Eric Cantona and Ian Rush are divided by club loyalties but share the same view on behind-closed-doors football: It will not bear comparison to the real thing.

If the 2019-20 season in Europe is to be concluded, it seems certain many matches will have to go ahead without spectators due to ongoing coronavirus pandemic worries.

And while Liverpool great Rush admits it would be wrong for the Anfield table-toppers to be awarded the Premier League title without the campaign playing out, the idea of empty stands leaves him cold.

For Manchester United legend Cantona, the absence of supporters would take away a vital element of the football experience, and players would suffer.

Rush told the Sunday Mirror: "I've never played a game behind closed doors, so I don't know what it's like. But I don't think it would bring the best out of me.

“If you're playing in front of no one it begs the question, would you be any good? Would you be up for it, first of all? Would it be the same as a normal game in front of a big crowd? I don't think so."

Social distancing would seem impractical at football, given the close proximity in which spectators are seated at games, so the Premier League faces a likely stark choice: play without fans, or not at all.

“If Liverpool are at home and they can win the league I want to be there even if we all have to be two metres apart," Rush said.

"But seriously, if it doesn't happen and the Premier League is declared null and void then you have to move on and not let it affect you. This Liverpool team is the best I've ever seen and I'm certain they will come again.

"There's no way Liverpool can be awarded the title without the season being finished."

There are concerns within clubs and leagues about broadcasters withholding money if games are not played, meaning many are keen to ensure the fixtures go ahead, crowds or not.

Cantona told French broadcaster RTL: "I'd be delighted if we could restart football as it was before. If we start on June 17 because there's no more problems for anyone, that's great.

"But to resume playing football in front of nobody, just because TV have suspended payments, that's not great, right? You can have exactly the same stakes, the same players, [but] a match behind closed doors isn't a football match.

"The energy that the fans give off, that they transmit to the players, that lifts players.

"You've seen Champions League games behind closed doors. It was the same matches, the same stakes, but it wasn't the same matches. There's none of the passion.

"They players need that energy. It's like at the theatre, to play in front of an empty room or a full room, it's not the same thing."

The record-breaking goalscoring exploits of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi tend to lead the discussion when it comes to the Champions League, but there have also been plenty of masterful performances at the other end of the pitch.

One such display came on April 19 three years ago, when Juventus proved nigh on impenetrable at the back and saw off Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the competition.

Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid and an Inter team led by Jose Mourinho have also provided some of the most memorable rearguard showings in Europe.

We look back at five of the best defensive displays in Champions League history.

 

1992-93 final: Marseille 1-0 Milan

Marseille were the underdogs at the Olympiastadion in Munich but managed to become the first French champions of Europe in the inaugural Champions League.

Daniele Massaro went close to an early opener for Milan when he nodded narrowly wide, and he was denied from an acute angle by Fabien Barthez after the goalkeeper blocked a low attempt from Marco van Basten.

Basile Boli had been struggling with a muscular injury for much of the first half but he headed home Abedi Pele's corner to put Raymond Goethals' side ahead on the stroke of half-time.

Marseille held firm for the entirety of the second period to claim the trophy, with Boli telling UEFA: "Those last 45 minutes felt like 45 years, and by the time the final whistle blew it felt like 100 years."

However, Marseille were barred from defending their title after a Ligue 1 match-fixing scandal saw them stripped of their domestic crown and relegated.

 

2004-05 semi-finals second leg: Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea (1-0 agg)

After a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge that saw Jerzy Dudek worked more than Petr Cech, Liverpool took just four minutes to score against Chelsea – who had been crowned Premier League champions for the first time in 50 years three days prior – in the return match at Anfield.

Luis Garcia cored with what was subsequently branded the 'ghost goal', with replays and a lack of technology unable to definitively clarify whether the ball had crossed the line before William Gallas cleared it.

Rafael Benitez's Liverpool sat back for the rest of the game and comfortably soaked up the limited pressure Chelsea placed upon them, ending their hopes of a treble.

Eidur Gudjohnsen spurned a glorious chance to equalise in stoppage time after a tame punch from Dudek, meaning Liverpool advanced to the final against Milan.

In Istanbul it was attack rather than defence that underpinned the Reds' success as they came from 3-0 down to defeat the Rossoneri on penalties and be crowned champions of Europe for the fifth time.

 

2009-10 semi-final second leg: Barcelona 1-0 Inter (2-3 agg)

Mourinho's Inter may have been defeated at Camp Nou, but a 3-1 advantage from the first leg meant it was they who advanced to the final.

Their resilience was put to the ultimate test when former Barca midfielder Thiago Motta was shown a red card in the 28th minute for putting his hand in the face of Sergio Busquets, who certainly made the most of the contact.

Even with a numerical disadvantage Inter nullified an attack that boasted Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Pedro with a compact showing, while their continued gamesmanship caused frustration in the Barca ranks throughout a fiery encounter.

Gerard Pique gave Pep Guardiola's men a glimmer of hope when he finally broke the deadlock in the 84th minute, but they were unable to deny Mourinho cause to sprint across the pitch in celebration at the final whistle.

Inter made the final for the first time since 1972 and defeated Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu to complete a historic treble.

 

2015-16 quarter-finals second leg: Atletico Madrid 2-0 Barcelona (3-2 agg)

Barcelona's quest to become the first team to retain the Champions League trophy was ended by Atletico at the Vicente Calderon.

A trademark defensive masterclass from Simeone saw Atletico blunt one of modern football's greatest attacking units – the MSN of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

The hosts had just 28 per cent of possession and completed a fifth of the passes Barca put together (122 to 616), but the imperious combination of Diego Godin and Lucas Hernandez kept Luis Enrique's team at bay.

Antoine Griezmann converted a delivery from Saul Niguez in the first half and slotted home a late penalty after Andres Iniesta was penalised for handball, sending Barca crashing out.

A similarly brilliant performance at the back saw Atleti beat Bayern to a place in the final but they were defeated by local rivals Real Madrid in the showpiece for the second time in three years.

 

2016-17 quarter-finals second leg: Barcelona 0-0 Juventus (0-3 agg)

They may have been defeated in the first leg courtesy of an inspired Paulo Dybala display, but having overturned a 4-0 aggregate deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 Barca will still have had high hopes of getting past Juve.

Unsurprisingly they peppered the visitors' goal with shots but they were only able to hit the target with one of them, Messi warming Gianluigi Buffon's gloves from 25 yards in the first half.

Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci – who were joined by third centre-back Andrea Barzagli for the final 15 minutes – showed tremendous composure and discipline to provide Buffon with outstanding protection throughout.

Massimiliano Allegri's side consequently joined Manchester United (2007-08) and Bayern (2012-13) as the only teams to stop Barca scoring in both legs of a Champions League tie.

Juve went on to reach the final but were unable to end a 21-year wait to get their hands on the trophy, with Madrid making it two in a row in Cardiff.

Brighton and Hove Albion owner Tony Bloom believes Liverpool deserve to be Premier League champions, but said there should be no relegation if the season cannot be completed.

The campaign was suspended last month due to the coronavirus pandemic and there remains uncertainty over when, and if, it will resume.

Liverpool were 25 points clear when the season was stopped, while Bournemouth, Aston Villa – who had played one game less – and Norwich City were in the drop zone.

Bloom, whose Brighton sit two points clear of the relegation zone, said points-per-game may be used to decide champions or even European qualification, but not relegation.

"I don't foresee a situation, if the season's not played out, that teams will get relegated on a points-per-game basis," Bloom told UK media.

"I just don't think it's fathomable that a team which is not allowed to play out the season, may lose out on 0.2 of a point based on this system.

"Also it does not take into account the strength of the teams you have not played.

"You may get a title winner, obviously Liverpool deserve it, you may use that criteria for European qualification but I do not see how anyone can vote for that, certainly the per cent needed, for teams to get relegated."

RB Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff has received no contact from Liverpool or Bayern Munich regarding Timo Werner.

Werner has been consistently linked to both Liverpool and Bayern, with a season in which he has scored 27 goals in 36 games in all competitions only fuelling the speculation.

The forward is under contract until the end of the 2022-23 season and Mintzlaff sees Leipzig as the perfect place for Werner to continue his development.

"Neither Jurgen Klopp nor [Bayern chairman] Karl-Heinz Rummenigge contacted me," Mintzlaff told General-Anzeiger. 

"We are happy that we were able to extend the contract with him until 2023. He played a really strong first half of the season.

"We also believe that we are still a very good stage for Timo Werner, on which he can develop as a Germany international."

 

Liverpool have confirmed Alisson has recovered from the hip injury that ruled him out of the Champions League loss to Atletico Madrid at Anfield.

Sidelined after suffering a slight problem in training, the goalkeeper missed last month's 3-2 extra time defeat to Atletico at Anfield that ended the Reds' reign in Europe.

Adrian deputised in the Brazilian's absence, though the back-up was at fault for the first of two goals scored by Marcos Llorente that helped the LaLiga side seal a 4-2 aggregate triumph and a place in the quarter-finals.

That game was Liverpool's last outing before the season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, though Alisson - who had also sat out the 2-1 Premier League win over Bournemouth on March 7 - was nearing fitness before the break.

"He sent videos, doing some jumping and exercises,” goalkeeper coach John Achterberg told the club's website about Alisson's progress.

“Obviously, we were working with him until the lockdown and he was basically fit. Now it's for him to maintain it in the house, like the other goalkeepers.

"They all get their programmes from the fitness department so they will do the job and the work to try to stay as fit as they can, like all the other players as well."

Alisson and the rest of the squad are in a unique situation as they train at home due to social-distancing measures put in place to stop the spread of the virus.

However, the Premier League leaders have made sure all their keepers have the equipment required to remain sharp during the suspension, with no immediate sign of a return to action.

"If they needed boots, we got them boots; if they needed balls, we got them some balls. So at least they have the stuff to work in the house as much as they can," Achterberg explained.

"The physical department sent all the weights around that the boys wanted and needed, because some live in apartments and some didn't have all the equipment needed, so the club has provided that with Andreas [Kornmayer's] team.

"They put all together all exercises and some live training sessions. So we've all been in there to try to keep the banter going but also keep the fitness levels going."

Lautaro Martinez has been tipped to leave Inter at the end of the coronavirus-interrupted 2019-20 season.

His exploits in Italy have reportedly alerted Barcelona, who are determined to sign a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

And Martinez is apparently ready to swap the San Siro for Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – MARTINEZ WANTS BARCA MOVE

Inter star Lautaro Martinez has chosen to join Barcelona and will press for a move if necessary, according to Marca.

While Barcelona remain interested in re-signing Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar, Martinez is the club's primary transfer objective.

Real Madrid and Manchester City have also been linked to Martinez, but the former have turned their attention to Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, while the latter are reportedly happy with Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could another star leave Inter? Premier League leaders and Champions League holders Liverpool want to sign Marcelo Brozovic, claims Calciomercato. The Nerazzurri could be tempted by a €60million (£52m) offer.

- Calciomercarto reports Juventus and PSG are in discussions over Mauro Icardi. The Argentina forward is on loan at PSG from Inter, with the Ligue 1 champions having the option to sign Icardi permanently. Icardi has been tipped to return to Serie A and the story claims PSG could sign the Argentinian from Inter before selling him straight to Juve. A possible deal could involve the likes of Mattia De Sciglio, Miralem Pjanic, Douglas Costa and Alex Sandro.

- The Telegraph says Ajax have placed a €40m (£35m) price tag on goalkeeper Andre Onana, who has been linked to Chelsea, PSG and Barca.

Jadon Sancho will only move to Old Trafford if Manchester United secure Champions League football, says the Athletic. The Dortmund sensation has also been linked to Chelsea, Liverpool, former club City and Madrid.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter have a list of potential replacements for Barca target Martinez. RB Leipzig's Timo Werner is the first name on the list, which also includes Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, United forward Anthony Martial, Madrid striker Luka Jovic and Victor Osimhen of Lille.

Neymar has been tipped to make the move to Barcelona, almost three years since his world-record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

Lionel Messi and Co. have spoken glowingly about their former team-mate amid the speculation.

But reports claim a Barca reunion is not on the cards.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA DISMISS NEYMAR RETURN

Barcelona have ruled out re-signing Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain, according to Catalunya Radio.

Neymar – who swapped Barca for PSG in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017 – has been repeatedly linked with a Camp Nou comeback.

But the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic reportedly mean Barca are not in a position to bring Neymar back to the club at the end of the coronavirus-hit 2019-20 campaign.

 

ROUND-UP

Borussia Dortmund or Manchester United? Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham is hot property following his exploits for the Championship outfit prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Both clubs are vying for Bellingham, however, the Daily Mail says Dortmund are hopeful of beating United to the 16-year-old's signature.

- The Daily Mail claims Tottenham have asked former manager Mauricio Pochettino to take a pay cut. Pochettino is on gardening leave following his sacking and Spurs are looking to reduce costs amid the COVID-19 crisis.

- Staying in London and Tottenham are seriously interested in signing Inter centre-back Diego Godin, reports Mundo Deportivo. The 34-year-old Uruguayan has struggled to fit into Antonio Conte's plans, having only arrived from Atletico Madrid at the start of the 2019-20 campaign. United have also been linked.

Gianluigi Buffon is poised to sign a new deal with Serie A champions Juventus, according to Calciomercato. The only thing missing is the 42-year-old goalkeeper's signature.

Everton are interested in Torino star Andrea Belotti, says Tuttosport. The Italy international has also been linked to United and Napoli.

- Marca claims Eder Militao will remain at Real Madrid, having been reassured that he will not be sold by the Spanish giants.

- Agent Mino Raiola would prefer to send United midfielder Paul Pogba to either PSG or Juventus instead of Madrid, according to Soccer Link.

Liverpool should be awarded the Premier League title if the season cannot be completed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to former Manchester United goalkeeper Mark Bosnich.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool had opened up a 25-point lead atop the table, winning 27 of 29 games, when the campaign was suspended last month.

It remains to be seen when, and if, the season will resume, leading to debate over what should happen if it cannot be completed.

Bosnich, who had two spells at United and also played for Chelsea and Aston Villa, believes Liverpool should be awarded a first league title since 1990.

"They should be awarded the title," he told Stats Perform.

"There may be, deep in the by-rules of the Premier League that says maybe they don't or whatever, but I think it's only fair and only right that they're awarded the title.

"Let's all be frank, they weren't going to be caught."

However, Bosnich feels the bigger issues could be elsewhere if the seasons cannot be finished due to COVID-19, which has killed more than 145,500 people worldwide.

The former Australia international said there would be questions around the Champions League, relegation zone and even the Championship.

"The problems we're going to have are not so much there. It will be the Champions League places and even more so the relegation zone. That is going to be a massive question that needs to be answered," Bosnich said.

"Even for the teams from the Championship – what about Leeds [United] and West Brom?
There is going to be an almighty ruckus if the season is void. We've already seen that three or four weeks ago when [West Ham chief executive] Karren Brady suggested it.

"If they turn around now and say, 'Liverpool, you are champions' the rest of the teams in the top four are going to say they want to be in the Champions League.
If you say its null and void, the teams in the relegation zone will want to say they're still in the Premier League next season.

"We could be in court for two next two years just about this season while the season's going on. It's one thing everyone has to bear in mind. You don't want to be in court for years and years and years about a season that, which by the time the court decision comes, is memory anyway.

"It's going to be a very difficult thing but they'll have every type of contingency ready."

Passing the ball can sometimes look like the easiest thing in the world to do. At least, it does when these guys do it.

Our latest dive into the data of 2019-20 sees us look at the best playmakers in Europe's top-five leagues before the season was called to a halt.

We've deliberately broadened our approach to what constitutes a playmaker here – Gerard Pique doesn't often appear as a number 10, unless Barca are in real trouble – as the idea is to offer a wider consideration of those players who generally use the ball better than most when in possession.

To that end, we've looked at 12 different metrics to come up with the top performers of the campaign, again from among those to make at least 10 league appearances.

While some stars are not exactly strange to see in the list below, there is a handful of more surprising names, too...

 

THE TOP PLAYMAKERS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most successful passes: Sven Bender (1,766)
Highest passing accuracy: Axel Witsel (94.1 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Joshua Kimmich (873)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Axel Witsel (92.2)
Most passes ending in final third: Jadon Sancho (576)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Axel Witsel (88.4 per cent)
Most chances created: Christopher Nkunku (65)
Most big chances created: Thomas Muller (24)
Most assists: Thomas Muller (16)
Most assists from open play: Thomas Muller (15)
Most crosses/corners successful: Filip Kostic (71)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Dennis Geiger (50 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most successful passes: Gerard Pique (1,688)
Highest passing accuracy: Toni Kroos (93.6 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Sergio Busquets (957)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Toni Kroos (92.4)
Most passes ending in final third: Lionel Messi (698)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Toni Kroos (90.3)
Most chances created: Jose Campana (58)
Most big chances created: Lionel Messi (22)
Most assists: Lionel Messi (12)
Most assists from open play: Portu and Lionel Messi (8)
Most crosses/corners successful: Jesus Navas (43)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Benat (55 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most successful passes: Marco Verratti (1,581)
Highest passing accuracy: Thiago Silva (95.5 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Marco Verratti (956)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Thiago Silva (92.8 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Angel Di Maria (543)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Colin Dagba (86 per cent)
Most chances created: Dimitri Payet (87)
Most big chances created: Angel Di Maria (31)
Most assists: Angel Di Maria (14)
Most assists from open play: Angel Di Maria (10)
Most crosses/corners successful: Dimitri Payet (63)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Marco Verratti (54.6 per cent)

 

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most successful passes: Virgil van Dijk (2,209)
Highest passing accuracy: John Stones (94 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Rodri (1,069)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: John Stones (93.9 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Kevin De Bruyne (740)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Ibrahim Amadou (93.3 per cent)
Most chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (96)
Most big chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (23)
Most assists: Kevin De Bruyne (16)
Most assists from open play: Kevin De Bruyne (14)
Most crosses/corners successful: Kevin De Bruyne (69)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Christian Atsu (47.1 per cent)

 

SERIE A:

Most successful passes: Fabian Ruiz (1,488)
Highest passing accuracy: Marlon Santos (94.1 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Fabian Ruiz (932)
Passing accuracy, opposition half: Eljif Elmas (91.5 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Luis Alberto (723)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Walace (89.7 per cent)
Most chances created: Luis Alberto (75)
Most big chances created: Luis Alberto (16)
Most assists: Luis Alberto (12)
Most assists from open play: Luis Alberto and Alejandro Gomez (9)
Most crosses/corners successful: Erick Pulgar (46)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Armando Izzo (54.6 per cent)

 

AND THE TOP 12:

Most successful passes: Virgil van Dijk (2,209)
Highest passing accuracy: Thiago Silva (95.5 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Rodri (1,069)
Passing accuracy, opposition half: John Stones (93.9 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Kevin De Bruyne (740)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Ibrahim Amadou (93.3 per cent)
Most chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (96)
Most big chances created: Angel Di Maria (31)
Most assists: Thomas Muller and Kevin De Bruyne (16)
Most assists from open play: Thomas Muller (15)
Most crosses/corners successful: Filip Kostic (71)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Benat (55 per cent)

 

Steven Gerrard has hailed "role model" Jordan Henderson for his part in organising a charity fund to help health services in the United Kingdom during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Liverpool captain has been widely credited for taking a lead role in launching the #PlayersTogether initiative that will see Premier League players donate funds to NHS charities.

Henderson's leadership qualities have also been clear to see on the field since succeeding Gerrard as skipper in 2015, none more so than this term prior to the coronavirus-enforced shutdown.

And Gerrard, who played alongside Henderson for four seasons, has praised the 29-year-old for growing in stature during his time at Anfield.

"I remember he came into Liverpool as a shy lad from Sunderland and his family asked me to keep an eye on him and look after him," he told Sky Sports' The Football Show.

"He's a very selfless person, on and off the pitch. He was a dream to play with because of his energy. I'm certainly one who's always sung his praises because I appreciate the job he did in the team.

"I think he's got better and better from a football point of view but, as a person, I think what he's done over the last couple of weeks sums the human being up.

"He's a fantastic man and he's become a top-class midfielder. Everything he earns in the game and every accolade he gets he absolutely deserves it. He's a role model to a lot of young kids."

Henderson lifted the Champions League trophy last season and has helped Liverpool to open up a 25-point lead at the top of the Premier League this term.

Iconic midfielder Gerrard puts his former club's recent success down to their mental strength and has backed them to continue winning silverware.

"They've been phenomenal for a few years now. I thought they were very unlucky last year not to be champions - that was down to how good Manchester City were," he said.

"They just seem to be getting better and stronger every single year. The one key thing that's blown me away from when I played is their mental strength across the board.

"We used to have some really good professionals and mentally strong players in our squad, but it seems like from number one in the squad to number 26 they're all monsters and all on the same page.

"To have a squad that all has that mentality, I'm really excited to watch them in the coming years as well because they've got a fantastic opportunity to become a very successful Liverpool team."

Leroy Sane's move to Bayern Munich appears back on, while Real Madrid are chasing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Sane was linked with a switch to Bayern last close-season but ended up staying at Manchester City.

It appears that move could be back on, while Madrid are maintaining interest in Arsenal star Aubameyang.

 

TOP STORY – SANE IN FRESH BAYERN TALKS

Sane's new agent is in fresh talks with Bayern Munich, according to The Sun.

The Germany attacker was the subject of transfer speculation last before the 2019-20 campaign, but then suffered a serious knee injury in August.

Bild reported on Tuesday that Sane believes he could win the Champions League with Bayern.

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are interested in Arsenal's Aubameyang, according to Sport. The report says Barcelona are also keen to land the forward if they cannot sign Inter star Lautaro Martinez.

- LaLiga's 'big two' also reportedly want N'Golo Kante. However, Goal report the midfielder wants to stay at Chelsea unless he is forced out.

- With Diego Costa's future uncertain, Atletico Madrid may be looking for a forward. AS report Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette, who is contracted until 2022, is on the list of possible reinforcements for Los Colchoneros.

- Chris Smalling appears likely to return to Manchester United from his loan spell at Roma. Calciomercato believe the Serie A club are already looking at alternatives, with Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen – out of contract at season's end – being considered.

- Olivier Giroud, another player out of contract at the end of the season, seems set to leave Chelsea. La Gazzetta dello Sport claim the striker is looking for a three-year deal from Inter, who were said to be interested in January. The report suggests Inter could offer the Frenchman a two-year contract with a club option for a third.

- Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana and Borussia Dortmund attacker Mario Gotze are set to become free agents. Calciomercato report Milan are unconvinced by Lallana and unwilling to sign Gotze due to his high wages.

Loris Karius revealed he was still in touch with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp as the goalkeeper nears the end of his loan spell at Besiktas.

Karius, 26, joined the Turkish club on a two-year loan from Liverpool in August 2018, a deal that is nearing its conclusion.

The goalkeeper is contracted with the Premier League giants until 2022 and said he maintained contact with Klopp.

"I primarily write with goalkeeper coach John Achterberg. Almost weekly, he is my first point of contact," Karius told Sport Bild on Wednesday. 

"But now and then I also write with Jurgen Klopp, I am in good contact with everyone. I was never out of it."

Hertha Berlin have been linked with a permanent move for Karius, whose last competitive appearance for Liverpool was his calamitous performance against Real Madrid in the 2018 Champions League final.

Karius refused to be drawn on his future, saying there was even greater uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I am not involved in speculation. The fact is that I have a contract in Liverpool until 2022," he said.

"And at the moment I'm just concentrating on the season at Besiktas. It is far too early to say anything about summer, especially now that nobody knows exactly what to do because of corona."

Jurgen Klopp sent thoughts, prayers and love to Liverpool supporters on the 31st anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster

At the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, 96 people died when a crush developed in the Leppings Lane End of Sheffield Wednesday's home stadium.

A 2016 inquest found the fans were unlawfully killed due to failings by the police and ambulance services.

The Hillsborough Family Support Group had planned to stage its final memorial service at Anfield on Wednesday but the coronavirus pandemic forced a postponement.

"Today is the most significant date for our football club each year," Klopp said in a video shared by Liverpool on Twitter.

"The plan was that we are together at Anfield today, but this is not possible.

"The only thing we can make sure of is that we are in each other's thoughts. And, believe me, you are in our thoughts.

"You have our thoughts, you have our prayers and, most of all, you have our love. You'll never walk alone."

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson also posted a video message via the club's Twitter page.

"Today was a day when as a club we were all supposed to be together at Anfield to honour the lives of 96 people who went to a football match and never came home," the England midfielder said.

"The fact that we are unable to do so will make this anniversary especially hard for the families and survivors of Hillsborough.

"I'm not one for making speeches, but on behalf of all the players at Liverpool I just want to let everyone affected know that you are in our thoughts today.

"As ever, we are together in spirit even if we can't be together in person. You'll never walk alone."

Liverpool players, staff and supporters will observe a minute's silence at 15:06 BST on Wednesday, the time the match against Forest was stopped.

The original intention was to hold the memorial on the 30th anniversary of the tragedy but it coincided with the trial of David Duckenfield, the Hillsborough match commander who was cleared of gross negligence manslaughter following a retrial in November.

Seventy-three years after his MLB debut on April 15, Jackie Robinson continues to be remembered by MLB.

The man who broke the colour barrier is celebrated on Jackie Robinson Day, with players, coaches and managers alike wearing his number 42 during games.

April 15 is poignant for Liverpool fans, due to the Hillsborough disaster, and Bostonians, because of the Boston Marathon bombing.

 

1947 - Jackie Robinson breaks down the colour barrier

In 1947, 28-year-old Robinson walked out onto Ebbets Field, Brooklyn and became the first black player ever to appear in MLB.

Robinson was a six-time All-Star, a National League MVP and a 1955 World Series champion during his time with the Dodgers.

He would go on to be named to the Baseball Hall of Fame and his number 42 has been retired by all MLB teams.

 

1986 - Richards' rapid century against England

One of Test cricket's finest batsmen produced one of his greatest innings against England in Antigua.

West Indian Viv Richards needed just 56 balls to reach three figures, smashing seven sixes and as many fours before finishing unbeaten on 110 not out from 58 deliveries.

It was a record that stood for 30 years before New Zealand's Brendon McCullum, the current record-holder, broke the mark in two fewer deliveries.

 

1986 - 96 fans die in Hillsborough disaster 

On the same day as Richards was making history, Liverpool were mourning the worst sporting disaster in British history.

Ninety-six people lost their lives while 766 were injured when fans were crushed at Hillsborough in Sheffield during the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Sheffield Wednesday.

In a subsequent enquiry, The Taylor Report recommended a move to all-seater stadia, which led to a ban on standing for clubs in the top two flights in 1994.

 

2013 - Boston Marathon bombings kill three, injure hundreds

During the 117th annual Boston Marathon, which took place on Patriots Day seven years ago, two bombs detonated near the finish line.

Three people died while a further 264 were injured. At least 14 people required amputations.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who remains on death row, later admitted to carrying out the attack with his brother, Tamerlan, who was killed during the manhunt that followed the bombing.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain revealed Jurgen Klopp's message to his Liverpool players was simple after falling short in the Premier League last season.

Liverpool claimed 97 points in the Premier League in 2018-19, but fell one short of eventual champions Manchester City in an enthralling title race.

They responded by winning 27 of 29 games this league season, opening up a 25-point lead before the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Oxlade-Chamberlain said Klopp simply told his players they needed to do more despite their strong campaign last season.

"You can look at it two ways. You can look at it in the sense of, how do you get 97 points and finish off second best? That, mentally for the lads, I think was a big challenge. You almost can't get a more perfect season," he told Premier League Productions.

"You might have, you know, the season before City obviously got 100 points. So we're talking one game, one win difference – you expect to win with that. So, I think first of all it was sort of another heightened respect for Man City as a team, to go 100 points and then 98 back to back, that takes a lot of doing.

"Mentally, as a group of players, I think that's maybe where we thought, 'Alright, 97 points not good enough' and I remember the manager saying we've got to do more. Simple as that.

"He was adamant that's not enough, you've got to do more, and I think it's a credit to us in what we've done so far this season, the boys are doing more and obviously this is a strange time because you talk about momentum and that's the same for every team at the minute, but it's not finished yet. We're close but we're not finished yet, but up to this point we are doing more."

Oxlade-Chamberlain praised the character within Liverpool's squad, who are aiming to win the club's first league title since 1990.

"There's not one ego in that team. Our superstars are the hardest working, the most humble and the most relatable guys in the team. Along with industry and the relationship that everyone has, I think that makes it easier for us all to pull in the right direction," he said.

"At the minute we've been doing that but whenever we're able to kick off again we've got a job to finish so we can't get carried away yet."

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