Manchester City have won their third Premier League title in the past four seasons, also making it a hat-trick of triumphs in England's top flight for manager Pep Guardiola.

Even more so than when City racked up remarkable 100 and 98-point totals in their back-to-back 2017-18 and 2018-19 successes, this has been a tale of collective endeavour.

After a November defeat at Tottenham left Guardiola's men languishing in 11th, with 12 points from eight games, a steady turnaround occurred, with City establishing irresistible momentum by the early weeks of 2021.

This version of City might not be as freewheeling and freescoring as in previous years – they are set to fall well short of the 102 goals they managed despite coming a distant second to Liverpool last term – but they have proved no less effective.

Here, we look at some of the key figures in their revival.

Ruben Dias

There were a number of factors that helped Guardiola to put the pieces back together after a crushing 5-2 defeat in City's first Premier League home game of the season versus Leicester City, but the fact they secured Dias as a club-record signing from Benfica two days later feels heavily symbolic.

The Portugal centre-back instantly provided the defensive leadership City have lacked since Vincent Kompany's departure in 2019 and shoring things up at the back took the pressure off an attack struggling to adjust to Sergio Aguero's more marginal role.

In Dias' 30 Premier League appearances, City have conceded 18 goals, four of which were penalties, set against an expected goals against (xGA) figure of 21.3. In the 30 games prior to his debut, Guardiola's men conceded 32 goals, including six penalties, from 29.5 xGA against.

The 23-year-old has unquestionably added a layer of steel that City previously lacked - something that was emphatically demonstrated by his heroic midweek showing against Paris Saint-Germain - although he is not the only player responsible for this development.

John Stones

Forlorn battles with form and fitness in 2019-20 left Stones at a career crossroads. Had Eric Garcia signed a new contract instead of running his deal down in order to join Barcelona on a free, his race might have been run at the Etihad Stadium.

Despite a lengthy chase for a senior centre-back – Dias having not been City's first choice – and Nathan Ake's arrival from Bournemouth, Stones chose to buckle down to rich rewards.

He impressed in City's opening 3-1 win over Wolves but then had to bide his time as a rotation option. Those midweek performances persuaded Guardiola to install him at Dias' first-choice partner after some unsteady outings from pervious mainstay Aymeric Laporte.

A goal-costing error on his return to England duty in March and a recent red card at Aston Villa showed some of the old frailties remain, but bravura showings in the Champions League wins at Borussia Dortmund and PSG demonstrated how far the 26-year-old has come.

With Stones on the pitch this season, City have conceded one goal every 195 minutes. Among defenders to have played at least 1,000 minutes in 2020-21, only Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger (219) has a better rate.

Joao Cancelo

Dias' compatriot Cancelo has typified two familiar elements when it comes to Guardiola teams – players often fare far better after a mixed initial season getting used to the Catalan tactician's demands, while innovation and excellence in the full-back areas is usually a sign of things being in very good working order

"He arrived last season, he was confused in the beginning, he expected something we could not offer him but he is a nice guy with a great heart," Guardiola said in January, by which time it had become apparent how effective the former Juventus man was in his hybrid full-back/midfield role.

When City motored clear of the pack during 21-match winning run in all competitions that spanned December to March, Cancelo was key in helping to provide the numerical superiority in midfield Guardiola desires, while also proving versatile enough to operate both inside and outside from right-back or left-back.

Cancelo is the first Premier League player to average more than two tackles (2.7), 1.5 chances created (1.7) and 50 successful passes (61.5) per 90 minutes since Cesc Fabregas in 2017-18. To perhaps underline his unique interpretation of the full-back position, Cancelo is the only defender among the previous 10 players to hit these combined marks, going back to Aaron Ramsey in 2013-14.

Ilkay Gundogan

Particularly this season, everything in a Guardiola team is noticeably connected. The Dias-Stones axis has shored things up to the extent Cancelo can provide both extra midfield protection and an additional creative outlet.

A knock-on from this is Gundogan being able to make hay further up the field. When City last won the league in 2018-19, he performed with distinction in a holding midfield role during the run-in.

This term, the Germany playmaker has been unleashed to devastating effect, hitting a particular purple patch in front of goal as City swept all before them in January and February – netting braces to sink Liverpool and Spurs in the latter month.

In 26 appearances, Gundogan has scored 12 times. His 11 non-penalty goals are three better than any other midfielder in the division.

Gundogan's contributions have been particularly valuable give City's lack of a reliable goalscoring attacker, while also helping Guardiola's now go-to striker-less formation to flourish.

He could still finish the campaign as the lowest scoring top-scorer from a Premier League champion, a distinction presently held by Frank Lampard, who scored 13 times when Chelsea claimed glory in 2004-05.

Kevin De Bruyne

De Bruyne was named PFA Footballers' Footballer of the Year last season and has not stolen the limelight in quite the same way this time around. However, that is perhaps down to his team-mates not leaving him to fight a lone hand as he did for much of the previous campaign.

The Belgium maestro's contribution has still been very impressive. He has five goals and 11 assists in the Premier League, while he has now scored in City's past five Champions League knockout ties.

He has created 74 chances in 24 appearances, averaging 3.44 per 90 minutes – the best rate of any player in the Premier League, albeit down on his remarkable average of 4.37 last season.

Phil Foden

For club and country, Foden has enjoyed the kind of breakout season that seems to have been craved for some time, despite the fact he is still a few weeks shy of his 21st birthday.

A central midfielder as he came through the ranks at City, Foden has largely been deployed as a wide attacker and to devastating effect.

His 12 goal involvements (seven goals, five assists) are more than any under-21 player in the Premier League, while his performance and stunning solo goal in a 4-1 win at Anfield showed his taste for the big occasion – a priceless facet again demonstrated as the England international scored the winner in each leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Dortmund.

Having faced frequent calls to give Foden more game-time, Guardiola now counts the youngster as a practically locked-in selection for big games. As in each of his four seasons in senior football, Foden has featured more regularly, with 26 Premier League appearances and 15 starts to his name.

Pep Guardiola's management of Manchester City has never felt quite as fraught as it did midway through his first season in charge, as the English winter of 2016-17 bit hard for a team in transition.

City collapsed to a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea in a top-of-the-table clash, a setback that preceded a humbling 4-2 loss at Leicester City.

After that game, Guardiola infamously remarked, "I am not a coach for the tackles", and a 4-0 thumping at Everton the following month further fuelled suspicions in some quarters that 'The Barclays' was bringing the most celebrated coach of his generation to heel in its inimitable fashion.

As City bask in a third Premier League title in the past four years, it is striking how Guardiola's commitment to his principles has not wavered at all. If anything, times of high stress have only served to deepen his convictions.

Speaking before that 2016 ordeal, when Jamie Vardy ran riot with a hat-trick, Guardiola discussed the make-up of his ideal team, with tongue planted only partially in cheek.

"I love midfield players," he said. "Always I said, many times, if I could play with 11 midfield players, I would."

Fast forward four-and-a-half seasons, and City are into their maiden Champions League final having driven Paris Saint-Germain to furious distraction over the course of a 4-1 aggregate victory.

They got there without a recognised striker – playmakers Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Ilkay Gundogan taking various turns at the point of the attack and winger Riyad Mahrez scoring three of the four goals. Oleksandr Zinchenko, a midfielder by trade, replaced Joao Cancelo at left-back midway through the second half in Paris and was a stand-out performer in Manchester.

Consider John Stones' resurgence as a ball-playing central defender and Ederson's own silky footwork between the posts and Guardiola really isn't too far away from his ideal.

"I have to admit it, I like the players that have the ability to keep the ball, don't lose the ball," he said before last Saturday's 2-0 win at Crystal Palace that brought City to the brink of glory.

"It's one of the principal things I am looking for. If they keep the ball, it is the best way to defend. The players have to keep the ball in difficult circumstances.

"In all my career I played with a lot of midfield players. I have the feeling you can play better with these kind of players."

Let's ignore the fact Guardiola picked a bizarre line-up featuring Rodri as his only specialist midfielder in Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea and dig into this theme a little more...

Pausa for thought

At City, "Don't lose the ball" is a non-negotiable update on Guardiola's Barcelona template of "Take the ball, pass the ball". As they have in the three previous completed campaigns, they boast a passing accuracy of 89 per cent.

There is an increased calmness and control to their play, as shown in their data over the course of the season.

City are taking fewer shots than at any other period in the Guardiola era. They average 15.9 attempts per game in the Premier League, down from 19.6 last season and lower even than the 16.6 from their manager's fitful first season.

Their figure of 2.1 goals per game is in line with their 2016-17 average and some way below what followed. The 100-point campaign of 2017-18 yielded 2.8 goals per game.

Sergio Aguero's thumping strike against Palace showed the killer finishing instinct Guardiola's battery of midfielders lack, which partially explains this drop-off.

But it has been absorbed because the overly frantic feel to City's play when Liverpool won the league last year is all but gone. An average possession figure of 64.2 per cent in the Premier League is actually their lowest under Guardiola, but their average open play sequence lasts 15.1 seconds and this has never lasted longer.

Another metric that hints towards control and the idea of City taking their time is their direct speed – put simply, how quickly the team progresses the ball upfield. This season, their attacks have advanced at 1.1 metres per second, which is their slowest or least direct under Guardiola.

If this means they do not quicken the pulse as much around the opposition penalty area, there are obvious benefits when it comes to protecting their own.

According to Opta, City have conceded 25 'big chances' in the Premier League in 2020-21, an average of 0.71 per game. This more than halves their 1.47 'big chances' faced from last season.

Along with some more refined work in possession, the talismanic influence of record signing Ruben Dias at centre-back should not be understated.

Of the 245 shots City have faced this season, 67 were blocked. That amounts to 27.3 per cent and the highest ratio of blocks under Guardiola. Anyone who watched Dias practically turn taking PSG shots in the face into an artform last week will not be overly surprised.

Conceding from 10.6 per cent of shots faced is City's second-best return of the past five years, following 9.7 per cent in 2018-19, while 35 per cent of shots faced being on target is another welcome low under their current manager.

In his first 30 league outings, Dias contributed to 14 clean sheets and saw just 18 goals conceded. They would be impressive numbers in any circumstances, but especially so when you then remember he walked into something resembling a train wreck.

"This isn't a team I can recognise"

"We started to think we were playing bad when we were not playing bad," a shellshocked Guardiola said. Leicester again. Vardy again. 5-2 this time, having led their opening home game of the season last September.

Whatever they thought as anxiety crept in when they were unable to build upon Mahrez opening the scoring against his former club, City ended up playing very badly indeed. Three of Leicester's goals were penalties. It was all impossibly error-strewn.

"The start of this season was so messy, for everyone," captain Fernandinho told The Players' Tribute.

"The way we had to come back [for Project Restart] after three months of inactivity, then we had practically no pre-season. Nothing like that had ever happened in our careers."

A month prior to their Leicester humiliation, City collapsed to a wretched 3-1 defeat to Lyon in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. That disappointment cloaked a listless start to 2020-21, as the surreal darkness of pandemic football became a numbing reality.

Guardiola was trying to pick up the pieces professionally having lost his mother to coronavirus five months earlier. The strain was understandable and visible.

Dias completed his move from Benfica two days after the Leicester defeat and was thrust into a Bielsaball baptism in a chaotic 1-1 draw against Leeds United. Far from a team of midfielders, it was hard to spot any functioning midfield at all in Guardiola's side at Elland Road.

The Portugal centre-back's leadership qualities were soon apparent and the seeds of an imperious partnership with John Stones were sown. That defensive alliance only truly flowered after a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham, which saw Aymeric Laporte lose his first-choice status.

That loss meant City had taken 12 of the first 24 points on offer, leaving them marooned in mid-table after their worst start to a Premier League season since 2008-09. Six consecutive clean sheets followed in all competitions, although a torpid 0-0 draw at Manchester United did not suggest a team in good health.

In their next game, City were eventually breached – ironically by a Dias own goal – and struggling West Brom left the Etihad Stadium with a 1-1 draw.

"After that game, I had a feeling this isn't a team I can recognise. I didn't like what I saw," Guardiola said, who convened talks with his assistants Juanma Lillo and Rodolfo Borrell, head of player support Manel Estiarte and City's director of football Txiki Begiristain.

"I said we have to come back to our first principle. We started to rebuild and reconstruct the team from that point. We had success in the past and [we had to] come back on our positional play, move the ball quicker, do more passes, stay more in position, run less with the ball."

New Year's resolution

A battling 1-0 win at Southampton got things back on track and ultimately launched a 21-match winning run across all competitions, while Guardiola hailed a 2-0 Boxing Day win over Newcastle United as the best performance of the campaign.

Still, all was not well. The scheduled December 28 trip to Everton was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within City's squad and, on New Year's Eve, Guardiola did not like what he saw on the training ground.

"It was not a good session," Fernandinho recalled. "The attitude, the body language, the effort from some players, it was just obvious. Misplaced passes, players not tracking back, not running, not looking interested.

"After that session, Pep came and spoke to me as captain, as the leader of the team. He was blunt. He told me that not everyone was at 100 per cent. And, in this team, when you come to train, you do it at 100 per cent, or you stay home.

"He was right. And he made it clear that the responsibility for keeping those standards rested with me."

At 7am on New Years' Day, Fernandinho sent out messages to convene a team meeting. Home truths were spoken and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge were up next, with 14 senior outfield players fit and available.

"Before the match, I thought to myself, 'If these guys don't run here, that’s it, I'm done!'," Fernandinho said. He need not have worried.

City tore Chelsea to pieces before half-time, running out 3-1 winners and hastening Frank Lampard's move towards the exit door. Gundogan, Foden and De Bruyne got the goals and the team of midfielders were off and running.

A month later, that same configuration demolished Liverpool 4-1 at Anfield and what felt like a long shot back at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium had quickly become a formality. They are the first team to have been as low as eighth on Christmas Day and win the Premier League title.

"A real guy, a real player"

Fernandinho served as back-up to Rodri during that rampaging run, but his influence behind the scenes should not be underplayed. For all his majestic qualities on the field, David Silva lacked the capacity to rally his colleagues in the same manner last season, having inherited the armband from Vincent Kompany for his final year at the Etihad Stadium.

Dias has filled Kompany's considerable void as a defensive leader, with Fernandinho doing likewise as a squad figurehead.

There have still been memorable performances, with the Brazilian veteran somewhere close to his snapping and crackling best in a 1-0 February win at Arsenal. He started the EFL Cup final as City made it four successes in a row last month and then, on his 36th birthday, he gritted his teeth defiantly in the face of PSG's challenge, perhaps irritating Angel Di Maria in the process.

Like Aguero, Fernandinho is out of contract in June and could be set to follow Kompany, Silva, Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta out of the exit door, closing the book on their transformative era.

Since joining from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013, he has won more games (170) and completed more passes (13,821) than any other Premier League player. And yes, fans of the dark arts, no player has committed as many fouls (344) or received more yellow cards (51).

"I feel very good. The first time lifting the trophy at City, it's an amazing sensation," he told Sky Sports after his record-breaking sixth EFL Cup success and first as captain.

The sensations will be even more enjoyable when he gets his hands on the Premier League, with another more elusive prize maybe still to come.

"He's so important. He's a real guy, a real player who can play in several positions," Guardiola said, back at that pre-Leicester press conference in 2016 when he was asked how City might cope without a suspended Fernandinho. Not too well, as it turned out.

When presented with any plaudits for the successful refinement of his team's style this season, Guardiola has batted them away to insist the triumph "belongs to the players". That is certainly true in the case of Fernandinho, a midfield general and the perfect captain for this team of midfielders.

Novak Djokovic returned following a rain delay to beat Taylor Fritz in the second round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia after Felix Auger-Aliassime dumped Diego Schwartzman out.

Djokovic, playing his first match since a shock loss to Aslan Karatsev in the semi-finals of the Serbia Open on home soil, dispatched American Fritz 6-3 7-6 (7-5) on Tuesday.

The world number one, who missed the Madrid Open, won the first three games of the match and saved both break points he faced in the opening set.

Fritz had broken for a second time in the second set to level at 5-5 when the rain came at the Foro Italico, but the top seed was able to come back out on court to finish off the job and will face Cameron Norrie or Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the third round.

Auger-Aliassime secured the third victory over a top-10 opponent in his fledgling career, beating eighth seed Schwartzman 6-1 6-3 to move into round three.

The 20-year-old Canadian only needed 64 minutes to send the Argentine packing, converting five of the six break-point opportunities he earned.

Matteo Berrettini saw off Nikoloz Basilashvili 4-6 6-2 6-4 in the first round less than 48 hours after the Italian was beaten by Alexander Zverev in the Madrid Open final.

Gael Monfils was unable to win his first match since the Australian Open, as Lorenzo Sonego got the better of the fit-again Frenchman, who had been sidelined with a calf injury, 6-4 5-7 6-4.

Reilly Opelka moved into the last 16 with a 6-4 6-4 defeat of Lorenzo Musetti, while Pablo Carreno Busta's withdrawal due to lower back pain handed Kei Nishikori a walkover.

Daniil Medvedev and David Goffin were unable to start their second-round matches due to the weather in Rome.

Manchester City have been crowned Premier League champions after Manchester United's 2-1 defeat to Leicester City on Tuesday.

Luke Thomas volleyed Leicester into a 10th-minute lead against a much-changed United side and, though Mason Greenwood responded five minutes later, the Foxes ensured the title will head to the blue half of Manchester through Caglar Soyuncu's 66th-minute header.

Pep Guardiola's men have now won three titles in four seasons, regaining their crown at the first time of asking following Liverpool's 2019-20 success.

City were unable to get over the line on their own terms last weekend as a much-changed XI went down 2-1 to Chelsea, despite Raheem Sterling giving them a 44th-minute lead

Sergio Aguero, who has twice scored in title-clinching victories for the club where he is the all-time record goalscorer, could have given them breathing space in first-half stoppage time but botched a Panenka penalty attempt in hilarious fashion.

That left the door ajar for Thomas Tuchel's men to capitalise through Hakim Ziyech's equaliser and Marcos Alonso's stoppage-time winner.

Aguero can at least console himself with a fifth league winners' medal, having been involved in each of City's Premier League wins.

It pulls them level with Chelsea on five triumphs, with Manchester United's 13 won under Alex Ferguson still granting them breathing space overall.

Guardiola joins Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho on three Premier League titles. Only Ferguson has won more and the Catalan is the 12th manager in English top-flight history to have won three or more league championships.

Overall, it is City's seventh time as English champions, including wins in 1936-37 and 1967-68. It puts them joint fifth in the all-time standings alongside Aston Villa and behind United (20), Liverpool (19), Arsenal (13) and Everton (nine).

In the modern era, there can be no doubting City's dominance, with this their fifth title in the past 10 seasons. Only Chelsea (two) have won the Premier League more than once during the same period.

Guardiola similarly stands tall among his contemporaries, with nine titles across his 12 top-flight seasons as a coach – three apiece with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City.

Such an achievement did not look likely as his team made a stuttering start to 2020-21. On Christmas Day they were eighth in the table and eight points behind leaders Liverpool.

Only two teams in Premier League history (Arsenal in 1997-98 – 13 points; Manchester United in 1995-96 – 10 points) have been further behind at Christmas and won the title and neither were as low as eighth when they did so.

You have to go back to before the Premier League era for a team in a lower position on December 25 ending up as champions. City themselves were 12th in 1936, the same position as Liverpool in 1981. Derby County claimed glory from 10th at Christmas in 1974-75.

Leicester City enhanced their Champions League hopes with a 2-1 win over Manchester United – a result that crowned Manchester City as Premier League champions.

United were the only team with a mathematical chance of overhauling Pep Guardiola's side, but a line-up bearing 10 changes from Sunday's 3-1 victory at Aston Villa showed how realistic Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thought those hopes were.

Liverpool are at Old Trafford on Thursday for their rearranged game, and Solskjaer's youthful line-up for this second of three matches in five days fell behind when Luke Thomas brilliantly steered in a 10th-minute volley for his first Premier League goal.

Mason Greenwood extended his recent purple patch to eight goals in 11 outings shortly afterwards but United carried little threat and Leicester centre-back Soyuncu was left to make his most telling contribution at the other end of the field midway through the second half.

It meant a third title in four seasons for Manchester City – an outcome that felt slightly fanciful when they lost 5-2 at home to Leicester back in September.

There was an injury scare for United left-back Alex Telles early on and Leicester's opener came as Youri Tielemans made progress down his flank, possibly over hitting the cross from which Thomas finished with aplomb.

A teenager more familiar with the scoresheet quickly got United back on terms, Greenwood drilling home in superbly assured fashion after Amad Diallo got the better of Thomas.

David De Gea pushed another awkwardly dipping Tielemans cross behind for a corner in the 28th minute, as the lively start to proceedings gave way to a more fragmented contest.

The Belgium midfielder remained the only Leicester player who looked frequently capable of unlocking a patched-up United and he slid a pass into Kelechi Iheanacho – De Gea sharply denying the striker with his boot.

Leicester's deliveries from open play left plenty to be desired, although Marc Albrighton's 66th-minute corner picked out Soyuncu to power home as substitute Marcus Rashford was caught napping.

Rashford, Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes amounted to some particularly prolific cavalry, the latter slicing wastefully wide six minutes from time as City readied the champagne corks.

Alessandro De Marchi emerged from stage four of the Giro d’Italia with the pink jersey after finishing second to Joe Dombrowski, with Tuesday's action coming in brutal conditions.

American Dombrowski (UAE-Team Emirates) caught the breakaway leaders and attacked with 4km remaining on the last climb of the day in the stage from Piacenza to Sestola, claiming his first victory at a grand tour.

As riders battled cold, wet and windy conditions, De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation) came in 13 seconds behind to ensure it was he who claimed the maglia rosa, now leading the overall standings by 22 seconds over Dombrowski.

"I started thinking about taking the maglia rosa two days ago but I didn't tell anybody," said the veteran De Marchi.

"It was about finding the right move. I knew it would be tricky at the start. A bit of luck helped and here we are. I'm lost for words.

"The maglia rosa is the childhood dream of every cyclist, especially for an Italian.

"When I realised that there was opportunity [with the breakaway] I really started to dream and I was scared to have lost the opportunity in the middle of the race when the three guys went clear, but never give up."

INEOS Grenadiers rider Filippo Ganna relinquished the leader's jersey after coming in more than 21 minutes adrift.

Some of the race favourites also did battle back in the peloton with a group including Giulio Ciccone, Mikel Landa, Egan Bernal, Hugh Carthy and Aleksandr Vlasov making up 11 seconds on Simon Yates, Remco Evenepoel and Dan Martin.

A bad day for Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider Joao Almeida saw him drop from fourth to 42nd overall after losing just under six minutes to all but end his hopes of contending.


STAGE RESULT  

1. Joe Dombrowski (UAE-Team Emirates) 4:58:38
2. Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation) +0.13
3. Filippo Fiorelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) +0.27
4. Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix) +0.29
5. Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Victorious) same time

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation) 13:50:44
2. Joe Dombrowski (UAE-Team Emirates) +0.22
3. Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix) +00:42

Points Classification

1. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) 50
2. Elia Viviani (Cofidis) 38
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Qhubeka Assos) 35

King of the Mountains

1. Joe Dombrowski (UAE-Team Emirates) 18
2. Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team) 16
3. Rein Taaramae (Intermarche–Wanty–Gobert Materiaux) 13

Garbine Muguruza eased into the second round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Tuesday thanks to a comfortable victory over lucky loser Patricia Maria Tig, though Belinda Bencic was the biggest casualty on a rain-interrupted day.

Spaniard Muguruza was due to face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova until the Russian withdrew due to an abdominal issue, giving Tig a reprieve and the chance of an upset.

But Muguruza won all but three games in a comprehensive 6-1 6-2 victory that required little more than an hour on court as the former world number one went to 22-6 for the season.

Conditions were not great as drizzle persisted for much of the match, but Muguruza was grateful to progress after a generally testing day.

"It was a weird day," the 12th seed said afterwards. "I woke up [and the weather was] sunny, had an opponent. Then it turned out I had another opponent and it was raining the whole match. We had a little bit of everything!

"But, Rome, it's such a familiar tournament. I played here so many times, I've had nice matches. I love this clay, the red clay. It's familiar to me. I'm just looking forward to getting as many matches as possible."

Bencic will not be joining her in the next round, as she became the highest seed to be eliminated on the day in a 6-3 6-4 defeat to Kristina Mladenovic.

The two played each other under two weeks ago in the first round of the Madrid Open, with Bencic victorious, but Mladenovic got her revenge as she capitalised on her opponent's seven double faults.

Like Tig, Sloane Stephens was also competing as a lucky loser as she came up against compatriot Madison Keys, though the outcome was no different.

Keys claimed only her second win in six meetings with Stephens but had to come from behind as she eventually clinched it 4-6 6-2 7-5 after two-and-a-half hours on court to set up a clash with 15th seed Iga Swiatek.

Elise Mertens, the 14th seed, was also dumped out of the competition, losing out 4-6 6-2 6-3 to Veronika Kudermetova, whom she had beaten in straight sets in their three WTA Tour contests before this one.

Veteran Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova, ranked 665 in the world, awaits top seed Ashleigh Barty after the 33-year-old showed character to fight back and beat Martina Trevisan 0-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (8-6), while Nadia Podoroska set up a second-round clash with Serena Williams after seeing off Laura Siegemund 2-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-1.

Harry Maguire could miss the Europa League final after Manchester United confirmed he suffered ankle ligament damage against Aston Villa, though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hopeful he can face Villarreal.

The England centre-back was visibly hurt following a challenge with Anwar El Ghazi in Sunday's 3-1 comeback win and had to be replaced by Eric Bailly after 78 minutes.

Solskjaer was unclear how long United would be without Maguire initially, suggesting there was a chance he could be fit for Tuesday's visit of Leicester City before also acknowledging his season may be over.

He was able to offer a little more clarity on Tuesday, with Maguire left out of the squad to face his former club, revealing there has been ligament damage rather than a fracture.

A statement on the United website said that "he could also be absent for the remaining league fixtures", while also stating he faces a "race against time" to be fit for the Europa League final on May 26.

Solskjaer stressed he remains optimistic, though he could not be certain that Maguire will feature in Gdansk.

Speaking to MUTV ahead of the clash with Leicester, Solskjaer said: "He's obviously had the scans and the good news is there is no fracture.

"[There's] ligament damage but hopefully we will see him again this season. Hopefully, he'll be ready for the final."

Maguire had previously played every minute in the Premier League since joining from Leicester prior to his withdrawal on Sunday.

His run of 71 games in succession put him tied with only Gary Pallister for an outfield United player in the competition – with the ex-Red Devils defender coincidentally also seeing his streak ended by injury at Villa Park in the 1995-96 season.

Amad Diallo and Anthony Elanga are set to make their Premier League debuts for Manchester United after being named in a much-changed starting XI against Leicester City.

United welcome Leicester to Old Trafford on Tuesday amid a controversially hectic schedule that most recently had them in action on Sunday, and they will play again on Thursday.

The postponement of United's clash with Liverpool is partly to blame, with that game called off after Reds Devils supporters stormed Old Trafford in protests against the club's owners.

Solskjaer has been openly critical of the Premier League's unwillingness to find an alternative solution and acknowledged the packed nature of their schedule this week will require him to make full use of his squad.

While it is a bone of contention for Solskjaer, for Amad and Elanga it offers a glorious opportunity.

The two teenage wingers are set to make their Premier League debuts, with 19-year-old Sweden youth international Elanga yet to appear for United's senior side in any capacity.

Amad, on the other hand, has featured five times from the bench in the FA Cup and Europa League, scoring his first goal for the club in the latter against Milan in a 1-1 draw exactly two months ago.

Solskjaer has been patient about throwing him into the starting XI despite indicating fairly early on after joining up with the squad in January that he was nearly ready.

Elanga has been highly regarded in the United youth setup for quite some time, having been the most recent recipient of the club's Young Player of the Year award, a gong previously won by the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Marcus Rashford.

A dynamic and tricky left winger, Elanga has been in fine form for the club's Under-23s this term, scoring nine goals and setting up another two in 16 Premier League 2 appearances.

He's also attempted more dribbles (60) than any other United Under-23s player in 2020-21, highlighting his confidence on the ball.

The teenagers are just two of 10 changes to the United team from the 3-1 win over Aston Villa, with Mason Greenwood the only player to keep his place.

Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Rashford are among those on the bench.

Defeat for United will seal the Premier League title for rivals Manchester City.

Gianluigi Buffon has called time on his second spell at Juventus, concluding a defining playing association with the Serie A giants.

There may only be three clubs on the goalkeeping great's resume but sustained excellence over more than two decades has filled his trophy cabinet with individual and team honours. 

The former Parma prodigy has rubbed shoulders with the very best in world football throughout that time, forming part of Serie A, Ligue 1 and World Cup-winning sides.

In honour of Buffon's stellar career, we have compiled a star-studded group of former team-mates for a dream XI.

 

GOALKEEPER: GIANLUIGI BUFFON

Who else has the pedigree to don the gloves in such a side?

A five-time member of the UEFA Team of the Year, he boasts more Serie A clean sheets than any other player and, as captain of his country from 2010 until his retirement in 2018, would have no trouble bringing this team together.

RIGHT-BACK: LILIAN THURAM

Having been joined by Buffon at Parma after his switch from Monaco in 1996, Thuram followed his team-mate in making the move to Turin ahead of the 2001-02 campaign.

The 142-time France international, part of the side that tasted glory at the 1998 World Cup on home soil and won Euro 2000, spent five seasons at Juve before rounding out his career with a spell at Barcelona.

CENTRE-BACK: FABIO CANNAVARO

Buffon's inheritance of the Italy armband from Cannavaro in 2010 completed the striking symmetry of their careers.

They both made their Parma debuts in 1995, did the same for Italy in 1997 and were reunited at club level when Cannavaro, one of few defenders to win the Ballon d'Or, joined Juve in 2004. They also lifted the World Cup together in 2006.

CENTRE-BACK: ALESSANDRO NESTA

A long-time rival at club level, Nesta was part of the famous Milan defence that beat Juve in the 2002-03 Champions League final – he scored his penalty against Buffon in a 3-2 shoot-out victory – and triumphed again four seasons later.

He was named in the Team of the Tournament at Euro 2000, which Buffon missed through injury, but the 2006 World Cup success will undoubtedly be the highlight of his career.

LEFT-BACK: PAOLO MALDINI

With admirable longevity, loyalty and leadership, classy defender Maldini set the path that Buffon has so impressively followed.

The long-time Rossoneri skipper, a seven-time Scudetto winner who also lifted the European Cup on five occasions, Maldini was the only player to have managed more Serie A appearances than the veteran keeper until his Juve return.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD: ANDREA PIRLO

Has there been a more iconic duo of the modern era?

Pirlo was already at the top by the time he swapped Milan for Juve, but he saved plenty of his play-making brilliance for Buffon and friends as the Bianconeri re-asserted themselves as Italy's top club with a run of successive Scudetti that stretched to nine before being ended by Inter this season as their reunion as player and head coach did not yield similar results.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD: PAVEL NEDVED

Nedved's blend of athleticism, tenacity and well-rounded technical ability made him close to the complete midfielder.

He helped Czech Republic to the final of Euro 1996 and his value to Juve was summed up by a Ballon d'Or victory in 2003.

ATTACKING MIDFIELD: ROBERTO BAGGIO

Less than two years after a 17-year-old Buffon held Baggio and Milan scoreless on his senior debut for Parma, the pair were sharing the same shirt for Italy.

Two of the Azzurri's greatest were in the same squad at the 1998 World Cup, although Buffon would ultimately go one better than the 1993 Ballon d'Or winner, who suffered final heartache against Brazil at USA 94.

ATTACKING MIDFIELD: ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO

He stands as an equal in the pantheon of Juve luminaries.

Buffon and the majestic Del Piero combined to help the Bianconeri finish top of Serie A on five occasions, while they lined up for Italy together for over a decade and experienced World Cup glory together

FORWARD: CRISTIANO RONALDO

Ronaldo joined Juve as Buffon embarked upon his hiatus with Paris Saint-Germain. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was supposed to add Champions League glory to domestic dominance and now Juventus have neither.

Nevertheless, Ronaldo's individual form has remained imperious. In 127 appearances for the Bianconceri, he has 97 goals at a rate of a goal every 113 minutes.

FORWARD: KYLIAN MBAPPE

They were only together for a year but the France phenomenon is a performer to compare with many of the greats to have shared a dressing room with Buffon.

Fresh from 2018 World Cup success with France, Mbappe scored 39 goals in 43 appearances for PSG in 2018-19, averaging 90.25 minutes per goal and boasting a shot conversion rate of 22 per cent.

Tottenham have promised to set up a fan panel that will have a direct line to the club's board as part of attempts to assuage anger over their involvement in the Super League.

Spurs were one of 12 clubs, including the rest of the Premier League's 'big six', who signed up to the creation of a new European competition in which founding members could not be relegated.

After a furious reaction from fans and former players, and some concern expressed by certain sponsors of the clubs, nine of the 12 teams formally withdrew from the plans and pledged their commitment to recognised UEFA competitions. Only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus have yet to renounce the Super League.

In a statement, Spurs said they signed up to the plans "with the expectation that the format, rules and structures would evolve through dialogue with key parties, namely the Premier League, FA, UEFA, FIFA and, crucially, fans". They said the "access system" – which would have allowed only five different teams, outside the founders, to qualify each season – was misguided, adding: "We wholeheartedly regret that we involved the club and that the legal process itself meant we were unable to consult our fans early on – we apologise unreservedly."

As part of a drive towards cooling supporter anger and ensuring fan views are taken into account in the running of the club, Spurs say they will establish a "Club Advisory Panel" comprising "elected representatives from the different constituencies of our fanbase, inclusive and reflective of our fans’ diversity".

The chair of the panel will also be appointed as a non-executive board member, a move the club hopes will provide "authentic, genuine representation and will ensure fans are at the heart of club decision-making".

The move comes after Chelsea announced they would allow three fan representatives to sit in on board meetings from July 1.

Spurs have also expressed their support for a review into football governance led by the United Kingdom government, which was put into action by culture secretary Oliver Dowden in the wake of the Super League fiasco.

Despite their pledge, Spurs also said they are disappointed that the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust (THST) has not yet met with the club – although they are not prepared to discuss changes in the executive board.

They added: "The THST, with whom we have worked and, indeed, promoted, for 20 years has called for the resignations of the executive board over the ESL – individuals who have lived and breathed this club for the best part of two decades. We have offered on several occasions to meet board-to-board and discuss an open agenda – excluding a change of club ownership and the resignation of the board. Our door remains open on this basis."

Andy Murray will make his competitive comeback at the Internazionali d'Italia this week after he and Liam Broady were entered into the men's doubles as alternates.

Murray has not played in a tournament since losing to Andrey Rublev in the second round in Rotterdam in March due to a groin injury.

The three-time grand slam champion flew to Rome to step up his preparation for a return, practicing with world number one Novak Djokovic and Diego Schwartzman on Sunday.

Murray will also make an unexpected doubles appearance, partnering fellow Brit Broady at the Foro Italico after Hubert Hurkacz and Felix Auger-Aliassime withdrew.

They will face Australian duo Max Purcell and Luke Saville for a place in the second round in the Eternal City on Wednesday.

Murray has entered qualifying for the French Open as he waits to discover whether he will be handed a wildcard for the second major of the year, which starts on May 30.

The former world number one is also hoping to receive a wildcard to play in Geneva or Lyon next week.

Scot Murray confirmed on Monday he will play at the Queen's Club Championships in June.

Gianluigi Buffon has confirmed he will leave Juventus but the Italy great says he might not be ready to retire.

The 43-year-old returned to Juve in 2019 following a season away at Paris Saint-Germain and has been second choice to Wojciech Szczesny since.

Buffon's announcement on Tuesday arguably did not come as a surprise; however, the fact he is still contemplating playing on may have raised some eyebrows.

If he does continue his playing career, whoever his next employers are will certainly be able to count on plenty of experience and knowhow.

Buffon is one of the sport's few stars who have played top-level football into their fifth decade.

Here are seven other legends who set an example for Buffon to follow with their remarkably long careers in the game.

 

RYAN GIGGS

The ultimate one-club man, Ryan Giggs stayed at Manchester United for the entirety of his glittering career. He managed to slowly transform himself from a rapid, tricky winger into a cultured central midfielder in the latter years of his playing days, helping to extend his time on the pitch beyond the age of 40. Giggs won an extraordinary haul of medals at Old Trafford, including 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups and a pair of Champions League crowns. He played in 632 Premier League games, scoring 109 goals, with only Gareth Barry topping his appearance tally. Giggs worked as Louis van Gaal's assistant at United, having taken charge on an interim basis following the sacking of David Moyes, before going on to take charge of his country in 2018. He has been temporarily replaced as Wales boss after he was charged with assaulting two women last year, allegations that Giggs denies.

PAOLO MALDINI

Paolo Maldini was still going strong for Milan beyond his 40th birthday and, like Giggs, he only ever played for one club. Seven league titles and an incredible five European Cup/Champions League wins headline a litany of honours that Maldini helped marshal at San Siro, playing across their near impenetrable back four for almost 25 years. Maldini, son of another Milan legend, Cesare, is one of a select group of players who made over 1,000 appearances in all competitions during their career. Today, the former Italy man is back at Milan, acting as their technical director.

KAZUYOSHI MIURA

Kazuyoshi Miura is still playing, at the age of 54. That the Japanese striker made his debut almost 10 years before Buffon begins to tell part of his incredible tale. Known as King Kazu, Miura plays for Yokohama FC in Japan's top flight, becoming the club's oldest ever player at 53 in September last year. The oldest player and goalscorer in the history of global professional football, Miura is regarded as one of the finest Asian players never to have featured at a World Cup, although he made 89 appearances for his country.

 

STANLEY MATTHEWS

Before Miura snatched them off him, Stanley Matthews held the records for being both the oldest professional footballer and the oldest goalscorer in the game. Matthews - the Wizard of Dribble - made nearly 700 league appearances for Stoke City and Blackpool in a career that spanned three decades. The 1953 FA Cup final is regarded as the Matthews Final, even though Blackpool's Stan Mortensen scored a hat-trick. Matthews won the first European Footballer of the Year award, while he was officially capped for England 54 times, although he also played a host of unofficial wartime games for his country.

DINO ZOFF

Goalkeepers often play deep into their thirties, but not many captain their country to World Cup glory at the age of 40. But that is exactly what Dino Zoff did at the World Cup in 1982. He made 40 appearances in World Cup finals and qualifiers in total, while as a coach he led Italy to the final of Euro 2000. It must be something about Juventus, as Buffon's current club is also where Zoff spent the best years of his career, winning six Serie A titles.

RIVALDO

Best known for his spell at Barcelona in club football, Brazil great Rivaldo was still playing beyond his 40th birthday, albeit only briefly. Rivaldo came out of retirement to sign for Mogi Mirim, the club where his son Rivaldinho was also on the books. Rivaldo picked up two LaLiga titles at Barcelona before continuing his European adventure with Milan, winning the 2002–03 Champions League with the Rossoneri. But it is as a Brazil international that Rivaldo is best remembered, having been a key part of the side that won the World Cup in 2002.

 

ROGER MILLA

Roger Milla became the World Cup's oldest scorer when he hit the net for Cameroon in 1994 at the age of 42, having announced himself at the same tournament four years previously with his famous corner-flag dance. Milla's four goals at the 1990 World Cup helped Cameroon to reach the quarter-finals of the tournament and he is fondly regarded as one of Africa's greatest ever players. Remarkably, Milla regained the African Footballer of the Year title 14 years after he first won the award.

Thomas Tuchel says Chelsea are finishing the job started by an "amazing" Frank Lampard ahead of a vital few weeks for the Blues.

Chelsea boss Tuchel has been lauded for the dramatic turnaround in results he has overseen at Stamford Bridge since his January appointment.

His side will compete for FA Cup and Champions League glory against Leicester City and Manchester City this month and are in control of their own destiny in the race for a top-four finish.

Tuchel, though, was not shy in recognising the contribution made by his predecessor and fan favourite Lampard in making those opportunities for silverware possible.

"Frank had an amazing record in the group stage of the Champions League," said Tuchel, who received a good luck message from the Englishman early in his tenure but has not been in contact since.

"He won all the FA Cup games. He's laid the foundation to get us to finals and we don't feel ashamed or have any fear to speak it out loud.

"It felt like that on the first day. I am aware Frank created his own legacy as a player and made it bigger as a coach.

"We stepped in halfway through the season and tried to fulfil the job he had began.

"Frank resembles everything you think about Chelsea. You think about Frank Lampard, the way he is, how he played football.

"This shows his character and the message he sent was a pleasure to receive. We had a message a couple of days after we arrived but nothing more."

After coming from behind to defeat Manchester City for the second time in three weeks on Saturday, Chelsea now have another huge domestic clash against London rivals Arsenal on Wednesday.

Chelsea are third in the table going into that game at Stamford Bridge – five points clear of West Ham in fifth – but the Gunners are not in the hunt, as they sit ninth having also gone out of the Europa League.

Tuchel sympathised with under-pressure Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta but insisted the Gunners – who face missing out on Europe for the first time since their 1995-96 absence - remain one of the top clubs on the continent.

Chelsea go into the match as favourites and are unbeaten in their last eight home Premier League matches against Arsenal, with six wins.

"I know what I go through when we don't win: it's the most horrible situation in the whole world, no matter if you coach in the academy or professional football," said Tuchel.

"That doesn't change during the week and it's the same for everybody.

"We are fully focused on ourselves and it's not for me to comment on Arsenal's situation, but nothing surprises me about this league, you can catch a streak or get caught in any match.

"That is what we signed up for: the toughest competition in Europe.

"Arsenal are one of the biggest clubs in Europe and we will prepare for our best level."

Mateo Kovacic and Andreas Christensen are out for Chelsea, but both have a chance of playing in the upcoming finals after a positive injury update from Tuchel.

The former Paris Saint-Germain head coach is expected to rotate his squad amid a gruelling run of fixtures, but he will not prioritise one match over another.

"We have an eye on the players' workload and the statistics we have, who is overloaded and from that we will decide who has a risk of injury," Tuchel said.

"Everyone who isn't a risk will be available for the game, it is not a case of managing for the [FA Cup final] on Saturday – we are in the middle of a [top-four] race."

Arsenal won 3-1 against Chelsea on Boxing Day earlier this season and have the chance to do a league double over the Blues for the first time since their Invincibles season ended in 2004.

But Chelsea have taken more points (22) from Premier League London derby games this season than any other side, winning seven of nine, with that Arsenal loss their lone defeat in such matches.

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