Robert Lewandowski talks over a contract extension at Bayern Munich are "95 per cent" done.

Poland striker Lewandowski played a starring role as Bayern rolled Schalke aside with minimal fuss in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday, scoring a hat-trick in the 3-0 win.

There was further reason for fan celebrations after the match as Lewandowski – who is contracted until 2021 – confirmed he is close to securing a reported two-year extension.

When it was put to him the deal was 99 per cent concluded, Lewandowski told Sky: "Not yet, maybe 95 per cent."

Lewandowski hit 22 goals last term to finish as the Bundesliga's top scorer and he is confident he will have another stellar campaign in 2019-20.

"I can always play better and I have the potential improve each season," he added. "I can do something special on my own every season, but I try to help the team. No matter who I play against, I always try to score goals."

His coach Niko Kovac was similarly upbeat about Lewandowski, saluting the 31-year-old's impact on German football.

"[His performance was] sensationally good, that's what he's there for," the Croatian said. "That's what he can do.

"He has already proved in the last five, six, seven years – I don't know how long he has been in Germany – that he's the best striker in the Bundesliga.

"Not only in the last game, but also today. His efficiency and accuracy are unique. We are glad that we have him and I hope that he will continue like this in the next weeks and months."

Zinedine Zidane urged Real Madrid fans to stay on side as he recognises the team are under more pressure this term because of last season's troubles.

Madrid played their first home match of the 2019-20 campaign on Saturday but were held to a shock 1-1 draw by Real Valladolid.

Karim Benzema scored what Madrid thought to be the winner in the 82nd minute, but Sergi Guardiola struck his second goal of the season even later to salvage a commendable point for the visitors.

Little has gone the way of Madrid – or Zidane – in recent months, with their close season marred by the ugly Gareth Bale transfer saga, poor friendly performances and uncertainty around some of the new signings.

Having finished last season 19 points adrift of Barcelona, Zidane knows the pressure has increased again this season and he is pleading for fans to lend their backing.

When asked if the team is under more scrutiny because of last term, Zidane said: "I noticed it at the Bernabeu - the crowd [feels the pressure] too.

"The fans also have to help us. There's no choice. I know it is difficult, but I'm asking because they have also taken advantage of our successes. We will try everything on our part."

Madrid are next in league action on September 1, when they travel to Villarreal.

Pep Guardiola appreciates Raheem Sterling's willingness to listen but insists the Manchester City star's development into a world-class player is entirely of his own making.

England international Sterling has blossomed into one of the Premier League's most dangerous attackers under Guardiola's stewardship.

The former Liverpool winger scored 18 and 17 goals in successive title-winning campaigns and boasts four in two appearances this term, including a hat-trick against West Ham on the opening weekend.

Guardiola believes it will be tough for Sterling to beat out-and-out strikers to the Golden Boot but praised his appetite for improvement.

"I think he's a better player, like I said last season. It's all [to] his credit, his desire to be better," Guardiola said.

"I think every player is good when they understand what we want to do as a group... he's a guy who is incredibly receptive when we have our talks, when Mikel [Arteta, City first-team coach] speaks with him or myself.

"It's nice, when they don't get that feeling like 'oh, always pushing me or criticising me'.

"He's open. From day one since we arrived. That's why he's becoming an incredible, exceptional player.

"After that his physicality [is excellent], he plays every three days and no injuries. He runs a lot and his genetics are so strong. It's good."

Sterling's injury free run could not contrast more sharply with the difficulties faced by Benjamin Mendy.

The France left-back has suffered two serious knee injuries since joining the club in 2017 but is now back in training and, according to Guardiola, can still realise his potential.

"Yes, if he's fit he'll have success," the City boss said.

"He has a special quality. Right now I'm happy. I don't want to say any big words, but I'm satisfied because for two weeks, the day after training sessions, he feels good.

"He doesn't feel pain and that's good.

"I think he's training well. The people from Barcelona [where Mendy underwent surgery in November] told me he's working incredibly, like an animal. Hopefully he can maintain that because it's not one day, it's not one week. It's every day doing that."

Lionel Messi is once again absent from the Barcelona squad for Sunday's LaLiga clash with Real Betis.

Messi returned to training this week following a calf problem, with the 32-year-old missing Barca's entire programme of pre-season friendlies due to Copa America commitments and his injury.

Although he got several days of training under his belt and appeared to be in fine form in video footage that came out of the sessions, it was reported Messi felt "discomfort" on Friday.

Coach Ernesto Valverde also urged fans to be patient in his pre-match news conference a day later, adamant Messi will not be risked if he is anything other than 100 per cent ready to feature.

As such, Messi has been left out of the squad for the visit of Betis, who left Camp Nou with a stunning 4-3 win last season.

There is a place in the selection for Ansu Fati, a 16-year-old winger who impressed in the UEFA Youth League in 2018-19.

Barca will be aiming to bounce back from their 1-0 opening-day defeat at Athletic Bilbao.

 

Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw by Real Valladolid in their first home game of the season on Saturday.

Karim Benzema's precise strike with eight minutes to play looked enough to earn Zinedine Zidane's side a second win from two LaLiga matches in 2019-20, only for Sergi Guardiola to level late on.

Madrid started their first home game of the season with none of their new signings in the first XI, as Zidane put faith in Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Isco despite weeks of speculation over their futures.

It was Bale who looked likeliest to break the deadlock in the first half, prodding a first-time effort just wide of the left-hand post and sending a header over the crossbar.

James also twice came close with a good strike and a header, but Valladolid goalkeeper Jordi Masip was left relatively untroubled despite Madrid's dominance.

Luka Jovic was sent on from the bench for his home debut and struck the crossbar with a header from Bale's cross - his first touch of the game.

Waldo Rubio was denied by Thibaut Courtois while Guardiola just failed to turn in a cross on the break, and Benzema's sharp turn and finish from 18 yards out looked to have punished those misses.

That was until the 88th minute, when Guardiola raced into space behind Raphael Varane and prodded the ball through the legs of Courtois.

 

Waterhouse goalscoring hero Andre Fletcher has been very philosophical about the task his team has ahead of them when they go to Costa Rica next week. 

Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick to take his goal tally to five in two games as he fired Bayern Munich to their first Bundesliga victory of the season in a 3-0 defeat of Schalke.

After finishing with his lowest goal return for four years in 2018-19, plundering 22 league goals, the Poland international has started the new campaign in electric form and Schalke failed to contain him.

Any hopes Schalke boss David Wagner had of taking points from his first home game in charge were cast into doubt when Lewandowski converted a first-half penalty.

The 31-year-old saved his best for the second half, when he curled a spectacular free-kick into the top corner and then added a third to wrap up a comfortable victory.

Bayern coach Niko Kovac took the opportunity to hand a debut to loanee forward Philippe Coutinho in the last 35 minutes, and after a frustrating start to the season the champions are starting to look more like themselves.

Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nubel, heavily linked with a move to Bayern during the close season, made a good reaction save to keep a powerful Lewandowski header out after 15 minutes.

When Schalke's loanee full-back Jonjoe Kenny made a clumsy sliding challenge on Kingsley Coman four minutes later the referee had no option but to award a penalty that Lewandowski calmly stroked into net.

The second half was just four minutes old when Corentin Tolisso won a free-kick 25 yards from goal, prompting Lewandowski to unleash a scintillating strike that swerved away from Nubel and into the top-left corner.

With 15 minutes left, Coman burst down the right and crossed to the edge of the box where Lewandowski had time to take a touch before rattling a low shot into the bottom-right corner of the net to add gloss to the result.

 

What does it mean? Normal service resumed

After defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the DFL-Supercup and a draw with Hertha Berlin in their season opener, Bayern put paid to suggestions that they are on the wane with a calm, confident victory.

Lewandowski like a fine wine

Bayern's dependence on Lewandowski for firepower is often viewed as a weakness in their squad, but when he is in this kind of form that argument falls flat.

Toffee unstuck

Everton loanee Kenny enjoyed a clean sheet on his Schalke debut in a goalless draw with Borussia Monchengladbach, but his sloppy challenge on Coman ended any chance of another.

What's next?

Struggling Mainz travel to Munich for a clash with the champions on Saturday, while Schalke entertain Hertha.

Juventus started their bid for a ninth consecutive Serie A title with a narrow, but thoroughly deserved, 1-0 win over Parma at Stadio Ennio Tardini on Saturday.

New boss Maurizio Sarri was absent from the dugout as he is recovering from pneumonia, but he will be buoyed by a performance that suggested they will once again be the team to beat this season.

Giorgio Chiellini scored the only goal of the game after 21 minutes, while Cristiano Ronaldo saw a goal ruled out for offside before the interval.

Juve were unable to add a second despite dominating throughout, although it mattered little as they comfortably kept Parma at arm's length to start the season in familiar fashion.

The visitors started with a spring in their step and should have gone ahead after 12 minutes, Ronaldo's header from 10 yards fizzing narrowly over.

Wojciech Szczesny pawed away Roberto Inglese's instinctive effort at the other end before Chiellini opened the scoring, the veteran defender diverting home Alex Sandro's scuffed volley from 10 yards.

Ronaldo should have doubled their advantage eight minutes later but flashed wide after being played in by Gonzalo Higuain.

There was more frustration for the Portugal international before the break when he saw a goal disallowed by VAR for offside. He lashed home superbly from a tight angle but replays showed he was marginally offside as he raced to collect Douglas Costa's pass.

Parma started the second half with more intent than they had shown in the opening 45 minutes, although they struggled to breakdown Juve's resolute defence.

Ronaldo clipped over from Costa's pull-back on the hour mark before Parma goalkeeper Luigi Sepe kept out the former Real Madrid's star's powerful drive from 20 yards.

The Bianconeri eased up in the closing stages, rarely looking like they would add a second, but the damage had been done by their defensive colossus in the first half.

 

What does it mean? Juve pick up where they left off

Juve were not at their very best but they scarcely needed to be to cruise past a limited Parma outfit. If Sarri was watching, he will have seen a team that looks solid at the back and lively in attack – the perfect combination for yet another title tilt.

Ronaldo wasteful but looking sharp

Any thoughts that the 34-year-old's powers might be diminishing were dispelled in a performance brimming with swagger and skill. He missed two clear chances in the first half and saw a goal ruled out, but he can reflect on a showing that bodes well for the season ahead.

Higuain fails to take chance

Few expected the Argentina international to be given a chance at Juve this season, which is why it was such a surprise to see Gonzalo Higuain starting in attack. He did little to suggest he will stay there, though, with a display every bit as listless as those he produced on loan at Chelsea last season.

What's next?

Juve welcome last season's runners-up and Sarri's former club Napoli to the Allianz Stadium next Saturday, while Parma travel to Udinese a day later.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde says Lionel Messi has to be 100 per cent fit if he is to feature against Real Betis on Sunday.

The 32-year-old missed the whole of Barca's pre-season programme with a calf injury and was not part of their squad for their opening LaLiga loss to Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

Messi – whose last competitive outing was for Argentina in the Copa America third-place play-off victory over Chile, a match in which he was controversially sent off – returned to training on Wednesday, but Valverde is unsure whether he will be fit for the visit of Betis.

Speaking at his pre-match media conference, Valverde said: "If he is not 100 per cent, he will not play."

If Messi does feature, he will likely line up alongside Antoine Griezmann in attack.

The €120million signing from Atletico Madrid struggled to make an impact in last weekend's disappointing defeat, with Luis Suarez's first-half injury leaving him isolated up front.

Valverde says he is improving all the time and expects the France forward to start firing soon if he is given the right service.

"He is better every day," the Barca boss said. "He has to participate a lot and last week he did not participate as we would have liked. 

"If he participates, he can be decisive, but we must help him."

Betis also opened their LaLiga campaign with a defeat last weekend – a 2-1 reverse to Real Valladolid – but Valverde is expecting a tough game at Camp Nou.

He added: "Betis are a team that have many options to allow them to be towards the top of the standings, but it is mandatory that we get all three points after losing last weekend."

Craig Butler, the agent and adoptive father to Bayer Leverkusen star and Jamaica international Leon Bailey, says Jamaica’s football coaching staff is too defensive-minded during games, and he believes their egos will not improve the country’s football.

James Rodriguez is set to start a Real Madrid match for the first time since May 2017 as Los Blancos welcome Real Valladolid in LaLiga.

Colombia international James spent the last two seasons out on loan with Bayern Munich, with his Madrid career seemingly over.

However, Bayern opted against triggering their purchase option and James has been integrated back into the Madrid squad with Zinedine Zidane's men having so far failed to offload him.

The playmaker slots into the midfield in place of Luka Modric after the Croatia international was sent off in Madrid's season opener last weekend – a 3-1 win at Celta Vigo.

James' last start for Madrid came in May 2017 and, having seemingly looked destined for the exit, he has a chance to prove himself once again to Zidane and his other detractors at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Gareth Bale found himself in a similar position to James during the close-season and came very close to joining Chinese side Jiangsu Suning, but that fell through and he is making his second successive LaLiga start.

The Wales winger could be in for a frosty reception from the notoriously vocal home support, however.

Madrid-owned Andriy Lunin is on the bench for visitors Valladolid.

Marco Giampaolo has asked for patience as he attempts to implement his vision at AC Milan.

Former Sampdoria boss Giampaolo took charge at San Siro after Gennaro Gattuso agreed to mutually terminate his contract in May.

The 52-year-old's reign starts with a visit to Udinese in Serie A on Sunday and Giampaolo wants to be given adequate time to stamp his authority on the club.

"This is a dream for me and a big opportunity for both myself and these players," he told a media conference.

"I am at an extraordinary club and I have a vision, an idea of where we want to go and the steps to get there. I need time to work with the players and this system, even if there are difficulties.

"Being at Milan is a privilege, something that few get to experience in their lifetime. Milan have millions and millions of fans all over the world and that's all you need to know for what this club represents."

Milan have added Rafael Leao, Theo Hernandez and Ismael Bennacer during the close season but Giampaolo has suggested that the starting XI for Sunday's clash will largely be made up of players from Gattuso's reign.

"The work has been going as planned, although some players arrived later to training than others," he added.

"When the season begins, you have fewer training sessions at your disposal and those who weren't here from the start need more time to catch up. We already worked on the details with the squad throughout the summer, but others are a bit behind.

"We’ll play those who are in the best shape physically and in terms of their collective knowledge of the project. We might be leaving some very strong players on the bench, but right now I don't know what their conditions are.

"Ismael Bennacer wasn't too bad when he arrived and could play as a substitute late on tomorrow, while there will be time to introduce all the others. We need to bring everyone into the project."

Gonzalo Higuain has been named in the Juventus team for their Serie A opener against Parma, with Paulo Dybala on the bench.

Higuain's future at Juve appeared bleak when he spent last season enduring unsuccessful loans with AC Milan and Chelsea.

But the appointment of Maurizio Sarri, under whom he thrived at Napoli - scoring 36 league goals in the 2015-16 season - appears to have given the striker a fresh chance with the Serie A champions.

Higuain, 31, will lead a three-pronged attack on Saturday with support from Cristiano Ronaldo and Douglas Costa, who starts on the right in place of Federico Bernardeschi.

New signings Matthijs de Ligt, Adrien Rabiot and Danilo are all on the bench along with the returning Gianluigi Buffon, with Wojciech Szczesny preferred in goal. Aaron Ramsey and Daniele Rugani did not make the squad.

Sarri will not be in the dugout at Stadio Ennio Tardini as he is recovering from pneumonia, with the coach also set to miss next week's visit of his old club Napoli.

Bury have secured extra time to push through a takeover that could save the crisis-hit English League One club from extinction.

The English Football League (EFL) said on Saturday it had granted an extension to Bury, who have yet to play a match this season.

Owner Steve Dale told BBC Radio Manchester on Friday that a deal with analytics company C&N Sporting Risk had been agreed for the club who were FA Cup winners in 1900 and 1903.

The club had been given until 23:59 local time (22:59 GMT) on Friday to prove they had sufficient funding to complete the season and avoid being kicked out of the league.

Bury have now been told to complete the takeover by 17:00 (16:00 GMT) on Tuesday, or their membership of the league will be withdrawn.

EFL board executive chair Debbie Jevans said: "The board has considered the evidence presented and has determined, in a final effort to allow the club the opportunity to survive, to grant an extension and work exclusively with the club and C&N Sporting Risk to see if a takeover is possible.

"No one wants to see a club lose its place in the league and we will now work with the potential purchasers over the weekend and ahead of the Tuesday deadline in an attempt to find the solutions required for a sale to take place."

The EFL board also warned it would not countenance further League One fixtures involving Bury being postponed because of "the integrity of the competition" and the possible impact on other clubs.

Bury have had all of their competitive fixtures postponed since winning promotion from League Two last season, with off-the-field troubles causing significant problems.

Players and staff have had wages paid late, and a winding-up petition over an unpaid tax bill was only dismissed by the High Court in July.

Fans staged protests at Gigg Lane this week amid desperate calls for Dale to agree to a sale and end the threat to the 134-year-old club's existence.

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