Saturday should have seen Barcelona host Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and pit Antoine Griezmann against his old club once more.

Griezmann left Atleti for Camp Nou in the second most expensive transfer of the previous close season, his €120million move eclipsed only by Joao Felix, the man bought to replace him.

Neither player has exactly enjoyed a resoundingly triumphant season, which is an affliction to hit many of the top 10 most expensive transfers of 2019.

We look at each of those players and whether their signings have, until now, been a hit or a miss...

 

JOAO FELIX: Benfica to Atletico Madrid (€126m)

Benfica and Portugal's golden boy scored in pre-season victories over Juventus and Real Madrid to give Atleti fans reason to believe the post-Griezmann future was bright.

However, just six goals in 28 competitive appearances later, doubts have been growing as to whether the 20-year-old forward will ever truly suit Diego Simeone's system.

VERDICT: MISS

ANTOINE GRIEZMANN: Atletico Madrid to Barcelona (€120m)

Griezmann vowed to stay at Atletico in 2018 only to change his mind a year later, and his performances for Barca are in keeping with a man not quite at ease in his surroundings.

Only Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez better his goal involvements for the Blaugrana in LaLiga this term (eight goals and four assists), while he is second only to Messi for chances created (26), but fans were entitled to expect more from the club's latest mega-money forward.

VERDICT: MISS

EDEN HAZARD: Chelsea to Real Madrid (€100m)

Chelsea fans feared the worst when their star man was lost during a transfer embargo, but things have hardly gone swimmingly for Hazard at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Injury problems have restricted him to just nine starts and a solitary goal and assist in LaLiga. He has also only created 14 chances, as many as James Rodriguez (who has started just four league games) and Lucas Vazquez (who has started six).

VERDICT: MISS

HARRY MAGUIRE: Leicester City to Manchester United (€87m)

The world's most expensive central defender might not be thought of as the world's best, but that should not detract from his impact on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.

He leads the way for duels won, aerial duels won, blocks and interceptions among United defenders in the Premier League this season, helping them to eight clean sheets. Oh, and he's already been made club captain.

VERDICT: HIT

MATTHIJS DE LIGT: Ajax to Juventus (€85m)

The most coveted centre-back of the window after Ajax's remarkable Champions League run, De Ligt delivered a dreadful performance on his Juventus debut in a 4-3 win over Napoli.

He has won the most aerial duels and has the pass success rate of any Juve defender to feature more than five times in Serie A this term, but there are already doubts about his long-term suitability to Maurizio Sarri's side.

VERDICT: MISS

LUCAS HERNANDEZ: Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich (€80m)

Bayern smashed their transfer record to sign defender Hernandez, but injuries have made it difficult to assess whether the money will prove to be well-spent.

A knee problem in September was followed by a serious ankle injury that kept him out for nearly four months, meaning he has started only nine games in all competitions for the Bundesliga champions.

VERDICT: MISS

NICOLAS PEPE: Lille to Arsenal (€80m)

Pepe was something of a symbol of Unai Emery's problematic final few weeks in charge as he struggled badly to find form for the Gunners.

He has certainly shown signs of improvement in 2020 – only Mesut Ozil (38) has created more chances in the league than Pepe (34) for Arsenal – but fans will have hoped for more from their record signing.

VERDICT: MISS

FRENKIE DE JONG: Ajax to Barcelona (€75m)

Another Ajax star who became coveted by clubs across Europe last year, De Jong opted for Barca and immediately became a regular in midfield.

He has not quite adapted to life in LaLiga - Ernesto Valverde's exit and Quique Setien's arrival as coach did not help - but, in turbulent times for the club, he looks to be a safe bet as the beating heart of Barca for years to come: he had created more chances (24) than any other Barca midfielder this term and only Sergio Busquets has more recoveries and interceptions.

VERDICT: HIT

RODRI: Atletico Madrid to Manchester City (€70m)

Manchester City's record signing has proved a smart bit of a business given midfield-anchor supreme Fernandinho has spent much of this season in defence.

Rodri has attempted more passes (1,996), recorded a better passing accuracy (92 per cent) and more recoveries (181) than any other City midfielder in 2019-20. He looks very much at home in Pep Guardiola's system.

VERDICT: HIT

ROMELU LUKAKU: Manchester United to Inter (€65m)

Lukaku's move to Inter seems to have been that rarity in modern-day transfers: a deal that has worked out well for everyone concerned.

United's attack is taking the more fluid shape Solskjaer wants, Antonio Conte at last got the forward he tried to bring to Juventus and Chelsea, and Lukaku has looked in the form of his career, with 17 goals and two assists in Serie A as part of a fearsome partnership with Lautaro Martinez.

VERDICT: HIT

Manchester United continue to be linked with a number of players, even during the football shutdown due to coronavirus.

Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho, Tottenham star Harry Kane and Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish.

Atletico Madrid sensation Joao Felix is the latest name on the list.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED EYE JOAO FELIX

Manchester United are interested in signing Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix, according to Le10 Sport.

Joao Felix swapped Benfica for Atletico in a big-money deal at the start of the 2019-20 season, having been linked to United.

United reportedly remain interested in Joao Felix and want the 20-year-old Portuguese attacker to follow in the footsteps of Red Devils great Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could Zinedine Zidane be set for a return to Juventus? Le10 Sport claims the Serie A giants want the Real Madrid head coach to replace Juve boss Maurizio Sarri for the 2020-21 season. Zidane spent five years as a player in Turin, where the Frenchman won two Serie A trophies among other titles before moving to Madrid in 2001.

Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Madrid and Juve are monitoring Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, says Corriere dello Sport. Donnarumma is out of contract in 2021 and the Italy international goalkeeper is no closer to signing a new deal.

- Calciomercato reports Inter are working on extending Marcelo Brozovic's contract amid interest from Premier League leaders and Champions League holders Liverpool.

- United midfielder Paul Pogba remains Juve's number one target but the Bianconeri are ready to make a move for Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic if a deal does not materialise, says Calciomercato.

Arsenal, Milan and Leicester City are chasing Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer, claims journalist Nicolo Schira.

- According to journalist Alfredo Pedulla, Sarri wants to reunite with Chelsea star Jorginho at Juve. Sarri and Jorginho both joined Chelsea from Napoli in 2018-19. Now the Juve boss is interested in signing the midfielder again.

Samuel Umtiti does not want to leave Barcelona, SPORT reports. The French defender has previously been linked to United and Arsenal.

David Alaba is not a top target for Madrid but the LaLiga giants continue to monitor the Bayern Munich full-back, says Marca.

Arkadiusz Milik remains in talks with Napoli over a new contract amid links to Milan, Atletico Madrid and Juventus, according to his agent David Pantak.

Napoli forward Milik is out of contract in 2021 and the Poland international has so far failed to agree fresh terms at the Serie A club.

Speculation has emerged that Milik could leave Napoli, with Italian rivals Milan reportedly keen admirers of the 26-year-old, while Juve and LaLiga's Atletico are also believed to be interested.

Pantak addressed rumours about Milik, telling Calciomercato: "Regarding everything that's come out in the media in the past few days, I want to clarify that they're only rumours, some of them even disrespectful to Napoli as a club.

"I'm in constant contact with Napoli's sporting director, our conversations on [Milik's] renewal have remained active.

"At the end of this difficult period for everyone, we'll meet and try to find a solution.

"Only in the event that one can't be found will we think of a shared solution for the good of the player and club."

Milik, who joined Napoli from Dutch giants Ajax in 2016, had scored 12 goals across all competitions before the 2019-20 season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata has spoken of his regret at leaving the club's academy when he was climbing through the youth ranks.

Morata was a boyhood Atleti fan but left for Getafe in 2007 before joining Real Madrid a year later.

In two spells with Los Blancos, Morata won two LaLiga titles, two Copas del Rey and two Champions League medals.

Between those stints, Morata collected two Serie A titles and two Coppa Italia crowns with Juventus and went on to endure an indifferent spell with Chelsea before re-joining Atleti in January 2019.

Spain striker Morata says he is now happier than at any other point of his career.

"When I was a kid, I was a ballboy at Atletico," Morata said during an Instagram Live video with tennis player Fabio Fognini.

"Then I went through a period where I didn't enjoy it so much. You know, it's the path a young kid goes down to be a professional.

"You start with agents, sponsors. I felt a lot of pressure, I wasn't starting games.

"I thought about leaving. Then I spent a year at Getafe and, you know what, it was an amazing year.

"Then I went to Real Madrid, but my dad and I used to go to the [Vicente] Calderon and I dreamed of playing there.

"However, unfortunately, I had to play there for other clubs and not with Atletico, but I always wanted to. What I have lived stays, but now I am happier than ever."

Morata also spoke about the toughest defenders he has faced in his career.

"[Giorgio] Chiellini, I don't know if he does it on purpose, but when he meets me, he always destroys me," Morata said with a laugh.

"Sergio Ramos is also a tough defender, while when you go against [Virgil] Van Dijk it seems like you hit a mountain."

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

ROUND-UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leroy Sane's move to Bayern Munich appears back on, while Real Madrid are chasing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Sane was linked with a switch to Bayern last close-season but ended up staying at Manchester City.

It appears that move could be back on, while Madrid are maintaining interest in Arsenal star Aubameyang.

 

TOP STORY – SANE IN FRESH BAYERN TALKS

Sane's new agent is in fresh talks with Bayern Munich, according to The Sun.

The Germany attacker was the subject of transfer speculation last before the 2019-20 campaign, but then suffered a serious knee injury in August.

Bild reported on Tuesday that Sane believes he could win the Champions League with Bayern.

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are interested in Arsenal's Aubameyang, according to Sport. The report says Barcelona are also keen to land the forward if they cannot sign Inter star Lautaro Martinez.

- LaLiga's 'big two' also reportedly want N'Golo Kante. However, Goal report the midfielder wants to stay at Chelsea unless he is forced out.

- With Diego Costa's future uncertain, Atletico Madrid may be looking for a forward. AS report Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette, who is contracted until 2022, is on the list of possible reinforcements for Los Colchoneros.

- Chris Smalling appears likely to return to Manchester United from his loan spell at Roma. Calciomercato believe the Serie A club are already looking at alternatives, with Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen – out of contract at season's end – being considered.

- Olivier Giroud, another player out of contract at the end of the season, seems set to leave Chelsea. La Gazzetta dello Sport claim the striker is looking for a three-year deal from Inter, who were said to be interested in January. The report suggests Inter could offer the Frenchman a two-year contract with a club option for a third.

- Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana and Borussia Dortmund attacker Mario Gotze are set to become free agents. Calciomercato report Milan are unconvinced by Lallana and unwilling to sign Gotze due to his high wages.

Inter are reportedly pushing Barcelona for Antoine Griezmann to be included in a deal for Lautaro Martinez.

Martinez, 22, is heavily linked with a move to the LaLiga giants after starring for Inter.

But Inter could be looking for the Argentina international's replacement to be part of the same deal.

 

TOP STORY – INTER ASK BARCELONA FOR GRIEZMANN IN MARTINEZ DEAL

Inter have asked Barcelona for Griezmann if the LaLiga giants want Martinez, according to Sport.

Griezmann only arrived at Barca ahead of this season and has largely struggled, scoring 14 times in 37 games.

Martinez, meanwhile, has been a standout at Inter, netting 16 times in 31 appearances.

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona may be considering their options. Cadena SER reports Real Sociedad forward Alexander Isak is an alternative should Barca not land Martinez or Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar.

- Manchester United are still looking at Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez. The Sun says the Premier League club would be willing to pay £70million (€80.4m) for the midfielder while giving the Spain international a bumper wage.

- Philippe Coutinho's future remains a talking point. The Sun claims Arsenal and Chelsea are set to get the chance to sign the playmaker, who is on loan at Bayern Munich from Barcelona this season. It says Coutinho is available on another season-long loan or for around £75m (€86.2m).

- Barcelona know their priority sales this close season. Sport reports the LaLiga giants want to sell midfielders Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal, who are both out of contract in 2021.

- Perhaps Achraf Hakimi will stay at Borussia Dortmund. According to AS, the Bundesliga club want to extend the Real Madrid defender's stay beyond the end of this season, when his two-year loan spell expires.

- Diego Costa's time at Atletico Madrid may be up. Sport reports the LaLiga side are ready to bid farewell to the striker at season's end.

Real Madrid's top defensive transfer target is apparently known, while Sergej Milinkovic-Savic may be set for Paris Saint-Germain.

While Madrid are said to be chasing a goalscorer, it seems they also have a defender in mind.

Meanwhile, PSG's interest in Milinkovic-Savic has reportedly been renewed.

 

TOP STORY – UPAMECANO MADRID'S TOP TARGET

RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano is top of Real Madrid's defensive wish list, according to AS.

Upamecano, 21, has regularly been linked with a move, with Arsenal among those understood to be interested in the France youth international.

AS reports Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane wants to freshen up his defensive options.

ROUND-UP

- Contracted at Lazio until 2024, Milinkovic-Savic is still wanted by Europe's top clubs. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports PSG are interested in the midfielder, with €100million likely to be needed to land the 25-year-old.

- Valencia could be ready to let Geoffrey Kondogbia go. The Evening Standard reports they may be prepared to sell the midfielder for around £26.4m (€30m) amid apparent interest from Tottenham. Kondogbia is believed to have a release clause of €80m.

- Could Hector Bellerin head back to Spain? The Mirror reports Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are interested in the Arsenal right-back, who is a three-cap Spain international and started his career at Barcelona.

- Felipe Anderson has impressed at West Ham and is linked with a move away. The Mirror says the Premier League club could listen to offers of €47.8m (£42m) for the Brazilian, who is apparently wanted by Napoli.

- Chris Smalling may return to Manchester United after all. The Sun reports the defender, who has starred on loan at Roma, is set to head back to the Premier League club with the Serie A side unable to make the move permanent.

Dwight McNeil should be in no rush to leave Burnley despite reported interest from Manchester United, according to former Clarets defender Kieran Trippier.

Winger McNeil has been one of Burnley's star performers this season, scoring two goals and providing five assists in 29 Premier League appearances.

The England Under-21 international's form has prompted talk of a switch to United, among a host of other top clubs, in the post-season transfer window.

However, Atletico Madrid defender Trippier, who left Burnley for Tottenham in 2015, would encourage McNeil to remain at Turf Moor for now.

"Dwight has burst on to the scene, and when he trained with us last season for England, he was brilliant," Trippier said, as quoted by the Burnley Express.

"He's got to stay focused, keep performing well while he's young, and his time will come.

"I'd say, 'Don't rush anything, just keep playing.' And Dwight is at the right club to do that. He just needs to keep playing games, because that's the most important thing for somebody his age.

"He's got the right manager to guide him, and he'll be in no rush to go anywhere. If I was him, I'd stay put and keep playing games.

"Sometimes it can be difficult when you go to another club. I've experienced it. I went to Tottenham and I didn't play for months, and you get frustrated.

"For somebody like him, who is doing really well, why would you move now? There's no point. Just keep performing well on the biggest stage and stay put.

"I was in a different situation to him. I'd just been relegated, so I needed to go to a Premier League club.

"He's playing well week in week out for a Premier League club. He's a big player for Burnley. I'd stay put, if I was him, and keep enjoying his football."

Despite an incredible comeback against Liverpool to book their place in the Champions League quarter-finals, 2019-20 was looking like far from a vintage season for Atletico Madrid.

Diego Simeone's side sat sixth in LaLiga when the coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of most sport around the world and had suffered a humiliating Copa del Rey exit to third-tier Cultural Leonesa in January.

However, six years ago they took a significant step in one of the most memorable campaigns in their history.

We look back at that and other standout sporting moments that occurred on April 9 through the years.

 

1912 – A Fenway first

It may not quite have been finished yet, but Fenway Park opened its doors for the first time for an exhibition match between the Boston Red Sox and the Harvard Crimson. After being forced to change at the nearby Park Riding School due to the clubhouse not being open yet, the players trudged through the snowy conditions to the diamond for the start of a new era. Casey Hageman threw Fenway Park's first pitch for the Red Sox to Harvard batter Dana Joseph Paine Wingate and he soon had the first of nine strikeouts.

1989 – Faldo in green

After heading into moving day in a tie for the lead, Faldo's hopes of triumphing at Augusta National and winning a second major appeared to be over when he slipped five shots off the pace upon completing his third round on Sunday morning. However, he ended up with the clubhouse lead later in the day by carding a brilliant seven-under 65 and a missed five-foot par putt on the 17th for Scott Hoch meant the two went into a play-off. Hoch's putting again let him down as he failed to close out the first sudden-death hole from two feet, and Faldo punished him by rolling in a 25-foot birdie putt at the next to don the green jacket for the first time. He would go on to win the tournament twice more.

1995 – Tendulkar shows signs of greatness to come

At the age of 21, the man who would go on to be dubbed the 'Little Master' scored his fourth ODI century as India defeated Sri Lanka in an Asia Cup match in Sharjah. Thanks to Tendulkar's outstanding 112 not out, India chased down their victory target of 203 with just under 17 of their 50 overs remaining. Tendulkar consequently became the youngest player to reach 3,000 ODI runs.

2013 – Dortmund deliver incredible comeback

There is something special about Champions League nights at Signal Iduna Park and the second leg of Dortmund's quarter-final against Malaga delivered a thoroughly memorable game. After a 0-0 draw in the first leg at La Rosaleda, Joaquin put Malaga ahead in the 25th minute, but Robert Lewandowski ensured Jurgen Klopp's side went into half-time on level terms. The writing appeared to be on the wall for Dortmund when Eliseu tapped in a second away goal from close range with eight minutes remaining, leaving the hosts needing to score twice more to avoid elimination. Marco Reus pulled them level in the first added minute and Felipe Santana bundled home in the 93rd minute to complete an incredible turnaround – though he appeared to be offside when he turned Julian Schieber's goal-bound effort home.

2014 – Atletico back in the semi-finals

Simeone led Atletico to Europa League glory in his first season at the helm and added the Copa del Rey and UEFA Super Cup in 2012-13. They appeared to be destined for new heights when they claimed a 1-0 victory over Barcelona at the Vicente Calderon to seal a 2-1 aggregate victory and book their place in the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 1974. Koke's back-post volley kept Atletico's hopes of a Champions League and LaLiga double alive, but they were only able to win the latter after Real Madrid beat them in the European final in Lisbon.

LaLiga players have been told it should be "normal" for them to have their salaries reduced because everyone else is being impacted financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

With elite European football at a standstill due to COVID-19, much debate has surrounded the topic of player wages and whether or not their salaries should be reduced while no fixtures are taking place in order to save the clubs money and protect the livelihoods of less wealthy non-playing staff.

Serie A clubs have voted unanimously to implement cuts of up to a third of players' yearly wages, while some teams from other countries around Europe are making their own decisions on the matter, with Atletico Madrid confirming players had accepted a 70 per cent reduction.

Atletico's stance is by no means a standard in LaLiga, but league president Javier Tebas thinks some form of sacrifice should be made across the board and believes that will be achieved in the coming days.

"We are in a moment of exceptional, unpredictable, and enormous-impact crisis," he said in a teleconference with foreign media on Tuesday.

"Everyone loses money, it seems normal to me that players' salaries are also reduced. In Spain we did not find an agreement with the union, our negotiations ran aground yesterday [Monday].

"At the moment, eight LaLiga clubs [across the first and second divisions] have requested ERTE [Temporary Employment Regulation File], but in the next few days all our teams will activate salary reduction protocols, either through ERTE or with individual agreements with their players.

"Spanish football does not intend to resort to state aid, we must be economically independent."

Tebas also confirmed LaLiga's desire to resume the season – if possible – on the final weekend of May, meaning the campaign would likely extend beyond June 30.

While that would be problematic in terms of the next transfer window and the expirations of some contracts or loans at the end of June, Tebas is confident modifications will be possible.

"It will be necessary to alter the contracts of the players that expire on June 30, as well as the various loan agreements," he said. "It is not simple, but not so complicated. I think that the players will agree and that the different leagues will find a solution that complies with general regulations.

"It is clear that the current transfer window dates, from July 1 to September 1, will not be suitable and should be changed, but I can't say much more.

"We will have to see the recommendations of FIFA and adjust the market to the current conditions generated by the coronavirus, which are decidedly exceptional."

Radomir Antic, famed for coaching Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, has died aged 71.

The Serbian, whose managerial career spanned 27 years, died on Monday and his passing has drawn an outpouring of emotion across Spanish football, where his influence was greatest.

It was at Atletico Madrid where Antic enjoyed his finest achievements, including an historic LaLiga and Copa del Rey double in the 1995-96 campaign.

Atletico CEO Miguel Angel Gil, who worked closely with Antic across his three spells in charge, said: "With the loss of Radomir, we lost a bit of the club's heart.

"With him I personally learned to win, with him I learned to live with passion - the things that they make you better as a man and as a professional.

"I give very strong embrace to his wife Vera, Dusan and Ana and tell them that they should be proud of the husband and father they had because, in addition to being a great professional and a wonderful person, he is in the history of Atletico Madrid on its own merits."

President Enrique Cerezo added: "Today is a sad day for all athletes and for the world of football since Radomir Antic has left us. A great person and one of the architects of the magnificent golden age that Atletico Madrid lived has left.

"The league and Copa del Rey titles that we won under his orders will remain forever in our memory. I am very proud to have met him and it has been a privilege to have shared every moment of football with him. All my love for his family."

While Antic's impact in Spanish football may have been greatest at Atletico, he had previously played and coached at Real Zaragoza, before also managing Real Madrid and Real Oviedo.

He spent a trio of spells with Atletico between 1995 and 2000, including a three-year stint until 1998, enjoying the great highs and significant lows, as they suffered relegation in the 1999-00 campaign.

Antic returned to Oviedo next, getting relegated again, but landed on his feet after a period away from management – joining Barcelona in 2003 to replace Louis van Gaal.

Although it was a relatively successful period at Camp Nou, he was replaced amid a presidential change at the club.

He went on to coach Celta Vigo, his native Serbia, Shandong Luneng and, most recently, Hebei China Fortune in 2015.

With most of the world still operating under lockdown conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic, most professional sport is on hold for the foreseeable future.

Given the outbreak occurred at a particularly inopportune moment for top-level football in Europe, the situation has bred uncertainty across most leagues – including Spain's LaLiga.

Competitions in Europe are facing the question of whether finishing the season, regardless of the impact it may have on future campaigns, should be the priority once normality returns.

The current focus does appear to be on concluding the 2019-20 campaign. However, even with Euro 2020 pushed back by 12 months, clubs and leagues are still having to work to tight schedules, with UEFA hoping seasons finish by the end of June.

While the discussion over how to complete the schedule continues, the Stats Perform AI team have crunched the numbers behind the scenes.

With all of the division's teams having completed 27 of 38 matches, their goal was to simulate how the rest of the season would pan out if the games were played now to produce a predicted 2019-20 table.

The statistical model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

Without further ado, let's have a good look at the results of the simulation with the predicted final league table.

BARCELONA CROWNED CHAMPIONS WITH 83 POINTS

The results in the statistical model see Barcelona crowned champions with a final total of just 83 points.

With 11 games to play, they presently lead rivals Real Madrid by two points, a gap that is predicted to have increased to four by the conclusion of the campaign, giving Quique Setien a first league crown.

Such have been the struggles of the big two this season, the final tally would be the lowest points recorded by a team to win the LaLiga since Fabio Capello's Madrid.

That team defeated Barca by virtue of their superior head-to-head record in a dramatic finish to the 2006-07 campaign, when the two sides accumulated 76 points.

It also suggests the chasing pack missed a rare opportunity to strike on a down year for both Clasico rivals, which will frustrate 2014 champions Atletico Madrid, who spent big on Joao Felix.

REAL MADRID FALL FOUR POINTS SHORT

The likelihood of Barca winning the title is 70.1%, with Real Madrid's chances rated at 29.9%. No other team is in with a chance of topping the table, according to the model.

But Zinedine Zidane's men are unlikely to face a challenge for second place, meaning they at least improve on their third-place finish from the 2018-19 season.

That third spot is poised to be grabbed by Atletico, who have a projected final points total of 65 and a 41.6% chance of claiming the position.

Atletico's closest challengers for third are predicted to be Sevilla (who are given a 26.1% chance) and Getafe (16.8%), with just two points separating those three sides in the final reckoning.

Diego Simeone would be thrilled with third place given his side went into the coronavirus-enforced break down in sixth, with Real Sociedad (9.1%) and Valencia (5%) the other teams in the mix.

UCL HEARTBREAK FOR LA REAL & GETAFE AS SEVILLA CLINCH 4TH

Sociedad and Getafe go into the break dreaming of a Champions League place amid fine seasons, but they are the two teams who will be worst affected by Atletico's predicted surge.

As part of a thrilling finish in the race for the top four, they are set to suffer heartbreak as Atletico pass them and they fall agonisingly short of catching Sevilla, who went into the halt in action sitting third.

Sevilla are anticipated to finish with 64 points, just one behind Atletico and one ahead of Getafe. 

Sociedad are then a further two behind Getafe with 61 as they are forced to settle for sixth, with Valencia staying in seventh on 59.

The four teams scheduled to finish between fourth and seventh all have a greater than 10.7% chance of finishing fourth, with none greater than Sevilla's 28.5%, so one bounce of the ball in a key game could still make an enormous difference.

Villarreal are predicted to finish in their current position of eighth, though they are given a 1.3% probability of breaking the top four.

Athletic Bilbao pass Granada for ninth position as Real Betis and Levante narrowly miss out on a spot in the top half.

Osasuna drop from 11th to 13th, where they are predicted to finish one point above Deportivo Alaves.

ESPANYOL SUFFER THE DROP AFTER 26 YEARS IN TOP FLIGHT

Mallorca, Leganes and Espanyol are the current bottom three in LaLiga and all are forecast to suffer relegation.

Espanyol have been in the top flight since 1994 but they go into the break six points adrift of safety and the model predicts they will be unable to make a great escape.

They are forecasted to collect 13 points from their last 11 games, but that is not even enough to get them off the bottom of the standings, highlighting the scale of the task they have ahead of them.

Similarly, Mallorca (36 points) and Leganes (35) are not expected to pick up enough victories to secure survival.

That means Celta Vigo, presently just one point clear of the drop zone, are predicted to survive with a final tally of 40, giving them a four-point cushion.

Celta are credited with 14 points between now and the end of the season to finish just behind Eibar (15th) and Real Valladolid (16th).

That means they would avoid a return to the Segunda Division, which is where they started the last decade.

Neymar is reportedly preparing for a return to Barcelona as Paris Saint-Germain accept the star's exit is "inevitable".

The Brazil international arrived at PSG from Barca in 2017 but has regularly been linked with a move back to Camp Nou.

Speculation over Neymar's future continues and he seems to be nearing a Barcelona return.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR PREPARES FOR BARCELONA RETURN AS PSG ACCEPT 'INEVITABLE' EXIT

Neymar is preparing for a Barcelona return and PSG are getting a strategy ready to sell the 28-year-old as it is 'inevitable' he will move on, according to Sport.

Neymar spent four seasons at Barca before a world-record €222million move to PSG.

The forward scored 18 goals in 22 games for PSG before this season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

- Jadon Sancho is linked with a Premier League move this close season. But The Sun reports the Borussia Dortmund star is ready to reject Manchester United if they fail to secure a spot in the Champions League. United were fifth in the Premier League when the season was suspended.

- Mauro Icardi's future remains uncertain. Corriere dello Sport reports Icardi will leave PSG, where he is on loan from Inter, at the end of the season and Juventus are once again interested.

- With Manchester United again seemingly interested in Matthijs de Ligt, a swap deal could be on the cards. The Sun reports United are ready to swap Paul Pogba – who has been linked with a return to Juventus – for defender De Ligt.

- It may not be the only swap deal involving a Manchester club and Juventus. The Sun says Juve are ready to offer Douglas Costa to Manchester City in a bid to land Gabriel Jesus.

- Ivan Rakitic appears likely to leave Barcelona. Marca reports Atletico Madrid want the midfielder, while Sport reports Barcelona are unaware of their rivals' interest in the Croatia international.

- Barcelona were reportedly prepared to use Junior Firpo in a deal to sign Inter star Lautaro Martinez, but the left-back could head elsewhere. Sport reports Napoli are the most recent club to contact Barca over Junior's availability.

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