Bayern Munich winger Serge Gnabry will miss the Champions League quarter-final first leg against Paris Saint-Germain after testing positive for coronavirus.

Head coach Hansi Flick confirmed earlier on Tuesday that Gnabry would likely be absent from Wednesday's game at the Allianz Arena after complaining of a sore throat.

Bayern later announced the 25-year-old had tested positive for COVID-19.

The holders were already missing star striker Robert Lewandowski due to a knee injury, leaving them without an attacking duo who have been directly involved in 63 goals in all competitions this season.

PSG, meanwhile, had already confirmed Marco Verratti and Alessandro Florenzi would miss the first leg after returning positive coronavirus tests.

Bayern defeated the Parisians 1-0 in last season's Champions League final, with Kingsley Coman scoring the winner.

Should they avoid defeat in the first leg, Bayern would become only the second team in the competition's history to go 20 consecutive games unbeaten, after Manchester United (25 between 2007 and 2009).

However, they have only won four and lost five of the previous 10 meetings in this tournament with the Ligue 1 champions. Only Real Madrid (10) have beaten Bayern more often in the competition.

Sergio Conceicao fears Chelsea's shock loss to West Brom could work against Porto heading into the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.

Chelsea had not lost under Thomas Tuchel before a stunning 5-2 home reverse on Saturday, a result that led to the Blues dropping out of the Premier League's top four.

Defender Thiago Silva was sent off shortly after his side had taken the lead against relegation-threatened opponents, with his dismissal leading to a dramatic collapse that Tuchel admitted in the aftermath was "tough to digest".

Porto, therefore, are wary of a possible backlash from that result in Seville, the venue for both games between the teams due to the travel restrictions in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

"You know that Thiago Silva was sent off in the first half and that the game had a different course," said Conceicao, whose side will be listed as the home team on Wednesday.

"Chelsea until this last game had been extremely competent, they have not lost a game in the Champions League. They are a competent team, and when these defeats happen, it serves as a warning.

"If you want my opinion, I would prefer that they won the last game. These situations make the siren sound and make everyone more alert, more awake to danger, and I honestly don't like these defeats very much."

Rather than read too much into the West Brom game, Conceicao highlighted how Chelsea had impressively overcome Atletico Madrid in the last 16, winning both legs without conceding a goal.

He also referenced his opposite number's penchant for tinkering with tactics to suit each match situation, something he says Tuchel also did during his time in charge at Paris Saint-Germain.

"In the analysis of Chelsea, practically that last game wasn't considered," the former Portugal international said.

"There were other games that they played before that, namely those in the Champions League against Atletico Madrid, but this one [against West Brom] did not enter [our analysis].

"Tuchel is a coach who is capable of changing even if he wins, while in France he did the same at PSG. Play with two men behind the striker or play with two men in front, as in the first round with Atletico. It is up to us to analyse that dynamic.

"I saw the last game they played, but we did not present images to the players of that game."

Porto made it through to the last eight at the expense of Juventus, but veteran centre-back Pepe made clear the players will not dwell on their Turin heroics and instead focus on the task in hand - getting past Chelsea.

"The Juventus match is already in the past. This is the important one now. We must show a lot of passion and humility and work as a team," said the defender, a three-time Champions League winner during his time at Real Madrid.

"We have prepared well. Nothing is certain in football, but I hope we will be the team that our fans expect. We respect Chelsea. It will be difficult, but we want to win this tie."

Hansi Flick does not expect there to be any lasting effects of last season's Champions League final in either the Bayern Munich or Paris Saint-Germain camps ahead of their quarter-final tie.

Former PSG winger Kingsley Coman grabbed the only goal in August's delayed final in Portugal to deny the Ligue 1 giants their first European crown. It was the only time in 43 Champions League games PSG have failed to score.

They will get their chance for revenge this year as Bayern again lie in their way in the last eight, the German, European and world champions hosting the sides' 10th meeting in the competition in Wednesday's first leg.

But Bayern coach Flick, still unbeaten in the Champions League and looking to extend his team's undefeated run to 20 matches, considers this a whole new challenge against Mauricio Pochettino's men.

"I don't know how the opposition feel, but we don't find [the final] relevant," Flick told a news conference. "It's a new game, a new team, Paris have a new coach, so it's a whole new situation.

"We're in the Champions League quarter-finals and we want to make it to the semi-finals, so we have to be very concentrated in both games. That's our aim and that's our job."

But for all the changes, PSG's main men remain the same in Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, so Bayern must again take a similar approach.

Flick called for his side to be disciplined with the ball and energetic without it, although he also wants Bayern to show greater ambition going forward.

Leon Goretzka's strike claimed a decisive 1-0 win at RB Leipzig on Saturday, but the home side outshot the champions 14-9 and matched their expected goals total of 0.6.

"When we're in possession, we need to maintain our positions," Flick said.

"We have to always keep in mind that we can lose the ball and that we then have to regain possession as quickly as possible. Our positional play is going to be very important.

"What is crucial is that we don't focus maybe too much on losing the ball but that we play with confidence.

"We have to attack with confidence - we have to be a little more confident, more purposeful than we were in Leipzig.

"In the first 15, 20 minutes in Leipzig, we weren't decisive enough, we didn't attack with enough vigour - the same happened at the beginning of the second half. There will be situations for us that we have to use better than we did against Leipzig."

Goretzka stepped up in Robert Lewandowski's injury absence against Leipzig, and Serge Gnabry, who has a sore throat, will join Bayern's number nine on the sidelines.

Flick has more options in defence, where Jerome Boateng is a candidate to return despite reports his contract will not be extended.

Boateng, who has played 30 times this season, makes more interceptions (1.6), blocks (0.7) and clearances (2.4) per 90 minutes than either Niklas Sule or the outgoing David Alaba.

"I don't think I have to comment on everything that's in the media," said Flick, whose side will be boosted by the close-season arrival of Dayot Upamecano.

"I'm just going to leave it as it is. We'll see in the next couple of weeks if this particular news item is true or not.

"I honestly don't really want to comment on this going into tomorrow's game. Probably, I won't want to talk about this speculation after the game after either.

"I don't know why the media reports about this. Everyone knows what I feel about Jerome Boateng. Everyone knows how good he is.

"He's played a very good season, he played a very good last season, he's very concentrated, focused very much on his job. That's a great foundation for him to perform - and he is performing at the moment.

"For a coach and our coaching staff, it's a great situation to be in to have a player that is as experienced, as good, with that quality."

Thomas Tuchel confirmed Antonio Rudiger and Kepa Arrizabalaga were involved in an altercation in the wake of Saturday's shocking 5-2 defeat to West Brom, a game that Chelsea's head coach still cannot get his head around.

Chelsea found themselves on the end of a humiliating loss to the Premier League's second-bottom team, conceding five goals in a home league game for the first time since October 2011.

Similarly, West Brom netted five times on the road for the first time in over nine years.

Thiago Silva's sending off when Chelsea were 1-0 up was deemed to be the turning point, with Matheus Pereira netting a brace just prior the break, before Callum Robinson repeated that feat in the second period. Mbaye Diagne got the other Baggies goal, with Mason Mount's strike a mere consolation.

If the defeat was not bad enough, reports emerged the next day claiming Rudiger and Kepa had been involved in a bust-up at training.

While Chelsea did not comment on the matter publicly, Tuchel was open about the situation in Tuesday's news conference as he addressed the media ahead of the club's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Porto.

"It was not [serious]. It was an incident in training and got heated between Toni and Kepa," Tuchel said. "We calmed the situation down immediately. I don't want to play things down artificially, we do not want to accept [such incidents] but they can happen because everyone is competitive in training matches.

"The reaction to it, Toni and Kepa, was amazing. They showed how much respect they have for each other. They cleared the air and there was nothing left one day after.

"We spoke about the issue and then it was solved. This is the main part. It will stay with us, it wasn't awkward. They solved it straight after training in an honest and humble way and it showed me they have good character."

But although he initially played down the incident, Tuchel backtracked and emphasised the gravity of what occurred.

"It was serious," he continued. "Sometimes you have little situations when you look away and let them sort things out. We needed to interfere in this situation, so it was serious. How the guys handled the situation was impressive and showed character, but the situation was serious.

"That it got out [leaked]...I get used to it in modern times. There are too many channels and ways that information can get out. I heard even that some of my debrief from the match got out there too. Ok, it's not nice but I am not going to focus on who is the leak or whatever. I don't want to lose my trust in the group so I will accept it."

Regarding a punishment, Tuchel confirmed Rudiger will play on Wednesday and added: "No, no punishment so far because of the way they dealt with it. The reaction was immediate, they made it clear for everybody what happened. Toni sorted out it directly, which was necessary. It was a strong and brave thing to do and the right thing to do."

Tuchel quickly used the scrap to turn attention back to Chelsea's misfortune against West Brom, adamant that the statistics of the game suggested they ordinarily would have won.

"It's very natural there is a reaction to a result and game like this, so it is necessary to adapt," the German said. "It is a strong part of sports at this level that the guys hate to lose. So, if we suffer a big loss in a weird game, it's normal there are reactions.

"You have to swallow it and accept we lost the game. Then it's important that we are reliable in analysing the game. We can't only do meetings depending on the result. We can be critical after wins and we can point out things we like even though we lost 5-2.

"Part of this game's story is we won all the statistics against West Brom, all of them, with 10 men and 11 men, all statistics that matter to win games. Even expected goals [xG], we won the bypassed defenders, we won touches in the box, we won shots on targets – we won everything.

"If we played the same game again, I would bet a lot of money that we win 99 times out of 100."

And Tuchel has a point – in terms of xG, Chelsea edged West Brom 2.1 to 1.6, meaning the visitors were incredibly clinical with their chance-taking.

Nevertheless, West Brom's xG value was comfortably the highest registered by any team against Chelsea since Tuchel was appointed in January.

With a man advantage, West Brom certainly capitalised on the extra time and space in the final third.

Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane will miss the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final with Liverpool after testing positive for coronavirus hours before the match.

Varane had been rested as Madrid defeated Eibar 2-0 in LaLiga on Saturday, the France international an unused substitute for the fixture.

But Madrid will not have the centre-back to call upon as they take on Liverpool at home on Tuesday.

"Real Madrid informs that our player Raphael Varane tested positive in the COVID-19 test he underwent this morning," the club confirmed in a statement on the day of the game.

Varane is a key figure for Madrid. The World Cup winner has started 27 of his team's 29 league games this season and all eight of their matches so far in the Champions League.

Madrid are already without injured captain Sergio Ramos, so Eder Militao may now partner Nacho at centre-back against a formidable Liverpool attack.

The diagnosis comes at a bad time for Madrid, who face Barcelona in El Clasico on Saturday before the second leg against Liverpool next week.

Zinedine Zidane's men are at home for the opening leg in their first Champions League meeting against Liverpool since the 2018 final, which they won 3-1.

Madrid have won the first leg in eight of their last nine Champions League knockout ties, the exception being last year's defeat to Manchester City in the last 16.

They are in the quarter-finals for the first time since winning the competition three years ago, while Liverpool won it in 2019 before joining Madrid in suffering a last-16 exit last season.

Ilkay Gundogan is concerned Bayern Munich's continued dominance of the Bundesliga will make German football less appealing to an international audience.

Manchester City midfielder Gundogan won the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund in 2012.

But Dortmund – who face City in a Champions League quarter-final first-leg on Tuesday – have not won the title since.

Bayern are closing in on a ninth consecutive domestic crown after beating closest challengers RB Leipzig 1-0 on Saturday, a result that came even as star striker Robert Lewandowski was injured.

Dortmund are usually among Bayern's closest challengers but this season they sit seven points outside the top four despite having prolific striker Erling Haaland in their ranks.

"In the Bundesliga I wish that Dortmund or RB Leipzig could at least compete with FC Bayern in the medium term," City star Gundogan said to Funke Media Group.

"Should Bayern continue to set themselves apart from the competition even further in the next few years, then we can assume that the league will unfortunately become less appealing and interesting to the international audience."

Gundogan and City are cruising to the Premier League title in England, but he feels the competition has a clear advantage on Germany.

He added: "I think that here in England we have more quality in the league.

"Not only at the top, but above all in the middle of the table for teams that don't play in Europe.

"The top teams have also been playing with the best coaches in the world for a long time."

City go into the last-eight tie as favourites, having won 10 of their last 11 Champions League matches against German opposition (D1).

But City have lost four of their five matches at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League under Pep Guardiola, going out at this stage in each of the previous three seasons.

And despite their domestic struggles, Dortmund have gone unbeaten in their past seven Champions League games (W5 D2).

It is their longest streak without defeat in the competition since a run between 2012 and 2013, when they went 11 games without defeat under Jurgen Klopp.

Haaland has 21 Bundesliga goals this season and has also netted in each of his last six Champions League appearances.

Should he find the net in this game, he will become just the fifth player in the competition's history to score in seven straight matches.

Tuesday heralds the start of the Champions League quarter-finals and there are two mouthwatering clashes in store.

With the Premier League title surely wrapped up, Manchester City's attention turns to Borussia Dortmund and the formidable threat posed by Erling Haaland. 

The 20-year-old is in demand, with City one of the clubs reportedly interested in his services, and he could join an illustrious group of goalscorers if he finds the net at the Etihad Stadium. 

The other game sees a repeat of the 2018 final, with Liverpool travelling to face Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid. 

The Reds have endured a torrid Premier League title defence, but a resounding win over Arsenal at the weekend could provide them with the impetus to produce an eye-catching result in the Spanish capital.

 

Manchester City v Borussia Dortmund: Can Guardiola's stubborn defence keep Haaland out?

City's hopes of making the semi-finals could rest on keeping Haaland quiet. 

The Norway striker Haaland is the Champions League's top goalscorer this term, finding the back of the net 10 times.

If he scores in this game, he will become just the fifth player in the competition's history to score in seven matches in a row, after Cristiano Ronaldo (twice), Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

A goal on Tuesday would also take him to seven in his first five Champions League knockout matches for Dortmund, overtaking Lewandowski's record of six in his first five matches in the latter stages of the competition for Bayern Munich. 

He will come up against a defence in fine form, however. City have not conceded a goal in any of their last seven games in the Champions League – only Arsenal in 2005-06 have ever had a longer run of consecutive clean sheets in the competition (10).

City will also be buoyed by their excellent record against Bundesliga opposition, winning 10 of their last 11 Champions League matches against German sides. 

They will need to improve on a poor quarter-final record, though. City have lost four of their five matches in the last eight under Pep Guardiola, with the Premier League leaders going out at this stage in each of the last three seasons.

Prep done for Dortmund! 

  @marathonbet
  #ManCity   |   https://t.co/axa0klUGiM   pic.twitter.com/H85QRGPXxi

— Manchester City (@ManCity)   April 5, 2021

Real Madrid v Liverpool: Klopp's men hoping to halt losing streak against Los Blancos

This will be the first Champions League meeting between the two sides since Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 in the 2018 final. 

That was the Reds' third consecutive defeat to Los Blancos in the competition. They have only suffered four losses on the spin against the same opponent across all European competitions once before, with Benfica putting together such a streak between 1984 and 2010. 

The LaLiga champions will be in confident mood, having won the first leg in eight of their last nine Champions League knockout ties. 

Karim Benzema is likely to lead the line and the Frenchman has a stellar record against the Premier League outfit. In the history of the Champions League, no player has more goals against them than Benzema's four – level with Didier Drogba.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp will hope to continue his fine recent record at this stage of the competition, the German winning each of his last five quarter-final games, including all four of his games at this stage while in charge of Liverpool.

Central to their hopes of taking a lead back to Anfield for the second leg will be Sadio Mane. The Senegal international has scored 19 goals in 40 games in the Champions League and could become just the third player in the club's history to reach 20 goals in the competition after Mohamed Salah (24) and Steven Gerrard (21).

Jurgen Klopp insists revenge is not on Liverpool's mind ahead of their Champions League quarter-final first leg against Real Madrid.

Tuesday's showdown at the Santiago Bernabeu will be the first since the sides met in an eventful 2018 final, which Madrid won 3-1 to lift the trophy for a third season running.

Liverpool put that loss in Kiev behind them the following season by beating Tottenham in the final and are in the hunt for a seventh triumph in the competition this time around.

And with nearly three years having past since Gareth Bale scored twice to down Liverpool, Klopp says both he and his squad have drawn a line under the defeat.

"We are not on a revenge tour here. Life is like this. I don't believe too much in revenge, but it would be nice to get through," he said at Monday's pre-match news conference.

"We feel in a good moment in the Premier League. Now we hope to keep that momentum. That would be very helpful.

"Our motivation is at the highest level because it is the Champions League and we want to go to the next round, it has nothing to do with 2018.

"But when we got the draw, because it is the first time that we played them since then, I remembered the game."

One of the big talking points in that game was Sergio Ramos' early challenge on Mohamed Salah that forced the Egypt forward off injured.

Klopp added: "I said it after that game if someone asked me in a press conference maybe a month later if I would invite Sergio Ramos to my 60th birthday party I would say no.

"Now, I would think about it. It's not because he's a great footballer but I said I didn't like what happened that night, for us it was a strange night.

"It was long ago and so I can't get that feeling of anger back so I don't even try. What I try is to prepare my team for tomorrow to show how good we are as a football team."

Klopp has won each of his last five games in the quarter-final stage of the Champions League, including all four at this stage while in charge of Liverpool.

The German has been touted as a future head coach of Madrid, but he joked the weather is the only thing he would regret if he never goes on to manage the LaLiga giants.

"I said if I had at the end of my career only three clubs which would be Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool then it's not too bad," he said. "I would not regret it

"But when I came out the plane today I regret already that we don't live here because the weather is so much better here! We were freezing. I have a gilet with me so you are blessed. We do it the hard way."

Asked which Spanish club his management style would best suit, Klopp said: "I would fit all of them. The only problem I have is my Spanish is really bad! 

"You wouldn't enjoy having me in Spain with broken Spanish. All the clubs have great managers. Real Mallorca would be nice!"

Diogo Jota scored twice as a second-half substitute in Liverpool's 3-0 league win at Arsenal on Saturday and is vying for a place in the starting line-up on Tuesday.

That would likely mean Roberto Firmino making way, though Klopp has not ruled out starting both players alongside Salah and Sadio Mane in an all-star front four.

"There will be a moment when we give it a try. Will that be tomorrow? We will see. You will have to wait.

"Did [Zinedine] Zinedine say anything about line-ups? But it looked good at Arsenal, no? It looked good at Man City, too."

Jota missed three months of the season with a knee injury but has now regained full fitness and has netted in four successive games for Liverpool and Portugal.

He previously spent two years on Atletico Madrid's books without playing a game, but the 24-year-old is not using his links to Real's city rivals as extra motivation.

"I signed for Atletico, but I didn't play any official games, so for me obviously I knew they are a rival but I didn't have time to feel that rivalry," he said. 

"I am just focused on winning the game for Liverpool and nothing more.

"Obviously I'm scoring a good amount of goals. That's what I want to do; help the team in the rest of the season. I don't mind if I don’t score as long as the team wins.

"It will take a lot to beat Madrid. They are the team with the most titles in this competition, so they are used to the knockout stages and we are going to need to be at our best."

Liverpool have lost each of their last three games against Madrid in the Champions League - only against Benfica between 1984 and 2010 have they lost four in a row against an opponent across all European competitions.

Erling Haaland remains content amid swirling transfer rumours ahead of Borussia Dortmund's Champions League showdown with Manchester City.

Premier League leaders City are one of a host of clubs to have been linked with the 20-year-old Norway striker.

Speculation over a blockbuster close-season transfer mounted during the international break when Haaland's agent, Mino Raiola, accompanied his father – and former City player – Alf-Inge on trips to Madrid and Barcelona.

Speaking on the eve of Tuesday's quarter-final clash at the Etihad Stadium, Dortmund interim boss Edin Terzic insisted such matters could not be ones to cause him too much concern.

"It has no impact on me because I can't stop Mino Raiola and Alfie Haaland from travelling. It's up to them, they're grown-ups and they can choose whatever they want to do," he said.

"I just can have an impact on Erling and we are happy to have him in our team.

"He's been back with us since last Thursday, when he came back from the Norway national team

"The feeling we had from the start was that he was very happy to see us and we're very happy to have him around.

"He's a lovely guy, his qualities are well known all over the world and we are proud and happy he's part of our team."

Haaland has scored 33 goals in 32 club appearances across all competitions this season, although he will not have Jadon Sancho to provide service in the first leg.

Former City youngster Sancho has remained in Germany for treatment on a thigh problem and Terzic conceded next week's second leg could also come too soon for the England winger – another presumed transfer target for some of Europe's big hitters.

"He started with a bit of running for the last couple of days and we hope that it won't take a long time to get back to team training, but he won't be ready for the next week, let's say," Terzic said.

“For the future it's hard to tell. First of all, we still have seven games left in the Bundesliga to qualify for the Champions League.

"Of course it's a bit difficult now at the minute, but it's still possible. We're going to try our best to make it possible and then at the end of the season we'll see what's going to happen next."

Dortmund's dwindling domestic form – a 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt last time out left them seven points behind their weekend opponents in the Bundesliga's final Champions League qualification spot – has left them with nowhere to hide from criticism and Terzic was in no mood to unduly protect his players.

"We are disappointed with the performance and Saturday's result. The criticism has been justified," he added.

"We've shown before we can do better and the task now is to face that criticism, to accept it and show a reaction on the pitch.

"We have to prove we don't give up and show our quality and potential again. We are responsible for showing that.

"We haven't been able to over the last weeks and that's why the criticism is justified."

Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund's keenly anticipated Champions League quarter-final could hinge on the battle between Erling Haaland and Ruben Dias.

That is the view of former City favourite Shaun Wright-Phillips, who anticipates an intriguing contest due to the attacking firepower boasted by both sides.

Norway youngster Haaland has rattled home a remarkable 33 goals in 32 appearances across all competitions this season, averaging a goal every 82.8 minutes thanks to a shot conversion rate of 31.4 per cent.

The 20-year-old has also supplied seven assists, although he will be faced with one of Europe's most formidable centre-backs in Dias.

If speculation proves accurate, Haaland might replace the Portugal defender as City's record signing at the end of the campaign but Dias' impact has been undeniably transformative since his arrival from Benfica last September.

City have won 31 of the 39 games in which Dias has played, losing only two and conceding 18 goals – an average of 0.5 per game.

"It's going to be hard, it's going to be a great battle for me between [Haaland] and Dias," Wright-Phillips, who played alongside Haaland's father Alf-Inge during his time at City, told Stats Perform.

"Dias doesn't like to lose, let alone concede goals – he hates that as well so it will be a good competition.

"And it stands out to be a good game, with the firepower and the way Dortmund play, and the way City play.

"So it’s going to be a good footballing match and I am looking forward and am very excited to see it myself."

Another intriguing battle that fans will be denied is a face off between England youngsters Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho in each team's creative departments.

Foden and Sancho were team-mates in City's youth team before the latter moved to Dortmund in 2017, where he has scarcely looked back.

Remaining with his boyhood club, Foden had to bide his time among a talent-stacked squad but has established himself as a key man for both Pep Guardiola and England boss Gareth Southgate this season.

However, a thigh injury means Sancho will miss out on a return to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday and faces a race to be fit for next week's return at Signal Iduna Park.

"It would be great to see them both on the field. But they’re very different players," Wright-Phillips said.

"Although [Foden] does go and dribble past people, he’s got a very good eye in seeing passes, linking up play and he presses harder.

"I think Sancho is a very, very good player as well but he's more of a dribbler, committing players, taking them on, putting the ball into the box and also scoring goals."

Along with Liverpool, who take on 13-time winners Real Madrid this week, Chelsea – another of Wright-Phillips' former clubs – complete a trio of Premier League sides in the last eight.

Thomas Tuchel's men saw off Atletico Madrid in impressive fashion in the previous round, although they must bounce back from a shock 5-2 weekend loss to relegation-threatened West Brom before taking on Porto.

"As we know it’s one of the toughest competitions," Wright-Phillips added. "And on the few times City have been on a run in it, they have not had the rub of the green.

"And Chelsea had been playing well with their defensive record, also. I would be happy if it was an all-England final, so I'll be supporting all English teams in Europe."

Real Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez has suggested he will wait to see if Sergio Ramos signs a new contract before deciding whether to also agree fresh terms.

Long-serving centre-back Ramos is due to be out of contract at the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of the campaign, while Nacho has another season to run on his deal.

Madrid have been in talks with Ramos over extending his stay, but head coach Zinedine Zidane recently admitted he is unsure if the Spain international will put pen to paper.

Nacho's own future is far from certain and the 31-year-old, who has become a regular for Zidane, will see what Madrid's plans are before making a decision on whether to commit.

"Of course, whether Madrid renew Ramos, or sign a central defender or two, are decisions that influence my future," he said at a pre-match news conference on Monday.

"It's normal, everything affects [the situation]. I will look at it, analyse it and talk with my club and my family.

"I have spoken with the club. I have this season left and one more. I will make the best decision for myself after speaking with my club."

Ramos has not been included in Madrid's 21-man squad for Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Liverpool due to a calf injury sustained on international duty.

He has spent the past 16 seasons with Los Blancos but has been strongly linked with a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the campaign.

"The best thing for him is that he stays," Nacho said. "As a team-mate, a friend and a Madridista, I can only say that the best thing for the club is that he stays.

"Sergio is feeling down because he is our captain and will not be present during a key period of games."

Nacho has featured 21 times for Madrid in all competitions this term and started both legs of the 4-1 aggregate win over Atalanta in the Champions League round of 16.

He leads the way for Madrid defenders to have played at least six times in LaLiga this season in terms of interceptions per 90 minutes (1.68), while only Raphael Varane (0.56) averages more blocks than Nacho (0.45).

"This may be the best period of my career," he said. "I have the confidence that I have never previously felt.

"This is a dream and I hope the confidence lasts, which is what a player always wants."

Madrid have won their last three meetings with Liverpool, most recently prevailing 3-1 in the Champions League final three years ago when Nacho was introduced as a first-half substitute.

Liverpool won their only previous two-legged European knockout tie with Madrid 5-0 on aggregate in the 2008-09 last 16, however, and Nacho is expecting a tightly-fought contest this time around.

"Since our previous meeting we have lost Cristiano [Ronaldo] and they have become champions themselves. But there is not that much difference between the sides," he said.

"We enter the tie in a very good way. We are focused on our job."

Pep Guardiola is primed for Manchester City's showdown with Erling Haaland and Borussia Dortmund, suggesting even a blind person could see the Norwegian's talents.

City host Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday, with Haaland unsurprisingly one of the main topics of conversation.

The Norway star has been in lethal form ever since joining Dortmund in January 2020 and boasts a remarkable haul of 10 goals in six Champions League outings this term, including two in each of their meetings with Sevilla in the last round as the German's narrowly progressed 5-4 on aggregate.

Since then, reports linking Haaland with Europe's biggest clubs have been frequent, as Barcelona and Real Madrid seemingly positioned themselves as interested parties following meetings with his agent Mino Raiola.

While City – whom his father Alf-Inge Haaland played for – have been rather more coy on the matter, few strikers have been focused on as much as Haaland with respect to potential replacements for Sergio Aguero following last week's announcement of his end-of-season departure.

After all, in the spell since Haaland scored a 23-minute hat-trick on his Dortmund debut, his 49 goals across all competitions has been bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (67) and Cristiano Ronaldo (52) among players in the top five leagues. City's leading scorers in the same period are Raheem Sterling (24) and Gabriel Jesus (22).

Guardiola appreciates Haaland is a fine talent, though he would not be lured into making any grand statements about a potential future for him at City.

When asked if Haaland was the sort of player who could command a transfer few of over £100million, Guardiola said: "I don't know, it's a question for Dortmund, his agent.

"I understand completely why people ask about Haaland, of course he's an exceptional striker, but it's not appropriate for me to talk about a player for another club.

"All I can say is he's an exceptional striker. The numbers speak for themselves. A fantastic player, that's all."

 

On those "numbers", Guardiola was pressed for an opinion on how City might be able to stop Haaland, given his conversion rate of 33.6 per cent is better than any other player in the top five leagues with 20 goals or more since his Dortmund bow.

For comparison, Bayern Munich's Lewandowski – widely regarded as the best striker around – has converted 27.8 per cent of his chances over the same period.

"The striker who scores goals, they are going to score when they are in our box," Guardiola continued. "If they're far away from our box, they have fewer chances. It's a question of mathematics.

"Not just Haaland. [Jamie] Vardy, [Sadio] Mane, Aguero, all the strikers, they want to be there [in the box] as much as possible. This is the best way is to avoid [conceding].

"In that age to score that amount of goals is not easy to find in the past, honestly, so I think he's 20 – the numbers speak for themselves.

"He can score right [foot], left, on the counter-attack, in the box when you dominate, headers. He's a fantastic striker, everyone knows it.

"A blind guy could realise he's a great striker. It is not necessary to be a manager to realise that."

Keeping Haaland quiet will surely go a long way to ensuring City finally get past the quarter-finals, having been knocked out at this stage in each of the past three seasons, losing four of their five games at this point.

Eden Hazard has not been included in Real Madrid's 21-man squad for Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Liverpool.

The Belgium international has been plagued by injuries during his first two seasons in Madrid, restricting him to just 36 appearances and 29 starts across all competitions.

Hazard missed Los Blancos' last-16 second leg against Atalanta with a damaged hip flexor and played no part for Belgium in their three World Cup qualifiers at the end of March.

Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane had increased hope of a midweek return following Saturday's win over Eibar but said on Monday he would not select the winger unless he could prove he was 100 per cent fit.

And Madrid subsequently confirmed Hazard will play no part against the Premier League champions, having been omitted from the squad for the game at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Captain Sergio Ramos' absence had already been all but confirmed after he sustained a calf injury on international duty with Spain last week.

Madrid have lost seven of the 10 Champions League games Ramos has missed since the end of 2017-18 when they were last crowned European champions.

Fellow defender Dani Carvajal also remains out, but midfielder Federico Valverde has recovered from a muscular injury that kept him out of the Eibar game.

Tuesday's clash will be the first between Madrid and Liverpool since the 2018 final, which Los Blancos won 3-1 to seal a third successive Champions League trophy.

Eden Hazard will not be rushed back for Real Madrid's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Liverpool on Tuesday, insists Zinedine Zidane. 

Hazard has been plagued by injuries since joining Madrid from Chelsea for €100million in June 2019.

He has made just 36 appearances and 29 starts across all competitions in that time, scoring only four times. 

The 30-year-old returned from injury in March but then missed the Champions League last-16 second leg against Atalanta with a damaged hip flexor – a development Zidane described as "inexplicable". 

That injury kept him out of the Belgium squad for the recent international break and Zidane says he has no intention of playing Hazard against Premier League champions Liverpool if he is not 100 per cent fit. 

"Eden has to be calm," the Madrid boss told a media conference on Monday. "We never risk the return of a player if he is not well. 

"We will do things little by little and we will see when he will be with us. At the moment it is like that.

"I need all my players to be available and fit. I like my players to be fit and in good health. I don't like seeing players out injured. We have had a lot of players out injured this season.

"I hope to have Eden back soon. I hope to have a fully fit squad come the end of the season."

Tuesday's clash will be the first between the sides since the 2018 final, which Madrid won 3-1 to seal a third consecutive Champions League trophy.

Los Blancos have won the first leg in eight of their last nine Champions League knockout ties, while they have claimed victories in their last three matches against the Reds in the competition. 

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, however, has won each of his last five games at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League, including all four of his games at this stage while in charge of the Reds. 

Zidane is an admirer of what Klopp has achieved at Anfield, but says he is not interested in copying the German's methods. 

"Klopp is a great manager, he has been coaching for a long time," he added. "He's got a great CV and has done superbly at Liverpool. 

"I don't have to look at what he does and copy him. Everyone has their way of going about things but I look at all the managers.

"I looked and learned when I was going to be a manager and, of course, I analysed Klopp."

Liverpool will need to be particularly wary of Madrid talisman Karim Benzema, who has scored four goals in his three Champions League appearances against them.

He is level with Didier Drogba as the player to have scored the most against the Reds in the competition. 

Benzema should lead the line on Tuesday and Zidane has attributed his success to the understanding he has developed with his team-mates.

"All the players who are here know how to play and have earned the right to be in this squad, they are the best," he explained. "They all understand Karim well and Karim the others. There is a lot of chemistry between them."

It was hardly the sort of entrance that said "I'm here to save the day". Luka Modric was still putting his headband on as he rather leisurely entered the Old Trafford pitch just a few moments after Nani's controversial sending off in the Champions League last-16 second leg between Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Los Blancos were down 2-1 on aggregate after a Sergio Ramos own goal had put United in the driving seat a short while earlier, but with the hosts a man light, Jose Mourinho sent Modric on as Madrid looked to suffocate Alex Ferguson's men.

Alongside Xabi Alonso, Modric was swiftly into the thick of it as Madrid tried to pull United this way and that, and he soon took matters into his own hands with Kaka, Mesut Ozil, Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo unable to break through.

Allowed space just outside the United area, Modric's motioning for a shot lured Michael Carrick out of position and the Croatian easily breezed past him before lashing an unstoppable effort in off the right-hand post just seven minutes after coming on.

It was only his second goal for the club, but as it spurred Madrid on to seal a 2-1 win and a spot in the next round thanks, Modric has regarded that match as the turning point in his career at the Santiago Bernabeu.

A perfect storm

It's easy to forget how disappointing Modric's first season at Madrid was deemed to be. After all, before Christmas, he was voted as the worst signing of the campaign in a Marca poll, beating Alex Song of Barcelona to top the charts.

Two years Modric's junior, Song has been playing his football in Djibouti this season; Modric remains, at the ripe old age of 35, arguably the finest midfielder in Spain.

There are certainly comparisons to be made with Thiago Alcantara's first season in England, with Liverpool struggling to even maintain a challenge for the top four, let alone defend their title.

Thiago was seen as the missing piece of the puzzle, the sort of central midfielder that balanced flair with genuine playmaking abilities, unlike anyone already in the squad. It was said his arrival would enable to Liverpool to play with greater flexibility, but the reality has been a little different.

Teams are playing deeper against Liverpool, as evidenced by the fact their shots outside the area per game is up from 4.6 per game to 5.2, while they are being allowed 190.4 passes in the final third each match, up from 180.9. Opponents are more confident they can keep Liverpool out if they defend deep.

Of course, Liverpool's issues this term are plentiful – injuries have been particularly frequent, and Thiago himself has lost a significant chunk of the season in this regard.

But even when he has been fit, it's difficult to say the Spain international has transformed the Reds. In fact, they have a better league win percentage (57.1) when he doesn't play than when he does (37.5), while they tend to score more goals (2.4 per game, compared to 1.1 when he is playing).

One theory for Thiago's struggles has been his apparent lack of comfort with Liverpool's intense pressing style, but the data suggests that to be a red herring.

Granted, Liverpool do engage in 18.9 pressed sequences – instances where the opposition have three or fewer passes in a move, which ends within 40 metres of their own goal – per game, with their total of 567 the most in the Premier League this term.

But Bayern averaged 16.9 per game in 2019-20 and led the way in the Bundesliga in this regard. Meanwhile, they allowed 9.8 opposition passes per defensive action, with Liverpool's PPDA this term 10.7, showing the Bayern side Thiago played in wasn't too dissimilar.

So, why would Liverpool's off-the-ball intensity impact him so much? It seems far more likely the issue is simply that he's in the middle of a perfect storm of settling into new surroundings and a new team during an injury crisis that has impacted him as well.

Changing perception

Fans can forget that players are people first and foremost. Upheaval off the pitch can have a demonstrable effect on it – of course it can, just like life at home can impact the job performance of average Joe.

This was a key element for Modric, who explained how he found it difficult to settle in initially at Real Madrid, not only because as a club they are an entirely different beast to Tottenham but also as he didn't have a pre-season and gaining fitness was always likely to be a struggle when playing catch-up.

As for fan expectations, perhaps there was also a degree of misunderstanding from Madrid supporters. Maybe they were initially expecting something more than Modric.

After all, in his final season at Spurs, Modric was a key creator. His 96 key passes in 2011-12 was bettered by only two midfielders in the Premier League (David Silva – 104, Juan Mata – 103), evidence that much of the creative burden was on his shoulders.

So, perhaps the fact his creative ingenuity wasn't being so frequently displayed at Madrid coloured opinion.

Granted, his 17 key passes in 13 league appearances between the start of the season and January 1 left a lot to be desired, but his end-of-season record of 56 was the third-highest in the Madrid squad.

Time, patience and trust were seemingly key to Modric establishing himself, but to suggest he's played the same way at Madrid as in his best season at Spurs would be incorrect – the closest he's ever got to that 96 key passes haul since was 61 in 2015-16.

In fact, when you consider a whole range of his key metrics such as passes, pass completion, chance creation, touches of the ball and defensive areas, there hasn't been drastic fluctuation between 2012-13 and now.

Certainly, his 62.6 successful passes per 90 is up from 55 in 2012-13, while his touches have improved from 80 to 86.7, but those differences certainly aren't major. The fact is his figures have been pretty steady throughout his time in LaLiga.

But at 35, he has still played in 28 of Madrid's 29 league matches this term. He's arguably more important to them than ever before.

Coming back from being a target of ridicule to becoming a club great and winning the Ballon d'Or speaks to Modric's attitude and talent, but also serves as inspiration for Thiago.

While the Spaniard has not had to contend with quite the same level of criticism, there are certainly those unconvinced by him.

With a full pre-season under his belt and allowed to gel into a settled team that isn't constantly being chopped and changed due to injuries, Thiago can surely enjoy a sparkling second season at Liverpool. After all, the data proves the Reds' pressing shouldn't be a long-term issue for him given how Bayern played.

A 25-yard strike of his own against Manchester United would go down very well right now, although a similarly decisive impact against Madrid would surely be a nice compromise for the Barcelona product.

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