Bayern Munich's stranglehold on top spot in the Bundesliga has been loosened after they suffered a 2-1 defeat at Amin Younes-inspired Eintracht Frankfurt, who were without top-scorer Andre Silva.

It was Bayern's first visit to Frankfurt since the 5-1 defeat in November 2019 that cost Niko Kovac his job, and while this defeat is unlikely to have similar ramifications for Hansi Flick, it was a similarly frustrating day for the champions.

Bayern came into the game having picked up a league-high 19 points from losing positions this term and they were once again forced into such a position after Kamada's well-worked opener and Younes' gorgeous second left them 2-0 down at the interval.

Flick's men dominated the second half after Robert Lewandowski pulled one back in the 53rd minute but they failed to add to that, meaning RB Leipzig can close to within two points of the leaders with a win at Hertha Berlin on Sunday.

An early strain suffered by one of the officials and a subsequent lengthy delay did little to upset Eintracht's flow and they deservedly went ahead in the 12th minute, Filip Kostic latching on to Younes' clever reverse ball in behind Leroy Sane and teeing up Kamada for an easy finish.

Younes then shot agonisingly wide from inside his own half with Manuel Neuer stranded soon after, though Bayern had no such fortune just past the half-hour mark, the Napoli-owned midfielder cutting in off the left and arrowing a sensational strike into the top-far corner.

Bayern finished the half better but a goal still eluded them, with Kevin Trapp making necessary saves to deny Kingsley Coman and Lewandowski, before Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting's late flick just missed the post.

The visitors looked sharper at the start of the second half and soon got themselves a lifeline, Lewandowski turning in from close range after Sane left the Eintracht defence in knots.

That pattern of Bayern dominance continued for much of the second half, with Leon Goretzka heading just off target, Coman forcing Trapp into action with a looping volley and the Frenchman also somehow missing the target a few yards out.

Eintracht might have got a third on the break were it not for Neuer saving brilliantly from Kostic, though it mattered not for the hosts, who held on to the win that keeps them level with third-placed Wolfsburg.

Paris Saint-Germain's aggregate lead over Barcelona will not result in a change in Neymar's scheduled return from injury.

Kylian Mbappe made up for the absence of his star team-mate on Tuesday, with his sensational hat-trick propelling Mauricio Pochettino's PSG to a 4-1 victory at Camp Nou in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 tie.

Neymar – who scored twice in Barca's famous 6-5 aggregate triumph over PSG in 2017 – missed the game through an adductor injury sustained in a Coupe de France win over Caen.

The 29-year-old is set to miss four weeks, which would put him in line to be available for the return leg against his former club at the Parc des Princes on March 10.

However, asked if PSG's 4-1 lead heading into the game will mean there is less pressure on Neymar to recover on schedule, Pochettino insisted the result has had no impact on the Brazilian's lay off.

"Neymar's recovery is following the plans put in place and the strategy by our medical team," Pochettino told a news conference ahead of Sunday's Ligue 1 clash with Monaco.

"Whether it's one game, one competition or another, the priority is the player's well-being.

"We want players to get back as quickly as they can, but not linked to any specific game. The priority is for Neymar to make a good recovery and he will be back in the week when he is back."

Moise Kean also stepped up to fill the void left by Neymar, and scored the other goal in PSG's rout, heading in from Leandro Paredes' free-kick.

Kean, on loan from Everton, has now netted on his last three starts across all competitions, taking his tally to the season for 14 in total – he has scored a goal every 1.5 shots on target in Ligue 1 this season (10 goals, 15 shots on target), with only Lens' Gael Kakuta (1.3) having a better ratio in the top-flight among players with five or more goals.

"I was not surprised by Moise Kean's performance, if I said I was surprised it would be for a different reason," Pochettino replied when asked if Kean's display at the Camp Nou had shocked him.

"I think he has confirmed he has the potential that we knew about, but players don't surprise us in our team.

"When we take a decision to include a player – possibly they are young or playing in a different position – it's because of what we've seen in training and we think they can contribute positively in the match.

"Sometimes they may not perform as we expect, but he certainly does not surprise us."

With Monaco going into Sunday's game on the back of a 10-game unbeaten streak in Ligue 1 – the best current run in the division – Pochettino also stressed that PSG must avoid complacency, especially with the defending champions having taken only one point from their three matches against teams also in the top four this season.

"PSG is a club that has to win, and that is our responsibility," added Pochettino, who has suffered just one defeat, at Lorient on January 31, since he took over at PSG.

"I don't think you can relax in any way, or use that as an excuse not to perform in the same way we have been doing, and as we did against Barca.

"If we think we can be calmer we would unconsciously be making a big mistake, you have to respect everyone in football and always give your best in every competition.

"That's why we have to work hard, with enthusiasm and focus, so that competing at our best becomes a habit."

Stefano Pioli and Antonio Conte are relishing the prospect of a possible Scudetto shoot-out in Sunday's Derby della Madonnina.

Inter lead Milan by one point at the Serie A summit heading into this weekend's showdown after leapfrogging their bitter rivals last week.

With nine-in-a-row champions Juventus eight points adrift of top spot, albeit with a game in hand to play, the title is looking likely to end up at San Siro this season.

Milan are seeking a first Scudetto since 2011, a year after Inter last prevailed, and Sunday's game may go a long way towards determining who finishes top come the end of the campaign.

It is the first time the sides will meet holding the top two positions in the table since April 2011 and Conte is expecting a unique derby in the behind-closed-doors contest.

"It will be different to the previous derbies because of the teams' high positions - first and second," Conte said at a news conference on Saturday.

"This is very satisfying for the city of Milan. There is a lot at stake, certainly more than just local pride.

"We have to do our best to win the game and stay top of the table. It is an important match. When the table is like this you need to be even more determined."

Milan beat Inter 2-1 in October and are seeking a league double over their city rivals for the first time since 2010-11.

However, Inter won last month's eventful Coppa Italia quarter-final tie by the same scoreline and Pioli is anticipating a cagey affair in this latest tussle.

"Tomorrow we will play a derby like we have not seen for many years, with a lot on the line," Pioli told reporters.

"Both us and Inter have a clear identity. The derbies are always balanced matches with many goalscoring opportunities.

"It is not necessarily decisive for the fate of the championship, but it is important because we have been in the lead all season."

The big talking point from the most recent meeting between the sides was the coming together of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku.

But Conte, who won three titles during his time in charge of Juventus, does not believe tempers will flare this time around.

"It's going to be a match with two teams trying to win and surpass each other," Conte said.

"We must never forget that, even if this is a big game and a derby, it remains a sport. I don't predict much tension in the atmosphere.

Ibrahimovic has scored 10 goals in all competitions in this fixture, including eight for Milan, and Pioli would not swap his striker for Inter star Lukaku.

"I respect Lukaku, but I prefer Ibra," Pioli said. "Tomorrow's game must be a collective effort; we must play as a team. It is the collective that highlights the qualities of the individual.

"We have to play well because we know how to do it, we have the technical qualities."

Asked how his Inter side plan to deal with Ibrahimovic, Conte said: "You neutralise threats by working as a team and reducing the errors.

"Ibrahimovic is a top player who is doing very well for Milan. He has already scored against us this season, but that doesn't necessarily mean he will score again."

Milan have lost three league games since the start of 2021 - one more than over the whole of 2020 - and were held 2-2 by Red Star Belgrade in the Europa League on Thursday.

Pioli, who has constantly played down his side's title aspirations, accepted an improvement is required on the back of some below-par displays.

"We did not raise our levels against Red Star - even the defensive phase did not see us as solid and compact," he said.

"Tomorrow we must be very careful and determined. Our goal is to give the best, then we'll see what we've achieved at the end of the season."

Thomas Tuchel took off substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi for a poor attitude in the draw with Southampton, with Chelsea's boss unhappy with his side's attack throughout.

The Blues' five-game winning run under Tuchel came to an end at St Mary's Stadium, with Mason Mount's second-half penalty enough only for a point after Takumi Minamino's good finish.

Southampton, who were on a six-game losing run in the league, had just 29 per cent of the ball and one shot on target.

However, they defended resolutely against a Chelsea side who failed to hit the target in the second half after Mount's 54th-minute equaliser.

Hudson-Odoi was brought on at half-time for Tammy Abraham but was himself substituted for Hakim Ziyech after a little over half an hour in which he failed to have a shot or create a chance, completed only seven passes and did not once win back possession for his side.

Tuchel, who was animated throughout on the sidelines, confirmed the young forward was hauled off due to his apparent lack of effort as part of an attack that left the former Paris Saint-Germain coach deeply frustrated.

"We had all the chances. It would have been a deserved win, but sometimes it's like this in football," Tuchel told BT Sport.

"We were very, very good in the first 80 metres of the pitch but, in the last 20, I was not happy. We were not decisive enough, not aggressive enough, not clinical enough to be ahead, to create more big chances where you cannot miss.

"The decision-making was not good today. After a match like this, if you need a penalty to score once, it tells the story.

"We allowed once chance I think in the first half. There were no counter-attacks because we were high up the pitch and controlled the counter-attacks very well. For me, what was frustrating was the last 20 metres.

"We had so many opportunities, half-chances, and I had the feeling we ended our own attacks with bad choices, balls that are overhit, balls that are underhit, then we slipped, then we cannot take a two against one.

"I missed the aggressiveness and the determination in the box to finish this game early, because we had all the opportunities, but the last 20 metres was not good enough today."

He said of his changes: "It was hard for [Abraham] to show his quality. Tammy could not put his stamp on this game, so we changed a little bit the formation.

"We brought in Hudson, but with Hudson, I was not happy with the energy, and the attitude in counter-pressing, so we decided to take him off again because we demand a lot, we demand 100 per cent, and I had a feeling he is not right in this shape where he can help us.

"It's the decision for today. It's a hard decision, I know, for the players to come on and off, but tomorrow it's forgotten and he has all the possibility to start against Atletico Madrid."

For Ralph Hasenhuttl and Southampton, effort was certainly not a concern as they won their first league point since beating champions Liverpool in January.

"It was an important point for us. We played the maximum we can at the moment," said the Saints boss.

"I didn't see that many chances for them and with a little more luck at the end we can win it with the header for Jannik [Vestergaard].

"It's like a win for us today. Normally, we're struggling after letting in an equaliser, but this time we stepped it up after 65 minutes.

"It's a tough time now [with four away games in a row], which is why it's important to take a point against such a strong side."

A second-half penalty from Mason Mount secured a 1-1 draw for Chelsea away to Southampton on Saturday.

Saints took the lead with their first shot of the game at St Mary's Stadium, Takumi Minamino becoming the first opposition player to score against Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel 33 minutes in.

Mount won and converted a spot-kick in the second half to reach four Premier League goals for the season – all of which have come on Chelsea's travels – as the Blues edged into the top four.

Jannik Vestergaard hit the woodwork with a header but Southampton did at least end their six-match losing run, with a healthy gap of 11 points to the bottom three.

Many of Chelsea's early attacks came through Marcos Alonso, who scuffed a volley wide from a good position after being picked out by Reece James.

The visitors enjoyed 73 per cent of the ball in the first half-hour but their only attempt on target was a speculative strike from Antonio Rudiger that was easily saved by Alex McCarthy.

Southampton then snatched the lead with their first chance of the match, Minamino sitting down keeper Edouard Mendy and the covering Cesar Azpilicueta before prodding the ball in after Nathan Redmond's pass split the defence.

Saints were keeping Chelsea at bay well until 54 minutes in, when Mount converted from the spot after Danny Ings' careless lunge brought him down in the penalty area.

Ralph Hasenhuttl's men reacted well to the goal and nearly went back in front when Vestergaard's stooping header came back off the crossbar, with Mendy beaten.

Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi threatened late on, but Chelsea ended the half with just one shot on target at the end of a somewhat blunt attacking display.

 

What does it mean? Blues into top four but winning run ends

Chelsea were on a five-game winning run under Tuchel in all competitions but not all have been plain sailing and they are yet to score more than twice in a game under the German.

They were mostly frustrated by a resolute Southampton here, who brought their six-game losing run in the top flight to an end.

They are 13th, while Chelsea move a point above West Ham and into fourth, having played a game more.

Jannik on his Gaard

Southampton's losing run, and that 9-0 obliteration by Manchester United, had prompted plenty of worry about the state of their defence.

They were far stronger and more organised here, with Vestergaard immaculate, making seven clearances, four interceptions and regaining possession eight times.

Ings can only get better

Ings has the best minutes-per-goal ratio of any Southampton striker with at least 15 goals in the Premier League, averaging one every 161 minutes before this game.

However, with chances scarce, he offered little as an outlet to the Saints defence, touching the ball just 29 times and conceding the penalty with a reckless tackle.

What's next?

Chelsea's attention now turns to Tuesday's Champions League trip to Atletico Madrid. Saints are in league action the same day at Leeds United.

Naomi Osaka has set her sights on a fifth grand slam trophy after winning the Australian Open.

Osaka added a fourth major title to her collection thanks to Saturday's 6-4 6-3 victory over 22nd seed Jennifer Brady in Melbourne.

Former world number one Osaka became the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to emerge victorious from the first four grand slam finals of her career, having boasted a perfect 3-0 record following success at the US Open (2018 and 2020) and Australian Open (2019).

Osaka has been tipped to dominate the WTA Tour and celebrate further major success, but the Japanese star and third seed is not looking too far into the future.

"I'm taking it in sections," Osaka, who reeled off six successive games from 4-4 in the first set against Brady to take control, said during her post-match news conference.

"For right now, I'm trying to go for five. You know, after five I would think about maybe dividing the 10, so maybe seven or eight.

"I like to take things not big-picture. For me, I like to live in the moment. It's an honour that he [Mats Wilander] said that [I would get a minimum of 10], of course.

"But I don't want to weigh myself down with pressure and expectations. I know that the people that I'm playing against are the best players in the world and, if my time comes to win another Grand Slam, it will come.

"But for right now I can only control what I can control, and that's working hard and giving myself opportunities."

Osaka - who fended off a pair of match points against Garbine Muguruza in the last 16 at Melbourne Park - also became the seventh woman to have won the Australian Open after saving match point, following in the footsteps of Seles (1991), Jennifer Capriati (2002), Serena Williams (2003 and 2005), Li Na (2014), Angelique Kerber (2016) and Caroline Wozniacki (2018).

The 23-year-old won in 77 minutes to become the 12th woman in the Open Era to clinch multiple Australian Open titles. 

Osaka has now gone 21 matches without defeat - she is only the third woman since 2010 to enjoy an unbeaten streak of 20 or more matches, joining Serena (27 wins between 2014 WTA Finals and 2015 Madrid) and Azarenka (26 wins between 2012 Sydney and Miami).

Asked about her perfect record in slam finals, Osaka added: "I feel like for me I'm not sure if it's something you're born with.

"But I know that I didn't play a lot of tournaments when I was a kid, so I'd always want to take the opportunity whenever someone was watching me, I'd feel like it was more fun that way.

"So maybe that's how I developed wanting a crowd and wanting to play in front of more people.

"I also think it's because I watched a lot of grand slams growing up and seeing the crowds, seeing Arthur Ashe Stadium, seeing how it was in Australia and Rod Laver, and wanting to play in front of people and wanting to be the person holding up the trophy."

Following in the footsteps of Seles and 20-time slam champion Roger Federer as the only three players to have won their first four major deciders, Osaka said: "That's very amazing company. I hope that I can have one grain of how their career has unfolded.

"You can only wish and you can only just keep going down your own path. But, yeah, it's definitely something crazy to hear."

Ronald Koeman says he has his "ideas for the future" of Barcelona after Los Cules were once again linked with a move for Borussia Dortmund superstar Erling Haaland.

Barca are in a state of flux as they await to vote in a new president to replace Josep Maria Bartomeu and the club contending with spiralling and eye-watering levels of debt.

Despite their perilous financial position, Barca are among the clubs reportedly interested in signing Haaland, who saw his stock continue to rise with a double in Dortmund's 3-2 win over Sevilla in the Champions League last-16 first leg.

That made the Norway international the quickest player to reach double figures for goals in the competition for a single club, doing so in just seven matches - three games fewer than Roy Makaay for Bayern Munich between 2003 and 2004.

Former Salzburg star Haaland has 18 goals in 13 games in the competition overall, which is a tally only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski can match since the start of 2019-20.

Barca head coach Koeman was asked about the possibility of bringing Haaland to Camp Nou and, while keeping his cards close to his chest, did not entirely rule out a move.

"I have my ideas for the future of this club," Koeman told a news conference when previewing Barca's LaLiga clash with Cadiz on Sunday. 

"But I have to wait for who is going to be the president to sit down and talk about the future."

Earlier this week, presidential hopeful Joan Laporta suggested Haaland would be a target should he be successful in his bid.

"If we have to improve the football team, I have the cards and I'm ready to play them," he said in direct response to the links with Haaland.

"It's because of the experience and the knowledge I have of the people who could intervene in all these situations.

"I want to send a message of calm to the Barcelona fans - we will be economically sustainable again."

Jennifer Brady feels winning a grand slam is "totally achievable" and within reach after falling to Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open final.

Brady had her first taste of a slam final on Saturday but the American 22nd seed was outclassed by four-time major champion Osaka 6-4 6-3 in Melbourne.

The 25-year-old was the seventh woman in the past nine majors to appear in a maiden final. Iga Swiatek (2020 French Open), Sofia Kenin (2020 Australian Open), Bianca Andreescu (2019 US Open), Ash Barty (2019 French Open) and Osaka (2018 US Open) all tasted success, while Marketa Vondrousova (2019 French Open) and Brady were the only two to suffer defeat.

Reflecting on the result on Rod Laver Arena, Brady told reporters: "I think I belong at this level. I think winning a grand slam is totally achievable. It's within reach.

"Playing out there, obviously I was nervous, didn't go my way, but at the same time coming off court, I was, like, okay, that feels a little bit normal. 

"It felt different than what I was expecting it to feel like. If you were to ask me maybe a year ago, I wouldn't think it's possible or it would feel like it's, like, going to Mars.

"So, I would say just being more comfortable at this level."

Brady added: "I have mixed feelings. I'm pretty proud of myself, my team, for what we achieved here. We came here, you know, and I reached my first grand slam final. 

"But also, I'm walking away with the runner-up trophy, not the winner's trophy, so that's a little bit sad.

"I would say I'm pretty happy with my performance over the past couple weeks."

Milan midfielder Franck Kessie has declared the Rossoneri will win Sunday's derby against Serie A leaders Inter.

The 174th Milan derby in Serie A history will be the first since April 2011 that sees the two teams occupying the top two spots in the table.

That game ended in a 3-0 win for Milan that helped to propel them to their most recent Scudetto triumph, but Inter have the form heading into the latest contest: they have won four of the previous five encounters and are a point clear at the top of the table after winning 12 of their previous 15 league games.

Stefano Pioli's side have lost three times in seven Serie A matches, as many as in their previous 41, and this year have already surpassed the two league losses they suffered in the whole of 2020.

Still, Kessie is in no doubt about their chances of moving back to the top with a victory at San Siro.

"There are still a lot of games left. And even if it seems there are lots of difficulties, we'll win the derby and return to the top of the table," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"We're a group that has grown through difficulty. We believe in the Scudetto. Everyone knows that, in Italy, you can beat the leaders and lose against the side bottom of the table. You don't have to be worried."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 10 times in Milan derbies, with eight of those goals coming for Milan, including three in their two meetings this season.

The veteran striker netted twice in the 2-1 win in October in the reverse league fixture and opened the scoring in the Coppa Italia quarter-final last month, but he was then sent off in a game Milan went on to lose 2-1.

Kessie, though, is backing his team-mate to step up and take a penalty against his old club if the chance comes his way.

"If there's a penalty, Ibra will take it. And he'll be happy with the result," Kessie said.

"From a technical point of view, he is unsurpassed. As a team-mate, he always gives you something more. You don't often find champions with this personality."

Kessie has developed into a key part of Pioli's plans. The 24-year-old has played 31 times in all competitions in 2020-21 and won a combined 150 tackles and duels, the most of any midfielder at the club.

Kessie's leadership on the pitch has helped him to earn the nickname of 'the president' – although he revealed there is another side to that story.

He explained: "I once arrived at Milanello and parked in [former CEO Ivan] Gazidis' spot. They told me I couldn't park there, and I replied, 'What's the problem? I'm the new CEO of Milan'."

"I know that everyone was cheering for [Serena Williams] and I'm sorry it had to end like this. I want to say thank you for watching the match."

Naomi Osaka's first grand slam title was memorable for all the wrong reasons - the Japanese left in tears after defeating her idol Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open final.

Williams was penalised for receiving coaching, slamming her racquet and then arguing with the chair umpire, which cost the 23-time slam champion a game in the second set.

The mood on Arthur Ashe Stadium turned bitter as fans booed during the trophy ceremony.

"I just felt like everyone was sort of unhappy up there," Osaka told the 'Today' show a day after the final. "I know that it wasn't really – the ending wasn't how people wanted it to be. I know that in my dreams I won in a very tough, competitive match. I don't know. I just felt very emotional. I felt like I had to apologise.

"I felt a little bit sad, because I wasn't really sure if they were booing at me or if it wasn't the outcome that they wanted. I also could sympathise, because I've been a fan of Serena my whole life, and I knew how badly the crowd wanted her to win."

Almost three years on and three further slam titles later, that softly-spoken Osaka is now a ruthless machine, just ask Williams.

En route to a fourth slam crown and second Australian Open trophy on Saturday, Osaka overpowered the 23-time major champion in the semi-finals, stopping her ongoing record-equalling quest flat in its tracks.

The queen of women's tennis for so long, Williams could not find a way to beat Osaka.

The here and now, Osaka continues to be Williams' kryptonite in the American superstar's bid match Margaret Court. It could explain why Serena was left in tears and cut short her post-match news conference.

There appears to be no way past Osaka.

Usually timid away from the action, Osaka is ferocious on court but just as calm - her triumphant 2021 Australian Open campaign further proof of that, having saved a pair of match points in the last 16 before topping Jennifer Brady on Rod Laver Arena, where she became the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to emerge victorious from the first four grand slam finals of her career. 

Lets not forget her anti-racism statements during the last year's US Open. The 23-year-old regularly wore masks onto court to protest against racial injustice in the United States. Osaka's off-court impact is just as powerful across the globe.

As the sun begins to fade on the career of an all-time great, Osaka has the world at her feet in an exciting new era for women's tennis.

Naomi Osaka made history after seeing off Jennifer Brady 6-4 6-3 in the Australian Open final for her fourth grand slam crown.

Osaka's big-match experience was telling against first-time finalist Brady in warm conditions, the former world number one reeling off six consecutive games after breaking at 4-4 in the first set to set the tone at Melbourne Park on Saturday.

Japanese star Osaka became the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to emerge victorious from the first four grand slam finals of her career, having boasted a perfect 3-0 record following success at the US Open (2018 and 2020) and Australian Open (2019).

Osaka - who fended off a pair of match points against Garbine Muguruza in the last 16 at Melbourne Park - also became the seventh woman to have won the Australian Open after saving match point, following in the footsteps of Seles (1991), Jennifer Capriati (2002), Serena Williams (2003 and 2005), Li Na (2014), Angelique Kerber (2016) and Caroline Wozniacki (2018).

Fans were treated to a topsy-turvy opening on Rod Laver Arena, in a rematch of the 2020 US Open semi-final, which Osaka won en route to her third slam title.

Osaka appeared to be on track for a commanding first set, cruising through the opening service game to love before breaking her opponent to love following a double-fault for a 3-1 lead.

Looking rushed in her maiden major final as Osaka enjoyed the big stage, Brady wrestled the momentum after reclaiming the break - the 22nd seed starting to outhit the former in a fascinating baseline battle.

Some out of character misses and errors crept into Osaka's game - 15 in total in the opening set, she managed just 21 in total in her straight-sets win over Serena Williams in the semi-finals.

Full of confidence, Brady had a chance to break Osaka, who fended it off to move ahead 5-4 before the debutant crumbled.

In control at 40-15, Brady's position wilted as she was was caught off-guard by an Osaka return that caught the line and it got worse after firing a volley into the net to gift the third seed the set.

For all of her hard work in an absorbing first set, Brady's hard work came undone early in the second - the fast-moving Osaka winning four consecutive games to close in on victory.

Brady managed to stop the rot by breaking back and clawing two consecutive games, however, it only delayed the inevitable as Osaka further cemented herself as the face of women's tennis.


Data slam: Osaka joins multiple winners
The 23-year-old won in 77 minutes to become the 12th woman in the Open Era to win multiple Australian Open titles. Osaka has now gone 21 matches without defeat - she is only the third woman since 2010 to enjoy an unbeaten streak of 20 or more matches, joining Serena (27 wins between 2014 WTA Finals and 2015 Madrid) and Azarenka (26 wins between 2012 Sydney and Miami).

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Osaka – 16/24
Brady – 15/31

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Osaka – 6/2
Brady – 2/4

BREAK POINTS WON
Osaka – 4/5
Brady – 2/4

Daniil Medvedev goes into Sunday's Australian Open final against Novak Djokovic in incredible form.

The Russian star extended his winning streak to 20 matches with a straight-sets victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals on Friday.

Medvedev became the 25th man in the Open Era to record a Tour-level winning streak of 20 matches. He is the sixth active player to manage the feat, joining Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro.

The 25-year-old's run has not only been utterly dominant, but also included some rather impressive wins.

Of his 20 victories, 12 have come against top-10 players, including Djokovic. Since November, Medvedev has beaten every other member of the top 10 except Federer, who has been out of action.

"It's great to know this. It's a pity that Roger is not playing. I would love to have played him. I'm not saying anything. I just would love to play against him. I mean, to play against Roger is always a privilege. Against Novak, Rafa, Roger," Medvedev said after his win over Tsitsipas.

"But it's great to hear this. I mean, happy about myself, because I remember one moment when I was already playing quite good I actually was struggling with the top-10 guys when I was maybe around top 20 or top 30.

"It's great to hear this and I'm really happy about it."

Along with Djokovic and Nadal, Medvedev's run has also included wins over Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev (three times), Andrey Rublev, Matteo Berrettini and Tsitsipas.

In his 20-match streak, Medvedev has won 44 sets and lost just seven, and two of those were in his five-set victory over Filip Krajinovic in the third round.

Medvedev has won three of his past four meetings with Djokovic, who edges their overall head-to-head 4-3.

His run will have Medvedev full of confidence as he bids to win a first grand slam title, needing to overcome the record eight-time champion in Melbourne to do so.

Sunday's Milan derby will be unlike any seen for much of the past decade: a battle between two genuine Scudetto contenders.

Inter head into the game, the 174th league meeting with their city rivals, at the top of Serie A. They are just a point above Milan, with 16 rounds remaining, after a run of 12 wins in 15 games.

The last time these sides met in the top flight while occupying the top two positions in the table was back in April 2011, when a 3-0 win for the Rossoneri helped propel them to their most recent title.

Much of the focus will be on star strikers Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They scored all three goals in Milan's win in the reverse fixture and clashed on the pitch in the Nerazzurri's more recent Coppa Italia triumph.

However, according to esteemed former Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi, the real star of the show might be found in Inter's midfield.

"Those looking for the prototype of the modern footballer should look at Nicolo Barella and they will be satisfied," Sacchi said in his column for La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"The Inter player plays for the team and with the team, he attacks and defends, attacks with courage and fights to win the ball back.

"I've been following Barella since he was a kid. He came into Italy's youth teams when I was the Azzurri's technical director. He was not a phenomenon, he was physically frail, he did not have an incredible technique, yet he managed to reach very high levels.

"This shows that at the base of any successful career there is always hard work, training, the spirit of sacrifice and the desire to improve day after day."

For Sacchi, Barella represents the paragon of the modern player. But what makes him so effective?

BOX-TO-BOX BRILLIANCE

Barella is enjoying the best season of his career in terms of goal involvements, with three scored and eight assisted in 32 games in all competitions. Only five Serie A midfielders have been directly involved in more goals.

The 24-year-old has created 42 chances from open play across all competitions this term, only Milan playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu (44) has more among players in Italy's top flight, while Barella has also completed 469 passes ending in the final third, the highest number of any midfield player among Italy's top-tier sides.

Of course, as part of a three-man central midfield under Antonio Conte, creating opportunities is not enough (just ask Christian Eriksen). And, as Sacchi pointed out, Barella's impact is equally impressive when it comes to keeping the opposition away from your own goal.

He is third among Serie A midfielders for tackles won in 2020-21 (35, behind Adrien Rabiot and Marten de Roon), and third for duels won (175, behind Juraj Kucka and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic). That's a continuation of combative play honed at Cagliari, where, in his final two seasons, he was top of the league's midfield rankings with 480 duels won.

 

"COURAGE"

Sacchi spoke glowingly of Barella's bravery, of how an unassuming youngster developed into Serie A's most influential midfielder so early in his career.

He's right – there's a boldness to Barella's play that sets him apart.

In Serie A this season, he has completed 87 progressive carries in which the ball was moved between five and 10 metres up the pitch, which is the most of any attacking midfielder in the league. Twelve of his carries have ended in a chance being created, the fourth-best tally among players in his position.

These kinds of plays help Inter keep possession and limit the risk of losing the ball in dangerous areas. Indeed, Conte's side have faced only 18 shot-ending high turnovers of possession in Serie A this term, the lowest figure in the league, while only Napoli (230) and Juventus (212) have faced fewer pressed sequences than the Nerazzurri (232).

Once in more promising positions, Barella is still the man pulling the strings. His tally of shot build-up involvements – a measure of a player's involvement in sequences ending in a team-mate's shot on goal or chance created – stands at 60, the most of any attacking midfielder in the league.

Looking at sequences where players are involved in the build-up and also create the chance at the end, Barella is third in the division for his position with eight, just two behind Lorenzo Insigne and Ruslan Malinovskiy.

 

CONTE'S LIEUTENANT

Barella's eagerness to be at the heart of matters on the pitch extends to when Inter don't have the ball – at both ends of the pitch.

As well as being third among midfielders this term for tackles and duels won, Barella is fifth for regaining possession, having done so 168 times. When it comes to winning back the ball in the final third, he is top of the pile with 26 (both across all comps).

This, too, helps to set the tone for Inter's approach. In Serie A in 2020-21, they have made 190 high turnovers, a tally bettered only by Gian Piero Gasperini's Atalanta pressing machine (251). Plus, only Atalanta (129) and Juve (128) have had fewer high turnovers against them than Inter (130). It's an impressive combination, and Barella is integral to it.

As Sacchi said: "A detail that is far from negligible is the desire to put the group at the top of one's thoughts and, in this way self-centeredness, a disease of modern football, is fought and defeated.

"Barella is proving to be a driving force."

 

The return of UEFA club competitions this week offered a reminder that there remain significant hoops to jump through before the delayed European Championship kicks off.

Fixtures being switched to alternative venues due to local coronavirus regulations cast the multiple host city model for Euro 2020 in an unhelpful light, with March's international break set to throw up fresh challenges.

Postponing and rearranging a major sporting event due to ongoing and unspeakably tragic global circumstances makes any focus on the footballing concerns within the equation feel somewhat crass.

But all 24 men leading countries into the finals will look at their squads before kick-off and ponder whether the additional 12 months of waiting and haphazard preparation have been a help or a hindrance in terms of form and personnel.

For England manager Gareth Southgate, the delay looks to have been advantageous.

It is highly unlikely the now resurgent John Stones and Luke Shaw would have featured in his defensive plans, much less centre-forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who is now the obvious back-up to captain Harry Kane.

Aston Villa's sparkling creative inspiration Jack Grealish now has England caps to his name, while a crop of richly gifted youngsters are flourishing.

None more so than Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden, who will go head to head when Premier League leaders Manchester City travel to Arsenal on Sunday.

Learning on the job

When Southgate comes to whittle down his final 23, versatility will count as a plus point for those hopeful of making the cut.

Foden and Saka have it in abundance, even if they have edged towards a degree of specialism during stunning runs of individual form during English football's winter months.

A central midfielder on his way through the youth ranks at boyhood club City, Foden's deployment on the left-wing has more or less coincided with the record-breaking 17-match winning run across all competitions that left Pep Guardiola's side 10 points clear at the start of the weekend

Not that it stopped Guardiola starting the 20-year-old as a false nine away to Liverpool, before switching Foden to the right flank for the second half, from where he provided an assist and a goal to inspire a statement 4-1 win.

Then, with Ilkay Gundogan injured, he was back in midfield to open the scoring during Wednesday's 3-1 win over Everton.

"He can play in both positions, he is so young," Guardiola said ahead of the Arsenal game.

"Phil just needs - and for the age [he is], he will get it –  the timing to play inside.

"When you play as a winger you have to play in one tempo, with one timing and one rhythm. When you play in the middle you have to play with another one.

"When he gets this balance, he will be 10 times the extraordinary player that he is right now. It's just a question of time."

Foden has four goals and two assists since the turn of the year in the Premier League, the same figures that can be attributed to Saka since Mikel Arteta selected him on the right wing for the Boxing Day clash against Chelsea.

Saka has featured at left-back, in both wing-back roles and centrally during Arteta's tenure, but he got on the scoresheet in a dominant 3-1 derby victory and has not looked back.

"I see Bukayo evolving, getting better and getting to understand different positions and finally we will fit him in one that gives the best [result]," Arteta said back in July. It appears he has his answer.

Variety is the spice of life

Splitting Saka's 21 Premier League appearances this season into centre, right or left positionally, Opta data shows he creates 1.1 chances per 90 minutes when on the right.

Both of his top-flight assists this term have come when starting on that flank, while an expected assists (xA) scored of 0.23 per 90 indicates a better quality of pass into danger areas when set against stints on the left or through the middle.

The 19-year-old, whose four England caps have come at left wing-back, is similarly effective dribbling on either flank, with 1.4 (left) and 1.5 (right) completed per match.

That figure rises to 3.1 when Saka has played through the middle this season, although two appearances and a solitary – albeit goalscoring – start in a central three versus Sheffield United skew his numbers to a degree.

Guardiola's words this week suggest Foden will find himself back on the flanks at Emirates Stadium, but the City star's feel for a goal comes to the fore when he plays through the middle.

In six Premier League games where he has operated centrally, his goals per game rate of 0.81 per 90 minutes and 2.4 dribbles completed per game are his highest across the three categories.

A shot conversion of 30 per cent also dwarfs his efforts from the left (11 per cent) but 2.5 chances created from open play per 90 in the latter role is perhaps the most significant statistic when it comes to explaining why he has made Leroy Sane's old position his own.

Among Europe's best

Saka and Foden each stack up very well when compared to the leading players under 21 throughout Europe. Indeed, no player within their age range has played more than Saka's 2,317 minutes in all competitions across clubs in the big five leagues.

Foden (2,130) comes in sixth in that regard, while his 11 goals are third behind Moise Kean (16) and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland (25). Saka's six goals overall place him seventh.

Jadon Sancho (11) is the only under-21 player with more assists than Foden (six), while the City player's 44 chances created from open play comes in second to the Dortmund winger – another handy illustration of the ample resources at Southgate's disposal.

How he should deploy them will be relentlessly discussed before June, even if those arguments are now the preserve of Zoom calls rather than crowded pubs.

What increasingly appears beyond debate is that Foden and Saka have established ironclad cases for inclusion, having at best been outside punts a year ago.

Along with their dazzling array of skills, the versatility Guardiola and Arteta have used to their benefit could prove invaluable to Southgate amid the cut and thrust of tournament football.

The Los Angeles Clippers ended the Utah Jazz's winning run in the NBA on Friday, while Joel Embiid and Jamal Murray posted 50-point games.

The Clippers snapped the Jazz's nine-game winning streak with a 116-112 victory in a clash between two NBA championship contenders.

Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Clippers with 29 points as they improved to 22-9.

Donovan Mitchell had a game-high 35 points, but the Jazz's winning run came to an end, with the Western Conference leaders now 24-6 this season.

Embiid's career-high 50 points, 17 rebounds and five assists helped the Philadelphia 76ers past the Chicago Bulls 112-105.

He is the first 76ers player to score 50-plus points since Allen Iverson in 2005.

Murray, meanwhile, was spectacular in the Denver Nuggets' 120-103 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The guard was an incredible 21-of-25 from the field, and eight-of-10 from three-point range, for his 50-point haul.

Murray and Embiid were the first NBA pair with 50-plus points on 65 per cent-plus shooting on the same day since Tom Chambers and Patrick Ewing on March 24, 1990, as per Stats Perform.

Nikola Jokic had a triple-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the Nuggets' win.

 

Giannis leads Bucks, Curry's Warriors fall short

Giannis Antetokounmpo's double-double of 29 points and 19 rebounds saw the Milwaukee Bucks past the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-85.

Stephen Curry had 29 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, but the Golden State Warriors were beaten by the Orlando Magic 124-120.

Magic star Nikola Vucevic finished with a triple-double of 30 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.

Despite a double-double from Trae Young (31 points and 11 assists), the Atlanta Hawks went down to the Boston Celtics 121-109.

 

Wayward VanVleet

Fred VanVleet went four-of-20 from the field for just 12 points in 37 minutes, but the Toronto Raptors still got past the Minnesota Timberwolves 86-81.

 

Edwards' incredible dunk

Anthony Edwards was three-of-14 from the field for just seven points in 34 minutes in the Timberwolves' loss, yet the 2020 top draft pick produced a monstrous dunk.

Friday's results

Orlando Magic 124-120 Golden State Warriors
Denver Nuggets 120-103 Cleveland Cavaliers
Boston Celtics 121-109 Atlanta Hawks
Philadelphia 76ers 112-105 Chicago Bulls
Phoenix Suns 132-114 New Orleans Pelicans
Memphis Grizzlies 109-95 Detroit Pistons
Milwaukee Bucks 98-85 Oklahoma City Thunder
Toronto Raptors 86-81 Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Clippers 116-112 Utah Jazz

 

Heat at Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers (22-8) look to bounce back from their loss to the Brooklyn Nets when they host the Miami Heat (12-17) on Saturday in what is a rematch of last year's NBA Finals.

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