Leicester City fans could be forgiven for still thinking the images of Andrea Bocelli belting out 'Nessun Dorma' on the King Power Stadium pitch and their heroes lifting the Premier League title were part of a wonderful dream.

Sports quiz aficionados of the future are likely to scratch their chins and rack their brains when trying to remember Wes Morgan as a title-winning captain.

Indeed, had any of these scenarios been presented as possibilities prior to the 2015-16 campaign, the orator of such suggestions would likely have had to contend with a fair amount of pointing, laughing and concerned looks.

And yet, despite pre-season odds of 5,000-1, Claudio Ranieri's cunning Foxes outlasted challenges from the Premier League's big hitters to complete a fairytale story that resonated throughout the world of football.

May 2 marks four years to the day since Leicester's moment of glory was confirmed after Tottenham's 2-2 draw with Chelsea, and to mark the occasion we have looked back at some of the most unlikely title triumphs in football history.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST 1977-78:

When Brian Clough took over at the City Ground in January 1975, Forest were languishing down in the old Second Division. A couple of years later Forest were promoted and under the stewardship of the maverick Clough they were crowned champions in their first season back in the top flight. Forest went on to win the European Cup in 1979 and 1980 in a golden era for the club.

HELLAS VERONA 1984-85:

In modern times Hellas Verona are known as a perennial yo-yo club, flitting between Serie A and B. But in the mid-80s, led by Osvaldo Bagnoli, they were top of a star-studded pile. In a league including Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (Inter), Michel Platini (Juventus) and Diego Maradona (Napoli), a well-crafted Verona side sat top of the pile in a shock considered one of the greatest in Italian football.

SAMPDORIA 1990-91:

Just six years on, and with Juventus, Napoli (twice), Milan and Inter each having won the title, there was another surprise in Italian football as Sampdoria became champions for the first time. Yugoslav coach Vujadin Boskov had already led Samp to two Coppa Italia successes and a European Cup Winners' Cup before a strikeforce of Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini inspired the crowning glory. Arrigo Sacchi's memorable Milan side fell short, while an Inter team including Italia '90 World Cup winners Jurgen Klinsmann, Lothar Matthaus and Andreas Brehme were third.

DEPORTIVO LA CORUNA 1999-2000:

Barcelona and Real Madrid may presently have a stranglehold on LaLiga, but back in the 99-00 campaign it was Deportivo, a modest provincial club in the south-west of Spain, that rocked the apple cart - in part thanks to the financing of former president Augusto Cesar Lendoiro. A squad including Roy Makaay, Pauleta and Flavio Conceicao celebrated a famous LaLiga title.

WOLFSBURG 2008-09:

Bayern Munich have historically ruled the roost in the Bundesliga, yet there were five different winners in eight seasons between 2001-02 and 2008-09. The last of those saw Wolfsburg crowned champions for the first time in their history. A 5-0 rout at Hannover was followed by a 5-1 hammering of Werder Bremen in the final game of the season to emphatically complete the job, with Bayern two points back in second. The goalscoring exploits of Grafite (28) and Edin Dzeko (26) were crucial for Felix Magath's side.

AZ 2008-09:

Turns out 2008-09 was a year for upsets. AZ's own success story was described as "my little masterpiece" by Louis van Gaal, who had joined in 2005 after the pressure cooker of life as Barcelona coach. A 28-match unbeaten run was pivotal for AZ, who were champions for just the second time, as they romped to glory ahead of more illustrious names in Dutch football.

MONTPELLIER 2011-12:

Paris Saint-Germain are the modern powerhouses of Ligue 1, but it was a different story in 2011-12, PSG's first season under their wealthy Qatari owners. And rather than the capital giants triumphing, it was unfancied Montpellier celebrating an unlikely success. PSG invested for the future by bringing Carlo Ancelotti to the Parc des Princes in December 2011 and the likes of Kevin Gameiro, Javier Pastore and Jeremy Menez had arrived in the close season. But on the back of Olivier Giroud's 21 goals, Montpellier celebrated their first – and as yet only - top-flight triumph, finishing three points clear of PSG.

LEICESTER CITY 2015-16:

It was an achievement that forced ex-England striker and famous Foxes fan Gary Lineker to present the first episode of the following season's Match of the Day in his pants (albeit only brief-ly). With N'Golo Kante's tireless performances in midfield, Riyad Mahrez's wizardry on the wing and Jamie Vardy's scoring exploits, the Foxes lost just three times in an unforgettable season and finished 10 points clear of Arsenal in second. The usual challengers may have endured plenty of misery but nothing will ever take the shine off a remarkable achievement.

Could Zinedine Zidane still cut it on the pitch? A fellow Frenchman would certainly love to find out.

Wolfsburg captain Josuha Guilavogui was star-struck when he encountered the Real Madrid boss before a Champions League game four years ago.

And he would jump at the chance to be able to combine with World Cup winner Zidane in Wolfsburg's midfield, irrespective of the fact France's former captain turns 48 in June.

"We have a great team," said Guilavogui. "But if I had the chance to play with Zinedine Zidane, I would sign him immediately. Even if he's almost 50."

Zidane retired from playing after the 2006 World Cup, his dramatic last act being the headbutt into the chest of Italy's Marco Materazzi that saw him sent off in the final.

Like Zidane, Guilavogui was brought up on the French south coast.

Now 29, Guilavogui's respect for Zidane has only grown over the years, so when he encountered his compatriot before Wolfsburg's clash with Madrid in 2016 he was understandably blown away.

"I went up to him like a child," Guilavogui said in an Instagram Live event, according to Kicker.

"What he did for France is insane. He is the best player we have ever had and he is always a nice person too. When you think of him, you think of class."

The resumption of football in Europe's top five leagues still appears some way off due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving players with plenty of time to analyse their performances this season.

Using Opta data, we have already examined some of the worst attacking and passing numbers from 2019-20, so now it's the turn of the defence.

We have analysed nine metrics for defenders to have featured in at least 10 league games this season, thereby giving us a good summary of those whose defending could use some improvement.

The metrics include success rates in duels, tackling and aerial challenges, errors leading to shots and goals and how many times a player has been dribbled past by an opponent.

As always when it comes to data, context is key. For success rates in duels, tackling and aerial challenges we have only included players who have completed 20 actions in each category, which accounts to two per game.

The below therefore provides a good indication on where improvement is needed, and there are a few surprising names…

 

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

BUNDESLIGA:

Most tackles lost: William (29)
Worst tackle success: Alexander Hack (40.91 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Robin Koch (3)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Robin Koch (3)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: William (32)
Most duels lost: Stefan Lainer (125)
Worst duel success: Julian Ryerson (35 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Robin Koch and Sven Bender (56)
Worst aerial success: Christian Gunter (22.86 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most tackles lost: Pervis Estupinan (34)
Worst tackle success: Nacho Monreal (40 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Joseph Aidoo and Sergio Ramos (2)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Pervis Estupinan (5)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Marc Cucurella (35)
Most duels lost: Marc Cucurella (167)
Worst duel success: Daniel Carrico (40.3 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Didac Vila (55)
Worst aerial success: Xavi Quintilla (25.71 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most tackles lost: Boubacar Kamara (33)
Worst tackle success: Lionel Carole (34.78 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Sofiane Alakouch, Timothee Kolodziejczak and Stefan Mitrovic (2)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Wesley Fofana, Alexander Djiku and Malang Sarr (4)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Arturo Calabresi (42)
Most duels lost: Issiaga Sylla (161)
Worst duel success: Colin Dagba (40 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Pablo Martinez (59)
Worst aerial success: Hamza Mendyl (17.39 per cent)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most tackles lost: Ricardo Pereira (50)
Worst tackle success: Calum Chambers (38.46 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Jan Bednarek (3)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Jan Bednarek, Tyrone Mings, John Egan, Davinson Sanchez and James Tarkowski (4)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Ricardo Pereira (53)
Most duels lost: Ricardo Pereira (215)
Worst duel success: Benjamin Mendy (37.38 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Ben Mee (84)
Worst aerial success: Max Aarons (26.09 per cent)

SERIE A:

Most tackles lost: Matteo Darmian (32)
Worst tackle success: Andrea Cistana (40 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Jhon Chancellor, Fabio Lucioni, Jose Luis Palomino, Alex Sandro (2)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Fabio Lucioni (5)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Stefano Sabelli (40)
Most duels lost: Giovanni Di Lorenzo (126)
Worst duel success: Hans Hateboer (40.63 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Mattia Bani (57)
Worst aerial success: Jeremy Toljan (28.00 per cent)

AND THE TOP NINE:

Most tackles lost: Ricardo Pereira (50)
Worst tackle success: Lionel Carole (34.78 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Robin Koch and Jan Bednarek (3)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Pervis Estupinan and Fabio Lucioni (5)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Ricardo Pereira (53)
Most duels lost: Ricardo Pereira (215)
Worst duel success: Julian Ryerson (35 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Ben Mee (84)
Worst aerial success: Hamza Mendyl (17.39 per cent)

Wolfsburg returned to training on Monday, despite the coronavirus pandemic and Germany's social-distancing measures.

COVID-19 continues to disrupt sports across the globe, with the Bundesliga among the elite professional leagues postponed amid the outbreak.

There have been more than 120 deaths in Germany from at least 29,000 cases as the world tries to combat the spread of coronavirus, leading chancellor Angela Merkel to ban public meetings of more than two people.

Despite concerns in Germany and around the world, Wolfsburg resumed training in four small groups at staggered times in the gym – two hours apart to avoid each other as much as possible.

Rather than using the facilities at VfL-Center, Wolfsburg used four different changing rooms in the Volkswagen Arena.

"Obviously we'd all prefer to be playing football but we're aware we need to adapt to the way things are," said striker Daniel Ginczek.

"It's our job to keep ourselves fit, whether that's at home or in small groups like today. Every group had a session in the gym at different times and we worked on the legs and torso.

"The club took every conceivable precaution in terms of hygiene. The rooms at the stadium are very big and each group had its own changing room, where the players sat a long way away from each other. Everyone had their own things like towels, blackrolls and mats."

The Bundesliga is scheduled to resume after April 2, with Wolfsburg due to travel to Bayer Leverkusen two days later in a fixture that looks unlikely to be played given the situation.

Wolfsburg announced Oliver Glasner's first-team will return to training on Monday despite Germany's social-distancing measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.

The Bundesliga is scheduled to resume after April 2, with Wolfsburg due to travel to Bayer Leverkusen two days later in a game that looks unlikely to be played given the global pandemic.

Germany's death toll has risen to 93 and chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday announced a ban on public meetings of more than two people, but a statement on Wolfsburg's official website said training would take place in small groups.

"VfL Wolfsburg will return to training as planned on Monday 23 March, albeit under special conditions and adhering to strict hygiene measures," said the statement.

"Starting early in the morning, head coach Oliver Glasner's side will work in small groups at staggered intervals at the Volkswagen Arena, exclusively using the gym until further notice.

Managing director Jorg Schmadtke said: "As matters stand, matches will resume after 2 April. Even though that seems unrealistic, we need to take note of that and adapt to it."

RB Leipzig missed out on the chance to pull level with Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga as they were held to a 0-0 draw at Wolfsburg.

It meant a second consecutive draw for Julian Nagelsmann's side at a pivotal stage of the title race, after they were held 1-1 by Bayer Leverkusen last weekend.

Wolfsburg made most of the running during the first half, although Angelino wasted a glorious chance to put the visitors ahead in the 36th minute.

Leipzig grew into the game after the restart – Yussuf Poulsen lashing over in the 55th minute before making way for Timo Werner.

Before the match, Nagelsmann explained he benched Werner because his star forward had only been able to train once over the past two weeks, and the Germany international was unable to inspire a late winner, despite Christopher Nkunku's 85th-minute effort leaving Wolfsburg goalkeeper Koen Casteels needing treatment for a hand injury.

Leipzig are back in action on Tuesday, when they will aim to press home a 1-0 first-leg advantage over Tottenham in the Champions League last 16, by which stage they could be five adrift domestically. Bayern host fellow Bavarians Augsburg on Sunday.

Manchester City have cut short Lukas Nmecha's season-long loan to Wolfsburg, instead sending the striker to Middlesbrough after he failed to score in Germany.

The 21-year-old, who has played for both England and Germany at youth level, joined Wolfsburg at the start of the season but struggled to make an impact.

Nmecha made 12 appearances for his loan club in all competitions but started only once and did not find the net.

City recalled the striker on Friday and loaned him back out to Championship side Boro, where he joins Patrick Roberts - a team-mate in Manchester who endured a similarly tough stretch at Norwich City.

Nmecha spent the 2018-19 season on loan at Preston North End, having appeared three times for City in the previous campaign.

"We're delighted to bring Lukas to the club," said Boro head coach Jonathan Woodgate. "He is a terrific young player who has the benefit of a year's experience of Championship football.

"He is another young, hungry player of real quality, and it's great that we've been able to get him.

"In Lukas and Patrick, we have signed two very good players, and we've been able to bring them in early in the transfer window, which is a real bonus."

Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has suggested interim head coach Hansi Flick is likely to remain in charge for the rest of the 2019-20 season, stating: "There's nothing to be said against it."

Flick has overseen eight wins from 10 games in all competitions, having been placed in charge when Niko Kovac was sacked at the start of November.

After Bayern beat Wolfsburg 2-0 on Saturday, thanks to late goals from substitute Joshua Zirkzee and Serge Gnabry, Rummenigge outlined his happiness with the club's progress.

"I make no secret of the fact that we are satisfied with the development of the team and the quality of play," Rummenigge told Sky.

"The results are also very good. There's nothing to be said against it.

"Both parties are satisfied. He's doing a good job."

Bayern have scored 32 goals in their 10 matches under Flick and will head into the winter break four points off the top of the Bundesliga table.

Asked about his future, Flick said: "We will find the time to sit down together on Sunday. I'm not in a hurry and we'll see how things go."

Javi Martinez is set to be absent until February after suffering a "bad muscular injury" in Bayern Munich's 2-0 win over Wolfsburg on Saturday.

Bayern ultimately ended 2019 with a crucial win as late goals from substitute Joshua Zirkzee, who has now come off the bench to score in each of his first two Bundesliga appearances, and Serge Gnabry broke Wolfsburg's resistance at the Allianz Arena.

However, the reigning champions' success was marred by another injury blow, with Martinez forced to limp off clutching his thigh at the end of the first half.

Interim head coach Hansi Flick said: "He will be out for a while. He suffered a bad muscular injury and will be sidelined for six weeks."

Bayern sit four points off the pace at the top of the table and resume their Bundesliga campaign against Hertha Berlin on January 19.

Flick was already facing a shortage of bodies prior to the Wolfsburg game, with Thiago Alcantara suspended and a host of first-team players injured.

Yet Zirkzee again seized a brief opportunity to make an impact, the teenager scoring just two minutes and 28 seconds after he had replaced Philippe Coutinho.

"I'm just proud of the team," said Flick. "We believed in the victory until the very end.

"It makes me proud to see the team coming together and showing that on the pitch."

Joshua Zirkzee made another crucial impact off the bench as Bayern Munich left it late to beat Wolfsburg 2-0 with two goals in the last five minutes of normal time.

The reigning Bundesliga champions, whose injury troubles were deepened by the first-half exit of Javi Martinez on Saturday, looked set to lose further ground at the top of the table as visiting goalkeeper Koen Casteels produced a fine performance at the Allianz Arena.

Bayern appeared to be running out of ideas in the closing stages after creating plenty of chances prior to the interval, but substitute Zirkzee - who scored a key goal on his league debut against Freiburg in midweek -  again provided a dramatic late intervention.

The 18-year-old converted Thomas Muller's cut-back in the 85th minute to break the deadlock, before Serge Gnabry added a second to make his side's victory certain.

Bayern will now head into the winter break four points off the top of the table, having ultimately finished 2019 on a high note.

Robert Lewandowski will have groin surgery straight after Bayern Munich face Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

The striker will be available to play at the Allianz Arena in the champions' final match of the first half of the league season.

Interim head coach Hansi Flick says Lewandowski will then have an operation with a view to being fully recovered when they play Hertha Berlin on January 19.

"Robert will undergo groin surgery straight after Saturday's game," Flick told reporters on Friday. "We don't want to waste any time. We'll have to see how the recovery process goes.

"In the situation we're in, we're glad to have him available. The downtime should be 10 to 14 days."

Lewandowski has already scored 30 goals in a remarkable first half of the season, with 19 of those coming in the opening 16 matches of the Bundesliga.

Flick is relieved to have the Poland international to call on given Bayern are likely only to have 11 senior players fit for Wolfsburg's visit.

With long-term absentee Nikas Sule not likely to return until April and both Lucas Hernandez and Kingsley Coman sidelined, the loss of Thiago Alcantara to suspension for this weekend is a blow to Bayern's thin squad.

Flick does at least hope to have David Alaba available, despite the defender having been hurt in the win at Freiburg.

"We have 11 healthy first-team players, plus five youngsters," he said.

"David got a knock on the ankle in Freiburg. He was training individually today [Friday], but he should be on board for tomorrow."

Bayern go into the Wolfsburg game in third place in the table, four points behind the top two of RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach.

The full draw for the Europa League's round of 32 is: 

Wolves v Espanyol

Sporting CP v Istanbul Basaksehir

Getafe v Ajax

Bayer Leverkusen v Porto

Copenhagen v Celtic

APOEL v Basel

Cluj v Sevilla

Olympiacos v Arsenal

AZ v LASK Linz

Club Brugge v Manchester United

Ludogorets v Inter

Eintracht Frankfurt v Salzburg

Shakhtar Donetsk v Benfica

Wolfsburg v Malmo

Roma v Gent

Rangers v Braga

The first legs will take place on Thursday 20 February, with the return fixtures scheduled for a week later.

Club chiefs will return to Nyon for the last-16 draw on February 28.

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