Lewis Hamilton will match his best tally for wins in a Formula One season if he takes the chequered flag at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.

Hamilton matched Michael Schumacher's record of winning seven F1 world titles in style with victory in Turkey last time out.

The Brit has been in a league of his own this year, taking the top step of the podium in 10 of 14 races to retain his crown with three races to spare.

Another success at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir this weekend will keep him in with a chance of matching Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel's record of 13 wins in a season.

Hamilton could also equal Vettel's record of four victories in Bahrain in what has been another incredible year for the Mercedes driver.

LAST TIME OUT

Brit Hamilton finished off the job by winning an enthralling Turkish Grand Prix.

He started sixth and needed to avoid surrendering eight points to Valtteri Bottas in order to wrap up the title and the Finn, who spun on the first corner, could only finish 14th.

Racing Point's decision to pit pole-sitter Lance Stroll for fresh intermediate tyres on a drying track proved costly and they had to settle for a podium via Sergio Perez, who was second ahead of Vettel.

Hamilton's Mercedes struggled on the wet tyres and a lock-up into turn 10 saw him let Vettel, Max Verstappen and Alex Albon through and slip to sixth by the end of a thrilling opening lap.

Stroll was given a set new set of intermediates when leading on lap 37 despite initially protesting and it proved to be the wrong decision with the track continuing to dry.

Hamilton and Perez stayed out and the Mercedes driver used DRS to overtake the Racing Point into turn 11 and his tyres held out by effectively deteriorating into slicks.

Mercedes wanted to pit Hamilton with two laps remaining amid the threat of rain but he opted to stay out and was able to wrap up yet another title by winning an enthralling race.

 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN SAKHIR

Hamilton has won the past four races and it is difficult to look beyond him making that five in the first of three consecutive races in the Middle East to end the season.

He produced another masterful drive to win in Turkey, with team-mate Bottas enduring a miserable race.

The Silver Arrows will be even tougher to beat back in much warmer conditions at a track where Ferrari have started on pole for the past two years.

Hamilton won this race last year and will certainly be in no mood to wind down after it was mission accomplished last time out.

 

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Chance to end Hamilton dominance - Ferrari have won six races in Bahrain, more than any other team. They have also secured pole five times, registered 14 podiums and set five fastest laps.

Ferrari enjoying Bahrain - The last two poles in Sakhir were taken by Ferrari (Vettel in 2018 and Charles Leclerc last year), their best current run in a single GP alongside Canada.

Runners-up again? - If at least one Racing Point driver fails to get on the podium or set the fastest lap, Red Bull would be runner-up to Mercedes for the fourth time if they earn 35 points.

Hamilton eyes personal best - Hamilton has won the past four races and is one victory away from equalling the best winning streak in his F1 career (between races in Italy and the United States in 2014).

Verstappen's woe - Max Verstappen has retired three times in Bahrain, more than any other GP in his F1 career. 

 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 307
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 197
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 170
4. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) – 100
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 97

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 504
2. Red Bull – 240
3. Racing Point – 154
4. McLaren – 149
5. Renault – 136

Antonio Conte is under pressure and, as Wednesday's Champions League loss to Real Madrid illustrated, Inter's tendency to put unnecessary strain on themselves is a big reason why.

After an excellent first season that saw Inter finish second in Serie A behind Juventus and reach the Europa League final, Inter have failed to take the anticipated next step.

They are fifth in Serie A and trail arch rivals and early leaders Milan by five points, while their Champions League campaign is teetering on the brink after a performance at San Siro that laid bare one of their primary failings so far this season.

Too often in 2020, Inter have left themselves an uphill battle by having to come from behind.

Seven of their 15 points in the Italian top flight have come from losing positions, with Inter coming back from two goals down to draw with Parma and beat Torino - those fightbacks sandwiched by a 1-1 draw with Atalanta - in the last three games.

Such recoveries are rarely possible against a team of Madrid's quality, and Inter were behind inside seven minutes, Eden Hazard converting from the penalty spot after Nico Barella had fouled Nacho in the area.

Inter erased a 2-0 deficit in the reverse fixture only to lose 3-2, but no such resolve was on show this time around.

Madrid were in control throughout, Inter left chasing the game and creating little. Lucas Vazquez hit the post in the 13th minute with a vicious drive and four minutes later the Madrid winger saw another chance go begging as a Ferland Mendy pull-back proved too strong for him to make a telling connection.

When Arturo Vidal, who laid on the latter opportunity with a sloppy pass, was sent off for successive yellow cards for dissent after being denied a penalty by referee Anthony Taylor, Inter had a mountain to climb.

The game was effectively over after Rodrygo volleyed in at the far post from a sublime cross from Vazquez, whose excellent performance saw him complete nearly 94 per cent of his passes in the Inter half.

His precision in that regard was reflective of the pattern of the game, Madrid played 792 passes to Inter's 481 and completed 92.3 per cent to the Nerazzurri's 86.7 per cent.

The result was a stark disparity in possession, which Madrid dominated with 62 per cent of the ball, and a one-sided contest indicative of the divergent paths these two teams are on in European football.

While second-placed Madrid are on course to qualify for the last 16 with seven points from four games behind Borussia Monchengladbach in Group B, Inter face a struggle to even get back into the Europa League, having claimed only two points from their four outings.

Inter's superior quality to many of their Serie A rivals allows them to come from behind on a regular basis and stay in the title fight.

As Madrid reminded Conte's side, the Champions League is not so accommodating and their participation in the competition will soon be coming to an end unless they can produce a quite remarkable turnaround.

Atletico Madrid's chances of finishing top of Champions League Group A are over after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Lokomotiv Moscow, with Koke having a goal ruled out by VAR.

Diego Simeone's side – without star forward Luis Suarez after the Uruguay international tested positive for coronavirus – needed to win on Wednesday in order to keep slim hopes of pipping holders Bayern Munich to top spot alive.

Yet, despite a bright start in which Joao Felix and Yannick Carrasco went close, Atleti failed to overcome their Russian opponents for a second successive match.

Koke had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside decision, with Jose Gimenez heading wide late on as Atleti were frustrated.

 

 

Inter are on the verge of exiting the Champions League after losing 2-0 to Real Madrid in Wednesday's clash at San Siro.

Madrid won the reverse fixture 3-2 earlier this month to revive their Group B campaign and they made a strong start to what was the first meeting between these sides at Inter's iconic ground since 1998.

Eden Hazard converted an early penalty - his first goal in the competition in three years - and Inter's task was made all the more difficult when Arturo Vidal was sent off for dissent with 33 minutes played.

Madrid added a second goal through substitute Rodrygo's volley to move a point behind Borussia Monchengladbach in second, with Inter five points worse off in fourth heading into the final two rounds of fixtures.

Liverpool missed the chance to secure their place in the Champions League knockout stage as they slipped to a shock 2-0 defeat to Atalanta.

Having seen Liverpool beat Atalanta 5-0 in Bergamo on November 3, Jurgen Klopp selected a blend of fringe players and first-team regulars in his starting line-up and paid the price as the Premier League champions failed to muster a shot on goal until the 44th minute.

It got worse for Liverpool after half-time as Gian Piero Gasperini's well-organised Atalanta side scored in quick succession through Josip Ilicic and Robin Gosens on Wednesday.

On a night when victory would have qualified Liverpool from Group D with a 100 per cent record, the standings are instead tightly balanced with Klopp's team just two points clear of Ajax and Atalanta, who both have seven.

But it will be the subdued nature of Liverpool's performance that most concerns Reds manager Klopp.

Mohamed Salah, back in the team after a negative coronavirus test, gave the ball away sloppily in the middle of Liverpool's half after three minutes, allowing Ilicic to curl a shot wide from 20 yards.

Robin Gosens burst into the box moments later and forced a strong one-handed save from Alisson with a thunderous shot.

A Salah strike that drifted tamely over the crossbar one minute before half-time was Liverpool's only attempt of the first period – their lowest tally of shots in a first half since January 2017 against Chelsea.

Atalanta continued to press early in the second half, with Papu Gomez testing Alisson with a low drive, and the breakthrough arrived just before the hour mark.

The Italian visitors were given space and time around the Liverpool penalty area before Gomez curled an in-swinging cross to the edge of the six-yard box, where Ilicic slid in to poke a low shot past Alisson into the corner of the net.

The second came four minutes later and was an even better move, Hans Hateboer heading a looping Gomez delivery back across the face of goal where Gosens opened up his body and volleyed past Alisson.

Klopp sent on Andy Robertson, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota to try and turn the game, but Atalanta held firm to give their hopes of reaching the knockout stage a huge boost.

 

What does it mean? Klopp's plan B lacks cohesion

Despite the likes of Alisson, James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum and Salah all starting for Liverpool, the customary fortress of Anfield felt anything but as Atalanta enjoyed a trouble-free night at the back and an equal share of possession, giving them a platform for victory.

Gomez rips Reds open

Gomez was Atalanta's catalyst here, providing an assist for the opening goal and a second assist four minutes later, Liverpool seemingly unable to contain him.

Origi fails to shine

Divock Origi has struggled for minutes since Jota arrived but, given the chance from the start, he barely made an impact on the game, failing to take a shot on goal before being substituted after Liverpool went behind.

What's next?

Liverpool are away at Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League on Saturday, while Atalanta entertain Hellas Verona in Serie A later that day.

Manchester City secured a last-16 spot in the Champions League but failed to turn their complete dominance into more than a 1-0 win over Olympiacos.

Eager to put Saturday's 2-0 Premier League loss to Tottenham behind them, Pep Guardiola's side controlled proceedings in Wednesday's Group C clash in Athens.

But they had only one goal to show for it as Phil Foden, who wowed for England during the international break, swept the visitors into a first-half lead that never came under threat from the toothless hosts.

Guardiola, who signed a new contract last week, saw his side frustrated by a combination of profligate finishing and fine goalkeeping from Jose Sa.

City, who scored nine goals across their opening three group games, were quickly on the front foot and Foden stung the palms of Sa with a low drive, with the goalkeeper also gathering a Gabriel Jesus header.

Jesus came far closer to breaking the deadlock on the half-hour mark, racing in behind before seeing his shot blocked away by the defiant Sa.

The opener finally arrived in the 36th minute, Foden converting from Raheem Sterling's back-heeled assist after City's slick play had Olympiacos chasing shadows.

Sterling had the busy Sa scrambling across his line to repel a dipping free-kick in first-half stoppage time, with City denied again after the interval as Ilkay Gundogan's effort flashed wide and Joao Cancelo's flick was saved.

Olympiacos were simply not able to apply any pressure – their first shot did not arrive until the 88th minute – leaving City to coast to a win that was brightened further by the late introduction of Sergio Aguero from the bench after an injury lay-off.

 

What does it mean? City's welcome top-flight distraction

The loss at Spurs left City with just 12 points from eight matches and in the unfamiliar territory of the Premier League's bottom half.

This result was a tonic to those domestic woes and it affords Guardiola the chance to make some changes for the remaining two group games, knowing safe passage to the knockout phase is assured.

For Olympiacos, while second spot is still up for grabs, a third-place finish and a berth in the Europa League might be a more likely prospect.

Foden shines bright

Foden scored twice for his country in an eye-catching display against Iceland in which he also showcased some dazzling skills.

He was lively in Greece too, keeping his cool to score what proved to be the winner with one of his six shots, while also creating four chances.

Sa under siege

City had 11 shots on target, seven coming during a first half in which the hosts failed to even register a touch in City's penalty area, so Sa was indeed a busy man.

He was an excellent last line of defence but his all-action outing stood in stark contrast to the anonymous performance of the Olympiacos attack.

Konstantinos Fortounis had just 53 touches and not one of them was a shot on target.

What's next?

City host Burnley this weekend before a trip to Porto next Tuesday, while for Olympiacos it is a top-of-the-table clash at Aris before heading to Marseille on the European stage.

Diego Maradona's remarkable all-round World Cup record is one which may never be matched.

The Argentina legend died at the age of 60 on Wednesday, prompting tributes from across the football world.

Reflections of his career will see so many of Maradona's magical moments highlighted, though perhaps most memorable are his 1986 exploits in Mexico, a tournament which gave Argentina their most recent World Cup success.

Opta statistics help to illustrate Maradona's remarkable performances on football’s biggest stage and highlight how difficult his legacy at the tournament will be for a modern player to match. 

Maradona appeared in four successive World Cups for Argentina between the ages of 21 and 33, playing his first in 1982 before going on to represent his country in 1986, 1990 and 1994.

He ended his Argentina career having made 91 appearances and it was clear he thrived on the big stage - nearly one in four of those caps occurred during World Cups, where he enjoyed a win record in excess of 50 per cent.

He holds the record for the most number of appearances in the competition by an Argentine player (21), just ahead of Javier Mascherano (20) and Lionel Messi (19).

Maradona is one of just three players to captain his country in two different men's World Cup finals, having done so in 1990 as well as the 1986 tournament, where he stole the show.

The only other two players to achieve the feat are Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (1982 and 1986) and Dunga, who did so in successive tournaments after Maradona in 1994 and 1998.

The exploits of Maradona in 1986 will be hard to top. He had 10 goal involvements (five goals and five assists) in seven games and no player has done that since at a single edition of a World Cup.

No other player at the tournament in Mexico managed more than six goal involvements, highlighting his level of superiority.

Only Gabriel Batistuta (10) has scored more World Cup goals for Argentina than Maradona, who ended his international career with a total of eight.

Maradona is also one of only three Argentina players to have scored in three separate World Cups (1982, 1986 and 1994), alongside Messi (2006, 2014 and 2018) and Batistuta (1994, 1998, and 2002).

As well as eight goals, Maradona had eight assists in his 21 appearances over the four tournaments he played in. Across all World Cups staged since 1966, no other player has accumulated as many.

Maradona won 152 free kicks across his four World Cups, the most in tournament history.

That is more than twice as many fouls won by any other player, with Brazil's Jairzinho ranking second with 64.

On average he won more than seven fouls per game in his World Cup career, or one every 12 minutes and 46 seconds. 

He was the most fouled player across three consecutive competitions from 1982 to 1990, with this total from 1986 (54) remaining the highest single figure from one World Cup. 

Amazingly, his individual totals from 1990 (50) and 1982 (36 from just five games) also rank individually as second and third all time.

As well as being the most fouled player, Maradona has also provoked more cards than any other player at World Cups since yellow and red cards were first introduced in 1970. 

Fouls on him resulted in 12 cards being dished out, ahead of Arjen Robben (11) for the most in tournament history.

Though as well as forcing his opponents to pick up bookings, Maradona was also prone to being cautioned himself – he is the only player to be booked in two separate World Cup finals (1986 and 1990).

In the 1986 tournament, he played a part in an astonishing 56 per cent of his team's 101 shots. He had 30 of them himself, and played the final pass on 27 other occasions.

The only game where he failed to score or assist at least one goal was in the round of 16 match against Uruguay, but even then he still managed to hit the woodwork from a stunning direct free-kick.

He led the assist rankings with five at Mexico 86 and with five goals he was the second highest scorer behind Gary Lineker, who netted six.

Maradona remains the only player since 1966 to have to have scored and assisted as many as five goals in a single World Cup, a record that looks particularly tough to beat.

Famed for his dribbling prowess, no player has beaten an opponent more times in a single World Cup than Maradona did in 1986. 

The attacker successfully took the ball around an opponent 53 times, averaging eight per game. Four came in just one single move, the goal of the century against England in the quarter-finals.

He travelled 51 metres with the ball in 10 seconds to net one of only four World Cup goals since 1966 where a player travelled as far before scoring.

Jarizinho had 47 successful take-ons in 1970, while the closest anyone has come to breaking that Maradona record since his retirement was when Messi had 46 in 2014 and Eden Hazard 40 in 2018.

The stats from that match with England sum up Maradona's overall impact in Mexico. He attempted the most shots of any player on the pitch (seven), the most shots on target (three), most chances created (five) and most completed dribbles (12), as well as winning seven fouls. 

Until 2018, Maradona also held the record for the most dribbles (105) in World Cup matches, a number was fittingly eclipsed by his compatriot Messi (110).

Wherever you stand on football's GOAT debate, you can't deny the legacy of Diego Maradona.

Some would place him behind Lionel Messi as Argentina's greatest ever footballer, and short of Pele in the sport's pantheon of the mighty; others would say Maradona eclipses them all. It's a debate that has raged for decades, and one that is not likely to be settled for some time.

But nobody can argue that Maradona – who died on Wednesday at the age of 60 – produced a string of performances to rival anything the World Cup has ever witnessed in Mexico in 1986.

From the group stage to the final with West Germany, via the 'Goal of the Century' and a brazen moment of cheating, Maradona was so far above his contemporaries that the sheer idea of anyone else winning the Golden Ball was laughable.

Argentina beat South Korea, drew with Italy and defeated Bulgaria in their group, then saw off Uruguay, England and Belgium in the knockouts before a 3-2 final defeat of West Germany. 

As Opta data shows, Maradona was the beating heart of the Albiceleste's second World Cup triumph.

TAKE MY BREATH AWAY

Gary Lineker was the only player to score more goals (six) at the 1986 World Cup than Maradona (five). That's about the only category where he did not come out on top.

He added five assists to those five goals in his seven appearances, giving him the most goal involvements (10) of any player, ahead of the USSR's Igor Belanov (eight), and Lineker, Careca and Preben Elkjaer Larsen (six).

It stands to reason that Maradona also created more goalscoring chances (27) than any other player. Next on the list was France's Alain Giresse (24), then Klaus Allofs (23), Michel Platini (19) and Careca (17).

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH

Everyone, most famously West Germany, tried to man-mark Maradona out of the equation. None succeeded.

He completed 53 dribbles across the tournament, a tally that puts the rest of the competition to shame. The next highest number was recorded by USSR's Ivan Yaremchuk, who managed 16.

Of course, that kind of dazzling play will always attract a more prosaic approach from the opposition. Maradona was fouled 53 times, more than double the number of anyone else (Enzo Francescoli was next on 27 fouls won).

EDGE OF HEAVEN

Maradona's all-round impact on proceedings could only come from a player given freedom to drop deeper and seize the ball from lesser men. It's incredible, then, that he managed 44 touches in the opposition box, eight more than the next-highest on the list, Brazil's Careca. Lineker, winner of the Golden Boot, had 31 such touches.

Lineker and England have, of course, never forgotten Maradona's impact on their 2-1 quarter-final defeat in Mexico City. It was the scene of his greatest goal – a mazy, miraculous waltz through the heart of the opposition that ended with the bamboozling of goalkeeper Peter Shilton – and his crowning moment of infamy, when 'The Hand of God' punched Argentina into the lead.

Perhaps that wasn't such a one-off, though. Since 1966, no player has committed as many handballs at the World Cup as Maradona (seven) – and they're just the ones the referees spotted.

Marcelo Bielsa has been nominated for The Best FIFA Men's Coach award after an impressive year saw him become further adored by Leeds United supporters.

The former Argentina coach guided Leeds back to the Premier League last season after 16 years outside the top flight, racking up 93 points in a superb Championship season.

Bielsa, 65, has since overseen a solid start to the new campaign in the Premier League, securing draws against Manchester City and Arsenal as Leeds sit 14th in the table.

But while results in 2020 have been impressive, does Bielsa really warrant inclusion on a five-man FIFA shortlist that also includes Champions League winner Hansi Flick, Premier League champion Jurgen Klopp, LaLiga winner Zinedine Zidane and Europa League victor Julen Lopetegui?

We have looked at some of the best Opta statistics behind Leeds' start to the 2020-21 campaign, comparing that to past Premier League years and what is happening elsewhere in Europe this year.

LEEDS MAKE IMPRESSIVE START

Leeds have had a good opening to the new season and their 11 points from nine games already puts them a healthy seven points clear of the relegation zone.

Wins over Fulham, Sheffield United and Aston Villa mean they are well on track to achieve their survival objective, though heavy defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester City provided a reminder of the difficulty of top-flight life.

Leeds' style of play has also led to a host of entertaining matches, their dramatic 4-3 defeat to champions Liverpool on the opening weekend setting the tone.

Their 14 goals make Leeds the top scorers in the bottom half while only two teams have conceded more than the 17 they have leaked.

With 130 total shots, Leeds are second only to Liverpool in that regard, while they are fourth when it comes to attempts on target (48), both incredibly impressive figures for a promoted side.

They have completed 4,756 passes in their nine matches, which again sees them rank favourably.

That number is good for sixth in the Premier League, behind the likes of Chelsea (5,814), Liverpool (5,683) and Manchester City (5,042) but above Tottenham (4,602) and Manchester United (4,463).

Leeds' average possession figure is a tremendous 60.46 per cent, highlighting the control they have had in most of their matches. Only Pep Guardiola's City (62.57) sit above them in that metric.

Those displays have come even while negotiating a particularly tough start to the season - Leeds have already faced five of the teams who finished in the top eight of the Premier League last season.

BUT POINTS RETURN IS NOTHING SPECIAL

However, the case against Bielsa's nomination would be that when it comes to Leeds' overall record, while 11 points is a decent return, it is certainly nothing special.

Prior to this season, 34 promoted teams had earned 11 or more points inside their first nine top-flight matches.

Some of those have far exceeded that total. Nottingham Forest had 21 points from their first nine games in 1994-95 and went on to finish in third place.

Hull City stunned the league with 20 points in nine matches in 2008, while Wigan Athletic had recorded 19 by this stage in 2005.

There are more recent examples too, as Sheffield United (12) - who went on to finish ninth - and Aston Villa (11) both had similar returns after nine games last season.

Looking specifically at 2020, Bielsa is not the only coach of a promoted team in Europe's major leagues to have captured the headlines this season.

Cadiz are fifth in LaLiga with 14 points from 10 matches after a magnificent start that has seen them earn famous away wins over Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao.

One of the other promoted teams in Spain, Elche - who recently beat Valencia - are poised to overtake Cadiz having racked up 12 points from eight games to start the campaign.

In France, Lens have 17 points from nine games and are seven points off the top of Ligue 1 with two games in hand. They have already defeated leaders and champions Paris Saint-Germain.

Stuttgart, meanwhile, are eighth in the Bundesliga and reached the 11-point mark one game quicker than Leeds did in England's top flight.

While a Bielsa nomination has its merits, the data suggests there were also other potential candidates this year and in seasons past who, having lacked his global profile, can feel hard done by to miss out.

Six members of Lyon's Champions League-winning team, plus their coach, have been nominated for The Best FIFA Football Awards for 2020.

Lyon won a fifth consecutive European crown in August, beating Wolfsburg in the final, and they are unsurprisingly set to be at the forefront of FIFA's end-of-year awards ceremony.

Of the 11 players on the shortlist for The Best FIFA Women's Player, five played for Lyon last season.

Lucy Bronze - third in this category last year and second in the 2019 Ballon d'Or Feminin - has since moved on to Manchester City but makes the cut alongside a host of former team-mates.

Dzsenifer Marozsan was second in 2018, the same year she finished third for the Ballon d'Or, and will now compete against Delphine Cascarino, Saki Kumagai and Wendie Renard.

Chelsea have three contenders in Pernille Harder (signed from Wolfsburg), Ji So-yun and Sam Kerr, while Caroline Graham Hansen and Jennifer Hermoso represent Barcelona. Viviane Miedema is in for Arsenal.

Such is the depth of Lyon's squad that Ada Hegerberg - the 2018 Ballon d'Or winner, then third behind Marozsan in the FIFA voting - is not in the running this year having been out since January with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.

Although Lyon have continued to win regardless, their four-year, 80-game unbeaten Division 1 Feminine streak was ended by Paris Saint-Germain last week.

Sarah Bouhaddi, who conceded the only goal in that game, is up for The Best FIFA Women's Goalkeeper as the sixth Lyon player honoured.

She is up against Ann-Katrin Berger, Christiane Endler, Hedvig Lindahl, Alyssa Naeher and Ellie Roebuck.

The French giants' Jean-Luc Vasseur is among seven nominees for The Best FIFA Women's Coach after a successful first season in charge at OL.

Future England coach Sarina Wiegman, the 2017 award winner who finished second in the subsequent two years, is also in contention.

Lluis Cortes, Rita Guarino, Emma Hayes, Stephan Lerch and Hege Riise are the others under consideration.

Robert Lewandowski is among the leading contenders for The Best FIFA Men's Player in 2020 after he was named among 11 nominees on Wednesday.

The Bayern Munich superstar fired his side to the treble in 2019-20 and has continued his outstanding form at the start of the new season.

With no Ballon d'Or this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, FIFA's award represents Lewandowski's best chance of recognition for a standout year.

He has tough competition in the form of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and four Liverpool players, but the 32-year-old must surely be considered the frontrunner.

Lewandowski's potential success in this category would be built on Bayern's Champions League triumph and Opta data in that competition since the start of last season helps make his case.

LEADING THE WAY

Virgil van Dijk ran Messi close in 2019, but this year's top honour surely belongs to an attacker - particularly with the Liverpool centre-back and Sergio Ramos playing just eight and seven games respectively over this span due to injury and suspension.

Lewandowski is therefore the obvious choice. He has scored 17 goals in 13 games; for contrast, Messi has six goals and Ronaldo five.

The Poland international has benefited from playing at the forefront of a brilliant team, however, and has had by far the most shots of any player in this time.

His 63 attempts outperform Messi's second-placed 48 by 15. Ronaldo is third with 47, with the leading five shot-takers all nominated as Mohamed Salah (42) and Kylian Mbappe (41) are next on that list.

But Lewandowski has made the most of these opportunities, hitting the target 36 times - another high.

The striker's shot conversion rate of 27.0 per cent far outstrips Salah (14.3 per cent), Neymar (13.3 per cent), Sadio Mane (12.5 per cent), Messi (also 12.5 per cent), Mbappe (12.2 per cent) and Ronaldo (10.6 per cent).

For balance, Ramos is the leading scorer among defenders in this period, netting three goals.

MISSED THE CUT

Although Thiago Alcantara, who has since departed for Liverpool, was included, it was perhaps slightly surprising to see only two members of Bayern's treble-winning team make the list.

The players who created Lewandowski's opportunities went unrewarded.

Joshua Kimmich has a joint-high seven assists and has created the most chances of any player with 38. Thomas Muller played 31 key passes.

Similarly, at Paris Saint-Germain, where Neymar and Mbappe are considered, Angel Di Maria supplied six assists, 24 chances and 12 big chances.

One admission who will surely make the cut in the years to come is Erling Haaland, widely considered the heir to Lewandowski's crown as the Bundesliga's leading marksman.

The 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund man, who was named the 2020 Golden Boy, is the only player to come close to Lewandowski's level of productivity in the Champions League.

Despite playing the first half of last season at Salzburg, who did not qualify from their group, Haaland has 16 goals in just 12 games.

Serge Gnabry, another team-mate of Lewandowski's, is third for goals behind the pair but has a relatively modest nine.

Of Haaland's 40 shots, 24 have hit the target - a tally beaten only by Lewandowski and matched by Messi (from eight more attempts). A shot conversion rate of 40 per cent is the best mark of any player with 40 or more shots.

This might well be Lewandowski's year, but the future is not far away.

Donny van de Beek believes his deployment in a deeper role worked well as Manchester United thrashed Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League.

United won 4-1 at Old Trafford on Tuesday, with Bruno Fernandes' early double added to by strikes from Marcus Rashford and substitute Daniel James.

With the superb Fernandes causing havoc in the number 10 role, Van de Beek played as a holding midfielder alongside Fred.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's use of the Netherlands international has been a subject of intense debate given he is yet to start a Premier League game but the 23-year-old has played in all four continental matches, starting three.

Van de Beek had two key passes, completed 33 passes in the opposition half – second only to Fred – and boasted an 87.5 per cent passing accuracy against Basaksehir.

While he enjoys playing in a more advanced position, Van de Beek also feels comfortable in a deeper role and believes the system was a good one.

"It worked really well," Van de Beek, a £40million signing from Ajax, said to MUTV.

"Some games I play number 10 and sometimes the coach needs me in the control position.

"That is fine for me because before, when I played at Ajax, I was playing in those positions, so it is okay.

"It was a good reaction from the away game. To win 4-1 at home I think you can be happy. The first half was really good especially the first 30 minutes and we played nice football and scored nice goals.

"In the second half we lost too many balls and gave them some chances but the last five minutes we controlled the game again."

A third straight win in all competitions for United avenged their defeat in Turkey earlier this month and put them three points clear at the top of Group H.

They have now won their last seven home games in European competition by an aggregate score of 24-2.

"It is not finished but we are in a good position," added Van de Beek, with United sitting ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig.

"We need to keep working and everything will be fine. We now have eyes on the weekend [against Southampton]."

Neither Inter nor Real Madrid have room for error as they face one another in the Champions League on Wednesday.

A mammoth meeting at San Siro could set one of the two European giants on course for an early exit, with both sides currently outside the qualification places.

Champions Bayern Munich are also in action, as are Liverpool, who host Atalanta after a thumping win in Italy last time out.

Atletico Madrid had a big win at the weekend as Manchester City suffered a disappointing defeat, but both now likewise turn their attention to continental competition.

We preview all of these games plus the rest of Wednesday's action with the help of Opta data.
 

Inter v Real Madrid: Los Blancos seeking breakthrough success

At risk of going winless through their opening four games of a Champions League campaign for the first time, Inter at least have a strong record at home to Real Madrid. Los Blancos have won three of their past four games against Inter but never away from home.

Madrid have enjoyed taking on Serie A sides in recent years, though. They have seven wins from eight such games under Zinedine Zidane, scoring at least twice in each victory, while their sole defeat in this period - 3-1 against Juventus in 2017-18 - was still enough to secure progress en route to the title.

Zidane's side - missing captain Sergio Ramos - must handle Romelu Lukaku, who has been involved in 15 goals (11 scored, four assisted) in the Europa League and Champions League across the past two seasons. Excluding qualifiers, only Robert Lewandowski (22 involvements) has outperformed the Inter forward.

Bayern Munich v Salzburg: Goals galore guaranteed?

Robert Lewandowski will climb to joint-third on the list of all-time Champions League goalscorers the next time he finds the net, increasing his tally of 70 to match Madrid great Raul's 71.

The Bayern number nine might well fancy his chances against Salzburg, who have conceded a joint-high 11 goals in the competition this season. Their games have produced 17 goals - more than any other team's.

Salzburg certainly face a tough ask, having lost all of their previous five Champions League meetings with reigning champions - including the 6-2 defeat at home to Bayern on matchday three when they conceded six goals for the first time in a European match while the German giants claimed a 14th straight win.

Liverpool v Atalanta: Goal-hungry visitors out for revenge

Another fixture that would appear primed for plenty of goalmouth action sees Atalanta visit Liverpool, having suffered two of their three heaviest defeats in European competition - 5-1 v City last season, 5-0 v Liverpool last time out - against Premier League sides.

Atalanta failed to score on matchday three but had netted in their previous 10 in the Champions League, while they have won their past three away games, scoring at least three times in each, since the City reverse.

Liverpool are looking for four consecutive victories in the Champions League for the first time since March 2009 and can call again on Diogo Jota, who netted a hat-trick in Bergamo and would become the fastest Reds player to five goals in the competition if he scored again in his fourth match.

Olympiacos v Manchester City: Torres, De Bruyne and defence on top form

City are struggling in the Premier League but have quickly found their feet in Europe this season. The same is true of Ferran Torres, who will aim to become the third City player to score in four consecutive Champions League matches after Raheem Sterling (November 2017) and Sergio Aguero (March 2019).

Torres' goal in the previous meeting with Olympiacos was assisted by Kevin De Bruyne, who already has four assists in the Champions League this term - his best ever tally.

Crucially, Pep Guardiola's defenders are also delivering on the European stage and they can win three in a row without conceding in major continental competition for the first time since the 1969-70 Cup Winners' Cup.

 

Other fixtures:

Borussia Monchengladbach v Shakhtar Donetsk

29 - Heading into matchday four, Gladbach had the highest shot conversion rate of any team in the Champions League this season (29 per cent - 10 goals from 35 shots).

6 - With three goals and three assists, Alassane Plea has been involved in six of his side's 10 goals - the joint-highest tally in a player's first three appearances in the competition since 2003-04 (also Adriano for Inter in 2004 and Erling Haaland for Salzburg in 2019).

Ajax v Midtjylland

1 - Ajax have only won one of their past eight home games in the Champions League (D2 L5), losing each of their most recent three without scoring a goal.

26 - Excluding qualifiers, Midtjylland last kept a clean sheet in European competition back in September 2015 (1-0 v Legia Warszawa), conceding 26 goals in 10 games since then.

Atletico Madrid v Lokomotiv Moscow

10 - Atleti are unbeaten in their past 10 games against Russian opponents in European competition (W8 D2), with their last such defeat coming back in February 2013 (2-0 v Rubin Kazan in the Europa League).

7 - Atleti have conceded seven goals in three Champions League matches so far this season - more than they have in any other group stage in a single season under Diego Simeone.

Marseille v Porto

8 - Marseille are looking to avoid becoming the eighth team to lose each of their first four group games while failing to score in a single Champions League campaign, with Anderlecht in 2017-18 the last to do so.

0 - OM have had fewer shots on target than any other side in the Champions League this season (four), as well as being the only side yet to score in the competition this term.

Defending MLS champions Seattle Sounders booked their spot in the Western Conference semi-finals after accounting for Los Angeles FC 3-1.

Seattle booked their spot in the second round of the play-offs thanks to goals from Jordan Morris, Nico Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz on Tuesday, earning a home date with Dallas.

Morris, Lodeiro and Ruidiaz all scored in the same MLS match for the fourth time, more than any other trio of team-mates since the start of the 2018 season, per Opta.

Lodeiro opened the scoring in the 18th minute – Morris teeing up the Uruguayan for a first-time shot past LAFC goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega.

LAFC's star captain Carlos Vela had a penalty saved three minutes later as Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei stopped a non-shoot-out spot-kick for the first time since April 2016, after allowing goals on the previous 18 on-target penalties he had faced.

After Morris and Lodeiro hit the woodwork in quick succession, Ruidiaz doubled the lead in the 66th minute before Eduard Atuesta reduced the deficit 11 minutes later.

Morris, though, restored Seattle's two-goal advantage within three minutes as the Sounders moved through to the next round.

Meanwhile, expansion franchise Nashville stunned Toronto 1-0 after extra time to earn an Eastern Conference semi-finals berth.

Daniel Rios' 108th-minute goal settled the contest in Connecticut, where seventh seeds Nashville became the third team in MLS history to win each of their first two play-off matches.

Rios' winner was also the first Toronto has ever conceded in extra time of a MLS play-off clash.

Nashville will now face Columbus Crew for a place in the Conference finals.

In the day's other fixture, New England Revolution shocked Eastern Conference top seeds Philadelphia Union 2-0.

First-half goals from Adam Buksa and Tajon Buchanan set the tone for the Revolution, who are the first team to score multiple goals in an away match against the Union all season.

Next up for Bruce Arena's Revolution are Orlando City.

Jude Bellingham described star Borussia Dortmund team-mate Erling Haaland as "a joke" after breaking a Champions League record.

Haaland became the quickest player to 15 Champions League goals in the competition's history after opening the scoring in Tuesday's 3-0 win over Club Brugge.

The 2020 Golden Boy winner, who already set a similar record for the five- and 10-goal marks, finished with a brace as he took his tally to 16 through 12 games in the Champions League, surpassing Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roberto Soldado with seven matches to spare.

"The guy is incredible. Six goals in his last two games and I'm sure many more before that," Dortmund midfielder Bellingham said via UEFA.com.

"He's a joke. Right now he's one of the best strikers in the world and he's fantastic to play with."

Jadon Sancho teed up Haaland's 18th-minute opener before the Norway forward – who netted four times in the 5-2 Bundesliga rout of Hertha Berlin – claimed his second of the Group F fixture on the hour-mark.

Haaland has 10 goals through seven Bundesliga matches this season, and 17 across all competitions in 2020-21 – including a Champions League-high six strikes.

Sancho struck in between Haaland's double, becoming the first Englishman to score a direct free-kick in the Champions League while playing for a non-English side since David Beckham for Real Madrid in 2005.

"I'm just happy to be playing with him," Sancho said. "He's an incredible player. He contributes greatly on the pitch and I was happy to assist him today.

"Recently he got the Golden Boy award and I'm very happy for him because he deserves it for how hard he works. He’s a fantastic player."

Dortmund – who recorded their 200th, 201st and 202nd goals in the Champions League, making them the 13th club to record the milestone – top Group F through four matchdays, a point ahead of Lazio.

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