Bayern Munich's record signing Lucas Hernandez will have to wait for his chance because coach Hansi Flick prefers a settled back four.

France international Hernandez was signed from Atletico Madrid for €80million prior to this season, but the World Cup-winning defender has started just seven Bundesliga games.

Knee and ankle injuries have not helped the 24-year-old's cause, though he has been an unused substitute in the previous three Bundesliga games either side of the break enforced by the coronavirus pandemic.

David Alaba, who has been converted to a centre-back because of injuries, and Jerome Boateng have instead been at the heart of Flick's defence, with Niklas Sule also sidelined at the moment.

"David and Jerome have shown excellent performances in central defence," Flick told a news conference. 

"We have the best defence in the league. Of course, Lucas is plagued by injuries. Now it is important that he shows excellent performance in training.

"I am very satisfied with his mentality, he gives always 100 per cent.

"But it is also clear that if a chain of four works well, you as a coach rely on this security. But it is clear that we need every player in our squad."

It had looked like Boateng's days in Bavaria were numbered, but Flick's appointment, initially on an interim basis in November, means he is now very much back in favour.

The 31-year-old has a contract that runs until 2021 and, having stated he believes he will fulfil that deal, Flick has praised the defender.

"He still has a year [left on his] contract, it is his decision," Flick added.

"Jerome was a German international and has now shown that he can show performance at this high level.

"He is physically fitter and has created the conditions that he currently has a regular place here. I like to work with him and he's doing very well right now."

Bayern begin the 27th round of Bundesliga fixtures with a four-point lead over Borussia Dortmund, who they will play next week after hosting Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.

Erling Haaland has a chance to create more Bundesliga history when Borussia Dortmund take on Wolfsburg on Saturday.

Cologne's Mark Uth is another striker on a strong run who will be hoping to help his team pick up a victory over relegation-threatened Fortuna Dusseldorf, while Kai Havertz will be out to maintain his impressive second half of the season.

Bayern remained four points clear at the summit following a victory over Union Berlin on the league's return from a two-month coronavirus stoppage last weekend and are up against Eintracht Frankfurt.

RB Leipzig fell further off the pace and would no doubt welcome a repeat of their Timo Werner-inspired 8-0 thrashing of Mainz from earlier this season when the pair meet again on Sunday.

Ahead of the next round of Bundesliga fixtures, we bring you the best Opta Facts.

FRIDAY
Hertha Berlin v Union Berlin
- Hertha lost 1-0 in the previous meeting in November 2019, which was the first time the two clubs faced each other in the Bundesliga. Hertha have never lost two Berlin derbies in a row in professional football.
- Union have won two of their past three Bundesliga away games (2-0 against Werder Bremen and 2-1 against Eintracht Frankfurt), picking up more wins and points than in their first 10 top-flight away matches this season (one win, five points).

SATURDAY
Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayer Leverkusen
- Leverkusen have lost each of their last three Bundesliga games against Gladbach – they only ever lost four in a row against the Foals across 1980 and 1981.
- Havertz has recorded 10 of his 13 Bundesliga goal involvements this season in the Ruckrunde. He has had a hand in at least one goal in each of his last five top-flight games (four goals, three assists).

Wolfsburg v Borussia Dortmund
- Wolfsburg have only taken one point from their past nine Bundesliga games against Dortmund – a goalless draw at Signal Iduna Park in January 2018.
- Haaland needed just nine games for his first 10 Bundesliga goals – only Paco Alcacer and Gert Dorfel required fewer matches (both eight). Haaland will equal the top-flight's record with an 11th goal in his 10th outing.

Freiburg v Werder Bremen
- Bremen have a higher winning percentage (56 per cent) and average more goals per game (2.2) against Freiburg than they do against any other current Bundesliga side.
- Werder's 18 points from 25 games represents their worst Bundesliga season. In league history, all of the 37 teams that have had 18 points or fewer after 25 games have been relegated.

Paderborn v Hoffenheim
- Paderborn have failed to score in all five of their competitive matches against Hoffenheim – they have only ever endured a longer barren streak in professional football against Kaiserslautern (six games between 2006 and 2010).
- Paderborn are six points behind 16th-place Fortuna Dusseldorf. Since the introduction of the three-points-per-win rule in 1995-96, no Bundesliga team has made up such a deficit after 26 games.

Bayern Munich v Eintracht Frankfurt
- Bayern have won each of their last 10 Bundesliga home games against Frankfurt – their longest winning run at home to any current top-flight side.
- Frankfurt are the weakest team away from home in the Bundesliga this season, picking up just seven points. They have lost nine of their 12 away games this term and have yet to keep a clean sheet on the road.

SUNDAY
Schalke v Augsburg

- Schalke have scored just two goals in their past eight Bundesliga games, fewer than any other side in this time frame. They have equalled a negative club record from 1965-66 with just four goals in nine Ruckrunde games.
- Augsburg's Florian Niederlechner has scored four goals in six Bundesliga games against Schalke – more than he has netted against any other top-flight team.

Mainz v RB Leipzig
- At least three goals have been scored in each of the seven Bundesliga meetings between Mainz and Leipzig.
- Mainz have 27 points and a goal difference of -19, which represents their second-worst Bundesliga campaign at this stage – they were only worse off after 26 games in 2017-18 (25 points).

Cologne v Fortuna Dusseldorf
- It has been nearly 31 years since Dusseldorf's last win away to Cologne in the Bundesliga - they celebrated a 3-1 victory in October 1989.
- Uth has had a hand in a goal in each of his eight Bundesliga games for Cologne (five goals, four assists); his longest such run in the competition.

Andre Silva would have loved to play alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Milan, describing the Swede as "one of the best of this era".

Silva is on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt, meaning he was not able to feature in the same Rossoneri team as Ibrahimovic before Serie A went into a coronavirus-enforced shutdown.

The Portugal international has designs on reaching the top of the game and believes working with the 38-year-old – who returned to Milan on a deal until the end of the season in December – could only have enhanced his chances of doing so.

"Those who are ambitious always want to win. I want to fight to reach the top, I want to grow and I want to learn," Silva told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Because of this, it would have been nice to play with Ibrahimovic. He is one of the best of this era, playing with him would have helped me."

Whether a return to San Siro might be on the cards is unclear but Silva is content at Frankfurt, who resumed their Bundesliga campaign with a 3-1 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday.

"I can't foresee the future, I can only comment on the present and that's at Frankfurt," he said.

"Things are going well now. In a couple of years, especially at my age, you can grow a lot, even as a man. You become more experienced and mature.

"In two years, you can work a lot on yourself. A couple of seasons have passed since my last campaign with Milan.

"In Frankfurt I had the opportunity to show off. I was confident, I'm happy to be here.

"For now, I'm a Milan player, on loan at Eintracht. I don't know what's going to happen. Regardless of club, competition or country, however, I want to be a protagonist."

Ibrahimovic's own future is uncertain, with suggestions he will not extend his Milan stay beyond this term.

It is 60 years to the day since Real Madrid hammered Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 to win the European Cup and there was a high five for Michael Jordan on May 18, 1998.

Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas were the heroes as Madrid tore Eintracht apart at Hampden Park to lift the famous trophy for the fifth consecutive season.

The legendary Jordan won his fifth and final NBA MVP award 22 years ago.

Milan fans and pitcher Randy Johnson can also reflect on this day with fond memories.

 

1960 - Madrid maul Eintracht 

Di Stefano and Puskas put on a show as Madrid put Eintracht to the sword in Glasgow.

A packed crowd of 127,000 were treated to one of the great performances, with the Spanish giants remaining kings of Europe after going behind to a goal from Richard Kress.

Di Stefano put Madrid in front with a quickfire first-half double and Eintracht were torn to pieces in devastating fashion after the break.

Hungary great Puskas struck three times in the space of 15 minutes and the magnificent Di Stefano completed his treble to put Madrid 7-1 up before Erwin Stein bagged a brace for the shocked German side.

 

1998 - High five for Jordan 

Jordan was rewarded for yet another outstanding season when he was named the best player in the NBA yet again in 1998.

The superstar led the way as the Chicago Bulls won a third consecutive title and a sixth in an eight-year period, beating the Utah Jazz to retain their crown.

Jordan was aged 35 when he landed his fifth and final NBA MVP gong and went on to be named Finals MVP.

He scored an average of 28.7 points per game, with an average of 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists, stepping up time and again with inspirational performances and a huge on-court presence

 

1994 - Ruthless Milan batter Barca

Milan retained their Champions League title in emphatic fashion at the Olympic Stadium in Athens 26 years ago to the day.

Barca were unable to live with Fabio Capello's side, who were in a class of their own despite being without some key men.

Marco van Basten and Gianluigi Lentini - the world's most expensive player at the time - were ruled out due to injury, while captain Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta missed out due to suspension.

That mattered not for masterful Milan, Daniele Massaro scoring a first-half brace and Dejan Savicevic on target with an exquisite lob before Marcel Desailly added insult to injury with a fine finish.

 

2004 - Age no barrier for 'Big Unit' Johnson

Randy Johnson made history when he became the oldest player to pitch a perfect game in the MLB 16 years ago.

Johnson was 40 when he achieved the magnificent feat in the Arizona Diamondbacks' victory over the Atlanta Braves.

The veteran's second career no-hitter came at Turner Field, breaking a record that Cy Young set when he was aged 37.

Johnson's perfect game was the 17th in baseball history.

Borussia Monchengladbach resumed their Bundesliga campaign in impressive fashion, Alassane Plea and Marcus Thuram inspiring a 3-1 win at Eintracht Frankfurt that lifts them above RB Leipzig.

Earlier on the Bundesliga's first day back following the coronavirus-enforced hiatus, Julian Nagelsmann's Leipzig were held to a 1-1 draw by Freiburg - and Gladbach took full advantage, looking every bit Champions League hopefuls.

The hosts failed to even keep Gladbach at bay for a full minute as Plea put the visitors in front, while Thuram – a key player before the suspension in proceedings – knocked in his seventh in the league this season soon after.

Substitute Andre Silva pulled one back for the hosts late one, but Ramy Bensebaini had already effectively secured a comfortable win for Marco Rose's side with a penalty.

Frankfurt had suffered three successive Bundesliga defeats prior to the break, and within 34 seconds of kick-off that run looked destined to continue – Plea finding the bottom-left corner despite being unbalanced after a one-two with Jonas Hofmann.

It was 2-0 just six minutes later as Bensebaini turned cleverly in the box and squeezed the ball across the face of goal for Thuram to tap in.

Filip Kostic appeared the Frankfurt player most likely to instigate a revival, but his wicked 24th-minute free-kick was pushed away by Yann Sommer, whose only other first-half save kept out Almamy Toure's tame effort from a tight angle just before the interval.

Adi Hutter introduced Silva for the ineffective Djibril Sow at half-time and Frankfurt had a little more presence in attack as a result, though not to the extent that Gladbach's lead ever looked under threat.

The visitors added a third through the lively Bensebaini, who converted from the spot after Breel Embolo was barged over by Evan Ndicka.

Silva grabbed a well-taken consolation with nine minutes to go, though it failed to inspire a comeback.

 

What does it mean? Rose's men glad to be back

After getting their early lead, Gladbach never looked like dropping points here. Once they were two up, they were smart enough to become more compact while still offering a threat on the break.

Frankfurt, on the other hand, showed little creative ingenuity, their forays forward rarely causing undue worry to the Gladbach defence. Defeat means they remain just five points above the bottom three.

Double trouble for Gladbach

Thuram and Plea were both effective, getting a goal apiece. The latter arguably shaded his younger compatriot, who appeared to suffer a knock in the second half, as the ex-Nice forward also hit the post while seeing a late opportunity saved.

Sow nowhere to be seen

An anonymous first-half showing resulted in Sow's withdrawal at the break in favour of the more attack-minded Silva.

What's next?

Gladbach return home – where they will play in front of approximately 12,000 cardboard cut-outs instead of fans – next weekend, with Bayer Leverkusen the visitors. Life will not get any easier for Frankfurt in a week, however, as they go to Bayern Munich.

After more than a two-month pause, top-level European football returns on Saturday with the Bundesliga's resumption – and EA Sports have released their 'Team of the Season So Far' on FIFA Ultimate Team ahead the German top-flight's return.

Undoubtedly the highlight of the first weekend back will be the Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, while pacesetters Bayern Munich go to Union Berlin.

For many football fans out there, gaming will have played a significant role in filling the void left behind by the real thing over the past two months – and FIFA 20 is giving Bundesliga fanatics extra reason to stick around with its boosted cards.

Featuring the likes of Jadon Sancho, Kai Havertz, Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski and Timo Werner, all of whom have boosted ratings in the 90s, fresh TOTSSF cards are now available in FUT.

Check out the full release below.

TEAM OF THE SEASON SO FAR

GK: Yann Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach) – 94

RWB: Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund) – 91

CB: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund) – 96

CB: Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig) – 93

LB: Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich) – 92

RF: Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) – 96

CDM: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich) – 96

CAM: Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen) – 94

ST: Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) – 97

ST: Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) – 95

ST: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) – 99

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Lukas Hradecky (Bayer Leverkusen) – 91

CB: Martin Hinteregger (Eintracht Frankfurt) – 88

CB: Matthias Ginter (Borussia Monchengladbach) – 92

CM: Suat Serdar (Schalke) – 88

CM: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) – 95

RW: Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich) – 93

LM: Filip Kostic (Eintracht Frankfurt) – 94

CAM: Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund) – 95

ST: Florian Niederlechner (Augsburg) – 89

After a two-month absence due to the coronavirus crisis, football in one of Europe's major leagues returns on Saturday as the Bundesliga resumes.

Though no fans will be present in the grounds, there are sure to be millions watching from home as the German top flight gets back up and running.

The Revierderby between Schalke and Borussia Dortmund is the headline fixture, while title hopefuls RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach are also in action on Saturday.

There is a crunch clash between strugglers Fortuna Dusseldorf and Paderborn, with two places and six points separating the teams.

Elsewhere, Augbsurg host Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim go up against Hertha Berlin.

Using Opta data, we take a look ahead to all of Saturday's Bundesliga fixtures.

 

Fortuna Dusseldorf v Paderborn

10 – Fortuna occupy the relegation play-off place as it stands and have won just one of their last 10 league games against Paderborn, defeating them in April 2014 in the second tier.

22 – Fortuna's tally of 22 points from 25 games represents their second-worst points haul at this stage of a Bundesliga season. They are also without a win in four league matches.

4 – Paderborn have lost their last four Bundesliga games. They last had a similar losing run in September and October this season, when they suffered five defeats on the bounce.

Borussia Dortmund v Schalke

180 – This will be the 180th Revierderby. Dortmund have only won one of the last eight meetings, beating Schalke 2-1 in December 2018. 

1 – Dortmund's 4-2 defeat in their last home clash with Schalke is their only league defeat at Signal Iduna Park under Lucien Favre.

14 – David Wagner's Schalke were only one point behind Dortmund prior to their first meeting this season, but 14 points now separate the sides.

9 – Since signing for Dortmund in January, Erling Haaland (9) has scored more than double the amount of goals Schalke (4) have managed since the mid-season break so far.

387 – Schalke have only managed to score once in their last 387 minutes of Bundesliga action, whereas Dortmund have scored 10 times in the same amount of minutes.

800 – Should Dortmund win, it would be their 800th Bundesliga victory. Schalke, meanwhile, will have let in 2,500 Bundesliga goals should they concede at least once on Saturday.

 

RB Leipzig v Freiburg

2 – Leipzig had not enjoyed the best start to 2020 prior to the suspension of the league. They had won just two of their last seven Bundesliga games, drawing their last two.

43 – Against current Bundesliga teams, Leipzig only have a higher loss percentage against Bayern (50 per cent) than Freiburg (43 per cent).

26 – Leipzig have conceded just 26 goals in the Bundesliga this term, meaning they have the joint-best defence, along with Bayern.

252 – Freiburg's 3-1 win against Union Berlin last time out ended the club's run of 252 minutes without a goal. They netted three times against Union, which is more than in their previous six games combined (2).

 

Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin

8 – Hoffenheim are unbeaten in their last eight Bundesliga matches against Hertha. They have never managed a longer undefeated run in the top flight against any other side.

5 – However, Hoffenheim have gone their last five Bundesliga games in a row without a win.

48 – Hertha, meanwhile, have conceded 48 goals after 25 Bundesliga games this season. They last let in at least as many at this stage in 1990-91, when they were relegated.

Augbsurg v Wolfsburg

8 – Augsburg's heaviest Bundesliga defeat came against Wolfsburg in May 2019, as they went down 8-1 away from home.

18 – While Wolfsburg have conceded just 17 goals in the second half of Bundesliga matches this season, Augsburg have let in 18 since the winter break.

20 – Only struggling Werder Bremen (21) have dropped more points from winning positions than Augsburg (20) this term.

 

Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Monchengladbach

0 – After winning both Bundesliga matches against Gladbach in 2017-18, Frankfurt have not won any of their last three games against the Foals.

34 – However, Eintracht have beat Gladbach 34 times in the Bundesliga in total. They have only recorded more victories over Bremen.

49 – Gladbach have taken 49 points from the first 25 Bundesliga matches of the season – this is the same as in their title-winning campaign of 1974-75.

100 – Should Oscar Wendt feature in a Gladbach triumph, he would bring up his 100th Bundesliga win, becoming the first foreign-born player to reach the milestone with the club.

The DFB-Pokal semi-finals will take place on June 9 and 10, with the final scheduled for July 4.

The new dates were confirmed by the DFB presidential board on Monday, with the competition having been indefinitely suspended last month.

German football is set to return behind closed doors on Saturday following a long shutdown enforced by the coronavirus pandemic.

Holders Bayern Munich are due to host Eintracht Frankfurt in one semi, with FC Saarbrucken taking on Bayer Leverkusen in the other last-four clash.

The final was initially slated for May 23 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.

Eintracht Frankfurt sporting director Fredi Bobic warned his team's fans not to show up when Bundesliga games resume – or they will cost their side points.

It was announced this week the Bundesliga would restart its season behind closed doors on May 16 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Eintracht Frankfurt, who are 12th in the table, will be back in action at home to Borussia Monchengladbach on May 16.

But Bobic urged fans to avoid gathering outside the stadium, or their team will be punished.

"We talked a lot with our own fans at Frankfurt and said, 'Listen guys, don't show up at the stadium. If you show up at the stadium, we will lose this game because the rules are very strict.' If they show up, the result goes to the away team," he told ESPN.

"[The fans] are smart, though. They've followed the rules in the last weeks, they've done a lot for the community, especially for the elders. So we are confident, we are in good communication with the fan groups and the signal from the fans is very positive that they won't show up at the stadium.

"That's the right thing to do. It's not allowed. We've re-opened a lot of things, but that's not allowed, big groups. Don't show up at the stadium, it makes no sense."

Eintracht Frankfurt are just six points clear of Fortuna Dusseldorf, who sit in the relegation play-off spot.

They had lost three consecutive Bundesliga games before the season was suspended in March.

The Bundesliga is back and the new schedule has been confirmed by the German Football League (DFL).

After the German government on Wednesday granted permission for the top two tiers to return behind closed doors, DFL chief executive Christian Seifert confirmed games will get back under way on May 16.

The Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke will headline the first group of matches, while league leaders Bayern Munich are in action next Sunday and Bayer Leverkusen will travel to Werder Bremen the following day.

The rest of the Bundesliga season has also been mapped out, with the eight rounds of fixtures – and Werder's game in hand against Eintracht Frankfurt – to be contested before the final day on June 27.

 

Matchday 26 (all times local):
May 16 – 15:30: Borussia Dortmund v Schalke
May 16 – 15:30: RB Leipzig v Freiburg
May 16 – 15:30: Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin
May 16 – 15:30: Fortuna Dusseldorf v Paderborn
May 16 – 15:30: Augsburg v Wolfsburg
May 16 – 18:30: Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Monchengladbach
May 17 – 15:30: Cologne v Mainz
May 17 – 18:00: Union Berlin v Bayern Munich
May 18 – 20:30: Werder Bremen v Bayer Leverkusen

Matchday 27 (from May 22-24):
Bayern Munich v Eintracht Frankfurt
Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayer Leverkusen
Wolfsburg v Borussia Dortmund
Hertha Berlin v Union Berlin
Mainz v RB Leipzig
Freiburg v Werder Bremen
Schalke v Augsburg
Cologne v Fortuna Dusseldorf
Paderborn v Hoffenheim

Matchday 28 (May 26-27):
Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich
RB Leipzig v Hertha Berlin
Bayer Leverkusen v Wolfsburg
Eintracht Frankfurt v Freiburg
Werder Bremen v Borussia Monchengladbach
Hoffenheim v Cologne
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Schalke
Augsburg v Paderborn
Union Berlin v Mainz

Matchday 29 (May 29-June 1):
Bayern Munich v Fortuna Dusseldorf
Borussia Monchengladbach v Union Berlin
Wolfsburg v Eintracht Frankfurt
Hertha Berlin v Augsburg
Mainz v Hoffenheim
Freiburg v Bayer Leverkusen
Schalke v Werder Bremen
Cologne v RB Leipzig
Paderborn v Borussia Dortmund

Matchday 24 (June 2/3):
Werder Bremen v Eintracht Frankfurt

Matchday 30 (June 5-8):
Borussia Dortmund v Hertha Berlin
RB Leipzig v Paderborn
Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich
Eintracht Frankfurt v Mainz
Werder Bremen v Wolfsburg
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Hoffenheim
Freiburg v Borussia Monchengladbach
Augsburg v Cologne
Union Berlin v Schalke

Matchday 31 (June 12-14):
Bayern Munich v Borussia Monchengladbach
Wolfsburg v Freiburg
Hoffenheim v RB Leipzig
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Borussia Dortmund
Hertha Berlin v Eintracht Frankfurt
Mainz v Augsburg
Schalke v Bayer Leverkusen
Cologne v Union Berlin
Paderborn v Werder Bremen

Matchday 32 (June 16-17):
Borussia Dortmund v Mainz
RB Leipzig v Fortuna Dusseldorf
Bayer Leverkusen v Cologne
Borussia Monchengladbach v Wolfsburg
Eintracht Frankfurt v Schalke
Werder Bremen v Bayern Munich
Freiburg v Hertha Berlin
Augsburg v Hoffenheim
Union Berlin v Paderborn

Matchday 33 (all at 15:30 local time on June 20):
Bayern Munich v Freiburg
RB Leipzig v Borussia Dortmund
Hoffenheim v Union Berlin
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Augsburg
Hertha Berlin v Bayer Leverkusen
Mainz v Werder Bremen
Schalke v Wolfsburg
Cologne v Eintracht Frankfurt
Paderborn v Borussia Monchengladbach

Matchday 34 (all at 15:30 local time on June 27):
Borussia Dortmund v Hoffenheim
Bayer Leverkusen v Mainz
Borussia Monchengladbach v Hertha Berlin
Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich
Eintracht Frankfurt v Paderborn
Werder Bremen v Cologne
Freiburg v Schalke
Augsburg v RB Leipzig
Union Berlin v Fortuna Dusseldorf

Antoine Griezmann is seemingly not ready to accept that his Barcelona career could be over.

The LaLiga giants have been heavily linked with moves for Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar and Inter forward Lautaro Martinez.

It had been reported Griezmann could head to San Siro as part of a deal, but the France international will not move so easily.

 

TOP STORY – GRIEZMANN READY TO FIGHT NEYMAR, MARTINEZ FOR BARCELONA PLACE

Griezmann is prepared to battle for his future at Barcelona despite links to Neymar and Martinez, according to Marca.

The former Atletico Madrid star had scored 14 goals in 37 games this season before the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But, the 29-year-old forward is ready to fight for a spot even if Martinez and Neymar arrive in the close season.

ROUND-UP

- A player that seems certain to leave Barcelona is Philippe Coutinho, who is on loan at Bayern Munich this season. Goal reports the LaLiga giants are still aiming to sell the playmaker and are hoping for a suitor in the Premier League.

- Staying at Camp Nou, Arturo Vidal has been linked heavily with a move to Inter. However, Mundo Deportivo reports Manchester United and Newcastle United are also interested in the midfielder. Apparently, Newcastle would be the frontrunners if the Premier League club manage to appoint Massimiliano Allegri, who coached Vidal at Juventus.

- Could Arsenal and Atletico Madrid be prepared for a swap deal? The Sun reports Arsenal are ready to offer Alexandre Lacazette to the LaLiga club to seal a deal for midfielder Thomas Partey. Also with Arsenal, the Mirror says the Premier League side have asked Valencia about Rodrigo Moreno, with Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang potentially leaving.

- Out of contract in 2022, Marc-Andre ter Stegen appeared set to earn a new deal at Barcelona. However, AS reports the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic is set to make a renewal for the goalkeeper – linked with Juventus and Bayern Munich – a lot harder.

- Perhaps Thiago Silva will remain at Paris Saint-Germain. Le 10 Sport reports the Ligue 1 giants are offering the defender – whose deal expires at the end of the season – a one-year contract.

- In the first year of a two-season loan deal at AC Milan, Ante Rebic has netted seven times. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A side are keen to make the Eintracht Frankfurt forward's move permanent soon, before his asking price rises further.

Passing the ball can sometimes look like the easiest thing in the world to do. At least, it does when these guys do it.

Our latest dive into the data of 2019-20 sees us look at the best playmakers in Europe's top-five leagues before the season was called to a halt.

We've deliberately broadened our approach to what constitutes a playmaker here – Gerard Pique doesn't often appear as a number 10, unless Barca are in real trouble – as the idea is to offer a wider consideration of those players who generally use the ball better than most when in possession.

To that end, we've looked at 12 different metrics to come up with the top performers of the campaign, again from among those to make at least 10 league appearances.

While some stars are not exactly strange to see in the list below, there is a handful of more surprising names, too...

 

THE TOP PLAYMAKERS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most successful passes: Sven Bender (1,766)
Highest passing accuracy: Axel Witsel (94.1 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Joshua Kimmich (873)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Axel Witsel (92.2)
Most passes ending in final third: Jadon Sancho (576)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Axel Witsel (88.4 per cent)
Most chances created: Christopher Nkunku (65)
Most big chances created: Thomas Muller (24)
Most assists: Thomas Muller (16)
Most assists from open play: Thomas Muller (15)
Most crosses/corners successful: Filip Kostic (71)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Dennis Geiger (50 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most successful passes: Gerard Pique (1,688)
Highest passing accuracy: Toni Kroos (93.6 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Sergio Busquets (957)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Toni Kroos (92.4)
Most passes ending in final third: Lionel Messi (698)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Toni Kroos (90.3)
Most chances created: Jose Campana (58)
Most big chances created: Lionel Messi (22)
Most assists: Lionel Messi (12)
Most assists from open play: Portu and Lionel Messi (8)
Most crosses/corners successful: Jesus Navas (43)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Benat (55 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most successful passes: Marco Verratti (1,581)
Highest passing accuracy: Thiago Silva (95.5 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Marco Verratti (956)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Thiago Silva (92.8 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Angel Di Maria (543)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Colin Dagba (86 per cent)
Most chances created: Dimitri Payet (87)
Most big chances created: Angel Di Maria (31)
Most assists: Angel Di Maria (14)
Most assists from open play: Angel Di Maria (10)
Most crosses/corners successful: Dimitri Payet (63)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Marco Verratti (54.6 per cent)

 

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most successful passes: Virgil van Dijk (2,209)
Highest passing accuracy: John Stones (94 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Rodri (1,069)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: John Stones (93.9 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Kevin De Bruyne (740)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Ibrahim Amadou (93.3 per cent)
Most chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (96)
Most big chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (23)
Most assists: Kevin De Bruyne (16)
Most assists from open play: Kevin De Bruyne (14)
Most crosses/corners successful: Kevin De Bruyne (69)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Christian Atsu (47.1 per cent)

 

SERIE A:

Most successful passes: Fabian Ruiz (1,488)
Highest passing accuracy: Marlon Santos (94.1 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Fabian Ruiz (932)
Passing accuracy, opposition half: Eljif Elmas (91.5 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Luis Alberto (723)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Walace (89.7 per cent)
Most chances created: Luis Alberto (75)
Most big chances created: Luis Alberto (16)
Most assists: Luis Alberto (12)
Most assists from open play: Luis Alberto and Alejandro Gomez (9)
Most crosses/corners successful: Erick Pulgar (46)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Armando Izzo (54.6 per cent)

 

AND THE TOP 12:

Most successful passes: Virgil van Dijk (2,209)
Highest passing accuracy: Thiago Silva (95.5 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Rodri (1,069)
Passing accuracy, opposition half: John Stones (93.9 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Kevin De Bruyne (740)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Ibrahim Amadou (93.3 per cent)
Most chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (96)
Most big chances created: Angel Di Maria (31)
Most assists: Thomas Muller and Kevin De Bruyne (16)
Most assists from open play: Thomas Muller (15)
Most crosses/corners successful: Filip Kostic (71)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Benat (55 per cent)

 

With football no closer to being resumed as the coronavirus pandemic continues, players across Europe's top-five leagues have lots of time to pore over their performances from this season.

Using Opta data, we have already examined some of the worst attacking numbers from 2019-20, so now it's the turn of those ball-playing technicians: the pass-masters.

We have analysed nine key metrics for outfield players to play in at least 10 league games this season, thereby giving us a good summary of those whose passing could use some improvement. Those metrics are focused on the number of passes (overall, in a player's own half and their opponent's half), the accuracy of those passes, corners and crosses, and losing possession.

As always when it comes to data, context is key. For instance, we have included overall accuracy percentages to give balance to the simple number of passes. A team's playmaker or set-piece taker, for example, is arguably more likely to have a larger number of misplaced passes than team-mates simply because he will be attempting more of them, and often in difficult areas.

It's also worth noting that the number of times possession has been lost excludes 'Hoofs' (which, by their nature, make losing the ball more common), while corner and crossing accuracy is taken only from those to attempt, on average, at least one per game.

That said, the below gives a good indication of some passing figures that need improvement - and there are one or two surprising names...

THE WORST PASSING STATS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most passes failed: Robert Andrich (291)
Worst passing accuracy: Anthony Modeste (55.4 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Jamilu Collins (110)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Kai Proger (60.5 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Sebastian Andersson (215)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Anthony Modeste (42.1 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Filip Kostic (199)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Wendell (0 of 22)
Most times possession lost: Filip Kostic (616)

LALIGA:

Most passes failed: Leandro Cabrera (352)
Worst passing accuracy: Enric Gallego (48.6 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Pervis Estupinan (94)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Sergio Leon (57.1 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Joselu (283)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Leandro Cabrera (43.5 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Jesus Navas (134)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Karim Benzema (0 of 19)
Most times possession lost: Pervis Estupinan (534)

LIGUE 1:

Most passes failed: Issiaga Sylla (281)
Worst passing accuracy: Suk Hyun-jun (44.8 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Fabien Centonze (111)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Suk Hyun-jun (50 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Andy Delort (238)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half:  Suk Hyun-jun (44.4 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Mathieu Dossevi (142)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): M'Baye Niang (0 of 11)
Most times possession lost: Angel Di Maria (539)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most passes failed: Trent Alexander-Arnold (480)
Worst passing accuracy: Christian Benteke (52.4 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Cesar Azpilicueta (132)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Matej Vydra (50 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half:  Trent Alexander-Arnold (359)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Christian Benteke (48 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed:  Trent Alexander-Arnold (246)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Gabriel Martinelli (0 of 22)
Most times possession lost:  Trent Alexander-Arnold (867)

SERIE A:

Most passes failed: Stefano Sabelli (324)
Worst passing accuracy: Lautaro Martinez (59.5 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Stefano Sabelli (94)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Stefano Sabelli (230)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Florian Aye (58.5 per cent)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Roberto Inglese (54 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Erick Pulgar (134)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Kevin Lasagna (0 from 13)
Most possession lost: Stefano Sabelli (494)

AND THE TOP NINE:

Most passes failed: Trent Alexander-Arnold (480)
Worst passing accuracy: Suk Hyun-jun (44.8 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Cesar Azpilicueta (132)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Suk Hyun-jun and Matej Vydra (50 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Trent Alexander-Arnold (359)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Anthony Modeste (42.1 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Trent Alexander-Arnold (246)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Wendell and Gabriel Martinelli (0 of 22)
Most times possession lost: Trent Alexander-Arnold (867)

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