It has been a year like no other, but football eventually managed to continue amid the coronavirus pandemic and give fans across the world something positive to focus on.

Ligue 1 was curtailed and a streamlined version of the Champions League knockout rounds took place in Lisbon in August, before a new season got under way.

There have still been plenty of performances to savour, though, and Stats Perform News has used Opta data to calculate a Team of the Year from the top five European leagues.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi made the grade in 2020 but the same could not be said of Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, while Kylian Mbappe earned a spot that his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar could not.

Supporters of Premier League clubs may not be rejoicing about the selections, which were made based solely on data.

 

Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)

Atletico lead the way in LaLiga on goal difference and have two games in hand on nearest rivals Real Madrid. Diego Simeone's side owe much of their success to Oblak, who has kept 17 clean sheets in 33 LaLiga appearances this year – the most of any keeper in the division during the same period.

Right-back: Juan Cuadrado (Juventus)

Juve won a ninth straight Scudetto this year and Cuadrado has played an important role throughout 2020, creating 45 chances (including seven assists) for the Bianconeri in Serie A – only Paulo Dybala (56) supplied more key passes for the club.

Centre-back: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)

Bayern Munich may be the dominant force in the Bundesliga, but Hummels has continued to show his worth since returning to Dortmund. He made the most interceptions (57) and completed the most passes (2,056) of any Bundesliga defender in 2020.

Centre-back: Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)

France international Upamecano is one of the hottest properties in European football and has been linked with a host of elite clubs. He shows great coolness in possession – as evidenced by him completing 24 of the 33 dribbles he attempted for a success rate of 73 per cent, the best of any Bundesliga defender to try at least 30.

Left-back: Theo Hernandez (Milan)

While Upamecano has established himself with Les Bleus, Hernandez's continued absence from the France set-up despite stellar showings for a resurgent Milan remains a source of much debate. The Rossoneri will end the year top of Serie A and Hernandez has been directly involved in 102 shots (46 chances created, 56 attempts on goal) in the league in 2020. That is more than any other defender in the same period.

Centre midfield: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Kimmich's looping goal against Dortmund at the back end of last season was pivotal to Bayern retaining their German league title, which came as part of a treble. It has been the Germany international's distribution that has stood out this year, though. He completed an average of 75 passes per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga in 2020, the most of any midfielder in the competition to feature for at least 1,000 minutes.

Centre midfield: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

Madrid regained the title in LaLiga in 2020, with Kroos a central figure in Zinedine Zidane's midfield. Of all players who attempted at least 1,000 passes in the opposition half in the Spanish top flight this year, Kroos was the only one who had a completion rate higher than 90 per cent.

Right wing: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

This year may have proved to be terminal to Messi's tight relationship with Barcelona, and while he was not quite up to his previous goalscoring exploits he still proved massively influential in the final third. He was the only player in LaLiga in 2020 to both score at least 15 goals and register as many assists.

Attacking midfield: Alejandro 'Papu' Gomez (Atalanta)

His time with Atalanta may seemingly be coming to an end after a falling-out with Gian Piero Gasperini, but Gomez has been one of the club's most important players. He had more assists (12) and created more chances (81) in Serie A this year than any of his team-mates.

Left wing: Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

PSG were crowned Ligue 1 champions despite the season being cut short in April, meaning they have played just 26 games this year. Mbappe only featured in 21 of those, but he was still directly involved in 24 goals (19 scored, five assisted) which was more than any other player in the competition in 2020.

Striker: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

It was no surprise to see Lewandowski named The Best FIFA Men's Player after an incredible campaign with Bayern. He scored 32 Bundesliga goals in 26 appearances this year and only five of them were spot-kicks. His tally of 27 non-penalty goals was the most of any player in the top five European leagues.

Hansi Flick has been impressed by Bayer Leverkusen so far this season but remains confident Bayern Munich can come out on top in the battle of the Bundesliga's top two on Saturday. 

Leverkusen hold top spot in the table heading into the game at their BayArena home, the final outing for both clubs before the mid-season break in Germany. 

Peter Bosz's side are unbeaten after the opening 12 league games this season, the first time that has happened for them since the 2009-10 campaign. However, Bayern have won three of their last four games in Leverkusen, including a 4-2 triumph there in June. 

On the eve of the much-anticipated clash, Flick outlined the challenges his team will face on the road, though also made clear the size of the task facing Leverkusen - particularly if everyone for Bayern is at "100 per cent" for their final outing in a hugely successful 2020. 

"This is a strong team. Leverkusen has had a very, very good run," Flick told the media on Friday.  

"They have confidence and are in a good mood. The idea they have is a good one: they play for possession and are able to put their stamp on the game.  

"We need to be good defensively and make sure not to lose the ball. If everyone is 100 per cent there, it will be difficult for Leverkusen to beat us."

Kingsley Coman has certainly been at his peak so far in the campaign, providing a competition-high seven assists in the Bundesliga – already a new personal best for the Frenchman. 

The winger has had a hand in at least one goal in each of his previous five Bundesliga games for the first time, leading Flick to praise the player for his recent run of form. 

The Bayern boss hopes Douglas Costa, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane can raise their standards too, making clear the trio all have "room for improvement". 

Sane's form has come under close scrutiny in particular, the big-money signing from Manchester City having started only five league games so far, though he has contributed three goals and the same number of assists. 

Gnabry has found the net four times but is yet to set up a team-mate in 775 league minutes, while Costa has produced one goal and a solitary assist having seen less action than the other trio. 

"Kingsley Coman is currently the benchmark for everyone when it comes to scoring contributions," said Flick. 

"The other three - Costa, Gnabry and Sane - still have room for improvement. We hope that they will be close to 100 per cent tomorrow. That would help us a lot." 

Flick revealed Bayern will not rush back Joshua Kimmich from a knee injury suffered in early November, while Leon Goretzka will be assessed after training to see if he can feature against Leverkusen.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski were named in the attack for the 2020 FIFA FIFPro Men's World11.

The trio were all finalists for The Best FIFA Men's Player award and so were unsurprisingly included in the FIFPro Men's World11.

The chief shock elsewhere in the team saw Alisson preferred in goal to Manuel Neuer.

Neuer, who captained Bayern Munich to the treble, had earlier been named The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper, beating Alisson and Jan Oblak to the award.

The Germany skipper had said: "It's one of the best years of my career, of course. We were so confident with our team and it's amazing what we have done in this year, 2020, especially in the summer when we played together in Lisbon [in the Champions League]."

In a team voted for by the players, Alisson was joined by Liverpool team-mates Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Thiago Alcantara.

Thiago spent the majority of the year with Bayern, who were represented by Alphonso Davies and Joshua Kimmich as well as Lewandowski.

Sergio Ramos and Kevin De Bruyne completed the line-up.


FIFA FIFPro Men's World11: Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Sergio Ramos, Alphonso Davies; Joshua Kimmich, Kevin De Bruyne, Thiago Alcantara; Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski were named in the attack for the 2020 FIFA FIFPro Men's World XI.

The trio were all finalists for The Best FIFA Men's Player award and so were unsurprisingly included in the World XI.

The chief shock elsewhere in the team saw Alisson preferred in goal to Manuel Neuer.

Neuer, who captained Bayern Munich to the treble, had earlier been named The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper, beating Alisson and Jan Oblak to the award.

The Germany skipper had said: "It's one of the best years of my career, of course. We were so confident with our team and it's amazing what we have done in this year, 2020, especially in the summer when we played together in Lisbon [in the Champions League]."

In a team voted for by the players, Alisson was joined by Liverpool team-mates Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Thiago Alcantara.

Thiago spent the majority of the year with Bayern, who were represented by Alphonso Davies and Joshua Kimmich as well as Lewandowski.

Sergio Ramos and Kevin De Bruyne completed the line-up.


FIFA FIFPro Men's World XI: Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Sergio Ramos, Alphonso Davies; Joshua Kimmich, Kevin De Bruyne, Thiago Alcantara; Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Joshua Kimmich needs to listen to his body and decide whether he is physically and psychologically ready to return to action, according to Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick.

The 25-year-old has not featured for Bayern since November 7 when he suffered a right lateral meniscus injury against Borussia Dortmund.

He was not expected to play again until late January at the earliest after undergoing surgery but returned to light training earlier this month and was involved in a full session on Monday.

With Leon Goretzka joining Javi Martinez on the sidelines, Kimmich could return to action ahead of schedule in Wednesday's Bundesliga clash with Wolfsburg.

Flick will let the versatile midfielder have the final say on his selection as Bayern look to extend their 13-match unbeaten run against visitors Wolfsburg in all competitions.

"Joshua needs to listen to his body and see how his knee copes with the strain," Flick said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"Playing after an injury like that is just as much a psychological thing, though. He needs to weigh it all up and then we can decide together whether he can play."

Bayern have won five and lost one of the six league games Kimmich has started this term - an 83 per cent win rate, which falls to 40 per cent in the five games he has missed (two wins and three draws).

He has a goal and four assists in those six league games, creating 12 chances in all, and has completed an average of 40.8 passes in the opposition half per 90 minutes - second only to Borussia Dortmund's Raphael Guerreiro (48.95).

Asked if Kimmich would replace Goretzka, Flick said: "There are several possibilities and you are welcome to puzzle over them."

Bayern's recent wobble continued at the weekend as they dropped points in the league for the third time in four matches in a 1-1 draw with Union Berlin.

Robert Lewandowski scored at the Stadion An der Alten Forsterei to take his tally for the season to 13 goals in 10 Bundesliga appearances.

He is the favourite to be crowned The Best FIFA Men's Player for 2020 later this week and Flick has once again thrown his support behind the prolific Poland international.

"It would be nice if he could add a goal or two tomorrow," Flick said. "Obviously, being elected world footballer on Thursday is his big dream.

"There is no one who has deserved it this season as much as Robert.

"The whole team, the club and the fans keep their fingers crossed for him that this will come true, and we'll all be happy if he wins the vote."

Bayern Munich dominate the nominations for the 2020 FIFA FIFPRO Men's World 11, with the Champions League winners having nine candidates out of 55.

Hansi Flick's team won a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble in 2019-20, seeing off Paris Saint-Germain in the final of the European football's premier competition in August.

Robert Lewandowski and Joshua Kimmich were the only Bayern players to make the long-list last year, and those two again feature this time around.

Lewandowski scored a remarkable 55 goals across all competitions for Bayern last term, and has hit the ground running this season, netting 15 times to take his tally for the year so far to 70.

Manuel Neuer enjoyed something of a resurgence last term and heads up a list of 10 goalkeepers.

David Alaba was last on the list in 2017 but returns after starring at centre-back alongside Jerome Boateng, who also makes his first appearance in three years.

Thomas Muller is back after a four-year absence, while Alphonso Davies, Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka are all included for the first time.

Philippe Coutinho was something of a bit-part player though did score twice and provide an assist in a thumping 8-2 win over Barcelona – where he has now returned after a loan spell in Munich – in the Champions League semi-finals, while Thiago Alcantara, now of Liverpool, also features.

The list, which is based on players who received the most votes from other professionals, also includes 11 new faces.

It is no shock to see Borussia Dortmund's scoring sensation Erling Haaland make the cut, while Manchester United playmaker Bruno Fernandes is also involved.

Dele Alli, meanwhile, is something of a surprise inclusion.

The Tottenham midfielder has fallen out of favour under Jose Mourinho, making only two Premier League appearances, with his only top-flight start coming in the opening day defeat to Everton – in total, Alli has played just 66 league minutes this term.

Premier League champions Liverpool have eight players on the list, including new signing Thiago.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are included among 15 forwards, while Dani Alves is the only player on the list not to play in Europe's top five leagues.

The 2020 FIFA FIFPRO Men's World 11 will be made up of the goalkeeper, three defenders, three midfielders and three attackers who receive the most votes, with the final spot going to the highest-ranking outfielder outside of the top nine.

Alphonso Davies has returned to full training with Bayern Munich after six weeks out and Joshua Kimmich has stepped up his own personal fitness programme.

Davies, named 2020 Canadian Player of the Year, damaged ankle ligaments in the early stages of Bayern's 5-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on October 24 and was ruled out for up to eight weeks.

The versatile youngster completed a full 90-minute session with his team-mates on Thursday, though he is not expected to be considered for selection against RB Leipzig this weekend.

In a further boost for Hansi Flick, influential midfielder Kimmich is also on the comeback trail.

The 25-year-old suffered a right lateral meniscus injury in Der Klassiker on November 7 and was not expected to feature again until January after undergoing surgery.

However, Bayern confirmed on their official website Kimmich has started running again and training lightly with the ball, though no updated timescale has been given for his return.

Kimmich has started all but four of Bayern's Bundesliga matches since the start of last season, the reigning European champions winning three and drawing one of the games he has missed.

He has completed 89.8 per cent of his Bundesliga passes this season – 87.1 per cent in the opposition half – and has won possession on 50 occasions.

Flick's side have been without Davies for 16 matches since the start of last term, meanwhile – their win rate dropping from 81.5 per cent to 68.8 per cent when he has not played.

Davies has created 1.97 chances per 90 minutes this season, putting him behind only Leipzig's Angelino (2.13), Freiburg's Christian Gunter (2.33) and Borussia Dortmund's Raphael Guerreiro (3) among defenders to have played at least three times.

Bayern face Leipzig, Union Berlin, Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga before the end of the year, while they also host Lokomotiv Moscow in a Champions League dead rubber next week.

Bayern Munich and Germany captain Manuel Neuer hopes there will never be another season like this one as the coronavirus pandemic puts a strain on players.

Neuer, who is in the Germany squad for matches against Czech Republic, Ukraine and Spain, has already racked up 12 appearances for Bayern and two for the national team in 2020-21 as part of a packed fixture list.

Training with his team-mates is now very different to before and the 34-year-old, while reluctant to complain, cannot wait for normality to return.

"There has never been a season like this and hopefully there never will be again," he said to Sport Buzzer.

"Everyone involved knows that there is a lot at the moment. That is why communication with one another is all the more important - with the coaches, the doctors and physios and the players.

"Certain training types are currently no longer possible. We do recovery after the game, then a bit of tactics work, some final training, and then the next game is on. 

"Small tournaments, forms of play and one-to-one training no longer takes place. 

"We as players shouldn't complain, even if we have reached the limit. 

"We are allowed to play - unlike many others - and are very happy about it; you just have to look at the amateur footballers or take a look at other sports."

Neuer added he has enjoyed alternative individual training methods like a fitness mirror he uses at home.

The goalkeeper was saddened to see Joshua Kimmich suffer a knee injury in Bayern's 3-2 win over Borussia Dortmund, though relieved the problem will only keep his club and international team-mate out until January after successful surgery.

Asked if the strain of the fixture list may have contributed to Kimmich going down, Neuer added: "Such injuries can always happen. 

"It also existed before corona and will also exist when fewer games are on the schedule. 

"The injury for Jo hurts us, of course - at Bayern and Germany - but we know him and know how motivated, conscientious and ambitious he is. 

"So I'm absolutely certain that he will come back in his old strength in January. That's the plan."

Joshua Kimmich has avoided serious injury and will return in the new year after going down in Bayern Munich's 3-2 win over Borussia Dortmund.

There were fears Kimmich was set for a long spell on the sidelines after he appeared to overextend his knee while fouling Erling Haaland in Saturday's Klassiker.

The versatile midfielder had to be helped off the pitch and, while refusing to comment on the nature or extent of the issue, coach Hansi Flick acknowledged afterwards Kimmich would be a big miss.

But Bayern revealed on Sunday the player had suffered a right lateral meniscus injury and had already undergone successful surgery.

The ailment is still going to keep Kimmich out of action but, according to Bayern's medical staff, only until January.

Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic added: "We are happy that Joshua will probably be available to us again in a few weeks.

"We will give him the best possible support during his rehab."

Kimmich has started all but three of Bayern's Bundesliga matches since the start of last season, although they have a trio of wins without the Germany international in the XI, scoring 12 times and conceding just once.

He has a goal and four assists in six league games this term, creating 12 chances in all.

Kimmich has completed 89.8 per cent of his Bundesliga passes this season – 87.1 per cent in the opposition half – and has won possession on 50 occasions, although he has lost the ball 85 times.

Hansi Flick is unsure of the extent of Joshua Kimmich's injury but concedes Bayern Munich will find it difficult replacing a player of his quality.

The Germany international hobbled off in the first half of Saturday's 3-2 Klassiker win against Borussia Dortmund after injuring himself in a challenge on Erling Haaland.

He sought to atone for a loose touch just inside the Dortmund half but was beaten to the ball by Haaland, swiping wildly at the striker and seemingly overextending his knee.

Reports from Germany suggest the versatile midfielder may have suffered cruciate ligament damage, but Flick was unwilling to speculate over how long he might be out.

"Joshua will fly with us and then be examined in Munich," he said during his post-match news conference. 

"I don't know yet how bad it is and don't want to anticipate anything. We have to wait now. I am not participating in all the talk."

Dortmund defender Mats Hummels, who has played alongside Kimmich for Bayern and Germany, is hopeful the injury is not too serious.

"I couldn't see it that well but his reaction didn't look good," he told Sky Sport Germany. "I wish him all the best.

"He's a good guy and a super footballer, both for Bayern and the national team. I've got my fingers crossed for him."

Kimmich had netted the winner in each of the sides' previous two meetings, clinching a vital Bundesliga victory last term and then settling September's DFL-Supercup final.

The 25-year-old has been a regular for Bayern since the 2015-16 season and Flick accepts it will not be an easy task filling the void should he spend time on the sidelines.

"He's an important player for us in this position," Flick said. "In addition to his mentality, he also has outstanding quality. 

"It'll be difficult, but we still won today against a good Dortmund team."

The game was goalless when Kimmich departed the pitch but five goals followed in an entertaining showdown.

David Alaba and Robert Lewandowski struck either side of half-time after Marco Reus had given Dortmund the lead and Leroy Sane extended Bayern's advantage late on.

Haaland pulled one back but the champions were able to open up a three-point lead on Dortmund and a two-point advantage on second-placed RB Leipzig.

"There were chances for both sides but we deservedly won the game in the end," Flick said.

"The way we fought today was great, despite having a couple of goals not given and the injury to Kimmich."

Substitute Sane's goal was his fourth in seven games this term and Flick is pleased with the added competition the winger has provided since overcoming a long-term injury.

"That is what we wanted," he said. "We wanted to fill our squad with high-quality players. If you bring him in, you get speed, quality and freshness on the pitch again.

"We are happy that he scored after he came on. But he is not quite yet at 100 per cent."

Bayern Munich midfielder Joshua Kimmich hobbled out of Saturday's Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund before half-time having injured himself in a foul on Erling Haaland.

Kimmich had netted the winner in each of the sides' previous two meetings, clinching a vital Bundesliga victory last term and then settling September's DFL-Supercup final.

But the latest clash between Germany's two biggest clubs ended in markedly less impressive fashion for the versatile midfielder.

Kimmich sought to atone for a loose touch just inside the Dortmund half 10 minutes before the break but was beaten to the ball by Haaland, swiping wildly at the forward.

Haaland stayed on his feet, although the attack soon petered out before attention returned to the still prone Kimmich.

He was booked for the challenge, which might have earned a red card had it been closer to the Bayern goal, but it quickly became clear his outing would end regardless.

Kimmich appeared in real pain as he was belatedly lifted to his feet by medical staff and helped off the pitch to be replaced by Corentin Tolisso.

Bayern were drawing 1-1 at the interval after goals late in the first half from Marco Reus and David Alaba.

Losing Thiago Alcantara would be a crushing blow to most teams in the world, but Bayern Munich are not like most teams.

While the Spain star – having helped to inspire last season's treble triumph – is adjusting to Premier League life with Liverpool, his former employers have set about defending their three trophies with such authority that they scarcely seem to feel his absence.

Aside from the aberration of that 4-1 loss to Hoffenheim, which came only a month after the Champions League final win over Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern have won every match this season. That run of 11 wins in 12 games includes an 8-0 Bundesliga destruction of Schalke, victories in the UEFA Super Cup and DFL-Supercup and 12 goals scored in three Champions League matches.

Their most recent, a 6-2 win at Salzburg, saw Joshua Kimmich reach seven assists in his past six appearances in the competition. The previous match, a 2-1 victory over Lokomotiv Moscow, was secured by goals from Kimmich and Leon Goretzka.

These results are not only snapshots of the midfield duo's importance to Hansi Flick in these post-Thiago years; they also highlight how each player is taking his game to new heights to keep Bayern at cruising altitude.

 

ON THE GOAL TRAIL

In the Bundesliga last season, Kimmich (four goals and seven assists) and Goretzka (six goals and five assists) easily outperformed Thiago (three goals and zero assists) in terms of goal involvements. That said, Thiago had an Expected Assists rating of 2.3, while Kimmich's was way up at 11.3, suggesting even an attack led by Robert Lewandowski will miss its fair share of chances.

Of course, for the Bayern midfield axis, goal involvement is a bonus rather than an expectation. Exponents of this position are required to win back and recycle possession and, in 2019-20, neither Kimmich nor Goretzka could better Thiago for passing accuracy (91 per cent), tackle success (58 per cent) or duel success (59 per cent). He also averaged more touches per 90 minutes (109).

This season, however, we see both players rising to the challenge of filling that Thiago void. Kimmich's passing success (90 per cent) is the same, but his tackle and duel success rates have risen slightly to 60 per cent. Goretzka, too, has had very similar levels of increase. More pertinently, each player is having more shots and more touches per 90 minutes on average and they are already on the goal trail: they've scored one each, while Goretzka has assisted one and Kimmich four.

Kimmich, in fact, is the solitary Bundesliga central midfielder to be involved in five goals this season, and only Thomas Muller and Jonas Hofmann can match his four assists. He is on track to match his assist tally of seven from last season before we have even reached the winter break. 

AXIS OF POWER

This attacking output from Kimmich in particular has been a tactic Bayern have been building on since last season, when, despite the occasional return to his old right-back haunt, his role was almost always at the heart of the midfield.

After his winning goal in the Supercup win over Borussia Dortmund, Flick described how Kimmich was "well on his way to being one of the players that shape this club". He certainly shapes their approach.

In 2019-20, Kimmich was involved in 202 open-play sequences that ended in a shot, and 27 ended with a goal. They are far superior figures to those of Thiago (141 and 17) and Goretzka (103 and 15). In the Bundesliga overall, only Timo Werner (214) was involved in more sequences ending in a shot last term.

Similarly, Kimmich registered 21 goal build-up involvements, more than Thiago (14) and Goretzka (four) put together, although admittedly Goretzka is more likely to be the one putting the ball in the net at the end of these moves.

This season, though, Goretzka has stepped up: he has been involved in 24 open-play sequences leading to a shot, just eight down on Kimmich, and each player boasts four goal build-up involvements, a tally nobody in the Bundesliga can better.

THE LONG GAME

Thiago's array of passing set him apart for Bayern. The fact he so often played the right ball at the right time left opponents uncertain whether to revert to low blocks or high pressing, something which will undoubtedly give Liverpool a tactical boost.

Last season, Thiago completed 91 per cent of 1,797 attempted passes in the Bundesliga, averaging 91.3 per 90 minutes. A quarter of all of those passes went forwards and 20 led to goalscoring chances. He also completed 78 per cent of his attempted long passes – so much for forcing him back into his own half.

Goretzka completed 86 per cent of 909 attempted passes last term, the majority of which went sideways (27 per cent left, 30 per cent right). His long passes found their mark just less than three times in every four attempts. Now, while he still favours sideways distribution, he is averaging 2.5 more passes per 90 minutes, the success rate is up to 89 per cent and his long-pass accuracy has jumped to 85 per cent.

Kimmich was already a passing maestro last season, although he completed fewer than Thiago per 90 minutes (81.3). His success rate stood at 90 per cent from 2,548 attempts and he created 75 goalscoring chances.

But things have evolved. Whereas 10 per cent of his passes in 2019-20 went long, 16 per cent of them have in 2020-21, and yet his passing-per-90 figure is practically unchanged. His long-pass success rate is also up significantly to 87 per cent, while the number of backwards passes has dropped by four per cent, and he already has four assists from 12 key passes in total. In essence, he has maintained his short-passing game while taking on some of Thiago's old defence-splitting duties, and is performing them with aplomb.

Jose Mourinho once said the "phenomenal" Kimmich was "a top right-back, left-back, centre-back, number six, number eight, number 10". Scarily, alongside Goretzka, the 25-year-old seems to be all those things at once – and getting even better.

Joshua Kimmich said Champions League holders Bayern Munich were "lucky" to come away with a win after he scored decisively in a 2-1 victory over Lokomotiv Moscow.

Kimmich struck in the 79th minute to clinch a record-extending 13th consecutive Champions League victory for the Bundesliga and European champions, but the Bayern star admitted they did not have it all their own way at RZD Arena.

Lokomotiv spurned a chance to take the lead before Leon Goretzka opened the scoring in the 13th minute, and the hosts did find the net through Anton Miranchuk on Tuesday.

The equaliser set up a tense finish in Moscow and Kimmich's quality shone through as he lashed home the winner from 20 yards, before praising his opponents in his post-match comments.

"I thought Lokomotiv had a great game," Kimmich, who has either scored (two) or assisted (five) seven of Bayern's last 15 goals in the Champions League, told reporters.

"They were good in transition, attacking with some fast players. It was not easy in the second half but in the end we were lucky to come out with the win.

"[It was] a really hard-fought victory. We didn't play badly, but we should have finished it off earlier.

"We scored quite early on, almost from nothing, but didn't really have a clear chance to get the second, especially after the break. They had some dangerous counters, but in the end we are happy to win despite not being at our best."

Bayern's opening goal came courtesy of a neat piece of play in which Corentin Tolisso played a chipped pass to Benjamin Pavard, whose volleyed cross was steered into the net by Goretzka.

Head coach Hansi Flick praised Bayern's application of an approach they had prepared on the training ground.

"It's one way that we try to break down teams that sit deep and defend," Flick said of his side's first goal.

"It worked well once or twice and came off sensationally for the goal.

"It was a hard-fought win, gritty if you like. Moscow did well, they defended very deep and worked with the long balls, which hurt us one or two times.

"But overall, I think we can say the 2-1 win was deserved, even if it wasn’t as clear as we'd hoped for."

Bayern remain unbeaten in their last 14 away European games – in European Cup/Champions League history only Manchester United (16) have gone longer without defeat on the road.

Joshua Kimmich scored a late 20-yard stunner to secure Champions League holders Bayern Munich a 2-1 victory over a Lokomotiv Moscow side that threatened to cause an upset.

Leon Goretzka scored his second goal in as many European matches to give Bayern the lead, the midfielder finishing a sumptuous passing move after 13 minutes as Hansi Flick's men rose to the challenge of playing lively opposition in front of a raucous crowd at RZD Arena.

Lokomotiv struggled to deal with the threat of Kingsley Coman and Thomas Muller on either flank, just as Atletico Madrid did in the 4-0 defeat against the German and European Champions six days earlier.

Bayern, who thrashed Eintracht Frankfurt 5-0 between their two opening Group A matches, looked set to drop points when Anton Miranchuk equalised 20 minutes from time.

But Kimmich kept a cool head to restore the visitors' lead, controlling Javi Martinez's pass before lashing home from outside the box.

 

Football players have a somewhat unfair reputation for not being the brightest but several members of Germany's international squad bravely fought against that assertion on an episode of 'Who wants to be a millionaire?'.

Bayern Munich duo Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka teamed up and entertained on their way to winning €64,000 having got as far as the €125,000 question on the famous quiz show.

Club-mate Niklas Sule was paired with RB Leipzig defender Lukas Klostermann and together they earned an impressive €125,000.

Eintracht Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp and former international Oliver Bierhoff, now part of the set-up as a director, did not fare quite as well but still took home a credible €32,000.

It is not the first time Germany stars have sat on the famous chair. Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer earned a cheque for charity to the tune of €500,000 in 2011, while five years ago Lukas Podolski won €125,000.

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