It's November 25, 2020. A young German winger stands on the touchline anxiously waiting to step on to the Allianz Arena pitch for his Champions League debut in his hometown.

But as he waits to be allowed on, there are people watching both on television and in the largely empty stands who know this isn't how it should've been.

Rather than wearing the all-red of Bayern Munich, Karim Adeyemi jogs on in the all-black of Salzburg with the Austrian champions 3-0 down.

A technically gifted and supremely fast winger, Adeyemi has long been considered one of Germany's most promising young players, having cost Salzburg a reported €3million when he was 16.

Adeyemi had left Bayern six years earlier and is a situation that has dominated much of his early professional career, with questions about why he left never far away.

Now 19, Adeyemi has previously spoken at length about his attitude as a kid, how learning wasn't much to his liking and distraction was a regular nuisance to him.

These factors certainly didn't help at Bayern. Neither, Adeyemi alleged in the past, did the club showing little support to players who strayed from "the plan". The collective, rather than individualistic talents, was prioritised.

But to speak to him in 2021, Adeyemi comes across as grounded and professional, yet driven, well aware of the level he wants to reach.

"I think it's a dream for every player to play in the Bundesliga or Premier League one day," he tells Stats Perform News. Yet, should he end up in England, it's fair to say he'll have taken the long route.

Chelsea were a keen admirer of Adeyemi before he joined Salzburg, the youngster confirming in the past that he turned down a move to Stamford Bridge in favour of Austria.

"I decided that with my family because I thought that Salzburg was the best destination for me," he continued. "Their playing style fits me well and we harmonised perfectly. I got along well with Christoph Freund [Salzburg sporting director] and everyone else. That's why I decided to join this club."

But while the average football fan might question his choice, Adeyemi's former coach at Unterhaching – with whom he spent the six years between Bayern and Salzburg – believes it was a mature decision that made perfect sense.

"Surprised? No, not at all. For him, Salzburg was the right club," Marc Unterberger told Stats Perform News. "Their philosophy suits him perfectly, and the proximity to Unterhaching, where his family still lives, is ideal.

"What is being done there, especially in training young players, is absolutely remarkable."

 

But what exactly has that meant for Adeyemi? The teenager adds: "It was my plan to first join Liefering [on loan] when I arrived at Salzburg. I wanted to perform well there and show my skills, then I wanted to have more and more contact with the first team [at Salzburg], and I think for every young player it's first of all important to get settled. Now I am at the first team and I am happy about it. That was my plan so far."

After spending a year and a half at Liefering, who essentially act as a B team for Salzburg, Adeyemi returned to his parent club having caught the eye in Austria's second tier.

He scored 15 goals and got eight assists in 35 league games for Liefering, strong evidence that he was ready for the step up.

Adeyemi hasn't been quite so explosive with Salzburg, only having a hand in goals in six of his 29 Austrian Bundesliga matches, but the key factor here is that he is having to remain patient – only nine of those 29 games were as a starter.

"Well, you can never be completely satisfied," he explained. "You always have things to improve. It was the same for me when I played in Liefering. I always want more. It's exactly the same here in the first team. I always say I am never satisfied with what I do, I always want more, and I think that's what I am focusing on.

"I am trying to improve my game together with the coaching staff. I'm trying to have progress in my development. Nobody knows what happens in the future."

It is a display of maturity and realism that belies many of the stories that have followed Adeyemi during his fledgling career. Unterberger believes the youngster is often shown in a negative light, adamant most kids are prone to distraction.

"I find that he is portrayed too negatively. Of course, Karim wasn't a classic academy player. He had his own thoughts on how to deal with things. We never wanted to change him completely, and I think we succeeded quite well. Karim is a really great guy and a great person.

"Until the time Karim came to us, we had never had such an exceptional player in our youth division. Of course, as a young person, you benefit from being accepted for who you are, but I would like to make it very clear that there was no situation within the team in which Karim behaved in such a way that we as a club were forced to act. On the contrary, over time he developed more and more towards putting himself at the service of the team.

"He was easily distracted, that's right, but let's be honest, something like this is normal when young people develop."

After all, Unterberger arguably knows Adeyemi better than any other coach.

"I can still remember it very well, the first time I saw him play in an Under-11 tournament," he recalls. "Back then he was still playing for TSV Forstenried. My first thought was: 'We absolutely need this player'. Fortunately, it worked out later!"

That might be something of an understatement in reality. The €3m fee that Unterhaching received made him the most expensive German under-18 player ever, while 2019 saw him win the Fritz-Walter Gold Medal, an award handed out to Germany's best youth player. Previous winners include Timo Werner, Emre Can and Mario Gotze.

And he has certainly shown flashes of his significant potential. In November, he became the first player this season to have a hand in four goals (one scored, three set up) in a single game in the Austrian Bundesliga. Only one other has matched that feat this term: his team-mate, Mergim Berisha. In December, he broke Salzburg's record for their youngest ever scorer in the Champions League.

Yet Adeyemi recognises he still has a long way to go.

"I can only talk for myself and not for the other players. I think if you feel comfortable within a team and you get your chances, then there's a possibility [of finding the right fit]. That's how it is between Salzburg and myself. I will continue to work hard for that. I want to develop more and become a man."

Given the talents Salzburg and their Red Bull sister club RB Leipzig have produced in recent years, few would doubt Adeyemi's in the right place to spread his wings.

Paris Saint-Germain will be without Marco Verratti for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie against Bayern Munich after the midfielder tested positive for COVID-19.

Verratti had suffered a thigh injury while away on international duty with Italy, forcing him to miss his country's World Cup qualifier against Lithuania on Wednesday.

The 28-year-old was already set to sit out PSG's pivotal clash with Lille this weekend as the top two in Ligue 1 go up against each other in the French capital.

However, confirmation of his positive test result means a period in isolation, ruling him out of contention for the trip to Bayern on Wednesday, too. The second leg takes place on April 13.

Verratti is the latest confirmed case connected to the Azzurri squad. The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) announced on Wednesday that four staff members had isolated away from the group following testing carried out prior to the midweek fixture in Vilnius.

Juventus revealed on Thursday that Verratti's international team-mate Leonardo Bonucci had also returned a positive result upon returning to his club, while Sassuolo have taken the preventative step of leaving out their Italy players for the game against Roma on Saturday.

While PSG will be hampered by the absence of Verratti, Bayern will also be without the services of a key figure for the repeat of last year's final.

Robert Lewandowski has been ruled out of the last-eight meeting entirely after suffering a knee injury while playing for Poland. The striker – who has scored 42 goals for his club in all competitions this season – is expected to be sidelined for a month.

Manchester City should still be "very cagey" over their prospects of winning the quadruple, even as the dream moves ever closer.

That is the view of City's former influential captain Richard Dunne, as Pep Guardiola's men sit 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League table.

They are away to Leicester City in the top-flight on Saturday, while an EFL Cup final against Tottenham, an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and a Champions League quarter-final with Borussia Dortmund are all fast approaching this month.

Dunne has relished City's return to peak form in 2020-21 but still thinks it is more likely than not that they come unstuck in one of the three cup competitions, particularly after seeing them lose the derby to Manchester United.

Asked by Stats Perform News about City's hopes of winning the quadruple, Dunne said: "It is very hard.

"When you watch Man City like we have over the last couple of months, you look and go like, 'Nobody is going to stop them'. They just seem like they are wiping everybody away.

"And then the Manchester derby came along, and you could see how United set up and showed a platform of how to beat Man City.

"They showed how to do it, they attacked them, they pressed them high up the field.

"Other teams will try to do it, and some obviously won't be capable of it, but if you talk about Tottenham who are capable of it, then Chelsea are too and certainly Dortmund are as well.

"So if Manchester City aren't 100 per cent in any of those games, then all of the hopes and dreams of a quadruple go out of the window overnight."

It will become increasingly difficult for the players to ignore the prospect of a historic quadruple with every match that passes, according to Dunne.

He added: "I know the manager doesn't want to talk about it. But it is on everybody's mind. It really goes back to taking every game, and every minute of the game, as it comes.

"If they start thinking too far ahead and switch off, the teams in the Champions League are too good to switch off against.

"Certainly Chelsea have proven since Thomas Tuchel has come in that they are a really good side.

"It's great for City as everybody and all the fans want to dream and hope, but you have to be very cagey because there are some tricky games to come."

Dunne hailed the impact of Ruben Dias, a £51million signing from Benfica who has helped to transform City after some major defensive issues last season.

"I think it's been brilliant," Dunne said of City's improvement at the back.

"It's Leicester this weekend, and it's probably going back to Leicester at the Etihad, when they lost 5-2 in September, that they've started to adjust things.

"Ruben Dias has come on in that game. They've started to form a partnership [between him and John Stones], developed a structure in the team that worked.

"Because they became solid and a strong defensive unit, there's no longer that need to score five or six goals and win games. Now they can win games 1-0, and grind games out which we've seen this season.

"It's given them another sort of level to what they've already got.

"We've known for many years about the talent that's in the squad going forward, the ability, but there was always that little fear that there would be a mistake in defensive areas.

"That seems to be completely eradicated this season. The defence is giving them a stronger opportunity to succeed in Europe this year than they had before.

"Pep Guardiola will be very impressed, he'll be delighted with how things are going.

"He's built a side a couple of years ago who scored hundreds of goals, they got 100 and odd points. This side is obviously different, but probably more suited for bigger success than the previous sides."

Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro is bullish that the club can contend for both the Spanish LaLiga and Champions League titles.

Reigning LaLiga champions Madrid return to action on Saturday against Eibar in the league, where they are third, six points behind leaders Atletico Madrid with 10 games to play.

Los Blancos will be back in continental action in midweek against Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final too.

"Everyone knows what we are capable of, that we can do it," Casemiro told TVE.

"We are going to fight until the end. We know that it is very difficult, but we will fight for both titles.

"For Real Madrid all games are important. We are already used to playing the big games.

"We like to play these type of games. First, we have to think about Eibar and then about the Champions League and the Clasico [against Barcelona on April 10]."

The Brazil international acknowledged Madrid, who won a trio of European titles from 2016 to 2018, have a difficult assignment against 2019 European champions Liverpool.

"It will be a very beautiful match and it will be decided on details," Casemiro said.

"Whoever makes fewer mistakes will win. Liverpool have great players and this match could be a Champions League final.

"These are very nice games that all the players want to play. We have to give everything in all the games, not only against Barcelona.

"They are games that when you win, give you a lot of encouragement for the final stretch of the season."

Manchester United have been let down by "sloppy results" this season but are constantly improving under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to midfielder Scott McTominay.

Solskjaer's side were eliminated from the FA Cup by Leicester City in the last match before the two-week international break – their first domestic away loss in 30 matches.

United were also knocked out of the EFL Cup by Manchester City at the semi-final stage and exited the Champions League in the group phase earlier in the campaign.

However, the Red Devils have advanced past Real Sociedad and Milan to reach the last eight of the Europa League, where Granada await, while they sit second in the Premier League.

United may be 14 points adrift of leaders Manchester City, albeit with a game in hand, but McTominay believes they are heading in the right direction.

"We've got a good group of players with top, top quality," he told ESPN.

"People are quite quick to forget how well we've done at times. It's the sloppy results that have let us down. This team is evolving. It's not a time to panic."

McTominay has appeared 39 times for United in all competitions this season, which is the most times he has featured for his boyhood club since making his debut in 2016-17.

He ranks particularly highly among United midfielders in the Premier League this term for duels won, his average of 6.54 per 90 minutes behind only Paul Pogba (8.08).

The Scotland international's game has also improved in other areas since last season.

McTominay's average of 46.54 successful passes per game in the top flight is an increase on 41.59 from last season, while his passing accuracy has gone from 80.91 per cent in 2019-20 to 87.58 this term.

Meanwhile, his tally of four goals puts him behind only Bruno Fernandes (16) in regards to United's highest-scoring midfielders.
 
"'I'm not perfect every game and I know that," McTominay said as he looked ahead to the future. "I've got a lot to improve on but there's also things I do well so I'm just trying to improve and kickstart my game to another level. 

"I just want to do my best. It's about consistency and playing well over the course of a season."

United return to action on Sunday with a Premier League meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion at Old Trafford, where they will be aiming to make it six wins in a row against the Seagulls in all competitions, netting exactly three times in the last four.

Sergio Ramos is a major fitness doubt for Real Madrid's crucial fixtures against Liverpool and Barcelona due to a muscle injury in his left calf.

Doubts over the fitness of Los Blancos' talismanic captain, who has recently been contending with a knee issue, were raised after he was an unused substitute in Spain's 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Georgia and only played the final few minutes of the follow up 3-1 triumph against Kosovo on Wednesday.

Ramos was at Madrid's Valdebebas training complex on Thursday but was restricted to doing work in the gym and not out on the pitches.

As usual, Madrid did not provide a timescale for his recovery but a short statement read: "Following the tests carried out today on our captain, Sergio Ramos, by the Real Madrid medical department, he has been diagnosed with a muscular injury to the internal calf in his left leg. His recovery will be monitored."

The timing could hardly be worse for Madrid, who host Eibar in LaLiga on Saturday before facing off against Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.

Barca travel to the capital a week on Saturday for a Clasico that could go a long way to deciding which side are better placed to challenge LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, while the return tie against the Reds takes place on April 14.

The omens are not particularly promising for Madrid against Liverpool considering Los Blancos have been beaten in seven of the past 10 games in the Champions League when Ramos has been unavailable.

In those games, they have conceded 19 goals – an average of 1.9 per match. Since last winning the competition in 2018, Madrid have won 10 of the 14 games Ramos has featured in – conceding only 13, an average of 0.9 per game.

The decision to bring Ramos on in those closing stages against Kosovo is sure to be a bone of contention for Madrid, with the skipper posting about his setback on Instagram.

"Yesterday, after the game, I was training on the pitch and noticed a puncture in the left calf. Today I have had the tests and it has been confirmed that I have a muscle injury," he wrote.

"If there is one thing that hurts me it is not being able to help the team in these games of the highest demand in which we play the season and also not be able to give back on the pitch the love and energy that you transmit to me.

"I can do nothing but speak frankly, work hard and encourage the team with the soul."

Ramos' future beyond the end of the season has been the subject of much debate in recent weeks, with the veteran centre-back linked with moves to MLS, the Premier League and Ligue 1.

Addressing the speculation after Spain's win over Kosovo, Ramos told TVE: "With my future I was very clear, there is no news and now I have nothing to say.

"When there is news, I will be the first to say it.

"We decide the season in two weeks, in LaLiga against Eibar and Barcelona, and in the Champions League against Liverpool, and hopefully we can play at a good level." 

It's June 25, 2020. Thousands of Liverpool fans have ignored government advice as they gather at Anfield for a very special occasion – the celebration of a first league title in 30 years.

Despite it looking a certainty for months, many Reds fans hadn't allowed themselves to be drawn in by the hysteria too early for fear of more heartache, but Chelsea's 2-1 win over Manchester City in London meant they had to wait no longer.

In the period between their two most recent top-flight titles – the last one coming even before the establishment of the Premier League – bitter rivals Manchester United lifted the trophy no fewer than 13 times.

But the title win was made even more significant by the manner of it, their dominance leaving everyone else well behind in the dust. Clinching the trophy with seven games to spare was a new record.

As fans clambered over the gates outside the Kop End and set off fireworks near the stadium, many – supporter or not – will have looked at those scenes and felt it was an image the rest would have to get used to, such had been Liverpool's consistency over the previous two years.

Yet, here we are in April 2021, approaching the Premier League's final straight with the defending champions looking hard-pressed to even finish in the top four.

A foreshadowing?

When Jurgen Klopp announced his decision to leave Borussia Dortmund in 2015, there was an initial sense of shock that was soon offset by the feeling it was perhaps to be expected. It was a testing season, and although a late upturn after the announcement saw them qualify for Europe, there was no getting away from the fact they had under-achieved.

While it was certainly not the only problem, one major issue for Klopp that season was injuries – at the time, it was estimated Dortmund's first-team players missed over 1,600 days due to injuries or illness.

As a base for comparison, Sky Sports claimed in early March that Liverpool players had lost just over 1,000 days to illness or injury this term. Granted, such data is difficult to nail down because exact timeframes aren't always confirmed by the clubs, however it does at least highlight a similarity.

Of course, another key component with regards to 2014-15 at Dortmund was the fact they lost Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich. Not only did he score 20 Bundesliga goals the previous season, the Poland striker helped knit their play together in the final third. Without him, so much changed in their attack.

Four Dortmund players scored nine or more Bundesliga goals in 2013-14, but only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – tasked with stepping up in Lewandowski's absence – managed this in 2014-15. Even then, his haul of 16 was only a personal improvement of three.

With key players frequently missing and new arrivals, such as Ciro Immobile, struggling to fit in, it's perhaps no wonder Dortmund's conversion rate dropped from 13 per cent to 8.3 – the only occasion it went below 11 per cent for Klopp at the club.

A common theory for his demise at Dortmund was the idea that Klopp had run the team into the ground after several years of playing high-intensity football, which subsequently led to more muscular injuries.

Dortmund engaged in 14.4 pressed sequences – defined as instances where the opponent has three or fewer passes in a sequence and it ends within 40 metres of their own goal – per game in each of Klopp's final two seasons, but his Liverpool side this term averages 18.9 each match, up slightly from 18 in 2019-20. This highlights the quality of the Reds' pressing style, but it also shows a significant increase in intensity even from his Dortmund days.

Although the correlation is difficult to prove conclusively, links between high-intensity football styles and muscle injuries are nothing new. If this was partly to blame for Dortmund's increased absences list, then Liverpool's situation – given their even greater intensity – appears comparable.

But while it's impossible to ignore Liverpool's injury situation, to suggest that's where their issues end would seemingly be false.

Below the usual standards

Of course, as Klopp has pointed out before, unplanned absences can have significant knock-on effects throughout the team.

So, the fact Virgil van Dijk has been out since October won't have just impacted Liverpool's defensive solidity, but it will have changed how they play out from the back and subsequently affected the midfield because the likes of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have had to fill in away from their usual roles.

However, where Liverpool seem to have had the most issues in 2020-21 compared to last season is actually in attack, with their goals-per-game average decreasing from 2.2 to 1.65.

Having converted 14.4 per cent of their shots in 2019-20, they are now netting at a rate of 11.1 percent – only in Klopp's first season at Anfield have the Reds recorded worse in a full campaign (10.8).

It's not as if Liverpool are having significantly fewer shots either, as they are averaging 15 every 90 minutes as opposed to 15.5 last term, however, some potential explainers do appear when you look a little closer at those shots.

Liverpool are trying their luck from outside the box more often (5.1 per game, up from 4.6) and getting fewer away inside the area than before (9.9, down from 11). On top of this, they have had just nine (0.31 per game) shots from fast breaks in 2020-21, less than half as often as either 2019-20 (0.73) and 2018-19 (0.63).

This all suggests the opposition is sitting deeper against Liverpool than before, restricting space better and limiting the options of Klopp's men in attack – the fact they're having more long-range attempts could be a sign of collective frustration, or a lack of invention.

Supporting the idea teams are sitting off Liverpool a little more is the fact they are averaging 191.7 passes in the final third each game. This figure was 180.9 in 2019-20 and 173.8 the year before – opponents are seemingly happier to absorb pressure, more confident that Klopp's side are unable to break them down.

This potentially goes some way to explaining why Sadio Mane has had a less fruitful season in front of goal, as his xG maps for this term and last show he's not having as much of an impact in the six-yard box.

He has only scored one Premier League goal in this part of the area during 2020-21, whereas last season he scored four, suggesting he possessed something of a poacher's instinct as well as a knack for the spectacular.

While his haul of seven goals is by no means dreadful, it's 3.3 lower than his xG value, showing he's missing good-quality chances on a more regular basis than he'd be expected. By comparison, in 2020-21 he overperformed his xG by 4.3 (18 goals, 13.7 xG) and the year before he boasted a 6.9 xG differential (22 goals, 15.1 xG).

This means that, while he was living up to his abilities as an elite-level chance-taker for the past two years, this term he appears to be struggling to adapt to his surroundings, with defences packed a little tighter.

With Mohamed Salah, however, there's been a slight change in the other direction in that his non-penalty xG of nine is actually less than the 11 non-penalty goals he's scored – in 2019-20 he had a negative 0.8 xG differential (16 goals, 16.8 xG).

As such, Salah appears to be handling the changes better than Mane despite opposition setups also causing him to think differently about his shots. Again, xG maps show the Egyptian isn't able to get as many high-xG shots off from the centre of the area, instead being forced slightly more towards the right, yet he's still netting with fine frequency.

Working smarter to restore pride

Whether Salah's outperforming of xG is sustainable or not is another matter, and one only time can tell, though Liverpool will likely need even more from him to prevent their season finishing with a whimper.

Similarly, Mane rediscovering his best form would be a major boost, and that appears to hinge on him dealing better with less space or getting on the end of more deliveries into the danger zone.

Liverpool's lengthy injury list has undoubtedly had some impact in 2020-21, yet it also seems clear they could work smarter in light of opponents approaching their fixtures slightly differently.

Upcoming games against Arsenal and Real Madrid could potentially provide the tonic given neither is likely to set up particularly defensively, and this might play into the hands of Mane.

A make-or-break week is on the horizon – defeat to the Gunners could leave the Reds eight points adrift of fourth, while losing in Madrid will likely ruin their Champions League hopes.

As people clamour to proclaim Liverpool the worst Premier League champions ever, it's time to restore a little dignity.

Manchester City need a top number nine like Erling Haaland if they are to compete with the best teams in Europe, according to Shaun Wright-Phillips.

City and Sergio Aguero announced this week that the star striker will be leaving the club after 10 years when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Pep Guardiola's team are among many of the continent's leading sides who have been linked with a transfer pursuit of Borussia Dortmund sensation Haaland.

Aguero has only made five City starts in all competitions this season due to injuries, so they have often deployed a false nine rather than a recognised striker like the Argentina forward or Gabriel Jesus.

Wright-Phillips – who had two spells with City totalling nine seasons – has been impressed by how City have adapted but feels a focal point is still needed in the biggest matches.

"They have to look for a direct replacement," Wright-Phillips told Stats Perform News.

"If you're going to have big team like that without a so-called number nine, it would be strange to a lot of people in the world. 

"You can play with a false nine against a lot of teams, but say you're playing Real Madrid – Sergio Ramos, he'll be happy not to have striker in front of him. 

"Then he can see everything, so there's certain teams in the world that know how to deal with that pretty easily. 

"To have a number nine up there, it gives them a headache, something to think about. And they have to be on their A-game all the time as well."

Haaland is the striker who stands out as the best pick to Wright-Phillips, with Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku among the others forwards to have been linked with City.

The 20-year-old has scored 21 goals in as many Bundesliga games this season and tops the Champions League scoring charts with 10 from six outings.

"For me if you are talking about going for someone, I think I would say Haaland," added Wright-Phillips.

"Not only obviously because of how well he's doing but because of his age as well. They've got him for a good 10 years if they choose to keep him or if he does well. 

"That would suit the City team better, in the respect that most of their players are under 27 or 28, apart from maybe Kevin De Bruyne. 

"There would be nothing wrong with the Haaland decision.

"People say the wages and stuff like that – everyone can see in football what can happen, which is pretty much anything, so I don't put any of that past them. 

"It could be any one of those strikers [Kane, Lukaku, Haaland] – City are going to create chances and you have seen their goalscoring records, they're going to take them the majority of the time."

Robert Lewandowski will miss both Champions League quarter-final clashes with Paris Saint-Germain after Bayern Munich confirmed he is to be sidelined for a month with a knee injury.

Lewandowski sustained damage to his right knee during Poland's 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra on Sunday, a game in which he scored twice.

Poland subsequently confirmed he was to play no part in the upcoming clash with England and that he was due to return to Bayern for treatment.

It was initially thought the 32-year-old would only be absent for up to 10 days, however, Bayern confirmed on Tuesday that the issue is slightly more serious than first suspected.

A statement revealed Lewandowski is now expected to be out for most of April.

It read: "Robert Lewandowski has strained a ligament in his right knee. The FC Bayern striker will be out for around four weeks.

"After Poland's 3-0 win over Andorra, Lewandowski returned early to Munich, where a diagnosis was made by the German record champions' medical team."

While losing Lewandowski for so long would be a major blow regardless of the opponents Bayern have lined up, his forced absence comes at a particularly critical moment in the season.

The reigning Bundesliga champions face title rivals RB Leipzig this weekend, before meetings with PSG in the Champions League either side of Union Berlin's visit.

Those contests with PSG will be repeats of last season's Champions League final, which Bayern emerged from as 1-0 victors last August.

Losing Lewandowski will cause Bayern significant concern in attack, with their squad not possessing another senior central striker, meaning either Thomas Muller will be moved in to deputise or Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting will take on a more important role for the time being.

On a personal level, losing a month of the season could derail Lewandowski's hopes of breaking Gerd Muller's record of 40 goals in a single Bundesliga campaign.

The former West Germany star achieved the feat in 1971-72 with Bayern and Lewandowski is just five adrift, having netted 35 in 25 games this term.

Assuming Lewandowski is out for exactly four weeks, he will have three matches to score five or more goals – those games coming against Borussia Monchengladbach, Freiburg and Augsburg.

Robert Lewandowski will miss both Champions League quarter-final clashes with Paris Saint-Germain after Bayern Munich confirmed he is to be sidelined for a month with a knee injury.

Lewandowski sustained damage to his right knee during Poland's 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra on Sunday, a game in which he scored twice.

Poland subsequently confirmed he was to play no part in the upcoming clash with England and that he was due to return to Bayern for treatment.

It was initially thought the 32-year-old would only be absent for up to 10 days, however, Bayern confirmed on Tuesday that the issue is slightly more serious than first suspected.

A decision on whether a new format for the Champions League will be implemented has been put back to April 19.

UEFA's executive committee was reportedly expected to sanction changes to Europe's premier club competition post-2024 at a meeting on Wednesday.

The topic will still be discussed, but there will be no announcement until next month, UEFA has clarified.

Under the proposed amendments to the Champions League, there would be a 10-match first phase, with the current group stage scrapped.

There would also be 36 teams to qualify rather than 32 and two clubs could receive 'wildcard' entries.

Those wildcards would be handed out to clubs with the highest UEFA co-efficient - points ranking clubs on their past European success - who qualified for the Europa League but missed out on the Champions League due to the position they finished in their domestic competition.

A statement from the governing body said: "UEFA can confirm that a meeting of the executive committee will take place tomorrow, Wednesday March 31, and that the future of club competitions post-2024 will be one of the topics discussed.

"However, any official decision in this respect will only be made at the next UEFA executive committee meeting on April 19, in order to finalise ongoing discussions."

Both legs of Chelsea's Champions League quarter-final with Porto will be staged at Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium.

UEFA announced the move on Tuesday, with the coronavirus pandemic placing restrictions on travel to and from certain countries.

The governing body said in a statement: "UEFA is able to officially confirm that the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first and second leg matches involving FC Porto and Chelsea FC, will now both be played at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville. The dates of the matches (7 April and 13 April 2021) and the kick-off times (21:00CET) will remain the same.

"UEFA would like to thank FC Porto and Chelsea FC for their support and close cooperation, as well as the Portuguese Football Federation, the Football Association, the Royal Spanish Football Federation and Sevilla FC for their assistance and agreeing to stage the matches."

The Blues played the first leg of their last-16 tie with Atletico Madrid in Romania, with travellers from the UK banned from entering Spain.

Thomas Tuchel warned his side against complacency for the Porto tie even before losing the benefit of a game on home soil, with Chelsea having been installed as firm favourites to reach the semi-finals.

Chelsea have won five of their eight prior meetings with Porto, including all four at Stamford Bridge, their best 100 per cent home win rate against any opponent in European competition.

But given the Portuguese side eliminated Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus in the last round, head coach Tuchel is not taking Chelsea's progress for granted.

"Clearly, many people will maybe now make us the favourites against Porto," he said. "That will not help us. You can ask in Turin about the opinion on this, if it helps you to be favourites. It does not help you.

"But we are self-confident. Being self-confident is strongly connected with our performances. We are confident that we face a strong opponent that we face with all the respect.

"Now we are in the quarter-final, we think about how to win it. The only thing we focus on is to reach the semi-finals. We are self-confident enough that we see our chances."

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah refused to rule out an Anfield exit as he hinted at a move to LaLiga amid links to Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Salah is contracted to Premier League champions Liverpool until 2023, but his future has become a talking point having previously refused to dismiss the prospect of joining Madrid or Barca in an interview with Diario AS in December.

The Egypt international has been a revelation since leaving Serie A outfit Roma for Liverpool in 2017, spearheading the Reds to Champions League and Premier League glory.

As Liverpool prepare to face Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals, with the opening leg on April 6, Salah was asked about his future.

"It's not up to me," Salah – who has scored a joint-high 17 Premier League goals this season – told Marca when asked if it is time to leave Liverpool.

"We'll see what happens but I prefer not to talk about that now."

When pressed on whether a move to Spain appeals, having already experienced England and Italy, Salah added: "I hope to be able to play for many more years. Why not?

"No one knows what's going to happen in the future, so... maybe one day, yes."

Salah's relationship with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has made headlines amid reported tension between the pair.

Liverpool forward Salah was visibly frustrated when he was substituted by Klopp in the Premier League defeat to Chelsea earlier this month, with the German boss forced to play down the issue.

"It's a normal relationship between two professionals," Salah replied after being asked about his relationship with Klopp. "That's how I'd describe it."

The upcoming blockbuster Champions League tie will be a reunion between Liverpool's Salah and Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.

Salah was injured and forced to be substituted with a shoulder injury in the 2018 Champions League final after being hauled down by Ramos as Madrid went on to beat Liverpool 3-1.

Ramos was criticised for the incident, which impacted Salah's participation at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

"That game is in the past, so I don't think about it," Salah said. "I'm thinking about the team. Everyone is focused on their team and everyone wants to win... that's it."

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane says he is prouder than ever to be at Liverpool despite a turbulent season.

After winning the Champions League and Premier League in consecutive years, the 2020-21 campaign has been more challenging for the Reds.

Liverpool are down in seventh place having struggled with key injuries and poor form.

Sitting 25 points behind leaders Manchester City, Mane called on his team-mate to fight but insisted he has never been more proud to represent the Reds.

"In football – and in life in general – you can't expect anything and for years and years this complicated situation has not happened," Mane told reporters while on international duty with Senegal.

"We have always been successful, but now this has happened and we can see it is like how life is.

"To change it? Nothing else but stick together, be positive and fight.

"This is what we try to do to change this situation and I'm sure that it will change. I am more proud than ever to be a Liverpool player.

"I am happy, I am really enjoying being here and sharing the pitch with my team-mates for Liverpool Football Club."

Liverpool won their last match before the international break 1-0 at Wolves, with a huge clash against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium coming up next Saturday.

While they have struggled at Anfield, the Reds have won four of their past five away Premier League games (L1), as many as they had won in their previous 15 on the road in the competition (D6 L5). 

They will also face Real Madrid in a mouth-watering Champions League quarter-final tie.

Ahead of a crucial spell, Mane called for his team-mates to battle and was not prepared to use injuries as an excuse.

He added: "Let's be honest, we are in a difficult time and this sometimes happens to teams, which again is part of football.

"We have to deal with the situation and not stop believing, but keep fighting, keep our motivation and go again. When you are a fighter you never try to make excuses. We are here to find solutions.

"Being together with my team-mates always gives me high energy.

"You can see the quality of the team and if you came to the dressing room.

"I think you would have no other option than to see your future like it is going to be bright because with this squad and this team there is the attitude and belief that everything will change."

It was Diogo Jota who scored the winning goal for Liverpool at Wolves, the forward's return from injury coming at a welcome time.

The form of regular front three Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah has been questioned at times this season amid a hectic fixture calendar.

Salah has gone five league games without a goal, while Mane and Firmino have both struck just once in 11 top-flight appearances in 2021.

Mane, though, did net in both legs of the Champions League last-16 victory over RB Leipzig.

He played the full 90 minutes as Senegal drew 0-0 with Congo on Friday.

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