisal of the situation summed it up a little better in a post-match interview with ITV: "Football, bloody hell."

Ferguson's career with United was a truly remarkable success – the longevity, the trophies, the 'Fergie time'.

They all sum up this incredible era for United, and that night in Barcelona will be remembered as Ferguson's magnum opus.

But the defining moment? That came 36 hours later, as Ferguson's unrivalled work ethic had him already planning his next successes when anyone else would have surely been nursing the mother of all hangovers.

Bayern Munich can take a significant step towards another Bundesliga title if they can inflict more Klassiker misery on Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.

That said, Lucien Favre's side have won the past two meetings at Signal Iduna Park and will feel confident of pulling off a victory that would mark a best run at home against the champions for more than 50 years.

Robert Lewandowski is in ruthless form, but Freiburg's Nils Petersen has endured a miserable recent run and will hope to get back among the goals against Eintracht Frankfurt, his favourite opponents.

Borussia Monchengladbach will be eager to improve their defensive record at Werder Bremen, while Bayer Leverkusen and red-hot Kai Havertz are good value to find the net against Wolfsburg.

BORUSSIA DORTMUND V BAYERN MUNICH

- Dortmund have lost five of their previous six Bundesliga matches against Bayern (W1), conceding 24 goals in those games.

- BVB have won each of their past two competitive home matches at home to Bayern – they have only ever won three in a row against them between 1966 and 1967 (their first three meetings in Dortmund).

- Lewandowski has scored 12 goals in his previous six Bundesliga matches against Dortmund. The Poland star has netted 16 Bundesliga goals overall against his former side – only Klaus Allofs has more (18).

 

WERDER BREMEN V BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH

- Bremen are without a win in their past eight Bundesliga matches against Gladbach (D2 L6). Amongst current top-flight sides, Werder are only on a longer wait for three points against Bayern (22 matches).

- Taking 21 points from 26 games represents Bremen's worst Bundesliga season. The last team to survive with 21 points or fewer at this stage were Hoffenheim in 2012-13 (20 points).

- Gladbach have conceded in each of their previous eight Bundesliga matches – they last endured a longer run of this kind during a single season under Michael Frontzeck in 2010-11 (11 games).

 

BAYER LEVERKUSEN V WOLFSBURG

- Leverkusen have scored in each of their past 34 Bundesliga matches against Wolfsburg – no other side has managed a longer scoring run against one particular side in Bundesliga history.

- Leverkusen's 29 goals across the first 10 Ruckrunde matches are a new club record at this stage of a season.

- Havertz has had a hand in a goal in each of his previous six Bundesliga games for Leverkusen. Seven consecutive Bundesliga games with a goal involvement would see him equal a club record since detailed data collection began in 2004-05.

 

EINTRACHT FRANKFURT V FREIBURG

- Freiburg have won 13 Bundesliga games against Frankfurt; they have only enjoyed more victories against Schalke in the division (14).

- Frankfurt have just 28 points to their name after 26 games, marking their worst Bundesliga points tally at this stage since 2015-16 (24). They have suffered 14 defeats, which equals that particular record at this stage of a Bundesliga campaign.

- Petersen has not scored in his past nine Bundesliga games – his longest goal drought in a Freiburg shirt. He did, however, score in both games against Frankfurt in 2019, and has six Bundesliga goals against them – more than against any other side.

Tuesday's Der Klassiker between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich looks set to play a decisive role in where the Bundesliga title ends up, and the game itself could conceivably be decided by the two teams' options on the flanks.

There is something deeply satisfying and exhilarating about an effective, attack-minded wing partnership, and there have been many such combinations down the years that fit the bill.

Lionel Messi and Dani Alves, Luis Figo and Roberto Carlos, Philipp Lahm and Arjen Robben, Djalma Santos and Garrincha – the list goes on.

While there are also many effective flank pairings in modern football, when considering which are the most effective from an attacking sense, it is difficult to look past those served up by Germany's big two.

Although Jadon Sancho has only been fit enough to make a couple of substitute appearances since the Bundesliga resumed, there is every chance he will be back in the starting XI on Tuesday, with Achraf Hakimi, Alphonso Davies and Serge Gnabry all likely to feature as well.

All four are enjoying fine seasons – below, we examine just how effective the quartet have been.

Hakimi v Davies

Given they'll both be operating on the same side of the pitch, Hakimi and Davies will likely spend a significant amount of time in close proximity or running at the other, hoping to punish any defensive lapses. Even watching it could be exhausting, given how quick they are.

Both are more renowned for their attacking tendencies than defensive nous, which is certainly understandable with respect to Davies, who is effectively in his first season as a full-back. A straight comparison highlights plenty of common strengths when they are unshackled.

Davies' remarkable pace has attracted attention at times this term, and with good reason – his top speed of 35.3km/h is second only to Kingsley Coman (35.7km/h) in the Bayern side, though Hakimi clocks in as the quickest player since these records began in the Bundesliga, having got up to 36.5km/h.

Bayern youngster Davies shades it in terms of ball carries (running with possession for at least five metres), however. He embarks on 19.9 per game, 0.4 more than Hakimi, while Davies holds on to the ball for 12.4m on average – the Dortmund right-back keeps it for 11.5m.

Davies has also attempted more take-ons (118 to 113), has a better dribble success rate (58 per cent to 56 per cent) and runs an average of 11.2km per 90 minutes, 600m more than Hakimi.

Nevertheless, Hakimi's 146 carries for more than 10m is a Bundesliga-high, and while Davies negligibly edges him out in many of the aforementioned metrics, the Moroccan's 14 Bundesliga goal involvements is more than double that of the young Canadian.

Either way, it is clear to see both full-backs play a significant role in driving their respective teams up the pitch - Davies might be in for a more robust test of his defensive capabilities in this contest, however.

Sancho v Gnabry

It's worth pointing out neither player is exactly guaranteed to start – fitness issues have meant Sancho only made substitute appearances in Dortmund's past two matches, while Gnabry was on the bench at the weekend.

However, given their respective records this term, if they are in top condition, there is little doubt both will start. It is the biggest match of the season, after all.

Sancho and Gnabry have enjoyed immensely productive campaigns. The Bayern winger has had a hand in 20 Bundesliga goals, while the England international hit 30 with his 16th assist of the season at the weekend when setting up Hakimi.

Sancho is way out in front in terms of take-ons, having attempted a league-high of 131 this term, completing 47 per cent. Gnabry has looked to beat his man 92 times, succeeding 48 per cent of the time.

But there are fundamental differences between their respective styles of play when in possession.

Gnabry is more likely than his counterpart to end a carry with a shot, doing so 29 times in 2019-20, behind only Timo Werner (36). Similarly, 22 of his successful dribbles have come inside the penalty area – a joint-high for the division with Robert Lewandowski and Marcus Thuram.

By comparison, Sancho has only completed eight dribbles in the box and just 14 of his carries ended with a shot. However, eight of them have led to an assist, which is a Bundesliga record in 2019-20 and seven more than Gnabry.

This suggests, to a certain degree, that Gnabry lacks some of the awareness of Sancho, or at the very least possesses more of a single-minded approach.

The data also highlights Sancho's slightly deeper role, which is backed up by the fact he tends to run further (11.2km per match to 10.7km), sprint more (35.5 per match to 34.1) and has reached a higher top speed (34km/h, to 33.2km/h) than Gnabry.

While Sancho arguably comes out on top generally, there's no doubting both are exceptional talents and if they get anywhere close to their best on Tuesday, either he or Gnabry could light up the Klassiker by themselves.

Manchester United completed an unprecedented treble in Barcelona and NBA legend Vince Carter was also celebrating on this day 21 years ago.

Bayern Munich were on the brink of winning the Champions League at Camp Nou, but late goals from Teddy Sheringham and current United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer secured a dramatic 2-1 victory for Alex Ferguson's men.

May 26, 1999 is also a date for Carter to reflect on with great memories, as he was named NBA Rookie of the Year, while history was made by India batsmen Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly on the same day.

A decade earlier Arsenal snatched the First Division title from Liverpool at Anfield with a last-gasp strike from Michael Thomas.

 

1989 - Thomas fires Gunners to title

It came down to the final match of the season to decide who would be crowned champions of England 31 years ago.

Liverpool had overtaken the wobbling Gunners to take a three-point lead, but a victory by a margin of two goals or more would be enough for George Graham's side to take the title.

Alan Smith put the London club in front seven minutes into the second half to get the nerves jangling even more on such a tense evening on Merseyside.

Arsenal looked to have fallen just short of winning the First Division for the first time in 18 years, but Thomas surged through from midfield to win it right at the end and Arsenal took the title on goals scored with a stunning 2-0 victory.

 

1999 - Solskjaer leaves Bayern crestfallen in Barcelona

Bayern appeared to have dashed United's hopes of becoming the first team to win the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup in the same season.

Mario Basler's early strike put the Bavarian giants in front and that looked to be enough for Ottmar Hitzfeld's well-drilled side to lift the trophy at Camp Nou.

United had almost run out of ideas but with three minutes of added time shown on the fourth official's board, goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel came up for a corner that eventually resulted in Sheringham sweeping home following a scuffed shot from Ryan Giggs.

There was one final twist as Bayern were hit with the sucker punch, Sheringham nodding on another corner and Solskjaer prodding in from close range to spark wild celebrations.

 

1999 - Carter 'not surprised' by Rookie MVP gong

Carter was a revelation in his debut NBA season for the Toronto Raptors.

He averaged 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists a game, subsequently securing 113 of the 118 first-placed votes to be named the best rookie in the league.

Carter said after learning he had landed the award: "I can't say I'm surprised. But I'm overjoyed."

The Raptors missed out on the playoffs, but Carter gave them plenty of grounds for optimism and he has gone on to become an eight-time NBA All-Star.

 

1999 - Ganguly and Dravid slay Sri Lanka

The Sri Lanka bowlers who faced India in a Cricket World Cup contest in Taunton must have had nightmares over this day in Taunton 21 years ago.

It was Dravid and Ganguly who might have given them sleepless nights as they piled on 318 for the second wicket - an ODI record at the time.

The magnificent partnership, now the third-highest for the second wicket in the 50-over format at international level, enabled India to post 373-6 and go on to win by 157 runs.

Ganguly made a sublime 183 off 158 balls and the classy Dravid 145 from 129 deliveries on a painful May day for Sri Lanka.

A key contest in the Bundesliga title race takes place later on Tuesday when Borussia Dortmund host champions and leaders Bayern Munich.

Bayern are four points clear at the top of the table with seven matches left to play, making this a must-win encounter for Dortmund.

BVB have seen their fortunes boosted since the January arrival of in-demand striker Erling Haaland from Salzburg.

Bayern have a formidable frontman of their own, though, in the shape of former Dortmund star Robert Lewandowski.

Ahead of a huge Klassiker contest, we have used Opta data to review the numbers behind the two strikers' prolific 2019-20 campaigns so far.


GOALSCORING STATS

Lewandowski just edges Haaland when it comes to goals scored in league matches this season, with 27 to his name compared to 26 for the Dortmund star, whose figures include his time with both Salzburg and BVB.

However, the Poland international has spent 546 minutes longer on the pitch then Haaland, who has scored a goal, astonishingly, for every 64.5 minutes he has spent on the pitch.

Lewandowski's mark is 17.8 minutes longer than Haaland, but he still averages more than a goal a game with his minutes-per-goal rate also impressive at 82.3, his goals having come in just 25 appearances.

While it is worth bearing in mind Haaland was playing against weaker opposition in Austria, he has only needed 2.8 shots per goal, compared to 4.2 for Lewandowski.

The Bayern star is more of a presence in the opposition penalty area though, with 22 per cent of his touches there, compared to 18 per cent for his rival.

Both players are scoring more than their expected goals rate, with Haaland's 10 Bundesliga strikes defying an expected rate of 6.0, while Lewandowski's 27 are favourable to his expected tally of 25.1.

When it comes to creativity, it is another mixed picture, as Lewandowski has laid on 27 chances for his team-mates, compared to 21 for Haaland.

However, Haaland has 6 league assists to his name, twice as many as Lewandowski, who has 3.


KEY OPTA FACTS

Haaland

- The Dortmund striker became the youngest player to reach the milestone of scoring 15 goals in the Austrian Bundesliga. He was 19 years, three months and 20 days old at that moment.

- Haaland did not need long to get comfortable in the BVB jersey. He scored in all three competitions in his debut appearance: a hat-trick in the German Bundesliga against Augsburg, a goal in the DFB-Pokal loss to Werder Bremen, and two goals in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain.

Lewandowski

- The in-form Bayern star got his 27th goal of the season on the 27th matchday of the league season, which represents his personal best. The overall Bundesliga record is held by Gerd Muller, who had 34 goals by the 27th match round of the 1971-72 season.

- Lewandowski has scored 12 goals in his last six Bundesliga matches against Dortmund. He has netted a total of 16 league goals against his former side – only Klaus Allofs has more (18).

Robert Lewandowski might be Bayern Munich's most lethal forward, but the prize for their best player this season arguably belongs to Thomas Muller.

A regular fixture at the Allianz Arena for 11 years, Muller is sixth on Bayern's all-time appearance list on 523 games and has scored 196 goals. His 147 assists give him a total of 343 goal involvements in a club career that has yielded 21 trophies.

His place in Bayern folklore is secure. At the start of the season, the same couldn't be said for his future.

Muller started just three of 11 Bundesliga games under Niko Kovac and did not complete 90 minutes even once. His struggles at club level came after Germany coach Joachim Low decreed he would no longer be required for international duty, a century of senior caps and a World Cup winners' medal not enough with which to plead his case.

It seemed Muller's career at the highest level was petering out. And then, last November, came a Flicker of hope.

When Kovac's troubled time in charge came to an end, assistant Hansi Flick was tasked with steadying the ship and getting a trophy challenge back on track. Six months on, the former Germany number two has done just that, rewriting the story of the season with Muller as his chief protagonist.

MULLERDEPENDENCIA

"Emotionally, it was very tense back then," was how Muller described his time under Kovac, shortly after he extended his contract to 2023 in April.

"With the change of coach and different playing style, everything has developed positively. Not only have I been playing more, but I've also been able to put my stamp on our games again."

Flick certainly saw every reason to put his faith back in Muller, naming the 30-year-old in his starting line-up for 14 of his first 16 Bundesliga games in charge. Muller has repaid that by producing arguably the form of his career.

Since Flick took over, Muller was been involved in 20 Bundesliga goals for Bayern, scoring seven and setting up 13. That's the best record at the club, and came after he endured a goal drought of 1,356 minutes that ended in late November.

This is not a case of a forward feeling unburdened during a 'new manager bounce', either. Muller has been at the heart of Flick's set-up. He has been involved in by far the most open-play sequences to end in a shot (121 – at least 17 more than any other player). In terms of sequences to end in a goal, only Lewandowski on 23 comes close to Muller's 27. He has also had a hand in 27 of Bayern's 49 league goals from open play under Flick.

CHASING DOWN DE BRUYNE

Aside from goalscorer, Muller has taken on something of a new role under Flick: that of playmaker.

Flick seems to have remembered Muller's qualities from their time working together at international level and embraced them. In short, Bayern's best football now goes through their number 10.

Under Flick, Muller is averaging just over 70 touches per 90 minutes, a higher number than he has recorded under any other Bayern coach. His goal-involvement average stands at one every 66 minutes – a personal best in the Bundesliga by far.

Muller's distribution seems to be getting better, too. He has completed 79 per cent of his passes under Flick, created close to four chances per 90 minutes on average, and 1.3 certified 'big chances'. Louis van Gaal, Jupp Heynckes, Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti – none of them could get Muller to reach these numbers.

It tallies, then, that Muller is enjoying his best season for Bundesliga assists. His 17 in the first 27 matchdays has only ever been achieved once, by Kevin De Bruyne for Wolfsburg in 2014-15.

Another four assists in the remaining seven games will see Muller eclipse the Belgium star's Bundesliga record of 20 for a whole season. That would be a remarkable number to reach for a forward who doesn't take set-pieces.

Then again, Muller is no ordinary player.

Bayern Munich were taking on Borussia Dortmund in an all-Bundesliga Champions League final at Wembley after respectively dispatching Barcelona and Real Madrid.

And yet, much of the pre-match attention and soap opera in 2013 concerned a player who would not play, with some dark murmurings even questioning how fully his battle for fitness had been fought.

"The final was my big goal and in the past weeks I have battled hard for it," said Mario Gotze, Dortmund's sparkling 20-year-old forward. "I am unbelievably sorry that I will not be able to help the team in this important match."

The sincerity of that apology was questioned because, on the eve of the semi-final against Madrid, it emerged the jewel in Jurgen Klopp's BVB and German football's great hope would join Bayern after having his €37million release clause triggered.

"We don't know why the people who have leaked this have done so at such a delicate time. We can only speculate but we are all making the same suppositions," Klopp said in a barely-veiled swipe at Bayern.

After hammering Madrid 4-1 in the first leg – Robert Lewandowski scoring all four – Dortmund were hit by Gotze pulling his hamstring during the early stages of the return at the Santiago Bernabeu. It proved to be the last game of his first spell at the club and he looked on as his team-mates lost 2-1 to his colleagues of the near future.

Seven years on, Gotze is back at Dortmund having tasted the highest high football can offer and endured wretched lows. Again, an announcement has been made regarding an exit from Signal Iduna Park and he is unlikely to play against Bayern on Tuesday. Only this time, those twin factors bring shrugs rather than shrieks.

DORTMUND'S GOLDEN CHILD

Gotze was not the first player to cross the Klassiker divide and Robert Lewandowski and Mats Hummels would soon follow his lead.

But this defection cut deep because 'Super Mario' was one of their own – a youth product who arrived as an eight-year-old and progressed to give Klopp's gegenpressing machine an irresistible x-factor.

He also seemed to revel in tormenting Bayern.

Gotze claimed two assists as Dortmund won 3-1 at the Allianz Arena in 2011, their first away victory in the fixture for 20 years.

That result extinguished any remaining doubt that Klopp's men were on course for the title. The following season, Bayern opened up an early five-point lead, only for Gotze to score the only goal in the corresponding fixture and ignite a successful Bundesliga defence.

Jupp Heynckes' treble-bound stars emphatically reasserted themselves in 2012-13, although Gotze crashed home an equaliser to secure a 1-1 draw at the Allianz.

These repeated successes on enemy territory underlined what a crushing blow his loss was for Dortmund. However, for Gotze – a player dubbed the 'German Messi' who was ready to team up with Messi's mentor – it was impossible to see any downside.

 

ON TOP OF THE WORLD

On his return to Signal Iduna Park in November 2013, Gotze came off the bench to a furious barracking with the Klassiker locked at 0-0.

A swipe of his right boot opened the scoring, with all other Bayern players deliriously mobbing the non-celebrating man of the moment. Late strikes from Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller closed out a 3-0 victory and Pep Guardiola's side did not look back on a procession to the Bundesliga title.

That goal under such white-hot scrutiny would have been the highlight of any normal season.

But on July 13, 2014 at the Maracana, Gotze coolly chested down Andre Schurrle's cross and diverted a left-footed volley past Sergio Romero to give Germany a 1-0 win over Argentina in the World Cup final.

Messi and others were reduced to tears on the turf and Gotze was the toast of world football, partying with Rhianna in Rio.

His was a career heading for the stars, although a closer examination of life in Munich pointed towards the problems to come.

STRUGGLES UNDER PEP

Gotze's depiction as a Bayern flop is unfair if you look purely at the individual numbers he returned and three successive Bundesliga medals he pocketed.

An injury-ruined final season in Bavaria in 2015-16 preceded a cut-price return to Dortmund and did much to fuel that perception. Ultimately, the boundless promise of his early years means Gotze being merely good felt like failure.

The goal to break Dortmund hearts was one of 10 in 27 Bundesliga appearances in 2013-14, with 20 of those starts. Nine in 32 followed before he was restricted to 11 league starts in his and Guardiola's final season at the Allianz Arena.

"Technically, [Guardiola] was a tremendous asset," Gotze told DAZN in 2018, in an interview where he described Klopp as his "footballing father".

"But he is very focused on the game and doesn't think about players outside of his plan. He didn't have much empathy, and empathy is part of being a world-class coach."

Despite hard work on the part of both men, the marriage of superstar coach and star signing never truly clicked. The prospect of Gotze becoming Bayern's Messi in the false nine role vanished when Lewandowski arrived to provide his more traditional and prolific take on centre-forward duties.

There was another Klassiker goal in a 5-1 thumping of Dortmund in 2015 but, tellingly, Gotze did not start any of the six Champions League semi-final matches that came to define Guardiola's Bayern reign. In each leg of the 2016 aggregate loss to Atletico Madrid, he was an unused substitute.

Dortmund welcomed back their prodigal son with open arms, although the injury problems that dogged him at Bayern would not go away.

 

INJURY, ILLNESS AND FALSE DAWNS

The last of Gotze's 16 appearances in 2016-17 came in January. A month later he was withdrawn from training indefinitely due to a metabolic disorder.

It explained his persistent injuries and struggles with weight gain, making fools of those suspecting foul play at Wembley back in 2013. With the problem identified, there was optimism over rehabilitation and redemption.

Only, when Gotze returned, he did so to a Dortmund team in disarray.

The trauma of the nail bomb attack on their team bus before a Champions League quarter-final showdown with Monaco in 2017 preceded Thomas Tuchel's messy exit as head coach.

Peter Bosz followed as form collapsed midway through 2017-18 and Gotze endured an uneasy relationship with interim boss Peter Stoger.

"We took issue with Mario because he didn't do any of the things he was told to do," the coach said after substituting the forward at half-time as Dortmund crashed out of the Europa League.

Lucien Favre succeeded Stoger and has overseen a rejuvenation that places Dortmund, once more, with a shot at ending Bayern's supremacy heading into Tuesday's Klassiker.

But this is a team fired by the youthful brilliance of Achraf Hakimi, Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland. A team that looks like the future Gotze once was. A team he last started for in December and who he will leave on a free transfer at the end of this season.

"Right now, we are playing in 3-4-3 formation. So, I have been talking to Mario Gotze, and unfortunately, this is not the right system for him," Favre said before he duly served as an unused substitute during Saturday's 2-0 win at Wolfsburg.

The explanation does not really stand up to scrutiny when considering Julian Brandt's dazzling playmaking display in the recent 4-0 demolition of Schalke, nominally on the right of a front three but wreaking havoc all over the place through intelligent movement and silky touches.

At his best, Gotze could do likewise to the sturdiest defences. But he is a long way from those heights, or the fearless youngster who dribbled with pace and menace. Joachim Low has bemoaned the passing of that version and of a player he has capped once since 2016.

Therein lies the sadness in Gotze's forlorn exit from Der Klassiker, a fixture he once threatened to dominate. He seemingly had it all and at 27, soon to be without a club, you ruefully wonder how much he has left.

At half-time in the 2005 Champions League final, Liverpool appeared out for the count. 

A team that had twice shut out Chelsea to punch their ticket to Istanbul was hurt time and time again by Milan in the first 45 minutes. 

Paolo Maldini had landed a huge early blow – the defender’s goal after 50 seconds setting a new record as the fastest in the final of the tournament – but it was a one-two from Hernan Crespo that had the Reds in serious trouble. 

The striker – on loan from Chelsea – scored a brace before the break, the second of his double a delightfully delicate finish beyond the advancing Jerzy Dudek to reward a sublime throughball from Kaka. 

Referee Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez spared Liverpool from suffering further punishment by bringing the first half to an end. Saved by the bell, but still 3-0 down to opponents who had kept five clean sheets in six European games since qualifying top of a group that also included Barcelona. 

Yet this was the same Milan who had shipped three against PSV away in the second leg of their semi-final, leaving them to squeeze through on away goals in the end. They had their English rivals in trouble, for sure, yet there was still some fight left in Liverpool yet. 

Rather than using smelling salts to bring them to their senses, Rafael Benitez galvanised his team with a tactical change. Instead of going into survival mode when already so far behind on the scorecard, the Spaniard worked out the best way to get on the attack. 

He still believed. Within 16 minutes of the second half, so too did everyone else.

 

SUBSTITUTION: HAMANN ON, FINNAN OFF 

The first step in dealing with a problem is admitting you have one in the first place. Benitez had gone with a 4-4-1-1 formation from kick-off, springing a surprise by naming Harry Kewell in the XI to work behind lone striker Milan Baros. 

It had not worked. Clearly. With the excellent Kaka afforded time and space to poke and probe, and with Crespo and Andriy Shevchenko willing runners in behind, Liverpool were under-manned in midfield and over-run at the back. 

Benitez responded with a substitution and a switch in shape. Off went the injured Steve Finnan, on came Dietmar Hamann, a surprising absentee from the starting line-up. Having initially been the sacrificial lamb at half-time, Djimi Traore was stopped from getting changed to instead join Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher in a three-man central defence. 

Hamann's introduction was a counter to cope with Kaka. The German would sit next to Xabi Alonso, freeing up Steven Gerrard to affect the game further forward. 

Of course, this could easily have been the footballing equivalent to shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic. Instead, it provided a much-needed platform to produce a six-minute onslaught that suddenly saw Milan the ones teetering on the ropes. 

GOAL! MILAN 3-1 LIVERPOOL (Gerrard, 54) 

Freed from his defensive duties, Gerrard began the recovery by planting one on Milan.

John Arne Riise failed with his first attempt at a cross from Liverpool's left flank, but the second effort picked out his skipper, all alone in a pocket of space inside the penalty area. Socially distanced from any Milan players, Gerrard rose up, flicked his head at the ball and then watched as it drifted beyond Dida and into the far corner of the net.

It was so nearly his last goal for the club – he handed in a transfer request a few months later before deciding against joining up with Jose Mourinho at Chelsea – but was also a notable first; no other Liverpool captain had scored in a European Cup/Champions League final previously. 

GOAL! MILAN 3-2 LIVERPOOL (Smicer, 56) 

Vladimir Smicer was called into action earlier than he might have expected. Kewell's time to vindicate the faith shown in him by the boss spanned just 23 minutes, as an injury cut short his involvement. 

So, Smicer was summoned from the bench to play a part in the biggest game of his Liverpool career – it also happened to be the last.

The Czech, who moved to Bordeaux in the off-season, flattered to deceive in his time with the Reds, yet will forever be remembered fondly for his contribution on Turkish soil. Given possession by Hamann's square pass, he opted to let go a low, right-footed shot that hit the target and caught Dida cold, slipping beyond the goalkeeper. 

GOAL! MILAN 3-3 LIVERPOOL (Alonso, 61) 

The leveller that Milan so nearly avoided. The Serie A side were wide open at this point, rocking and rolling, unable to quite comprehend what was happening to them.

Carragher's zipped-in pass to the feet of Baros allowed the striker to reverse the ball back inside with the simple flick of a boot, sending it into the path of the galloping Gerrard. Gennaro Gattuso could not keep up and, in trying to hold on in the hope of escaping without punishment, pulled an arm to give away a penalty. 

Alonso went low to his left with the spot-kick and while Dida guessed correctly to keep it out, the rebound was lifted into the roof of the goal despite a desperate lunge from Alessandro Nesta. At 23 years and 181 days, Alonso became the youngest player to score in a European Cup/Champions League final for the club. 

From done and dusted to all square; Liverpool had climbed off the canvas, come out swinging and produced the mother of all comebacks.

There was more drama to come of course, including a penalty shoot-out, but the Miracle of Istanbul came to pass thanks to 16 unforgettable second-half minutes.

It is 55 years since Muhammad Ali controversially won his rematch with Sonny Liston, while Liverpool sensationally floored Milan on this day in 2005.

Ali retained his heavyweight title with a first-round knockout but there were doubts over whether Liston should have been counted out.

Liverpool picked themselves up off the canvas to pull off a stunning comeback and beat Milan to win a dramatic Champions League final a decade and a half ago.

LeBron James broke one of Michael Jordan's records more recently on May 25 and Bayern Munich were crowned champions of Europe at German rivals Borussia Dortmund's expense in 2013.

1965 - Liston contentiously counted out

Liston was on a revenge mission after Ali, or Cassius Clay as he was then known when they fought for the first time, defied the odds to dethrone him in Miami Beach in February 1964.

Yet the rematch was over soon after it started, proving to be a massive anti-climax for a small crowd at the unlikely venue of Central Maine Civic Center, Lewiston, Maine.

Liston went down when he was caught by a right hand from the champion in the opening round and referee Jersey Joe Walcott attempted to get Ali back into his corner as the challenger lay on the deck.

Although Liston rose to continue fighting, Walcott quickly stopped the fight after consulting the timekeeper, with the verdict that the former champion had not got back to his feet in time.

 

2005 - The 'Miracle of Istanbul'

Liverpool hauled themselves off the ropes to conjure up the most unlikely of victories at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul 15 years ago.

Milan were favourites to be crowned champions of Europe for a seventh time and lived up to that billing when they cruised into a 3-0 lead in a one-sided first half, Hernan Crespo scoring twice after Paolo Maldini's early opener.

Liverpool roared back after the break, though, with Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso on target in the space of six minutes to bring them level.

Milan did not know what had hit them and they endured the agony of losing on penalties, Jerzy Dudek saving from Andriy Shevchenko to give Liverpool a 3-2 shoot-out victory after looking down and out at half-time.

 

2013 - Robben downs Dortmund

There was also drama at Wembley when Bayern beat Dortmund in the first all-German Champions League final.

Bayern stunned their Bundesliga rivals by snatching a 2-1 victory with just over a minute of normal time remaining, Arjen Robben the hero.

Mario Mandzukic put the Bavarian giants in front on the hour-mark, but Ilkay Gundogan levelled from the penalty spot eight minutes later.

Winger Robben settled it with extra time looming, though, nipping in with a sharp turn of foot and slotting past Roman Weidenfeller to end Bayern's 12-year wait for European glory. 

 

2017 - LeBron moves past Jordan's playoff record

James has been the man for the big occasion so many times during his illustrious career and he made history on this day three years ago.

The superstar became the all-time leading scorer in the NBA playoffs as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 135-102 in the Eastern Conference finals.

That victory moved the Cavaliers into the NBA Finals for a third consecutive year, with James also able to celebrate moving past Jordan's playoff points tally of 5,987.

James surpassed that mark in his 212th post-season game, 11 years after his first.

Nothing about the Bundesliga's bio-secure return will ever entirely lose its capacity to jar the senses.

From socially distanced substitutes to masked staff and elbow-knocking celebrations, incongruous distractions from the 90 minutes at hand are never far away.

But the action so far has also demonstrated fleeting moments can briefly melt away the discomfort, when football's beauty floods the senses.

The first such instance came during in the 29th minute of Borussia Dortmund's deserted Revierderby showdown with Schalke. All it took was a nonchalant flick of Julian Brandt's right boot.

Brandt's first-time lay off into the space behind him gave Thorgan Hazard time to spot Erling Haaland sprinting towards the Schalke area. Both players needed just a touch apiece for a picturebook goal.

Haaland and Jadon Sancho are the headline-hogging sensations for Dortmund who, once again, stand a better chance than all the rest when it comes to ending Bayern Munich's Bundesliga hegemony.

A Bundesliga debutant at 17, a full Germany international in the same month he turned 20 and with a century of top-flight appearances to his name at 21, Brandt knows plenty when it comes to being labelled the next big thing.

Still only 24 and as Bayern lie in wait on Tuesday with the title on the line, there are indications Brandt is taking his game to new heights.

SHELLACKING SCHALKE

Following that wonderful contribution to Haaland's opener, Brandt continued to torment Schalke and orchestrated a thumping 4-0 win.

He supplied two assists and his three chances created were more than any other player on the pitch, as were 29 passes attempted in the opposition half and 19 duels contested – showing Brandt's thirst for both aspects of the game.

There were also five tackles – a level best alongside marauding two-goal hero Raphael Guerreiro – and Opta's touchmap showed a player stamping his influence all over the field.

A tearaway teen winger when Leverkusen snatched him from Wolfsburg and launched his top-flight career, Brandt's wide attacking qualities were rated so highly by Germany boss Joachim Low that he infamously made the 2018 World Cup squad at Leroy Sane's expense.

But since Peter Bosz started to use him in-field last season at the BayArena, Brandt has started to display several more irresistible strings to his bow.

"In the end I am the last person to be complaining about [where I play] because it is always down to how you interpret the position," Brandt said last week, having roved nominally from the right of a front three against Schalke. 

"If you have someone like Thomas Delaney, who is strong on the defensive side, next to you, then you can take certain liberties in terms of how far forward you can go. The centre is my favourite."

HERR REUS' HEIR?

"I've seen a lot of games involving Julian," Bosz told the Bundesliga's official website last season. "Back then he was playing on the wing, but I saw him as a midfielder."

The switch proved inspired as, in tandem with the similarly lavishly gifted Kai Havertz, Brandt wrought havoc during the second half of the campaign.

He finished 2018-19 with seven Bundesliga goals and 11 assists – the latter figure only behind Sancho and Bayern's Joshua Kimmich in the overall standings. Dortmund duly came calling for a player who has spent his career inhabiting football's gossip columns.

Brandt was initially deployed out wide once more, in and out of Lucien Favre's starting line-up, before the BVB boss followed Bosz's lead in making a tactical tweak that comes with some heavy symbolism.

When Favre was in charge of Borussia Monchengladbach almost a decade ago, he brought a young Marco Reus in from the flanks to cause maximum damage.

Reus is now the symbol of Dortmund's Yellow Wall of resistance, the club captain and the superstar who would not be tempted when Bayern batted their eyelashes.

Unfortunately, injuries also take up a hefty chunk of Reus' story and his absence from this latest edition of Der Klassiker feels wearyingly inevitable.

It would once have felt almost sacrilegious to suggest as much, but with Brandt in his current mood pulling the strings behind Sancho and Haaland, maybe Reus will not be missed.

"It was on a trip with the national team that he came to me the first time and told me that he absolutely wanted me to come to Dortmund," Brandt told Bundesliga.com, reflecting on how Reus did what he could to lay the groundwork for his move to Signal Iduna Park. "It triggers something in you when a player like Marco says something like that to you."

Perhaps Reus has seen the future and is ready to pass the baton. Regardless, Bayern must keep their sharpest focus on the present and the threat a buoyant Brandt represents this week.

Bayern Munich can make a fool of you. Ask Niko Kovac.

How, for instance, did he lead Bayern to a 5-1 defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt back in November?

Kovac, who was head coach of Frankfurt before landing the Bayern job, cleared his desk at Sabener Strasse shortly after that aberration and would have been forgiven for giving Saturday's rematch a swerve.

What he missed in the battle of his former teams was a sometimes confusing 90 minutes, and further proof that Bayern can make one feel a fool.

At the 50-minute mark, they looked an unstoppable force, 3-0 to the good against a Frankfurt side who had lost four Bundesliga games in a row before arriving at the Allianz Arena.

Leon Goretzka, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski punished increasingly feeble defending, and Bayern were rampant. It would have been easy to lionise them at that point.

Tuesday's Klassiker clash with Borussia Dortmund looked like a fixture they could tackle without any questions asked over their levels since the league resumed.

Enter Frankfurt's Martin Hinteregger, whose most memorable involvement to that point had been landing an accidental blow that caught Lewandowski near the eye.

In the space of three minutes, he twice embarrassed Bayern's defence, first when allowed far too much space on the edge of the six-yard box to bundle beyond Manuel Neuer, and then when he jumped between a gang of red shirts to head home a corner.

Game on? Not really. Order was restored as Alphonso Davies danced through a dithering Frankfurt defence for a gift of a fourth Bayern goal.

And then came another reminder of how Bayern can make even a towering footballer cringe, as Hinteregger made it onto the scoresheet for the third time in the half, albeit this time at the wrong end.

Attempting some clever footwork to fend off another Bayern raid, he contrived to trickle the ball into an empty net with some of the ditsiest defending seen this side of Djimi Traore.

Bayern finished up with five goals and have beaten Frankfurt 11 times in a row at home now, while Eintracht have now lost 10 of 13 away games in the Bundesliga this term.

Their coach, Adi Hutter, had the bragging rights in November but might now be fearing for his job.

Dortmund will analyse Bayern's performance and search for conclusions, noting those moments of vulnerability that Frankfurt exploited. There were weaknesses to be found, but it would not seem prudent to read too much into those.

The logical conclusion is that Bayern switched off, believing the game to be already won, and will be far more wary of Dortmund from the first to the last whistle at Signal Iduna Park.

So four points separate the top two again, with the Hansi Flick revolution at Bayern still sweeping all aside in Germany, regardless of the odd bump in the road.

Dortmund might take some heart from the cracks in Bayern's backline, but equally Muller and Lewandowski looked primed to exploit any weakness in any side, any day of the week. Tuesday? They can do Tuesday.

Five goals and a mid-match nap was not a bad primer for the biggest match of the Bundesliga season.

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