Jon Dahl Tomasson almost won it all as a player.

A Champions League under iconic Italian boss Carlo Ancelotti at Milan, to go with Serie A, Coppa Italia and Coppa Italia honours. Add the UEFA Cup, Eredivisie and Johan Cruijff Shield during his time with Feyenoord.

Now, Tomasson finds himself at the helm of Swedish giants Malmo, who are embarking on their first Champions League group-stage campaign since 2015-16, after snapping the club's title drought in 2020.

Malmo – the most successful team in Sweden – had not won the Allsvenskan since 2017, however Tomasson delivered the trophy in his first season at Eleda Stadion, an achievement culminating in him being named Manager of the Year.

After ending Malmo's domestic wait last term, Malmo will face holders Chelsea, Italian powerhouses Juventus and Russian giants Zenit in Group H after Tomasson guided the 1978-79 European Cup runners-up through the qualifying rounds as the 45-year-old's coaching career continues to gather momentum.

Tomasson is set to take charge of his first Champions League match as a coach, having appeared as a player 42 times in the competition between 1997 and 2005 for Newcastle, Feyenoord and Milan. His last game came in the 2005 final against Liverpool, scoring one of Milan's two successful penalties in the shoot-out defeat.

"Before we qualified for the Champions League, we're allowed to dream big. Now we're there," Tomasson told Stats Perform, ahead of Malmo's matchday-one showdown at home to Juve on Tuesday.

"In a way, it's a dream which we should live. At the end of the day, we have ambitions as well. We know we play against very good clubs. We're the biggest club in Scandinavia, but it is a lot to do with money. We can't compare to each other. But we beat Rangers and Ludogorets. The other clubs are also very big.

"Hopefully we can upset a few people. We are ambitious and will do our best, being well prepared. We have a great team spirit. In that way, we can achieve some upsets. We have to be realistic also. We will live that fairytale."

"I won the Champions League and UEFA Cup, also lost a Champions League final," said Tomasson, whose Malmo saw off Riga FC and HJK before upstaging Scottish champions Rangers and Bulgarian titleholders Ludogorets en route to the group phase. "But seeing the boys working together, coping with difficult moments in the game. It makes you proud as a coach. I'm really satisfied so far. It gives me satisfaction for sure.

Tomasson's career as a striker was a successful one – the 45-year-old remains Denmark's all-time leading goalscorer (52) alongside Poul Nielsen. Twice named Danish Player of the Year, the former Heerenveen, Newcastle, Feyenoord, Milan, Stuttgart and Villarreal frontman called time on his career 2011.

Tomasson's coaching career officially started at Excelsior as an assistant before a brief stint in charge of the Dutch side, followed by a short spell at Roda JC in the Netherlands.

"Each experience gives you something, whether it is successful or unsuccessful," he said. "As a person and a coach you'll learn from that. It's a part of getting an education down the road and it's an education that will never stop."

However, Tomasson's journey started long before he stopped playing.

"It came quite natural [coaching]," he said. "I had been captain of the Denmark national team for many years. Then you get a bit of responsibility, you start thinking in a different way. You think about the team, it's not just 'me, me, me'. In a way it started quite early, thinking about tactical things.

"I was also a very young boy when I went to Holland and Holland is of course a country which likes to develop young people and football players. I can remember my manager Foppe de Haan, he brought me to games, to analyse games, to develop as a person and football head should develop. I was going with him to games. I was analysing them.

"In a way, I also tried to do a bit of that at Malmo, I was a bit inspired.  All of our youngsters, they are analysing and making presentations for the technical staff so they start to think about football in a different way. Also, to come out of their comfort zone. Make it a bit tough of them to deal with new things."

"I love football, I eat football if it's possible. I had a lot of great coaches during my football career. I had some big coaching names, like Ancelotti, [Manuel] Pellegrini, Bert van Marwijk, Leo Beenhakker. All of those coaches, they give you inspiration," Tomasson continued.

Tomasson, who left boyhood club Koge for Heerenveen in 1994, has been inspired by his journey across Europe.

"I started as a young boy in Holland, so I have a lot of inspiration for the Dutch school," he said. "But I've been in Italy, Spain, Germany and England, so I'm more inspired through an international way of thinking. Football is of course a game, you win it with the head. It's chess on grass.

"Malmo, we want to be dominant with and without the ball. Very flexible with our tactical approach, with different formations and be able to change during games."

Tomasson's Malmo have been dominant under the Dane, who made the short trip across the Oresund Strait after leaving his position as assistant coach of Denmark.

Malmo clinched the league crown by nine points last term and scored a league-high 64 goals in 30 matches – their best return since netting the same amount in 1965.

"When I was working with Denmark for three-and-a-half years, in a way, it was tough to just leave," Tomasson added. "Working with the best players. We were unbeaten for three years also and had great team spirit. It was tough. But the project at Malmo was so ambitious. It was a tough but very easy decision to make because it's a very interesting project. It suits me well.

"It's been very successful but also say surprising but not at all, we tried to plan it. I was appointed to change things, to change the age of the group, to play a more attractive way, dominant with the ball. Get more youngsters into the team and develop those boys and still win something because at Malmo, it's a club with big ambition – one of the biggest in Scandinavia. The biggest at the moment because we're playing in the Champions League. Historically, it's a very big club but didn't win anything for three years, so it was very important to win the league last season. You need to win, qualify for Europe, develop players. Quite ambitious but I like those ambitious.

"We managed to change a lot in a positive way. Develop those youngers, who we need to sell as well. Play a more modern way of football. It's been a perfect journey so far, winning the silverware last season and now qualifying for the Champions League.

"It's a terrific achievement for the club – being among those 32 teams. It's like football heaven, a dream come true. Try to deal with those things coming up. Winning four qualifying rounds before actually going into the Champions League isn't easy. Winning away to Rangers with 10 men and playing against Ludogorets, a team with a totally different budget to us. At the end of the day, money decides a lot of things in football."

As Tomasson's coaching reputation grows in Europe, what does the future hold for the 112-time former international?

"It's okay to dream big, but it's also difficult to plan anything as a manager. I work hard every day to become better. At the moment, I'm looking forward to play this Champions League with Malmo. We also want to win the title like we did last season."

"Every manager has their own path to walk. It's difficult to plan. You can't plan it, so you jump on the train when you need to," he continued.

As a club, previous form is against Malmo – they have lost 83 per cent of their Champions League matches (P12 W2 D0 L10). It is the joint-highest losing percentage of sides to have played at least 10 matches in the competition, alongside Maccabi Tel Aviv and Rapid Vienna.

Malmo have only scored three goals in their last 10 Champions League games, failing to score in eight of the fixtures in this run. Meanwhile, the Swedish side have conceded a total of 34 goals across those 10 matches at an average of 3.4 per game.

But Tomasson's new-look Malmo – who boast 15 players aged 25 or younger in the squad – continue to impress in 2021. Di Blae have only lost one of their past 28 home fixtures in the league, dating back to August 2019, while the Champions League – albeit in the qualifying rounds – they are eight matches unbeaten on home soil.

Antonio Colak has flourished since arriving on loan from PAOK – the Croatian forward scored five of Malmo's 13 goals in qualifying, making him the highest scoring player for any team during the qualification rounds.

The likes of younger pair Veljko Birmancevic (23) and Anel Ahmedhodzic (22) have also starred, developing further under Tomasson's watchful eye.

"He's done well," Tomasson said of new signing Birmancevic, who arrived from Serbian side Cukaricki in the offseason and has scored 11 goals this term, including four in the Champions League qualifying rounds. "The whole team have done an excellent job. He's a young boy. He is coping with a new country and way of playing, with different mentality and manager. But slowly, you can see the progress he has made. A very talented player with special skills and skills we love - goals, one against one, speed. Each team are searching for that quality."

On Bosnia-Herzegovina international centre-back Ahmedhodzic, Tomasson added: "When I arrived here, the first thing I did was put him into the team. He had been on loan in Denmark. Now he is playing for his national team. A great player, a good central defender with a great foot. A player I like. You need to defend as well but also quality on the ball if you want to dominate like I want to."

A youthful Liverpool side played out a 1-1 draw with Wacker Innsbruck in their first 30-minute friendly in Austria before a stronger Reds side were held to the same scoreline by Stuttgart.

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and new signing Ibrahima Konate were included in the line-up for the second shortened friendly against the Bundesliga side, while fit-again Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip and January signing Ben Davies featured for the younger team against Innsbruck.

Alexander-Arnold returned to the playing squad for the first time since suffering a thigh injury on England duty in June against Austria, which subsequently ruled him out of the Three Lions' Euro 2020 campaign that ended in shoot-out heartbreak to Italy.

Divock Origi opened the scoring with a spot-kick in the first game as the Belgian forward profited from a handball that came from full-back Owen Beck's cross.

But Origi's penalty was swiftly cancelled out by Ronivaldo's header past Loris Karius and that meant it was honours even between Jurgen Klopp's men and the Austrian side.

In the follow-up game against Stuttgart, Philipp Forster capped a slick move off to give Pellegrino Matarazzo's men the lead as he finished past Adrian inside the opening 10 minutes.

Liverpool, though, responded through Mane, who squeezed a shot in from close range after Kostas Tsimikas had initially got on the end of James Milner's cross.

And with neither team finding a winner inside 30 minutes, the Reds had to settle for two draws in their two run-outs at their camp in Austria.

Klopp's team next face Mainz on Friday before friendlies against Hertha Berlin, Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna round off their pre-season preparations.

After 16 years, Sergio Ramos is moving on from Real Madrid.

The 35-year-old is far from finished, though, as his wage demands indicate.

His next club will have to meet high salary expectations. 

 

TOP STORY – BIG CLUBS IN MIX FOR RAMOS

Manchester City has been in contact with Ramos' representatives for some time, AS reported, and the Premier League champions should be able to handle the Spaniard's reported €12million annual salary demands. 

That number figures to limit the number of serious contenders to sign the superstar centre-back, with Manchester United also reportedly in the mix. 

Paris Saint-Germain could also turn to Ramos after failing to find a suitable replacement for Thiago Silva in central defence. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Bernardo Silva's agent has had talks with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid over a move to LaLiga for the Manchester City man, the Daily Mail says. 

- Juventus lead the race to sign Euro 2020 star Manuel Locatelli, Fabrizio Romano reports, with Sassuolo seeking a fee of around €40million (£34m). 

- Chelsea's Emerson Palmieri is Napoli's top target during this transfer window, Gazzetta dello Sport reports, with the Blues seeking a €15m (£13m) fee. 

- Everton face competition from Inter in their pursuit of PSV Eindhoven defender and Netherlands international Denzel Dumfries, according to Voetbal International. 

- Milan star Gianluigi Donnarumma will join PSG on a five-year contract, Romano reports, adding that the 22-year-old goalkeeper is expected to undergo his medical Monday in Florence. 

- Brighton have agreed a £25m fee with Stuttgart for forward Nicolas Gonzalez, the Guardian reports, while Sky Sports says the Seagulls rejected Arsenal's £40m bid for England international Ben White

- Arsenal are also in pursuit of Porto winger Jesus Corona along with Sevilla and Fiorentina, according to the Daily Mail. 

Is Erling Haaland's future close to being resolved?

Borussia Dortmund, up until now, have been unwilling to part with their top asset.

But Chelsea are reportedly making progress to bring Haaland to London.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA CLOSING IN ON HAALAND?

Chelsea have agreed personal terms with Erling Haaland and now just need to agree a fee with Borussia Dortmund, according to the Transfer Window Podcast.

Haaland is a player in demand, linked with Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus.

But Chelsea have reportedly made a breakthrough in their pursuit to prise the Norway forward to Stamford Bridge.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport claims Madrid are targeting Inter star Nicolo Barella or Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli. Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips has also been linked. Locatelli is attracting interest this off-season, with Juventus, Arsenal, Inter, Dortmund and City reported admirers.

Arsenal are chasing Leicester City's James Maddison, according to Chris Wheatley. Chelsea and Liverpool are believed to be also tracking the England international.

- Eurosport reports Real Sociedad winger Mikel Oyarzabal is on City's radar. Pep Guardiola's side could make a move if Bernardo Silva – linked with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid – or Raheem Sterling leave.

Atletico are set to sign Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese, says Fabrizio Romano. The Argentina international has been wanted by Liverpool, Juve and Leeds United.

Milan are looking to sign Stuttgart forward Sasa Kalajdzic, according to Calciomercato. Chelsea's Olivier Giroud, Torino star Andrea Belotti and Madrid outcast Luka Jokic have also been linked.

- Bild claims Bayern would be willing to sell Kingsley Coman for the right price amid interest from United and Liverpool. The Bundesliga champions are also considering the futures of Niklas Sule and Corentin Tolisso.

Stuttgart footballer Silas Wamangituka has revealed his real name is Silas Katompa Mvumpa, claiming he has been playing under a false identity on the instruction of a former agent.

Silas, who can play on the wing or up front, scored 11 Bundesliga goals for Stuttgart in 2020-21, contributing four assists before his season ended by an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

It was his second campaign with the club, Silas having joined from Paris FC ahead of the 2019-20 season.

On Tuesday, Stuttgart announced their star man from the Democratic Republic of Congo had been playing under a name which was not his own.

Stuttgart said Silas had informed them that a former agent pushed him to change his name and forged false documentation, which also made the player appear a year younger, as his date of birth was switched from October 6, 1998 to October 6, 1999.

"Over the past few years, I was constantly living in fear and was also very worried for my family in Congo," said Silas in a club statement.

"It was a tough step for me to take to make my story public and I would never have had the courage to do so if Stuttgart, my team and VfB had not become like a second home and a safe place to me."

Stuttgart's statement explained how Silas, in 2017, had a trial with Belgian club Anderlecht.

Silas had received a visa to travel to Belgium, under his correct name. Anderlecht, interested in signing the youngster, instructed Silas to return to Congo and return with a new visa in order to sign his contract.

"As this situation unfolded, an agent is said to have put Silas under considerable pressure in Belgium and convinced him that he would not be allowed to return to Europe if he left Belgium and went back to Congo," Stuttgart said in their statement.

"Silas trusted the agent and went to live with him in Paris. He then changed his identity and papers were created for him in the name of Silas Wamangituka [one of the names of his father] and with a date of birth that was exactly one year different from his own."

Silas did not sign for Anderlecht, beginning his career in Europe with French minnows Ales.

Stuttgart sporting director Thomas Hitzlsperger said: "First and foremost, Silas has been the victim of this change of name.

"I have the greatest respect for the fact that at a young age, he has taken the brave step to clarify his situation. We will continue to give him all the help he needs in absolutely every respect."

Europe's top five leagues all conclude this week and there are still plenty of matters to be resolved – not least who will be crowned champions in Spain and France.

Every division has something riding on the final days of the season, whether it be top spot, European qualification, or relegation.

Ahead of what is set to be a dramatic conclusion to the Premier League, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A and the Bundesliga campaigns, we look at the state of play in each league.

 

PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester City wrapped up the Premier League title with three games to spare, making them the first team in the competition's history to win the title despite being as low as eighth on Christmas Day.

All three relegation places were also decided with three games remaining – a Premier League record – with Fulham joining Sheffield United and West Brom in dropping down a division.

That leaves just the European spots to fight for, and it is shaping up to be an entertaining end to the English top-flight season in that regard. Manchester United are guaranteed a top-four finish, but five other teams – Leicester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham – are in the mix for the two other Champions League berths with two rounds of games to go.

There is also the small matter of the Europa League places for the teams finishing in fifth and sixth, as well as a spot in the inaugural Europa Conference League, which goes to the team in seventh, meaning everyone from 10th-placed Leeds United to Leicester in third have something to play for. That includes Arsenal, who have not missed out on European football of some sort in 25 years.

LALIGA 

The Spanish title race appeared to take a dramatic twist on Sunday as Real Madrid leapfrogged Atletico Madrid at the summit for around 20 minutes. However, Atleti scored two late goals to beat Osasuna, meaning they are two points ahead of their city rivals heading into the final round of games.

Atleti, who have led the way at the top for 29 matchdays, now need to match Madrid's result against Villarreal when they travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid on the final day of the season. It is worth noting that Los Blancos have the superior head-to-head record, so a draw would not be enough for Atleti if Madrid win.

Barcelona are officially out of the title race, meanwhile, but they are assured of a top-four finish along with Sevilla. Real Sociedad and Real Betis occupy the Europa League spots, while Villarreal are in a Europa Conference League berth, though just one point separates the three teams so that could all yet change.

To complicate matters, Villarreal could still qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League final against Manchester United.

At the bottom end of the division, Eibar are already relegated and they will be joined by two of Valladolid, Elche or Huesca. Valladolid must beat Atletico in their final game to have a chance of staying up, while the onus is on Elche to better Huesca's result as they are level on points but have an inferior head-to-head record.

LIGUE 1

The Ligue 1 title battle is also going right down to the wire in a three-way dogfight. After a thrilling race that has lasted the course of the season, underdogs Lille lead heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain by one point with one matchday left.

Monaco have won seven of their previous eight games and are three points off leaders Lille, though they require both Les Dogues and PSG to slip up on the final day, as well as beating Lens. Should it come down to goal difference, PSG hold a big lead over their two title rivals.

Incredibly, PSG are still not yet technically assured of a Champions League place as Lyon in fourth are only three points worse off, although it would take a defeat for the reigning champions and victory for Lyon, plus a goal swing of 16, for them to miss out.

Monaco's opponents Lens, incidentally, also have plenty to play for at the weekend as they are sixth – enough for Europa Conference League qualification – but can still be caught by Rennes in seventh, while they could yet overtake Marseille in fifth if results go their way.

At the opposite end of the table, there may only be one spot left to be settled in the bottom three – Dijon and Nimes are both already down – but six teams are still very much in danger of the drop. Nantes occupy the relegation play-off spot, with Lorient, Brest and Strasbourg just a point better off, and Bordeaux and Reims only two points clear.

SERIE A

With Inter being crowned Scudetto winners for the first time in 11 years at the start of the month, the biggest storyline in Serie A regards Juventus' top-four fate. The dethroned champions, who had finished top nine years running before this season, are currently down in fifth.

Juve are one point behind Napoli and Milan in the two spots directly above them, while Atalanta are three points better off in second and have the better head-to-head record against the Bianconeri.

Andrea Pirlo's side are therefore in need of favours on the final day in what is poised to be a nail-biting finale in terms of those Champions League places. Lazio will finish sixth, so they are assured of Europa League football next term, while Roma hold a two-point advantage over Sassuolo in the Europa Conference League position.

Parma and Crotone are both down already and one of Benevento or Torino will join them, the latter currently three points outside of the relegation zone and with a game in hand to play on Benevento.

BUNDESLIGA

RB Leipzig provided Bayern Munich with some stern competition for a while, but the Bavarian giants' quality eventually told and they are Bundesliga champions for a ninth year running.

It's not only the title race that's done and dusted in Germany, in fact, as RB Leipzig are certain of second place, and both Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg will join them in the Champions League next season.

Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, will finish in fifth and sixth respectively regardless of events later this week.

However, Union Berlin have work to do if they are to finish seventh for a place in the Europa Conference League play-offs as Borussia Monchengladbach are a point further back, while Stuttgart and Freiburg are two behind with a game to go.

Seven-time German champions Schalke will be competing in the second tier of German football next season, but Cologne and Werder Bremen are hanging on in there, sitting two and one point behind Arminia Bielefeld respectively in 15th place.

Kevin Kuranyi lauded Sasa Kalajdzic as he backed the Stuttgart star to join one of Europe's biggest clubs amid growing interest.

Kalajdzic has enjoyed a fairy-tale debut season in the Bundesliga, scoring 14 goals and supplying four assists following Stuttgart's return to Germany's top flight. Only Robert Lewandowski (36), Erling Haaland (25), Andre Silva (25), Wout Weghorst (20) and Andrej Kramaric (17) have found the back of the net more often in 2020-21.

The 23-year-old Austria international forward, who has been linked with the likes of Juventus, Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, scored in seven successive games this season – a club record shared with Fredi Bobic (1995-96).

Kalajdzic has managed 14 goals in 30 Bundesliga appearances – the same amount as Kuranyi in his first 30 league games for the club, though his minutes-to-goal ratio (134) is superior to the retired striker's (152). His form has helped Stuttgart to reach the top 10 in the table with just three games remaining.

Only five players in Stuttgart's Bundesliga history have scored more goals in their first 30 games than Kuranyi and Kalajdzic: Vedad Ibisevic (18), Hermann Ohlicher (17), Dieter Holler, Tim Walter and Jurgen Klinsmann (15).

Asked about Kalajdzic, Stuttgart great Kuranyi told Stats Perform News: "I think they are playing a really good season, while Sasa is playing really, really well.

"I think two weeks ago, he scored a headed goal similar [to] my time and I was remembering, wow, this guy can be really a top player in the Bundesliga or maybe in a big club in Europe.

"I know him because I met him a lot of times in rehabilitation because when he arrived at Stuttgart, he was a bit injured. He's a great personality, he's a good guy with a good mentality and also a nice person.

"I wish for him really a big career and I hope he keeps doing well."

Pellegrino Matarazzo's Stuttgart boast another prized asset in Silas Wamangituka, who was taking the Bundesliga by storm before suffering a season-ending injury in March.

Electrifying 21-year-old forward Wamangituka tallied 11 goals and four assists prior to the knee injury, having played a key role in Stuttgart's promotion from 2. Bundesliga last term.

"I am really impressed because he's a fast player. He is good in one-on-one, makes a lot of goals," added ex-Germany international Kuranyi.

"[He] was a big risk at the start, but now the player shows his quality. Of course, it's very bad that he picked up the injury, but if he comes back, he will show it again and will keep going at Stuttgart."

Former Dortmund and Arsenal chief scout Sven Mislintat – working alongside Thomas Hitzlsperger – has been instrumental in overseeing Stuttgart's rise back to the Bundesliga after he was appointed sporting director two years ago.

With a reputation of unearthing footballing gems, Kalajdzic and Wamangituka have both arrived during Mislintat's time at the three-time Bundesliga champions, who were relegated in 2018-19 but bounced straight back.

"I think [he has been] very important," said Kuranyi. "Of course, he worked in big clubs like Dortmund and Arsenal, he understands a lot about football.

"He was scouting in all these clubs and he finds a lot of top players, young players. And now as a sporting director, he can use all his talent, what they learn in the in the past to make his own team and he's [doing] really, really good. I think for Stuttgart it was a good decision to take a top guy like him."

While there is speculation over Kalajdzic, captain Gonzalo Castro is set to leave Stuttgart after not being offered a new deal at Mercedes-Benz Arena.

"For me it was [a] surprise because he's the captain of the team at the moment," Kuranyi said. "He's an experienced player, who can keep this young team together and who can show them the right way to play good football.

"It was difficult to see this decision. For the player and for everyone, it's good to keep strong and experienced players in the team."

Kuranyi emerged from Stuttgart's youth team in 2001 after relocating from Brazil and the ex-Germany international went on to win the 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup.

Twice Stuttgart's top goalscorer, Kuranyi almost helped the club to Bundesliga glory in 2002-03, Felix Magath's men finishing second to Bayern Munich as they qualified for the Champions League.

"For me it was something special because when I came from Brazil, I started in Stuttgart and the young team," said the 39-year-old Kuranyi, who scored 57 goals in total before moving to Schalke in 2005.

"I learned a lot in this club and when I became professional, they had a bad time, but it was good for us young players. They gave us the chance to play in the first team, to be a good professional player at 19.

"We used this situation to make one of the best young teams in the league. Of course, we qualified for the Champions League. We were playing [a] really, really top season in the Champions League with so many young players and for them and also for the city, Stuttgart was something special. Also, for me as a player."

Stuttgart enjoyed a memorable 2003-04 Champions League campaign, Kuranyi scoring as the Reds beat Alex Ferguson's Manchester United in their debut group-stage appearance as they reached the knockout rounds.

Kuranyi, whose side eventually succumbed to Chelsea in the round of 16, added: "I think the best moment [of my time with the club] was when we were playing the Champions League and we beat Manchester United with the big players: [Ruud] Van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo, [Paul] Scholes, [Rio] Ferdinand and [Ryan] Giggs.

"For us young players with Phillip Lahm, [Alexander] Hleb, myself and other top players, it was a really, really a special moment to show all around the world that Stuttgart can beat a big club like Manchester United."

Alphonso Davies' early red card "woke up" Bayern Munich and set them on their way to claiming a 4-0 victory over Stuttgart despite their numerical disadvantage, Robert Lewandowski has declared.

The Bundesliga champions had been on the back foot even prior to losing their left-back in the 12th minute for a poor challenge on Wataru Endo.

But they responded brilliantly, taking the lead through hat-trick hero Lewandowski before Serge Gnabry also scored as they built a four-goal lead by half-time.

Speaking after the game, the Poland star shared his belief that, rather than hurt Bayern, the dismissal actually served to bring them to life.

He said: "We played really well after the red card. That woke us up. Before that, we didn't play so perfectly.

"After that, it was a challenge for us to create chances and score goals. We wanted to keep playing forward after the first goal and try to add another one."

Bayern coach Hansi Flick was understandably full of praise for the manner in which his players responded to that setback.

The German also had no complaints about the decision to dismiss his player.

"I have to give my team a huge compliment," he enthused.

"After the dismissal, which was justified, they worked well on the defensive, made the spaces very, very tight as a team and did very well in possession of the ball, especially in the first half.

"The way we created the chances was simply outstanding. We had to change the defence today and were very compact.

"We kept the clean sheet and got the three points – that was our goal and thus a successful game day for us."

As for Stuttgart boss Pellegrino Matarazzo, he felt the sending-off only ended up taking away the visitors' positive early momentum.

He said: "We got into the game well, you can even say that we were dominant.

"We played well and should have taken the lead shortly after the red card. Then something happened mentally: either that we had pressure to win or we thought we had less pressure now.

"We paid in the first half and I hope we can do better next time."

Robert Lewandowski scored a second consecutive home hat-trick in the Bundesliga as 10-man Bayern Munich thrashed Stuttgart 4-0 to extend their lead at the summit to four points.

The Pole, who found the back of the net threes time against Borussia Dortmund on his last league outing at the Allianz Arena, took just 39 minutes to repeat the feat here.

Serge Gnabry also got on the scoresheet in a rampant first half as Hansi Flick's side brushed off the early loss of Alphonso Davies to a red card to claim a thumping victory.

Davies received his marching orders after VAR intervened to upgrade a yellow for his studs-up challenge on Wataru Endo.

After surviving an early storm, Bayern went ahead through Lewandowski, who claimed second place in the Bundesliga's all-time top scorer charts outright by powering in Gnabry's low cross to bring up his 269th goal in the competition.

Provider then turned goalscorer as Gnabry benefited from a slick exchange between Thomas Muller and Leroy Sane to finish a wonderful team goal.

A minute later, Lewandowski's powerful header from Muller's right-wing cross had Bayern three ahead with barely a quarter of the game gone.

And the prolific Pole had a hat-trick just before the break, pinching the ball inside the box and arrowing a left-footed finish into the bottom right-hand corner to make it three goals from three shots.

Bayern's number nine should have made it four just past the hour mark but miscued in uncharacteristic fashion after being picked out by Benjamin Pavard's low cross.

But that miss mattered little in the end as the champions saw out their win with little discomfort.

What does it mean? History beckons for Lewandowski

Having already scored more Bundesliga hat-tricks than any other player in history, Lewandowski added a 13th here to extend his lead over Mario Gomez (10) to three.

The Pole is now on 35 league goals for the season and will surely have his sights set on breaking Gerd Muller's record of 40 in a single campaign in the German top-flight in the eight remaining games.

In fact, 'Der Bomber's' outright scoring record of 365 does not look out of reach for a player who is now on 271 and, at the age of 32, still looks to have plenty of years at the top level left in him.

Lewa stars for Bayern

Bayern had been up against it even prior to losing Davies, but the complexion game changed entirely when Lewandowski took his first goal in brilliant fashion.

That the Poland international grabbed his hat-trick from just three shots says everything about his quality in front of goal.

Davies errs again

But for the brilliance of Lewandowski, Davies' rash early challenge could have put his teammates in for a difficult afternoon.

The Canadian had already given the ball away four times in just 12 touches across an uncertain start, and will now miss the crucial showdown with RB Leipzig next time out due to suspension.

What's next?

Bayern Munich could take a big step toward to retaining the Bundesliga title when they face nearest challengers Leipzig in two weeks. A win would take Flick's men seven points clear with as many games remaining, while defeat would close the gap to just a single point.

As for Stuttgart, they will hope to get their push for European football back on track when they host Werder Bremen.

Jamal Musiala should not change his approach while away with Germany, Hansi Flick insisted after the Bayern Munich teenager was handed his first senior international call-up. 

Having elected to represent Germany ahead of England, whom he played for at youth level, Musiala was selected by Joachim Low for Die Mannschaft's upcoming World Cup qualifiers with Iceland, Romania and North Macedonia. 

Musiala has made 18 Bundesliga appearances in 2020-21 – only four players who are younger than him (18 years, 21 days) have played in more matches across the top five European leagues this term. 

On target in a 4-1 win over Lazio in the Champions League last month, Musiala has demonstrated impressive composure for someone of his tender years. 

And Flick believes displaying the same level-headed attitude will be the key for Musiala in his international career. 

"He should approach it the same way he does things with us, by staying calm. He's an exceptional player," Flick told a media conference ahead of Bayern's Bundesliga clash with Stuttgart. 

Bayern have been pitted against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-finals having eased past Lazio 6-2 on aggregate in the last 16. 

It is a rematch of last year's final, with the reward for winning the tie a semi-final meeting with either Manchester City or Borussia Dortmund.

But the renewal of acquaintances with PSG is not in Flick's immediate focus.

"My focus is on the game against Stuttgart, first and foremost," he said about the draw. "This will be our 18th game in 11 weeks.

"The team has, in this short time, delivered many strong performances once again, including in the most recent games.

"Now comes first Stuttgart, then the important game in Leipzig. We have enough time to prepare for Paris.

"Manchester City is currently one of the most consistent teams in Europe, so it is a challenge for us and Dortmund. We play the Champions League for that. 

"But we and Dortmund have the opportunity to go one round further.

"It's important to play two games at the highest level. Of course, it's a tough opponent, as you saw in the final. But we also have tremendous quality."

French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain are plotting an ambitious move for Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea.

PSG, headed up by ex-Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, are keen to replace 34-year-old Keylor Navas.

De Gea has been with United since 2011 and has two years remaining on his contract.

 

TOP STORY – PSG TO TEMPT UNITED

Mega-rich PSG would be able to offer United a significant fee for the 30-year-old De Gea and match his £375,000-a-week wages, according to The Sun.

United have been linked with a move for Milan's Gianluigi Donnarumma, who is coming off contract, while Dean Henderson has pushed De Gea this season to be number one.

PSG have also been linked with Tottenham custodian Hugo Lloris given his connection with Pochettino from their time together at Spurs.

ROUND-UP

- AS reports that Liverpool could enter the race for Kylian Mbappe, due to the alleged rift between forward Mohamed Salah and manager Jurgen Klopp.

- West Ham have turned to Stuttgart's Sasa Kalajdzic in their search for a striker, according to the Daily Mail. In the queue already are RB Leipzig and Roma.

- Limited funds means Barcelona are out of the race for Wolves' Adama Traore, according to Mundo Deportivo. The Spain international has been linked with Liverpool and Manchester City.

- UOL Esporte reports that Manchester United have registered an interest in Leeds United winger Raphinha.

Nicolas Gonzalez rates the likelihood of him remaining at Stuttgart next season as 50-50, though he has not had contact with Borussia Dortmund.

A haul of 14 league goals last season was key to Stuttgart's return to the Bundesliga, where the 22-year-old Argentina international has found the next six times and supplied two assists in 13 appearances.

Gonzalez averages just under five shots per 90 minutes and a goal involvement every 108.5 minutes – the only Dortmund player with a better rate is Erling Haaland (73.9).

Juventus and Tottenham have also been linked with a move for Gonzalez, who last November extended his contract with Stuttgart until June 2023.

The former Argentinos Juniors attacker is keen to take a step forward in his career but denied holding discussions with Dortmund.

"I give everything for VfB and I am happy here," Gonzalez told Sport Bild.

"But I want to advance to the next level at some point. I would say the chances of me playing in Stuttgart next season are 50-50.

"I haven't spoken to Dortmund, that's my advisor's responsibility anyway. But BVB are a top club."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.