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.

Youssoufa Moukoko's record-breaking season is over after suffering ligament damage in his foot, Borussia Dortmund have confirmed.

Moukoko became the youngest player in the Bundesliga's history last November when making his debut the day after his 16th birthday.

The Germany youth international had long been considered a big prospect at Dortmund, having set a number of records in the club's academy despite generally playing several age groups up.

Even before he turned 16, Moukoko was training with the first-team and he soon followed up his Bundesliga record by also becoming the Champions League's youngest-ever player (16 years, 18 days).

Edin Terzic handed him a first Bundesliga start after replacing the sacked Lucien Favre, and he subsequently became the German top-flight's youngest scorer a few days later in a 2-1 defeat to Union Berlin.

He is by far the most junior player to have featured across Europe's top five leagues this term (16y, 136d) – Tottenham's Dane Scarlett is the second youngest (17y, 12d).

There are also only four players who are still teenagers that have bettered his haul of three league goals – Florian Wirtz and Ansu Fati have four, Bukayo Saka has five and Arnaud Kalimuendo is out in front on six.

But Moukoko will not be adding any more to his tally this term, owing to a foot injury.

A brief statement released on Twitter read: "Youssoufa Moukoko is out for the rest of the season with a ligament injury in his foot.

"Get well soon, boy!"

Moukoko suffered the injury ahead of Germany's European Under-21 Championship group stage match against Hungary.

While it was initially thought the issue would only keep him out of Germany's following two games, it turned out to be rather more serious.

Dortmund look likely to miss out on Champions League football next season, with BVB fifth on 43 points, trailing Eintracht Frankfurt by seven points with as many matches left.

The first time Pep Guardiola was drawn to face a Bundesliga team in the Champions League as Manchester City manager, the match was postponed after a torrential pre-match downpour soaked the Etihad Stadium.

Twenty-four hours later, Borussia Monchengladbach were swatted aside 4-0 but there were some other, more incongruous storm clouds hovering.

Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick, already his second of the campaign to move on to nine goals in his first five outings under Guardiola.  A brace that weekend at Swansea City took him to 11 in six, but his manager was not completely satisfied with the bigger picture.

"Sergio just has a talent to score goals that is natural, I cannot teach him that," Guardiola said.

"What I can tell him is there is a team behind him that is going to help him. I want to convince him to help them and, if it happens in that way, he's going to score a lot of goals."

Those fraught moments in Guardiola and Aguero's early relationship at City, one that looked to be hurtling towards an early end when Gabriel Jesus arrived in January 2017 and displaced the Argentina striker from the starting line-up, were long forgotten in the glowing tributes paid last week.

Aguero will leave City when his contract expires in June as the club's all-time record goalscorer and the top scoring overseas player in Premier League history.

Bundesliga opponents are back on the agenda this week, with Borussia Dortmund in town for the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final. Erling Haaland, presumed by many to be Aguero's most suitable heir, will be the focus of much pre-match attention.

Should City emerge from the pack of European heavyweights to claim Haaland's signature, the experience of Guardiola's previous centre forwards – from those who eventually thrived like Aguero, to those who fell by the wayside – suggest there would be plenty of hard work ahead for the Norwegian youngster.

False nines and harsh truths

Guardiola's most celebrated innovation during his trophy-laden stint in charge of Barcelona was Lionel Messi's deployment as a false nine, helping Aguero's compatriot to flourish into he world's finest player.

However, more traditional centre-forwards experienced collateral damage. Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry flanked Messi in the 2009 Champions League final triumph over Manchester United. A year later they had both left Camp Nou, as had Zlatan Ibrahimovic after a year under Guardiola most notable for his string of subsequent withering comments about the Catalan tactician.

If the assumption was these supreme strikers were simply victims of playing second fiddle to Guardiola's star pupil, his stint at Bayern Munich suggested something more baked in to his football philosophy that meant centre forwards would adapt to the coach and not the other way around.

After a season under Guardiola in 2013-14, Mario Mandzukic stomped off to Atletico Madrid and accused the coach of a lack of respect. Robert Lewandowski took his place but the returns that now make the Poland superstar the most feared number nine in Europe were not immediately forthcoming.

A haul of 17 Bundesliga goals in 2014-15 was way below the levels he would go on to set. The breakout moment of his Bayern career came in September 2015, when he ravenously rattled home five goals in a mind-boggling nine minutes against Wolfsburg. An often-forgotten plot point of those Lewandowski heroics is they came as a substitute. Guardiola had started Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller and Douglas Costa in the sort of fluid forward line that did for the likes of Ibrahimovic and Mandzukic.

Since August 2011 – the month of Aguero's City debut and the first season Lewandowski was a regular starter at Dortmund - only Messi (483) and Cristiano Ronaldo (460) have scored more goals across all competitions among players from the top five European leagues than Bayern's star striker.

Lewandowski (380) is the only other player above 300, with Aguero seventh overall (257) behind Luis Suarez (295), Edinson Cavani (278) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (264).

If Haaland were to link up with Guardiola, history suggests these are the sort of levels he will have to hit. The signs of the past 18 months point promisingly in that direction.

The boy wonder

There were echoes of Lewandowski's Wolfsburg heroics – and, for that matter, Aguero's "anything you can do…" efforts of five goals in 20 minutes against Newcastle United a month later – in Haaland's sensational Bundesliga debut last January 18.

The 20-year-old came on as a second-half substitute and fired a 23-minute hat-trick to inspire Dortmund's 5-3 win over Augsburg.

In the spell from that game onwards, Haaland has 49 goals in all competitions, a haul only bettered across the top five leagues by Lewandowski (67) and Ronaldo (52). Despite being in contention for four major honours this term, City's leading scorers during the same period are Raheem Sterling and Jesus, with 24 and 22 respectively.

It seems Haaland would offer an obvious uplift, thanks in large part to his remarkable efficiency in front of goal. At Dortmund, he boasts a shot conversion rate of 33.6 per cent – better than any other player with 20 or more goals during this time.

For context, Lewandowski is back on 27.8 per cent and Romelu Lukaku and Andre Silva – each speculated alternatives should City be unable to land Haaland – convert just under a quarter of their attempts with 23.7 and 24.5 per cent respectively. Jesus (17.5) and Sterling (16.9) are about half as reliable as the man they will face this week.

A look at Haaland's expected goals (xG) figures for this season suggests judicious shot selection is a key part of his lethal makeup.

In the Bundesliga and Champions League combined, he has 29 non-penalty goals from 93 shots that have a cumulative xG value of 21.2.

By way of comparison, in 2018-19 – the campaign that will stand as his last truly great one in City colour – Aguero scored 24 times from open play in the Premier League and Champions League, outperforming an xG of 20.6 accumulated from 144 attempts.

Haaland's efficiency is again illustrated but a higher xG figure from 51 fewer efforts shows he is coldly selective when it comes to taking on shots, usually only pulling the trigger when a clear opportunity presents itself and to great success.

The speculative strike is not something he has a need to call upon too often, which holds an obvious appeal for a coach like Guardiola, who places such an emphasis on his team controlling every aspect of matches.

Attackers going rogue and firing off shots from all over the place is not high on the list of things he enjoys to see, placing a big tick next to Haaland.

Running and pressing until the end

Kevin De Bruyne's midfield masterclass to inspire a 2-0 weekend win at Leicester City was something of an archetype for what is required from City's big hitters.

Along with moments of high artistry such as his immaculate throughball to make Jesus' game-sealing goal possible, the Belgium international regained possession 14 times and contested 20 duels.

"This is one of our identities. When the most talented players in the world are able to do this kind of job," Guardiola said.

"There is no negotiation on this. You can play really badly but in terms of running and pressing for your team-mates until the end, we have to do it. Do it for your mates, because in the next action your mates are going to do it for you.

"We cannot deny that in the five years we were together the players we had run and fight every single game. That is one of the things I am proud of the most."

So, how would Haaland shape up to this non-negotiable part of the job description?

In 2020-21, the Dortmund centre-forward has won possession in the final third 31 times, made 65 recoveries overall, nine interceptions and contested 195 duels.

Even taking into account a BVB playing style that can be more chaotic than Guardiola's finely grooved City, these efforts stack up well compared to peak Aguero.

Only once under Guardiola has he won back the ball deep in opposition territory more frequently – 33 times in 2018-19, when he made his sole foray into double figures for interceptions (13) during the Catalan's tenure.

Aguero made 122 recoveries and contested 481 duels during Guardiola's first season at the helm in 2016-17, when City were some distance from their present model of efficient dominance. His recoveries/duels returns of 86 and 310 and 89 and 325 during the subsequent back-to-back Premier League triumphs are more in line with where Haaland might be at the end of the current campaign.

This begins to demonstrate that Guardiola's running and pressing until the end is not quite as advertised. Much as with Haaland's shot selection, there is an emphasis on picking your moments to lay down maximum effort. His is not the Heavy Metal Football under which the Dortmund of a previous era thrived, more Post-Rock Football laced with frequent and precise tempo changes.

In his final two seasons under Manuel Pellegrini, when City's sole major honour was the 2015-16 EFL Cup, Aguero won back possession in the final third 35 and 40 times – returns never bettered in the Guardiola era despite an improvement in his work off the ball being rightly lauded. A total of 126 recoveries in 2015-16 is one he has not topped, while 24 interceptions back in 2011-12 showed Roberto Mancini benefitting from the youthful enthusiasm of his record signing.

The idea that Guardiola strikers have to run themselves into the ground for scant reward is a horror story Mino Raiola might try to spin for his new favourite client. But Aguero's experience shows it is more of a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" relationship.

In 2018-19, he averaged 8.15 touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes. This figure increased to 9.08 last season, one only bettered by 9.99 in 2013-14 during his City career. During Pellegrini's final year in charge, Aguero's touches in the area were down to 6.67 per game.

Taking some time to adapt to Guardiola's methods is neither unusual nor limited to strikers, with Joao Cancelo and Rodri's second-season improvements this time around standing as the latest examples.

If Haaland became a blockbuster signing, there is no reason to think his rewards would be anything other than plentiful after a period of assimilation. For the next week or so, however, Guardiola's only concern will be keeping his precocious talents under wraps.

Alessandro Florenzi will miss the first leg of Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League quarter-final clash with Bayern Munich this week after testing positive for COVID-19. 

The full-back follows PSG team-mate and compatriot Marco Verratti in testing positive for the virus after returning from international duty with Italy. 

Both players missed their side's damaging 1-0 Ligue 1 defeat to Lille on Saturday and will be absent for the trip to Bayern on Wednesday, too. The second leg takes place on April 13.

A statement released by the club on Monday read: "Following the last Sars-Cov2 PCR test, Alessandro Florenzi is confirmed positive. 

"He will therefore respect isolation and is subject to the appropriate health protocol. As a reminder, the player had been in isolation for a few days as a precaution."

Florenzi has made 29 appearances in all competitions this season, scoring two goals for Mauricio Pochettino's side.

The former Roma man is the latest confirmed case connected to the Azzurri squad. The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) announced last Wednesday that four staff members had isolated away from the group following testing carried out prior to the midweek fixture against Lithuania. 

Juventus revealed on Thursday that Leonardo Bonucci had also returned a positive result upon returning to his club, while Sassuolo took the preventative step of leaving out their Italy players for the game against Roma on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City players to not take Borussia Dortmund and their "incredible quality" lightly in Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg.

City saw off Dortmund's Bundesliga rivals Borussia Monchengladbach to book their last-eight spot, while Die Schwarzgelben edged past Sevilla. 

It will be the first meeting between the sides since the group stage of the 2012-13 season, which saw a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium and a 1-0 win for Dortmund in the reverse fixture in Germany. 

Despite a seven-game unbeaten run in the Champions League, Dortmund have endured a difficult domestic campaign, with Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt leaving them seven points adrift of fourth place. 

Guardiola knows Dortmund well, having come up against them regularly during his time as Bayern Munich coach between 2013 and 2016, and insists he will not be taking Edin Terzic's side lightly, irrespective of their league struggles. 

"If one person in Manchester knows Dortmund, it's me," he told a media conference. "The culture of this club, the way they play, and I will not find one single player from Dortmund without quality. 

"They spend a lot of money on young players and they pay a lot of money to agents to bring these players there because they have incredible quality. Incredible. 

"Maybe they didn't find consistency in the Bundesliga this season, but in one game or two games they are able to do anything. 

"We saw this against Sevilla. Sevilla knows European competition like few teams in Europe; they won three Europa Leagues in a row. Sevilla know how to play two legs and Dortmund beat them.

"I have incredible respect for what Dortmund has done. I was in Germany for three years; I know their quality."

Central to Dortmund's hopes will be Erling Haaland, who has scored in each of his last six Champions League matches. 

Should he find the net at the Etihad Stadium, the Norway international will become just the fifth player in the competition's history to score in seven in a row, joining Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani and Ruud van Nistelrooy in an elite group.

Guardiola is well aware of Haaland's talent, with City rumoured to be a possible destination for him at the end of the season, but he said Dortmund have plenty more players who can cause his side problems. 

"It's not just Haaland, but [Jadon] Sancho, [Marco] Reus, [Mats] Hummels," he added. "Emre Can can play seven, eight, nine positions. They have big holding midfielders in the middle and when they run, they kill you. 

"The quality is there. The players don't know it because we haven't spoken about Dortmund yet, but we're going to prepare for the game like we did against Leicester City.

"We will look at what they do, their strengths, their weaknesses, and try to be aggressive and try to win this game. And then travel in one week to Dortmund to win the second game. This is the target."

Neymar has been compared to fellow Brazilian Ronaldinho, with Ludovic Giuly believing the Paris Saint-Germain star will never reach his potential.

Like the great Ronaldinho, Neymar has played for both Barcelona and PSG, albeit he moved from Catalonia to Paris, rather than the other way around.

One of the main motives behind Neymar's switch to PSG was reportedly his desire to win the Ballon d'Or, which has been dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo and his former Barca team-mate Lionel Messi.

Yet despite helping to secure three straight Ligue 1 titles, Neymar has been unable to propel PSG to Champions League glory – coming closest when the Parisians reached the final last season – and at 29, his chances of winning football's most coveted personal prize look to be getting slimmer.

He has also suffered several lengthy injury lay offs during his time at the Parc des Princes, while Kylian Mbappe has perhaps overtaken him as PSG's standout superstar.

Having returned from the groin strain that saw him miss PSG's Champions League last-16 tie victory over his former club Barca, Neymar saw red in a 1-0 defeat to title rivals Lille on Saturday.

Giuly, a former France international who also played for both PSG and Barca – where he was a team-mate of Ronaldinho – suggested Neymar's application is the reason why he will perhaps never hit the full heights that he has the talent for.

"I'm going to compare Ronaldinho and Neymar on a career level. They have everything, but they don't give everything to be even higher," Giuly told Telefoot.

Despite his concerns over Neymar's work ethic, however, Giuly is hopeful the forward will agree to extend his PSG contract.

Giuly added: "Of course that is an important message for us, for his team-mates and for the supporters. [That] he shows his love and commitment to the club, it is something very important."

NEYMAR'S 2020-21 CAMPAIGN

In what has been another stop-start season, Neymar has managed only 20 appearances across all competitions for PSG, starting on 16 occasions, with his overall game time 1,142 minutes.

He has netted 13 goals, averaging a strike every 111 minutes, while five of those have come from the penalty spot. These goals have come from 73 attempts – the second-most in PSG's team behind Mbappe (114).

Creatively, Neymar also ranks highly. He has crafted 44 chances, including four assists, with 35 of them coming from open play. 

This tally puts him second in PSG's squad, behind Angel Di Maria, who has registered 10 assists from 69 chances created, while Mbappe has teed up an impressive nine goals from 43 opportunities, again indicating that the youngster is perhaps overshadowing the world's most expensive footballer.

Zinedine Zidane is waiting to learn if Eden Hazard will be fit to return for Real Madrid against Liverpool on Tuesday.

Madrid face a huge week in their season with the home leg of their Champions League quarter-final before a Clasico with Barcelona in LaLiga.

But head coach Zidane is hoping his side will receive a boost ahead of the first meeting with the Reds.

Hazard returned from injury shortly before the international break but then missed the European tie against Atalanta with a damaged hip flexor and was unable to go away with Belgium.

Red Devils boss Roberto Martinez could not even guarantee the €100million winger would make Euro 2020, although he was "very positive".

Hazard might be back in action as soon as Tuesday, with Madrid also looking to again bring Federico Valverde into the fold.

"Hopefully we can get Valverde and Hazard back," Zidane said on Saturday. "We will see tomorrow and the day after.

"Today it was not possible but I hope that on Tuesday they can be with us."

Hazard scored six goals against Liverpool in 16 games while with Chelsea.

But he has made just 36 appearances and 29 starts for Madrid since his signing in June 2019, scoring only four times and providing five assists from 38 chances created.

Hazard certainly was not missed as Los Blancos swept aside Eibar 2-0 at a stormy Estadio Alfredo di Stefano.

Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema scored in either half, while the Spain forward also hit the crossbar, opposing goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic made six saves and three of Madrid's four offsides saw goals disallowed.

"The first half, in general, was complete, with good feelings," Zidane said. "It's what I told the players.

"Then, with the storm, there were 20 difficult minutes to start the second.

"We have to recover well because we have a week with important games in the Champions League and the league. They will be entertaining.

"We must continue like this. There was a difficult moment in the season and now we have to take advantage of the current one, which is good."

Ahead of league leaders Atletico Madrid and fellow challengers Barca playing this weekend, Madrid moved up to second, three points off the summit.

That promising position means Zidane will prioritise neither domestic action nor their European exploits.

"We do not look at that," he said. "We are in the day-to-day. We are thinking about today's game, which we did very well.

"We are not going to think about one competition or the other; we are alive in both. Now you have to enjoy the moment. We have done nothing - we have to continue."

Thibaut Courtois, required to make four saves against Eibar but only really tested by an awkward Lucas Vazquez backpass, added: "We've fought all season to get to April, where everything is played for.

"Winning today put pressure on Atletico and Barcelona.

"In April, everything is played for and everything is decided; hopefully we will keep winning."

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