Mateo Kovacic feels "at home" at Chelsea amid suggestions the Croatian could be targeted by Manchester City and Bayern Munich at the end of the season.

Kovacic is approaching the final 12 months of his contract with Chelsea, and his failure to put pen to paper on a new deal has led to suggestions he could seek an exit.

City could be in the market for midfield reinforcements in the upcoming transfer window, with club captain Ilkay Gundogan rumoured to be weighing up a contract offer from Barcelona. 

Kovacic has also been linked with a reunion with former Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, who has endured a troubled start to life at Bayern since replacing Julian Nagelsmann last month.

The 28-year-old has been a regular under three different coaches during a season of upheaval at Stamford Bridge, and he remains content in west London.

Speaking to the club's media channels, Kovacic said: "I have been here five years already, time flies, and I have been at Chelsea the longest of all my clubs.

"I feel really, really at home. There is nothing to not love in London. My family enjoys it, which makes it easier for me. The food is okay, maybe not like Italy or Spain! But London is amazing.

"I can only say good things about London and England. We feel really great here."

Kovacic has started three of Chelsea's four games since Frank Lampard returned to the club as caretaker manager earlier this month, including both legs of a 4-0 aggregate defeat against his former club Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Bayern Munich's bid to retain their Bundesliga title suffered another blow on Sunday as left-back Alphonso Davies was sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Thomas Tuchel's men are winless in four games after capitulating to a 3-1 defeat at Mainz on Saturday, a result which handed Borussia Dortmund the initiative in the title race.

Dortmund took advantage of Bayern's latest slip-up by thrashing Eintracht Frankfurt 4-0 to go one point clear at the summit with just five games of the season remaining.

Bayern's woes were compounded by the sight of Davies limping from the field just nine minutes into their defeat, with the Canadian clutching his left hamstring after pulling up unchallenged. 

Reports in Germany subsequently suggested the 22-year-old could miss the rest of the season, and Bayern have now confirmed he will be out of action "for the upcoming games".

A statement on the club's website said: "Alphonso Davies will be out of action for FC Bayern for the time being. 

"Scans have revealed that the 22-year-old Canadian suffered a muscle strain in his left hamstring during Saturday's away match at 1. FSV Mainz 05. Davies went to ground following a running duel in the ninth minute and was forced off early."

Davies' injury represents the latest blow to befall Bayern, who have suffered as many defeats in seven games under Tuchel (three) as they did in their 37 matches under his predecessor Julian Nagelsmann this term. 

Thomas Tuchel thinks Bayern Munich resemble "a team that has played 70 or 80 games" after the lethargic Bavarians let more Bundesliga points slip away in a 3-1 defeat at Mainz.

Bayern looked likely to extend their lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund to five points when Sadio Mane put them ahead, but an astonishing second-half collapse continued Tuchel's troubling start to life at the club.

Goals from Ludovic Ajorque, Leandro Barreiro and Aaron Martin dealt Tuchel his third loss in seven games at the helm, denting Bayern's hopes of an 11th consecutive league title.

Bayern have now gone four games without a win across all competitions, and Tuchel believes a lack of energy is responsible for their downturn.

"I don't think it's a technical or tactical problem," Tuchel said. "We look like we have tired legs, we're anything but fresh. It feels like we're playing in extra time every time we take to the pitch.

"It's very difficult to bring over new content or new ideas, because everyone is fighting with themselves right now.

"There are long phases in all the games where we're good, and then in the short phases where we're not. We're letting points slip through our fingers. It's going through our hands like sand.

"We have no energy. We look like a team that has played 70 or 80 games this season. We're missing physicality, intensity, the foundation that you always need."

Asked whether a lack of incentive was an issue for a group of players used to dominating the Bundesliga, Tuchel said: "I don't think it's down to a big motivational problem when it comes to an 11th or 12th title. 

"We have the best squad in the league, we have the biggest budget in the league, and it really is our expectation and demand to be title winners at the end of the season.

"But what comes with that are the things that are going against us, not just for the last three weeks, but for a while now. There's no sense of entitlement. We're playing without a sense of urgency.

"It feels like we're just stumbling a bit. We could have been two or three-nil up in this match, and we would have had a very different press conference, but we didn't do that. Then of course, we could have defended the goals, but we didn't do that either."

In all competitions, Bayern have now suffered as many defeats in seven games under Tuchel (three), as they did in 37 contests under his predecessor Julian Nagelsmann this season.

Asked if he felt responsible for Bayern's downturn despite his limited time with the players, Tuchel said: "I always find myself responsible, regardless of whether I've been here for one day, one month or one year. 

"We've lost a lot of points in the second half of the season and right now, we're not in a position to hit our top performance levels. I feel responsible, but ultimately, everyone is responsible."

Bayern Munich's troubling start to Thomas Tuchel's reign continued as the champions slumped to a 3-1 defeat to Mainz at Mewa Arena on Saturday.

Die Roten looked to be on track to bounce back from their midweek Champions League elimination by Manchester City, but they were sensationally pegged back by Tuchel's former team as Bayern's winless streak stretched to four matches.

Sadio Mane gave Bayern a deserved first-half lead from close range, but Mainz showed signs of promise and built on such encouragement after the break when Ludovic Ajorque wiped out the lead.

Leandro Barreiro put Mainz in front 17 minutes from time and Aaron Martin's fine strike soon after finished Bayern off, gifting Borussia Dortmund the opportunity to go top later in the day.

Bayern threatened an early breakthrough when Mane coolly clipped over Mainz goalkeeper Robin Zentner in the 15th minute, only for his goal to be disallowed for offside.

But the visitors did take the lead just before the half-hour mark, Joao Cancelo's left-wing cross leaving Mane with the simplest of headed finishes at the back post.

The hosts were good value for their leveller after the hour, however.

Sommer could only parry Lee Jae-sung's effort and Ajorque was on hand to nod in from a few yards out.

That was merely the start for Mainz.

Eight minutes later, Karim Onisiwo fended off Josip Stanisic when meeting Ajorque's flick-on and subsequently teed up Barreiro, who confidently slotted home.

Martin then put the game beyond Bayern, smashing left-footed into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the box with 11 minutes remaining.

Julian Nagelsmann appeared to confirm reports he is not a candidate to become Chelsea's new head coach.

Nagelsmann was surprisingly sacked by Bayern Munich last month, with Thomas Tuchel replacing him as the Bavarian giants try to fend off Borussia Dortmund's challenge for their Bundesliga title. 

Having won plenty of admirers during successful spells with Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig before leading Bayern to the Bundesliga title last season, Nagelsmann was immediately touted as a potential permanent successor to Graham Potter at Stamford Bridge.

Nagelsmann reportedly held talks with Chelsea over taking the job at the end of the campaign, but widespread reports on Friday suggested he had withdrawn from the running.

Asked about those reports by Sky Sports in Germany, Nagelsmann said: "To cancel something, you have to commit to something."

Chelsea sit 11th in the Premier League table after failing to win any of their past five games in the competition, their most recent league victory coming against Leicester City under Potter on March 11.

Since appointing Frank Lampard as caretaker manager until the end of the season, Chelsea have lost four successive games across all competitions, a run that saw them eliminated from the Champions League by Real Madrid on Tuesday.

Nagelsmann could still be set for a move to the Premier League, however, with the 35-year-old being linked with Tottenham as they search for a permanent replacement for Antonio Conte.

He has also been suggested as a potential candidate to take over from Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid, though the Italian recently said he has no intention of leaving Los Blancos at the end of the season despite links with Brazil.

Thomas Tuchel insisted there was nothing personal about his decision to bench Thomas Muller for both legs of Bayern Munich's Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City.

The 33-year-old was omitted from the starting line-up in Manchester and Munich, and Bayern slipped to a 4-1 aggregate defeat to slide out at the last-eight stage for a third consecutive season.

Muller is the most decorated player in Bayern's history, winning 11 Bundesliga titles and two Champions League crowns during his stellar career with the Bavarians.

He has a chance of another domestic league title this season, but that is all Bayern have left to challenge for after their European exit and defeat to Freiburg in the DFB-Pokal quarters.

It would be a calamity if recently appointed Tuchel fell out with club legend Muller, but the coach denies there is any problem between the pair. Indeed, he said he was "extremely impressed" with how Muller accepted his team selections.

"I am a big Thomas Muller fan myself. He has a world-class indefinability," Tuchel said in Friday's pre-match press conference.

"The Manchester games haven't suited him perfectly. Otherwise, he probably would have played. Many games are Muller games.

"Everything is OK at the moment. I was pleased with his reaction on the training ground yesterday. I was extremely impressed. He handled it in an exemplary manner. He just stepped on the gas and pulled the team along.

"But I have to make my decisions, sometimes they are hard. There is no personal note in it. Everyone has to accept it in a competitive situation."

Muller, who made brief substitute appearances in both City games, is likely to start on Saturday when Tuchel goes up against Mainz, one of the Bayern coach's former clubs.

Tuchel has called on Bayern to show more swagger in their remaining games, saying the team have lacked "a dash of determination and a dash of egoism".

"It's important how the team handles the situation. A lot has happened this season," said Tuchel. "The team has experienced a lot."

Bayern lead the Bundesliga by two points from Borussia Dortmund with six rounds of games remaining, and Tuchel stressed the domestic league must not be seen as a consolation prize for a team who craved European glory.

"I experienced it myself in Paris [when coaching Paris Saint-Germain], how sad it is that the championship is taken for granted," Tuchel said.

"It must not be taken for granted. Sure, we won't be celebrated as if an underdog became champion. We will not artificially downplay our claim to become champions.

"A championship is less prone to failure because you have time over a longer period of time. We fight for the title. We shouldn't be ashamed of that."

Thomas Tuchel slammed speculation about the Bayern Munich future of Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidzic by stating the off-field leaders "shaped the club".

This has been a tough week for Bayern, with Champions League elimination coming at the quarter-final stage for a third successive season after a 1-1 draw with Manchester City meant a 4-1 aggregate defeat.

Tuchel allowed himself a joke in Friday's pre-match conference, ahead of the clash with Mainz, when he reacted to the arrival of set-piece mastermind Anthony Barry from Chelsea by saying: "Finally there is a good coach."

Most focus has fallen on the possibility of departures, however, with reports casting some doubt on whether Bayern will continue to back CEO Kahn and sporting director Salihamidzic.

"I read absolutely nothing," said head coach Tuchel. "I come here in the morning and I feel a good energy here. I try to influence what I can influence.

"I don't want to comment on the rumours. My cooperation with the club management is goal- and solution-oriented. Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidzic shaped the club."

He added: "I don't rule out that some unrest affects the players. But it will never be completely calm. We focus on the things that we can influence ourselves. I don't know any other way."

Tuchel's team must reset and train their focus on the Bundesliga, their last remaining trophy target. Bayern head into this weekend's games with a two-point lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund after both drew their last league matches.

According to Tuchel, Bayern are not themselves at the moment. "I rather sense an insecurity, an unrest that paralyses us a bit," he said.

He said the team should look to "turn dissatisfaction into energy", and Tuchel, appointed on March 25, has seen plenty of cause for dissatisfaction.

Bayern exited the DFB-Pokal to Freiburg under his watch in early April and have not gone beyond the quarter-finals of that competition in the last three seasons.

But Tuchel said: "This is not a crisis. We must not question everything. There is always a sense of reality involved. Many big clubs didn't make it to the [Champions League] quarter-finals. But we remain ambitious and we always want more. We're still first in the Bundesliga."

The arrival of coach Barry is a timely boost, with a deal agreed to take him from Chelsea, where he and Tuchel previously collaborated.

"He just arrived," Tuchel said. "Finally there is a good coach. I am very happy. We really wanted to have him with us. The whole package is right for him: his personality, the love of the game, the love of his job, his passion and his quality. He brings a lot of energy. His work with set-pieces at Chelsea was on a whole new level for me."

Bayern Munich boss Thomas Tuchel has been promised a new striker for next season after president Herbert Hainer accepted the team lacks a ruthless goalscorer.

A 1-1 draw against Manchester City on Wednesday saw Bayern exit the Champions League 4-1 on aggregate at the quarter-final stage.

They are in danger of being left behind as the likes of big-spending City make a concerted effort to push for European dominance.

Although Bayern saw off another wealthy pretender to the Champions League crown in the previous round, by sinking the hopes of Paris Saint-Germain, there have been obvious shortcomings in the German giants' ranks this season.

This might be largely because they sold Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona last July and did not recruit a player of the same mould and calibre to replace the Polish striker.

Lewandowski hit 50 goals for Bayern last season, and although the team have not been goal-shy, they have been without a top-class predator.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has shown willing, netting 17 in 29 games in the central role, but with the best will he has been a stop-gap option.

"We're missing the goalscorer who can clean things up. That's what we'll definitely need in the future," said Hainer, quoted widely on Thursday in the German media.

Bayern's shot conversion rate has dipped slightly season on season, from 15.34 per cent last term to 15.02 per cent this time around.

Their 'big chance' conversion has tumbled from 43.54 per cent to 40.74 per cent, having been as high as 47.65 per cent in the 2020-21 campaign.

Last season saw Lewandowski put away 25.13 per of his chances, and 53.16 per of his big chances.

 

Hainer said it was "obvious" Bayern were not scoring often enough, but he indicated it would not be easy to find a player to make the difference.

Bayern have been linked with Tottenham's Harry Kane and Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, but getting either man would involve a major financial outlay, and potentially a wrestle with other clubs.

"If you could name the one that hits the spot immediately, we would buy him immediately," Hainer said. "But you can assume that we will strengthen the team in such a way that we can again have a say in the Champions League title. Our goal is very clear to be at the forefront in Europe."

He said Bayern were "very, very well positioned" to be able to afford such a top-class player, as recently appointed coach Tuchel looks to put together a winning side.

Questions are being asked about the future of Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn, with reports in Germany claiming his position could be in some doubt.

If Kahn stays, he would likely have a key say in whom Bayern target as their next number nine.

The former Germany goalkeeper, quoted by Sport 1, said Bayern would have their work cut out to find a striker of Lewandowski's redoubtable prowess.

"It is also a question of price," Kahn said. "How many nines at the level of Robert Lewandowski are there in Europe? There aren't many. And if so, then it is in price regions that are extremely high."

Erling Haaland doesn't often miss penalties.

Erling Haaland doesn't often hit straight at the goalkeeper when one-on-one.

And Erling Haaland doesn't pass up a third invitation to score.

Having sliced over the crossbar from 12 yards in the first half of Manchester City's Champions League quarter-final second leg against Bayern Munich, and then shot straight at Yann Sommer in the 55th minute, Haaland might have been forgiven for thinking it was not going to be his night on Wednesday.

Yet even when Haaland does, indeed, miss, he still must score. It's as predictable as day turning to night. Death, taxes and Haaland scoring goals. 

It's just what he does, and he did it again – for a 48th time this season – 57 minutes into a thrilling game at Allianz Arena to fully ensure City would not let their 3-0 aggregate lead from the first leg slip.

 

For much of the first half, Thomas Tuchel's Bayern had run City's defence ragged. Leroy Sane seemed like a man possessed against his former club, but could not find the finishing touch.

Previous incarnations of Pep Guardiola's team might not have had the physicality up top to exploit such a stretched game, but they do now.

Haaland enjoyed, and won, a personal tussle with Dayot Upamecano all game. The Norway international was fist pumping when, in the 18th minute – just after Sane had fired wide at the other end – referee Clement Turpin was brandishing a red card Upamecano's way, with Bayern's centre-back having dragged City's number nine to the ground just outside the box.

A delayed offside flag spared Upamecano, though his luck ran out when, 10 minutes before half-time, Ilkay Gundogan's shot struck his outstretched arm.

Yet again, Upamecano's blushes were spared. Haaland skied his spot-kick, missing a penalty for the first time in his last 16 attempts in all club competitions, since doing so for Borussia Dortmund against Union Berlin in April 2021.

Bayern went into half-time with the scores level, down but not out. They had, in fairness, been the better side; 10 shots to City's four and an open play xG of 0.91 to their visitors' 0.09.

The end-to-end, thrill-a-minute football continued after the break. Kingsley Coman, teed up by Sane, tested Ederson, before the magnificent Jack Grealish slipped in Haaland at the end of a rapid City counter. Sommer, though, was up to the task.

Ederson could only watch as Coman flashed a low cross-shot across the face of goal soon after, but Bayern could only play with fire for so long.

Fifteen seconds later, City were celebrating. Kevin De Bruyne had released Haaland who, after sitting Upamecano down on the turf, slammed home. About time.

Haaland has scored 13 Champions League knockout-stage goals in only 10 such appearances. It was his 12th goal in the competition for City, matching the single-season record for a player of an English cub, level with Ruud van Nistelrooy in the 2002-03 campaign. He is averaging a goal every 66 minutes across all competitions.

Bayern benefitted from a soft handball decision of their own when Sadio Mane's effort deflected up and hit Manuel Akanji's arm. Joshua Kimmich lashed his penalty down the middle, but it was a mere consolation in the grand scheme of a tie that finished 4-1 to City on aggregate.

A Mane miss from close range and Tuchel receiving his marching orders to the stand for dissent capped off the Bavarians' Champions League exit.

Tuchel was brought in to ensure domestic success and progress in Europe. Six games into his tenure, Bayern lead the Bundesliga only on goal difference, while it is City who will face holders Real Madrid in the last four.

That's a rematch of last season's semi-finals, when City dominated in the first leg only to capitulate late on in the second. 

Having been denied by Tuchel in Porto two years ago, City – the third English team to have qualified for the Champions League semi-finals in three successive seasons – have put one ghost to rest already. Now, it's time for another, and with Haaland on board and firing, it could just be their time.

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City face a stiff test of character against a Bayern Munich side whose defiance he says is "in their skin".

Although City lead 3-0 from the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final, Guardiola claims his side will on Wednesday be facing a Bayern team who firmly believe they can turn the tie around.

City have looked to have ties wrapped up before and then imploded, most recently in last season's semi-finals when they led Real Madrid 5-3 on aggregate as stoppage time approached in the second leg, only to still be knocked out.

Asked whether he was more confident than before in his group of players getting the job done, Guardiola said on Tuesday: "I would like to say yes, but I don't know. Every game is completely different.

"I didn't say to the team to be careful with Bayern Munich, how difficult they are. They are not relaxed because they felt it, they know it, how good the [Bayern] team is.

"The opponent has many, many weapons, and that's why you have to be yourself. What do you have to do to achieve it? Be ourselves as much as possible."

Guardiola said City were "here for business" and confirmed Phil Foden would be a substitute on his return from appendicitis.

The Catalan coach is on the brink of personal history, being one away from reaching 100 wins in the Champions League, a feat only previously achieved by Carlo Ancelotti (105) and Alex Ferguson (102).

Should be complete that century on Wednesday, it would have come in just 158 games, with Ancelotti having needed 180 games and Ferguson 184.

Guardiola said City had not come to Munich to sit on their lead, but as and when the circumstances demand it, they will dig in defensively.

"I don't understand the situation of coming here just to defend something," said Guardiola, who coached Bayern from 2013 to 2016. "We come here to play one football game. If you think about just the result and what you have to do, or what we have done in the past, it would be a big mistake for us.

"We are going to defend, for sure. It happened in Manchester. For part of the game, they were better, and we had to defend, and we're going to defend tomorrow.

"For us, it's an opportunity. You see the [Bayern] trophy cabinet and how many times they have played this type of game in their incredible history, it is a lot.

"We are a few. We're going to try to impose our game. We come here knowing the quality they have, adapt quick to maybe some new formation of the opponent, and do our game.

"We talk about the game we have to play and not talk about the result we had one week ago. It's what you have to do in the game and focus in every single action to do what you have to do to get the result as best as possible to reach the semi-final."

Guardiola suspects Thomas Tuchel and Bayern will be saying much the same thing.

"I've been here at Bayern Munich and know the mentality of this club," Guardiola said. "It's everywhere: it's in [the club's HQ at] Sabener Strasse, it's in their skin.

"I know they believe they can do it, and we believe, too."

Guardiola expects Bayern's Thomas Muller to start, having only been a substitute in the first leg.

Should that be the case, City captain Ilkay Gundogan will be among those keeping a close eye on the man who can make Bayern tick, whom he knows well from their time together in Germany's midfield.

Gundogan's City future remains in the balance, with his contract expiring at the end of June, and the 32-year-old could offer no guidance on whether he will be staying in Manchester.

"There are talks. Obviously there are talks in the background. That's quite normal with just a couple of months left," Gundogan said. "Before going too much into details, there is nothing decided yet, not from my side and not from the club's side."

The skipper was delighted to hear Guardiola wants him to stay, saying: "I appreciate it a lot. We've been together seven years, and it's been amazing. We've won a lot together and to hear things like that brings me joy, brings me a smile and makes me appreciate what I've done in the seven years."

City have only lost one of their last 20 matches against German teams in the Champions League (W16 D3), losing away to RB Leipzig in the 2021-22 group stage.

They are unbeaten in their nine games against German sides in the knockout stages of the competition (W8 D1), although Bayern have only lost both legs of a Champions League knockout tie twice before, and both times it came against Real Madrid – in the 2013-14 semi-finals and the 2016-17 quarter-finals.

Their heaviest aggregate defeat was in the first of those ties, losing 5-0 against the Spanish side when Guardiola was Bayern head coach.

Marcel Sabitzer feels at home in the Premier League and is keen to extend his Manchester United stay beyond the end of the season.

Sabitzer joined United on loan from Bayern Munich in January after the Red Devils lost fellow midfielder Christian Eriksen to an ankle injury.

While Eriksen returned last week after spending over two months on the sidelines, Sabitzer has played an important role for the Red Devils, making 13 appearances since his arrival and featuring in February's EFL Cup final win over Newcastle United.

Having scored his first goal for the club in last month's FA Cup quarter-final victory against Fulham, Sabitzer grabbed two more in Thursday's 2-2 Europa League draw with Sevilla.

Though Sabitzer's deal does not contain an option for United to make his move permanent, the Austria international would be open to extending his stay.

"I didn't have to think for 10 seconds after United called," Sabitzer said in an interview with German publication Bild. "I said straight away, if the time works, we'll do it!

"This is initially a project until the summer, then we'll see. Until then, I want to give everything here. It's a loan deal with no options. The situation will be assessed in the summer.

"But I can say for myself, I have found my place here. I know the Premier League now and I can say there is nothing better, more intense or tougher.

"Every game is a fight, everything goes faster. This is the best league in the world. Once you have played here, you know it's incomparable.

"Of course my thoughts on United – especially looking at how things are going and the confidence I get from Erik ten Hag – are very positive. But I don't have to decide it alone."

Sadio Mane has been suspended and fined by Bayern Munich after he allegedly punched team-mate Leroy Sane.

The former Liverpool forward was seen arguing with Sane during Bayern's 3-0 Champions League quarter-final first leg defeat at Manchester City on Tuesday, with reports suggesting the former struck the latter after the game and cut the Germany winger's lip.

The pair were reported to have apologised in front of their team-mates at training on Thursday, but Bayern confirmed that Mane will not be in the squad for the home clash with Hoffenheim on Saturday.

A statement from the Bundesliga champions on Thursday said that Mane will not be involved this weekend due to "misconduct" following the loss at the Etihad Stadium and he also be hit in the pocket.

Mane has 11 goals and five assists in 32 appearances this season, while Sane has 13 goals and seven assists from 36 outings.

Marcus Thuram will leave Borussia Monchengladbach as a free agent at the end of the season after the Bundesliga club finally gave up hope of keeping the France forward.

The 25-year-old is enjoying his most fruitful goalscoring campaign and has been linked with clubs including Inter, Chelsea and Newcastle United.

In 28 games, he has managed 16 goals and five assists, already beating his haul of 14 goals from the 2019-20 campaign.

Thuram, who can play as a striker and as a left winger, is the son of former France defender Lilian Thuram.

Gladbach sporting director Roland Virkus said it was with regret that the club would part company with former Guingamp after four years together.

Algerian defender Ramy Bensebaini will also leave on a free transfer, and it has been reported he will join Borussia Dortmund.

Virkus said: "We were in an open discussion with both players and knew their current position. It is a shame that they won't extend their current contracts, which expire in the summer, and we also understand that our fans are disappointed that both aren't staying.

"In the past years, it has always been part of our approach to pick up talented players, develop them further, and at a certain point in time also allow them to leave, because we can't keep them forever.

"In an ideal world, we would have picked up an attractive transfer fee. It is obviously not good that now this is not the case."

In an interview on Gladbach's official website, Virkus described Thuram and Bensebaini as "players that can make the difference".

"Both have helped us from a sporting side in the past few years and are still doing that now," he added, "so despite all our justified disappointment, they have still earned a stylish goodbye."

The news of the twin departures followed Wednesday's announcement that captain Lars Stindl would also be leaving Gladbach after an eight-year stint.

Virkus said: "We were also in an open and fair discussion with Lars. He explained his personal decision in terms of the responsibility he has to his family.

"In the end, that also speaks to Lars Stindl as a person. He has helped shaped the club over eight years, was the face of Borussia, a goal threat, a hard-worker for the team and a brilliant captain. He is now 34 years old though, and your priorities change, he is going back home and you have to respect that."

Pep Guardiola has made no secret of his love of golf and basketball, so it was perhaps no surprise he made comparisons to all-time greats from both sports when asked about his desire to win the Champions League.

Guardiola will face former club Bayern Munich when his Manchester City side host the Bundesliga champions in the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Tuesday.

Since losing in the last 16 in his first season in charge in 2016-17, City have reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for six successive seasons.

Yet the trophy continues to elude them, City going closest in the 2021 final when they lost 1-0 to a Chelsea team led by Thomas Tuchel, who was last month appointed by Bayern.

Asked in his pre-match press conference how much he wants to win the Champions League, Guardiola replied: "A lot."

Expanding on his initially brief reply, Guardiola – who spent his Sunday watching Bayern's game with Freiburg and taking in compatriot Jon Rahm's Masters triumph – pointed to the careers of Jack Nicklaus and Michael Jordan as examples of the difficulty of elite sport that has prevented City from claiming European football's top prize.

"We want to try like we tried all the time, but that doesn't mean we're going to win," he added 

"Yesterday they played The Masters. Jack Nicklaus, how many Masters or how many great majors he played in his career, in the 30, 40 years as a golfer... 30 years for four majors, how many, 120 or 130? How many won? Eighteen, wow. Eighteen out of 130, he lost more than he won.

"That is sport. In football, in golf, in basketball. Michael Jordan, the best athlete for me, won six NBA titles. How many years did he play? Sixteen. He lost more than won.

"This game, all games, they are so difficult. It's important to be here and compete well, do our best knowing that tomorrow at nine o'clock we have to be perfect to try to get a good result to go to Germany [for the second leg].

"It's no more than that; I live my profession in that way, and after that, I lose, I lose. What's important is we are still there. My biggest compliment we can do as an organisation, as a team, is still we are there."

City are unbeaten in their last 12 matches and have scored 21 goals in their previous four; however, Guardiola knows that form counts for nothing over the course of a two-legged tie with Bayern.

"In this competition, it's not about the form you are in in the Premier League or FA Cup," he said. "It's about how you perform in these 95 minutes. It doesn't count what you did three days ago.

"In this competition, you have to be perfect. The question is tomorrow night, be ready."

Just eight teams remain in the Champions League, and there is every chance one of Tuesday's quarter-finals could yield the eventual winners.

Manchester City and Bayern Munich tussle in arguably the tie of the round, a contest that has seen the intrigue multiply following the latter's dismissal of Julian Nagelsmann and hiring of Thomas Tuchel.

Of course, Tuchel has won this competition before and boasts plenty of quality in his squad, but City probably go into the tie as favourites because of their greater stability and the 'Erling Haaland factor'.

Tuesday's other game, which takes place on the other side of the draw, pits Benfica and Inter against each other, with both sides surely fancying their chances of a shock run to the final given they will come up against either Milan or Napoli in the semi-finals.

But without any further ado, Stats Perform looks at the pick of the pre-match Opta facts for Tuesday's first legs.

Manchester City v Bayern Munich: Haaland out to finally beat Die Roten

There will certainly be a degree of familiarity surrounding this duel between two giants of the European game.

It will be the seventh meeting between City and Bayern in the Champions League, with both sides alternating victories across the previous six (three each) fixtures.

On top of that, City boss Pep Guardiola is of course a former Bayern head coach, with the Premier League side's only loss in their past three home games against Die Roten coming when he was in charge at Allianz Arena (October 2013).

Guardiola will also be going up against Tuchel once again. He may not publicly admit it, but revenge is surely a target.

Tuchel was in charge of Chelsea when City lost their only Champions League final, and the German has won two of the three matches the two coaches have contested in cup competitions. Guardiola's only victory came via a penalty shoot-out in the 2016 DFB-Pokal final.

Still, Guardiola boasts a tremendous record at this stage of the competition.

He has won 54 per cent of his 72 Champions League knockout games, the best win rate of all managers with at least 30 matches under their belt in such ties. Additionally, Guardiola is the only one of these coaches to have won more than half of these games.

 

Erling Haaland will also be tussling with some familiar foes.

The Norwegian striker has a solid record against Bayern on an individual level, scoring five times in seven games against them for Dortmund, but he was on the losing side each time.

He will be keen to break that duck.

Benfica v Inter: Eagles close to 33-year high

For some, Benfica might stand out as being almost out of place at this stage of the competition, but it is the second season in a row they have reached the quarter-finals.

Similarly, while one may associate Inter more closely with deep runs into the Champions League, their six quarter-finals this century is only one more than Benfica.

The Portuguese side will not come into this tie intimidated by their opponents either.

Benfica have already beaten Juventus home and away in the competition this term, overcoming something of a psychological barrier that had seen them win only two of their previous 11 games against Serie A sides in Europe's top-tier competition.

Granted, Inter have dealt with Portuguese opposition this season as well, knocking Porto out in the previous round with a slender 1-0 aggregate win. But there was more than a hint of fortune about that success, with the Primeira Liga side's expected goals (xG) significantly higher than Inter's (3-5 to 2.1).

Nevertheless, Benfica need only to look at their own form to inspire confidence. Victory on Tuesday will see them record five successive European Cup/Champions League wins for the first time since a run of six en route to the 1990 final.

There are also reasons for optimism in how the two teams play.

The average starting distance of Inter's sequences of play in the Champions League this term is 38.2 metres from their own goal, with Simone Inzaghi's side recovering possession the furthest away from the opposition goal – on average – of any side involved in this season's quarter-finals.

That could play into Benfica's hands given they have attempted more shots following high turnovers (within 40m of the opposition goal) than any other side in the competition this season (18), and their five goals from such situations is a joint-high with Napoli.

Inter have ridden their luck already this season – Benfica will hope to get the rub of the green at Estadio da Luz on Tuesday to improve their chances of reaching the semi-finals for the first time in 33 years.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.