Could Lionel Messi swap Barcelona for Inter?

Messi has been linked to Inter since ex-president Massimo Moratti said the six-time Ballon d'Or winner joining the Serie A club was not a "forbidden dream".

The 32-year-old's future at Camp Nou has made headlines throughout the 2019-20 season.

 

TOP STORY – INTER WANT MESSI

Inter are seriously working on trying to sign Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, according to TNT Sports.

Former Inter president Massimo Moratti said the Nerazzurri luring Messi – contracted until 2021 – to San Siro was not impossible and speculation has intensified since those comments.

TNT Sports says Inter are ready to push through negotiations for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, while boyhood club Newell's Old Boys have also made an offer.

 

ROUND-UP

- AS Diario claims Manchester United and Juventus are both chasing Real Madrid outcast James Rodriguez. Napoli and Everton have also been linked to the Colombia international.

Philippe Coutinho is close to returning to the Premier League. Sport reports the former Liverpool star is nearing a loan switch to Chelsea from Barcelona. The Brazilian has spent the 2019-20 season on loan at Bayern Munich.

Milan are interested in signing in-demand Brescia star Sandro Tonali, according to Calciomercato. The Italian has been linked to the likes of Juve, Inter and United.

- Juve star Paulo Dybala is set to sign a new contract with the Serie A champions, says Calciomercato. Meanwhile, the same outlet reports that Juve are interested in Roma midfielder Bryan Cristante.

- Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is chasing Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, says AS Diario. The Frenchman wants to sign the 17-year-old if Madrid are unable to lure Paul Pogba from United.

- Mundo Deportivo reports Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are among the clubs battling for Achraf Hakimi. The Moroccan full-back has spent the past two seasons on loan at Borussia Dortmund from Madrid. Juve, Bayern and Paris Saint-Germain are also reportedly interested.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked with a stunning return to Real Madrid, but it seems that is just about impossible.

The Juventus star only left the Santiago Bernabeu in 2018, yet recent reports linked him with a Madrid return.

However, it appears that is unlikely.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID RETURN FOR RONALDO RULED OUT

Real Madrid are not thinking about bringing Ronaldo back, according to both Marca and Sport.

It has been reported that Juve would consider selling Ronaldo for €60million, which is €40m less than what they paid in July 2018.

Ronaldo had scored 25 goals in 32 games this season before it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

- Neymar continues to be linked with a return to Barcelona. Sport reports Paris Saint-Germain would be willing to accept payment in instalments from Barcelona, something that proved to be an issue last close season.

- Paul Pogba looks set to leave Manchester United for either Juventus or Real Madrid. AS reports the France midfielder will prioritise an offer from the LaLiga giants.

- On loan at PSG from Inter, Mauro Icardi's future is uncertain. Sport reports PSG have decided they will use their purchase option of €70m to land the forward permanently.

- It seems Barcelona know what they want for Philippe Coutinho. The LaLiga giants have set their price for the attacker, who is on loan at Bayern Munich, at €90m, according to Sport.

- David Silva will leave Manchester City at the end of the season and where he ends up remains to be seen. CalcioMercato reports AC Milan met the playmaker's agents over a possible move.

- It is shaping as a busy close season at Barcelona. Sport reports PSG left-back Layvin Kurzawa, out of contract at campaign's end, wants a move to Barcelona. Meanwhile, AS reports Barca are also eyeing Real Madrid's 19-year-old midfielder Cesar Gelabert.

Lothar Matthaus believes Bayern Munich should target Timo Werner rather than Leroy Sane to reduce "the risk of agitation and bling-bling".

Former Bayern and Germany captain Matthaus has also predicted Manuel Neuer will move on at the end of the season, ending a nine-year stay at the club.

Head coach Hansi Flick, who has agreed a three-year deal after a successful spell in interim control, is expected to stamp his mark on the Bayern squad this summer.

That is likely to see a new forward joining, and Matthaus would prefer to see RB Leipzig frontman Werner arrive rather than long-time target Sane.

"My soft spot for Timo Werner is well known," Matthaus wrote in a column for sport.sky.de.

"And I don't mean to say that I don't think Leroy Sane is great. But you get the feeling that Flick and [Bayern board member Oliver] Kahn are more likely to see Timo Werner as the player who could be better suited to this club in many respects.

"He is more flexible on the pitch, his character may correspond a little bit more to the wishes of those in charge."

The comments from Matthaus alluding to Sane's character may cause some upset.

"The risk of agitation and bling-bling is significantly lower," Matthaus said. "He [Werner] can play at the very front in [Robert] Lewandowski's place, hanging behind or play on the wings. And he should also be cheaper."

Matthaus said Werner has "clearly developed this season, while pointing to Sane's lack of action at Manchester City due to a knee injury.

"I don't want to be misunderstood," Matthaus added. "Both players would bring added value to Bayern. But if I had to choose today, I would go for Timo Werner if I was in Bayern's place."

Matthaus sees Neuer, meanwhile, as approaching the end of the road at Sabener Strasse.

Bayern have signed Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nubel, in a deal that will take effect at the end of the season, yet 34-year-old Neuer is reportedly seeking a long-term contract.

Matthaus suggested Neuer, whose current deal expires next year, should accept a three-year contract rather than push for greater security, but he has a hunch the long-standing number one will move on.

"I think the signs point to goodbye," Matthaus said.

"He wants to play. He wants to play more and longer. This is totally understandable with his quality. I don't think he will play in Munich again next season."

The signs that Jack Nicklaus was destined for golfing immortality came early in his decorated career.

Fifty-seven years ago on April 7, the 18-time major winner recorded one of his most incredible achievements on the verdant greens of Augusta.

Sharp shooting of a different kind was taking place in Texas on this day last year.

Here we look back at some of the major events to have happened in the world of sport on April 7.

 

1963 - Jack Nicklaus becomes youngest Masters winner

Having won his first major in a playoff with Arnold Palmer less than a year into his professional career, Jack Nicklaus made history with the first of six victories at Augusta.

A six-under second round of 66 was crucial for Nicklaus, who trailed Mike Souchak by a stroke at the 36-hole mark.

Souchak endured a third-round collapse, though, Nicklaus benefitting from the halfway leader tumbling down the board by shooting a seven-over 79.

Nicklaus subsequently held on to his one-shot lead, a three-foot putt on the last earning him a green jacket at the age of 23.

2018 - United comeback denies City title-clinching win

The prospect of clinching the Premier League title against their bitter rivals lay before Manchester City on this day two years ago.

Despite taking a 2-0 lead at the Etihad Stadium, Pep Guardiola's men missed the chance to do so as they were undone by a remarkable Manchester United comeback.

Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan had seemingly put City in command but Paul Pogba levelled matters with two goals in the space of three second-half minutes.

Chris Smalling was the unlikely hero for United, completing a stunning turnaround by volleying home Alexis Sanchez's free-kick.

City still cruised to the title, finishing the season with 100 points, with Jose Mourinho's United 19 points back.

2019 - Rockets break their own record

The Houston Rockets have long been known for their reliance on the three-pointer, and they displayed incredible accuracy from beyond the arc in a dominant win over the Phoenix Suns.

Houston already owned the record for the most three-pointers in a game, and the Rockets broke it by nailing 27 in a 149-113 victory.

James Harden scored 30 points in just three quarters, converting on five three-point attempts.

Eric Gordon drilled home eight, with Austin Rivers hitting the record-breaking effort with one minute and nine seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Pep Guardiola's mother has died aged 82 after contracting coronavirus, Manchester City have confirmed.

Dolors Sala Carrio passed away in Barcelona on Monday, with the club releasing a statement on their official Twitter account.

It read: "The Manchester City family are devastated to report the death today of Pep's mother Dolors Sala Carrio in Manresa, Barcelona after contracting coronavirus. She was 82 years old.

"Everyone associated with the club sends their most heartfelt sympathy at this most distressing time to Pep, his family and all their friends."

Guardiola was reported to have returned home to Spain before the country was put on lockdown in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19.

He made a €1million donation to the Angel Soler Daniel Foundation last month, with a view to boosting investment in medical equipment in Catalonia.

Spain has been affected by COVID-19 more than any other European country, with over 135,000 confirmed cases as of Monday.

More than 13,000 people have lost their lives after contracting the virus, which emerged in China late last year.

Kyle Walker risks punishment from Manchester City following allegations about his private life that included a breach of the UK's coronavirus lockdown.

City said they were "disappointed" following Sunday newspaper claims that Walker hosted a party with a friend and two women at his home in Cheshire on Tuesday.

The club said Walker's behaviour "directly contravened" their efforts to support key public services during the pandemic, and said he would face a disciplinary investigation.

Walker's alleged breach of social distancing guidelines follows a separate episode involving Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, who apologised after visiting a friend last weekend.

City said in a statement: "Manchester City FC are aware of a story in a tabloid newspaper regarding the private life of Kyle Walker in relation to a breach of the UK lockdown and social distancing rules.

"Footballers are global role models, and our staff and players have been working to support the incredible efforts of the NHS and other key workers in fighting the effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in any way we can. Kyle's actions in this matter have directly contravened these efforts.

"We are disappointed to hear the allegations, note Kyle’s swift statement and apology, and will be conducting an internal disciplinary procedure in the coming days."

Walker, 29, has made 21 Premier League appearances during the current campaign, his third season at City.

The England full-back won back-to-back titles during his first two seasons after joining the club from Tottenham.

He expressed regret for stepping out of line amid the allegations against him.

"I want to take this opportunity to issue a public apology for the choices I made last week," Walker told The Sun.

"I understand that my position as a professional footballer brings the responsibility of being a role model.

"As such, I want to apologise to my family, friends, football club, supporters and the public for letting them down."

Manchester City became the first Premier League club to confirm that their non-playing staff will not be furloughed due to the coronavirus pandemic after leaders Liverpool were heavily criticised for their handling of the crisis.

A number of Liverpool's non-playing staff were suspended on furlough, it was announced on Saturday, leaving them free to claim 80 per cent of their wages from the United Kingdom government while the club tops up any shortfall in their pay.

Tottenham, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Bournemouth took similar action by utilising the government's furlough scheme, prompting widespread criticism of wealthy clubs opting to put further strain on public funds.

Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy was among those to slam the quintet, describing their actions as "grotesque".

City took a divergent move on Sunday, with a club spokesperson saying in a statement: "We can confirm, following a decision by the chairman and board last week, that Manchester City will not be utilising the UK Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (government funded furloughing).

"We remain determined to protect our people, their jobs and our business, whilst at the same time doing what we can to support our wider community at this most challenging time for everybody."

City are second in the Premier League table, 25 points behind Liverpool, and the league announced on Friday that play will not resume in early May as had been planned.

Premier League clubs met on Friday to discuss the prospects for completing the season, and the possibility of players taking a 30 per cent wage reduction was also discussed.

Atalanta can continue their impressive run in the Champions League and go all the way to the final, according to Zico.

The Serie A side have been a surprise package this season, recovering after losing their opening three group games to reach the knockout stages in their debut campaign in Europe's leading club competition.

They then saw off Valencia 8-4 on aggregate - winning both the home and away legs in the last-16 tie - to continue their progression before the Champions League was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Their performances have certainly impressed Zico, with the Brazil legend putting Atalanta alongside Atletico Madrid - who knocked out last year's winners Liverpool to reach the last eight - and Manchester City as potential candidates for glory.

"A month ago, I'd have said Liverpool were the favourites to win the Champions League, but they dropped in form too quickly and were eliminated," Zico said in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Now Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid are among the candidates. When you beat the reigning champions, it means you can go all the way with extra belief. I believe Manchester City and Pep Guardiola are the best.

"Among the Italians, I'd say Atalanta. They play fantastic football, have a very strong collective and I can see them reaching the final.

"Beating Atalanta is very difficult, Manchester City realised that."

Atalanta are on course to qualify for the Champions League again through their league exploits, too. They sit fourth in the Serie A table, three points clear of nearest rivals Roma with a game in hand.

However, it is unclear when action will resume. Italy has been one of the countries to suffer the most during the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 15,000 recorded deaths from the virus.

Neymar is reportedly preparing for a return to Barcelona as Paris Saint-Germain accept the star's exit is "inevitable".

The Brazil international arrived at PSG from Barca in 2017 but has regularly been linked with a move back to Camp Nou.

Speculation over Neymar's future continues and he seems to be nearing a Barcelona return.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR PREPARES FOR BARCELONA RETURN AS PSG ACCEPT 'INEVITABLE' EXIT

Neymar is preparing for a Barcelona return and PSG are getting a strategy ready to sell the 28-year-old as it is 'inevitable' he will move on, according to Sport.

Neymar spent four seasons at Barca before a world-record €222million move to PSG.

The forward scored 18 goals in 22 games for PSG before this season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

- Jadon Sancho is linked with a Premier League move this close season. But The Sun reports the Borussia Dortmund star is ready to reject Manchester United if they fail to secure a spot in the Champions League. United were fifth in the Premier League when the season was suspended.

- Mauro Icardi's future remains uncertain. Corriere dello Sport reports Icardi will leave PSG, where he is on loan from Inter, at the end of the season and Juventus are once again interested.

- With Manchester United again seemingly interested in Matthijs de Ligt, a swap deal could be on the cards. The Sun reports United are ready to swap Paul Pogba – who has been linked with a return to Juventus – for defender De Ligt.

- It may not be the only swap deal involving a Manchester club and Juventus. The Sun says Juve are ready to offer Douglas Costa to Manchester City in a bid to land Gabriel Jesus.

- Ivan Rakitic appears likely to leave Barcelona. Marca reports Atletico Madrid want the midfielder, while Sport reports Barcelona are unaware of their rivals' interest in the Croatia international.

- Barcelona were reportedly prepared to use Junior Firpo in a deal to sign Inter star Lautaro Martinez, but the left-back could head elsewhere. Sport reports Napoli are the most recent club to contact Barca over Junior's availability.

Robert Lewandowski has made himself the "most complete striker in the world", according to former Borussia Dortmund team-mate Ilkay Gundogan.

The pair were together at Dortmund from 2011 until 2014, before Lewandowski hopped across Germany to join Bayern Munich.

Gundogan left BVB in 2016 for Manchester City, where he plays with Argentina striker Sergio Aguero and Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus.

But he has kept a close eye on Lewandowski's development and now sees the Poland international as being unparallelled in world football.

This season had seen 31-year-old Lewandowski score 25 goals in 23 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern, and 39 goals across all competitions, before the coronavirus pandemic hit Europe.

He was on his way back to fitness after a tibia fracture when the Bundesliga was put on hold.

"It was a huge joy to play with him. He improved again and again," Gundogan told DAZN.

"Technically he was always great, now he also has the coldness. The way he scored the goals is phenomenal.

"For me [he is] currently the best, most complete striker in the world."

Lewandowski recently revealed Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo tried to persuade him to sign for Real Madrid after a Champions League game three years ago.

As the world continues to battle against the coronavirus pandemic, football fans across the globe face another weekend scratching around for something to fill the void.

The domestic calendar in England has been halted in a bid to reduce social gatherings and the Premier League has confirmed its fixtures will not resume at the start of May.

While we cannot say for sure how this weekend's Premier League fixtures would have gone, our friends at Opta have come up with a system to predict the outcomes.

What chance would your team have had? Take a look below.

Predictor explainer:

The Opta Predictor estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) given each team's attacking and defensive quality. The team's attacking and defensive qualities are based on four years of historic results, with more weighting given to their most recent results. The model will take into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes against and reward them accordingly.

ASTON VILLA v WOLVES

Home win: 27 per cent
Draw: 28 per cent
Away win: 45 per cent

Struggling Aston Villa were rated as unlikely to get a key victory in their battle against relegation in their scheduled fixture at home to Wolves. A home win is the least likely of the three results, with Villa having lost five straight matches across all competitions. Top-four chasing Wolves have only won five of 14 top-flight away games this season, but are backed to pick up a sixth here.

BOURNEMOUTH v NEWCASTLE UNITED

Home win: 39 per cent
Draw: 29 per cent
Away win: 32 per cent

The predictor percentages for this match are all in a very close range across the three results, indicating how hard it would have been to call. Home advantage sees Bournemouth, who sit in the bottom three, rated as narrow favourites, as they were bidding to end a four-match winless run against a Newcastle side sitting five places and eight points above them.

ARSENAL v NORWICH CITY

Home win: 67 per cent
Draw: 21 per cent
Away win: 12 per cent

The predictor rated Arsenal versus Norwich City as the most one-sided match of the week, with the Gunners given a massive 67% chance of victory. No other team got over the 50% mark. Three straight wins boosted Mikel Arteta's men prior to the disruptions caused by COVID-19. Meanwhile, bottom-of-the-table Norwich only have one win in 15 away attempts in this season's Premier League.

BRIGHTON v MANCHESTER UNITED

Home win: 25 per cent win
Draw: 29 per cent
Away win: 46 per cent

Of the 10 away teams in action, Manchester United were rated as the second-most likely to earn victory in their contest at Brighton and Hove Albion. Prior to the halt in football, United had closed within three points of Chelsea in the race for fourth place, while struggling Brighton are still yet to win a match in 2020.

CRYSTAL PALACE v BURNLEY

Home win: 41 per cent
Draw: 30 per cent
Away win: 29 per cent

No game in this match week was rated as more likely to end in a draw than the mid-table battle between Crystal Palace and Burnley at Selhurst Park. Sitting 10th and 11th, Palace and Burnley are level on points and also have the same goal difference, with Sean Dyche's side only ahead in the table due to goals scored. It is Roy Hodgson's hosts who would have gone into the clash with a narrow advantage in win probability.

WATFORD v SOUTHAMPTON

Home win: 39 per cent
Draw: 29 per cent
Away win: 32 per cent

Another tight match would have seen Watford host Southampton as Nigel Pearson's side continue their battle against relegation. Playing at home and with a win over Liverpool in their last contest at Vicarage Road, they would have gone in as very slight favourites, but Saints sit seven points better off and this is another that goes down as too close to call. 

SHEFFIELD UNITED v TOTTENHAM

Home win: 32 per cent
Draw: 30 per cent
Away win: 38 per cent

A game between two teams chasing a European place, Sheffield United and Tottenham, was the one the predictor had significant trouble calling a winner for. At 30%, it is tied with the Palace v Burnley contest as the most likely draw of the weekend. Interestingly, Spurs – who have not won for six games - do go in with a better chance of victory despite the contest being held at Bramall Lane and Sheffield United, by contrast, being on a six-match unbeaten run.

WEST HAM v CHELSEA

Home win: 25 per cent
Draw: 27 per cent
Away win: 48 per cent

Of the 10 away teams, Chelsea are given the best chance of victory in their match on the road against West Ham. Frank Lampard's men thumped Everton 4-0 before the break in action and are given a 48% chance of following that up with a win over their London rivals West Ham, who are on a poor run of one win in 10 games.

MANCHESTER CITY v LIVERPOOL

Home win: 46 per cent
Draw: 27 per cent
Away win: 27 per cent

Unquestionably the biggest match of this week was due to be second-placed Manchester City's clash with runaway league leaders Liverpool. After an almost perfect season, Jurgen Klopp's men had finally started to show some vulnerability prior to the suspension of action. They had lost three of their last four games in all competitions and the predictor believes they were most likely to go down to another defeat here, although surely it would not have been enough to derail their title bid.

EVERTON v LEICESTER CITY

Home win: 36 per cent
Draw: 29 per cent
Away win: 35 per cent

The closest match of the week is the game that was going to be the Monday night contest between Everton and Leicester City. The predictor can hardly split the two teams, with Everton given a 36% chance of winning, compared to 35% for the Foxes. Of the teams who are favourites, Carlo Ancelotti's men have the lowest percentage. They would have come into the game having collected only one point from three games, but those were against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. Leicester are third but without a win in three top-flight away fixtures.

It was a night to forget for Manchester City at Anfield, where Liverpool ran riot in the Champions League.

The Orlando Magic also came crashing back to earth after their home winning streak was ended by the Boston Celtics.

Sebastian Vettel topped the podium in Malaysia, and he had a team-mate alongside him back in 2010.

We take a look back at April 4 in sporting history.

 

2018 - Liverpool paint Merseyside red

City were greeted to a hostile reception on Merseyside and it was a sign of things to come in the opening leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

Liverpool fans attacked and damaged the City team coach on its way into the stadium, prompting an "unreserved" apology from manager Jurgen Klopp.

On the field, Liverpool blitzed Pep Guardiola's City 3-0 – scoring three goals in the first 31 minutes to take control of the blockbuster tie.

Goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane heaped misery on City, who were brushed aside 5-1 on aggregate as the Reds went on to reach the final.

 

1996 - Celtics burst Magic's bubble

Up until this day, the Magic had gone 51 consecutive games without defeat at home to Eastern Conference opponents.

It was an NBA-record run dating back to April 1994.

However, Orlando's streak was halted by Boston following a 100-98 defeat.

 

 

2010 - Vettel leads Red Bull in Malaysia

It was the Red Bull show as Vettel crossed the finish line ahead of team-mate Mark Webber to win the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Reliability issues had cost German star Vettel potential Formula One victories in Bahrain and Australia.

But Vettel overtook pole-setter Webber at the start and held on to secure a one-two for Red Bull, with Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg third.

Europe's major leagues have been shut down due to coronavirus, but Cristiano Ronaldo is still making headlines.

Ronaldo was in the midst of his second season with Juventus before the 2019-20 campaign was postponed last month.

But there are ongoing doubts over Ronaldo's future in Turin.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO LINKED TO MADRID RETURN

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo misses Real Madrid and a reunion with his former club is not just a suggestion, according to Calciomercato.

Ronaldo is reportedly unhappy at Serie A champions Juve amid links to Paris Saint-Germain and another former team, Manchester United.

However, Calciomercato's report claims Ronaldo has eyes on Madrid but it will take a significant sum to prise the 35-year-old from Juve.

 

ROUND-UP

Barcelona have set their asking price for out-of-favour attacker Philippe Coutinho, who is on loan at Bayern Munich. The LaLiga champions want at least €80million (£70m) for the Brazilian. The likes of Chelsea, United, Arsenal and Tottenham have been linked.

- Diario AS says Borussia Dortmund are concerned about mounting speculation surrounding Madrid's interest in Erling Haaland. The Norwegian sensation only joined Dortmund in January.

Madrid are chasing Lille's midfield star Boubakary Soumare, according to Le10Sport. United and Liverpool have also been linked to the 21-year-old.

Juve are looking to complete a deal for Mauro Icardi, says Calciomercato. Icardi is on loan at PSG from Inter but the Argentina international wants to return to Italy.

Manchester City face an uphill battle trying to sign Raphael Varane. Defensa Central says Madrid are ready to turn down any bids for the Frenchman. According to Tuttosport, City have set their sights on three Inter players – Lautaro Martinez, Milan Skriniar and Alessandro Bastoni. Martinez has been tipped to join Barca.

- Diario AS claims Barca are keeping tabs on Juve midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur. It comes as Marca says Atletico Madrid are leading the race to sign Ivan Rakitic from Barca.

Milan are eyeing three candidates should star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma leave the club, reports Calciomercato. Donnarumma has been linked to Chelsea, Madrid and PSG and Napoli's Alex Meret, Udinese goalkeeper Juan Musso and Sporting CP's Luis Maximiano are being considered.

Liverpool were set to emerge at the Etihad Stadium this weekend, either with the scent of triumph in their nostrils or the delicious addition of a guard of honour from Manchester City.

The coronavirus pandemic has placed elite sport across the globe on hold, meaning the latest episode of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp's captivating rivalry must wait.

Nevertheless, given their former employers Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund were also due to meet in Der Klassiker, it feels like a good time to run the rule over two men whose tactical approaches and high levels of achievement have – and it does not feel too grandiose to suggest this – changed football in the 21st century, as well as one another.

THE BUNDESLIGA YEARS

Guardiola's arrival to take the reins of a treble-winning Bayern for 2013-14 came shortly after their rivalry with Klopp's Dortmund reached its peak.

Arjen Robben's 89th-minute winner saw Bayern down BVB 2-1 in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley – a game played out against a backdrop of Dortmund's star playmaker Mario Gotze agreeing terms to move to Bavaria.

In hindsight, Klopp's gegenpressing machine – winners of back-to-back Bundesliga crowns in 2010-11 and 2011-12 – were coming off the top of their curve, having finished 25 points behind a relentless Bayern domestically that season.

The decline continued over the next two seasons. Dortmund were remarkably in relegation trouble halfway through 2014-15, before a post-Christmas recovery preceded Klopp's emotional farewell.

Nevertheless, there was still time for telling blows to be landed. Guardiola's first competitive game in charge saw Bayern beaten 4-2 in the 2013 DFL-Supercup at a delirious Signal Iduna Park.

Stung by that loss, Guardiola sprung a notable surprise in the first league encounter between the sides that November, where he broke Dortmund's rabid press by playing Javi Martinez as an attacking midfielder and repeatedly targeting the rangy Spain international with long balls.

The high priest of tiki-taka (a label Guardiola famously loathes) had presided over "more long balls than in the last three years combined" from a Bayern team, according to Klopp, who bristled after Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller added to Gotze's inevitable second-half opener in a 3-0 win.

A depleted Munich were similarly reactive when they won the DFB-Pokal final 2-0 in extra-time, even if flooding midfield numbers was a more recognisably Guardiola tactic.

Diverting from his dizzying 4-3-3 of swirling triangles has remained something the Catalan tactician has frequently done across his meetings with Klopp, and not always with the success he enjoyed in Germany.

HOLLOW VICTORIES AND THE PHONEY WAR

Klopp ended his homeland head-to-head against Guardiola with three victories, making it back-to-back Supercup triumphs in 2014, having claimed a 3-0 Bundesliga result at Allianz Arena earlier that year – the authority of which was dimmed by the fact Bayern had already cantered to the title.

Guardiola had four victories to his name, with one draw ultimately falling in Dortmund's favour as Bayern failed with all four of their penalty attempts in a 2015 DFB-Pokal semi-final shoot-out.

However, Klopp was denied a glorious farewell as his team lost in the final to Wolfsburg and the fact Robert Lewandowski had followed Gotze to Munich by this point underlined a deck stacked against him.

Liverpool came calling for Klopp in October 2015 and he helmed helter-skelter runs to the EFL Cup and Europa League finals. Manchester City and Sevilla prevailed respectively.

That was Manuel Pellegrini's final honour as City boss as he made way for Guardiola, who collected a third successive Bundesliga title in 2015-16. Thomas Tuchel's Dortmund finished closer in terms of position and points (second, 10 behind) than Klopp's version had managed when in direct competition.

With the stage presumably set for renewed hostilities between Guardiola and incoming Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, the similarly newly installed Antonio Conte did not read the script as Chelsea romped to 2016-17 Premier League glory.

Klopp got the better of his head-to-heads with City as a Georginio Wijnaldum goal sealed a 1-0 New Year's Eve win at Anfield before Sergio Aguero rescued a point for the hosts in the return game.

Guardiola laid it on thick after that 1-1 draw, declaring it to be "one of the most special days of my life".

"He is Spanish. They are a little bit more emotional than the Germans," Klopp chuckled in response.

TON-UP BUT NOT INVINCIBLE AND THE ROAD TO KIEV

Liverpool beat City three times in 2017-18, when most other teams could barely lay a glove on Guardiola's record-breaking side.

But the game where City prevailed, an unusual 5-0 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium where Liverpool subsided meekly after Sadio Mane's red card for clattering Ederson with a high boot, arguably had the biggest influence on the campaign.

When that game was 11 v 11, Guardiola's back three was horribly exposed. Aguero's opener arrived against the run of play, with an unusually wasteful Mohamed Salah having tormented Nicolas Otamendi.

City never used 3-5-2 in the league again that season, reverting to a swashbuckling 4-3-3 that churned out 19 consecutive wins and made the second half of the schedule a virtual procession.

Liverpool halted their designs on invincibility however, claiming a raucous 4-3 Anfield win in January. Klopp hailed "pressing from another planet" by his front three as Roberto Firmino, Mane and Salah were all on target in a euphoric nine-minute spell after half-time.

Guardiola had again seen a swift avalanche of goals bring the roof in during a big match and his tweak to a 4-4-2 diamond, eyeing avenues around those Liverpool pressing lanes, backfired in that season's Champions League quarter-final.

A 3-0 first-leg loss at Anfield, with all the goals arriving during the first half, left City with a mountain to climb and a death-or-glory approach in the return fixture – deploying a formation probably best described as 3-CHARGE!!! – eventually ran out of steam in a 2-1 loss.

But it was Liverpool who came up short in the Kiev final on Loris Karius' nightmare outing against Real Madrid, while City sauntered to a 100-point haul as dominant Premier League champions. Sitting 25 points back in fourth, the Reds had a considerable gap to bridge.

CHASING PERFECTION

Despite that deficit, their efforts in going blow-for-blow with City over 90-minute periods left the impression Liverpool were the best placed of the pretenders to overthrow the champions.

Both teams reconvened on Merseyside undefeated in October 2018 and remained that way as the free-flowing nature of recent meetings gave way to a cagey 0-0 draw.

Reprising the theme of those early Klassiker meetings, Guardiola took his foot off the throttle as City played at a controlled tempo – an approach that would have ended the club's Anfield hoodoo but for Riyad Mahrez's ballooned late penalty.

Fire and brimstone returned the following January, though, with a wobbling City recovering their poise and avoiding a 10-point deficit at the top. Aguero and Leroy Sane were on target either side of Firmino in a bravura display, where Aymeric Laporte took on the unfamiliar role of left-back to stifle Salah.

That was Liverpool's only loss of the season as they finished on 97 points, agonisingly one shy of City. However, their subsequent Champions League final win over Tottenham improbably propelled them further along.

Just as Guardiola has tempered some of his more cavalier tendencies when faced with Klopp, the challenge of an unrelenting City also forced the Liverpool boss into subtle and decisive tweaks.

In bringing in Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, he spent big for what many see as the finest goalkeeper and centre-back on the planet. Their very presence means risk can be reduced.

Heavy metal football has given way to a steady pulsing beat that never wavers. In the city of Merseybeat, Klopp has gone electro.

Amid their steamrollering of the opposition this season, Liverpool have 19 wins by a solitary goal in all competitions. They are frighteningly and ruthlessly clinical. A profligate City trail in their wake, although Guardiola has used this relative freedom from pressure to thumb intriguingly through his tactical playbook in 2020.

Both men have inspired the other to reach beyond their comfort zones and the result is the two best teams in world football. With Klopp contracted to Liverpool until 2024 and Guardiola talking up an extended stay, the thought occurs that they are each other's motivation for sticking around. There is nowhere better to measure their greatness than against one another.

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