Bayern Munich's display in their 4-1 rout of Hoffenheim set the standard for the rest of the season, according to Hansi Flick.

Jerome Boateng, Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry struck as Bayern cruised to a fourth straight Bundesliga victory – their second-longest winning run of the season after they won five games on the spin between matchweeks three and seven.

Munich have now scored 57 goals in the league this term, a club record after 19 games, while the only other side to have scored more after the same amount of fixtures was Hamburg in 1981-82 (58).

It lifted Bayern, briefly at least, 10 points clear at the top of the table, with the signs looking ominous for the rest of the league as the Bavarian giants chase down a ninth successive title.

"You are used to the fact that both teams want to play football. Hoffenheim has also shown that and created opportunities, especially in the first half," Flick told Bayern's official website. 

"It is a very good result. We have now won four games in a row – 12 points. We played a good game, that is our benchmark.

"Certainly not everything was great, but I'm satisfied. We wanted to get back on track after the two defeats. That's what makes big teams. This is a good thing and gives you confidence."

Lewandowski was typically integral to Bayern's win, setting up Muller for his 10th Bundesliga goal of the season before the Poland star helped himself to a 24th top-flight strike of 2020-21 early in the second half, the most of any Bundesliga player in history after 19 games.

His strike partner Muller was also at his industrious best, with the 31-year-old having hit double figures in the league for the first time since 2015-16, when he scored 20.

"After four wins from four games you can say that we are on the right track," Muller said.

"In large phases of the game, we repeatedly showed serious actions both in the front and in the back. If we pick up the pace, we often end up in good situations. 

"Of course we would have liked to not concede a goal. It was good and creative up front. We would have deserved one more goal."

One player to miss Saturday's win was Corentin Tolisso, who has been fined by Bayern after breaching the club's coronavirus protocols in order to get a tattoo.

"We're grateful that games can currently take place in the Bundesliga despite the ongoing coronavirus situation. A condition of that is that players, coaches and staff must adhere to the DFL's hygiene concept in an exemplary manner," said Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"Corentin Tolisso has now contravened these guidelines, although our sporting and medical leadership continuously and clearly communicate them. We won't tolerate violations like this. We will therefore hand Corentin Tolisso a heavy fine, which will be donated to charity."

Tolisso's omission from the squad came after Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez tested positive for COVID-19.

Yannick Carrasco and Mario Hermoso have tested positive for coronavirus and face a period of self-isolation, Atletico Madrid have announced.

Atletico said on Saturday that the positive results had been returned the previous day and the players have already been isolating at home.

The club have not communicated how long the two players will have to isolate or when they will be expected back in training.

However, both will miss Sunday's trip to Cadiz and are unlikely to face Celta Vigo a week on Monday.

While losing two important players will undoubtedly be a blow to head coach Diego Simeone, his side are sitting pretty at LaLiga's summit.

They have won seven in a row in the league and sat seven points clear of rivals Real Madrid at the top of the table heading into the weekend, with Los Colchoneros also having a game in hand.

Both Hermoso and Carrasco have played 15 out of Atletico's 18 LaLiga matches this term.

Paul George was "super relieved" that both he and Kawhi Leonard were healthy after entering the NBA's contact tracing protocols – and the duo showed the Los Angeles Clippers exactly what they had been missing on Friday.

Having sat out two games due to guidelines put in place amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the superstars were cleared to return to action for the Clippers at the Orlando Magic.

George had 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the convincing 116-90 victory on the road, while Leonard contributed 24 points.

They combined for 35 points in the first half as the Clippers improved to 15-5 for the season, meaning they sit behind only the in-form Utah Jazz – who have won 10 in a row – in the Western Conference standings.

"I was super relieved that we were both healthy, first and foremost," George told the media. "We had been playing so well that it was unfortunate that we had to take the hiatus, but safety is first."

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue was able to rest both George and Leonard in the fourth quarter with the Clippers in complete control.

Speaking after the win, Lue said having the pair back was "huge", considering they make life so much easier for the rest of the roster.

"I think on a night when guys were a little tired, just having their presence was big for us," Lue said.

"It was huge. Just making plays for everybody else, making the game easy.

"When teams double-team Kawhi or PG on the post-ups or pick-and-roll, it just makes it easier because our guys are getting open shots, so we needed those guys."

The Clippers went 1-1 without George and Leonard at the start of a six-game road trip; they are back in action on Sunday, taking on the New York Knicks.

The Australian Open is set to welcome up to 30,000 spectators each day when the tournament begins on February 8 in Melbourne.

Local officials have given the go-ahead for fans to head to Melbourne Park, predicting a near-normal atmosphere when action begins at the year's first grand slam.

Last year's US Open was contested behind closed doors in New York, while only 1,000 paying fans were allowed at Roland Garros on each day of the 2020 French Open.

However, the COVID-19 crisis has been tightly managed in Australia, to the point where it was reported on Saturday that there had been no new local cases in the state of Victoria for 24 days.

The crowds will be split between day and evening sessions, and the number of fans allowed will drop to 25,000 for the final six days of the tournament, when fewer courts will be in operation.

Saturday's announcement means the event will be capped at around 50 per cent of capacity.

Tournament director and Tennis Australia chief executive officer Craig Tiley said it had taken "a massive team effort" to accommodate the arrival of around 1,000 players and officials into the country, with all required to spend two weeks in quarantine.

Victoria sports minister Martin Pakula said on Sky News Australia: "On Rod Laver Arena, as we get towards the end of the tournament, we'll have an incredible atmosphere – not that different to the atmosphere we've seen in all the Opens in the years past.

"That's really a testament to the work Victorians have done to get our numbers to zero but also the extraordinary work that Craig and the team at Tennis Australia has done."

 

Paris Saint-Germain duo Marco Verratti and Abdou Diallo have tested positive for coronavirus.

The Ligue 1 champions confirmed on Friday that the pair had returned positive PCR tests and will enter self-isolation.

They will subsequently miss Sunday's game at Lorient, with PSG looking to extend their unbeaten run under head coach Mauricio Pochettino to six games.

PSG host Nimes on Wednesday before a trip to the Stade Velodrome to take on arch-rivals Marseille.

Pochettino's men are level on points with Lille at the top of the Ligue 1 table and two clear of Lyon as the nine-time champions face a rate battle to retain the title.

 

 

Sergio Ramos' future is not a cause for concern for Real Madrid assistant David Bettoni despite rumours the defender has decided to leave.

Media reports in Spain have claimed Ramos will exit Madrid at the end of the season when his contract expires after failing to respond to the club's latest contract offer, which is said to be worth 10 per cent less than his existing agreement. 

The experienced centre-back has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, though they are rumoured to have distanced themselves from such stories given it was claimed Ramos was asking for a wage greater than that of Kylian Mbappe. 

Either way, Ramos' future remains uncertain and there appears to be a significant chance of him opting to move elsewhere. 

But Bettoni – still standing in for head coach Zinedine Zidane as he isolates with coronavirus – insists it is not a situation that is worrying right now, as they are focusing on Ramos' recovery from the various ailments that have kept him out of LaLiga action since mid-December. 

"I'm not worried [about the renewal]," Bettoni told reporters. "I see him every day and he's recovering. He is our captain, a great professional. We are not going to risk with him, but I cannot say anything else." 

The 34-year-old is currently out with a knee injury, but he has also recently suffered with a hamstring issue and illness.

Regarding Ramos' fitness, Bettoni added: "Every week he feels better, but we don't want to risk it – luckily now we are only playing once a week. 

"We are evaluating him week by week, we will see how his knee is next week. 

"The Sergio I know has a great heart, he's the captain, he's always there, he's a great professional. He is somewhat annoyed because he cannot play, he always wants to compete. But I don't see him differently, I see him normal." 

Zidane has been away from the Madrid squad for a week following his positive test for coronavirus, though Los Blancos cruised to a 4-1 win in the only match he has been forced to miss. 

He will be absent again on Saturday when Levante visit Estadio Alfredo di Stefano, though Bettoni says Zidane's condition is improving and he has still been able to talk with his staff every day. 

"Zidane is much better," he said. "And every day he gets better. We talk every day, we watch the training sessions, we discuss the contents. 

"He is not physically there, but he is with us. The week was very good. It's true that his presence is missed - it is a pity because of his personality and charisma." 

The pressure is on Madrid in LaLiga – they host Levante on Saturday already trailing leaders Atletico Madrid by seven points, and Diego Simeone's men also have a game in hand.

Bayern Munich have confirmed Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez have tested positive for coronavirus.

The players are self-isolating at home after returning positive results this week, although the club described both as being in "good health".

They will be unavailable for Saturday's Bundesliga match at home to Hoffenheim.

The European champions then face Hertha Berlin away on February 5 before their Club World Cup campaign starts three days later.

Goretzka has made 20 appearances in all competitions this season, while Martinez, 32, has played 18 times, mostly as a substitute.

Bayern also confirmed goalkeeper Alexander Nubel is likely to be out of action for up to a month.

The former Schalke man, who has only played twice this season, suffered ankle ligament damage on Thursday.

Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal agreed it was great to be playing in front of busy grandstands again as tennis stars emerged from lockdown in Australia.

The women's and men's tennis tours have been contested largely behind closed doors over the past year, and a number of tournaments, most notably Wimbledon, have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Australia public has given a cautious welcome to the arrival of the world's leading players, who have been quarantining in hotel rooms for much of the past fortnight, only allowed to briefly leave in order to train.

Ahead of the Australian Open, which begins on February 8 in Melbourne, Williams and Nadal are among a star-studded set of players who travelled to Adelaide to feature in the 'A Day at the Drive' exhibition event.

They both scored victories on Friday, with Williams defeating US Open champion Naomi Osaka 6-2 2-6 10-7 and Nadal snatching a 7-5 6-4 win over Dominic Thiem.

The delight in both at seeing crowds at a tournament was plain, with Williams saying in an on-court interview: "Thanks everyone for having us. We haven't played in front of a crowd in over a year. It's been a really long time."

In fact, it has not quite been a full year since the tours locked down initially, as it was early March when most tournaments began to be called off, with crowds frozen out.

Williams said the reception made the difficult past fortnight, being hidden away from the world, worth the strain for the players.

"This is really cool and then for having us and trusting us with your laws was great," said the 23-time grand slam winner. "We were so excited to be here and it's worth it."

Nadal said he was "super happy" to still be playing at the highest level and back in front of Australian crowds.

The pandemic has been carefully managed to the point where very few have the virus and it is considered safe to allow crowds into sporting events in the country.

Nadal said: "Hopefully this situation will go away quick and we will be able to enjoy fans on court [around the world].

"We're super excited to have fans at the Australian Open and today."

That optimism and excitement was shared by men's world number one Novak Djokovic, who played just one set against Jannik Sinner due to a problem with blisters on his right hand.

Eight-time Australian Open champion Djokovic told fans: "Thank you so much for coming out and making our day and making our year.

"We didn't play in front of this much crowd for 12 months. This is definitely something very special.

"It wasn't easy, obviously, with 14 days being constrained in the room and a few hours to train, but at the end of the day it was worth it because you guys made it very special today for us."

UEFA is committed to its plan of hosting Euro 2020 across 12 host cities, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Euro 2020 was due to take place last year, with 12 nations having been selected to host matches in celebration of the competition's 60th anniversary.

However, the COVID-19 crisis resulted in UEFA taking the decision last March to push the tournament back to 2021.

Although Europe is still struggling to deal with the pandemic, with many nations under lockdown rules and travel severely restricted in a bid to limit the spread of the virus, UEFA has reaffirmed its intention for the competition to take place later this year.

In a statement released on Wednesday, UEFA also said it is retaining hope that the 12 venues will be able to accommodate some fans, despite club competitions continuing behind closed doors.

The statement read: "UEFA repeated its commitment to holding the Euro across the 12 cities according to the timetable that has already been published.

"All parties recognise the need for flexibility around decisions to be made on the arrangements for the tournament, in order to reflect the different challenges and circumstances that cities find themselves in. 

"As a result of that and the fast-changing nature of the situation around the pandemic, the deadline for the submission of plans to accommodate fans inside the stadiums has been moved to early April."

In limited numbers, spectators had been allowed into venues in certain European nations – including Germany, England and France – in 2020, though those schemes were ended as infection rates increased again.

"UEFA is committed to holding Euro 2020 in the 12 cities originally planned," UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said.

"The Euro is the flagship competition for national team football in Europe and is a vital source of funding for grassroots and wider football development. 

"I am optimistic that things are highly likely to be very different with regard to the virus as we move closer to the tournament and it is important that we give the host cities and governments as much time as we can to formulate an accurate picture of what will be possible come June and July. 

"Fans are such a big part of what makes football special and that is true of the Euro as much as it is of any game. We must allow ourselves the maximum space to allow their return to the stadiums."

London, Rome, Glasgow, Bilbao, Dublin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Baku, Budapest, Bucharest, Saint Petersburg and Munich are the designated host cities for the finals.

Each city will host three group games, and one match in either the round of 16 or quarter-finals, with the semi-finals and final to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli does not expect fans to be allowed back into stadiums this season and fears the losses incurred by European clubs due to the COVID-19 crisis could rise to €8.5billion.

The Deloitte Football Money League this week reported that the 20 richest clubs in Europe are predicted to lose in excess of €2billion by the end of the 2020-21 campaign as a result of the pandemic.

A lack of matchday revenue with games played behind closed doors and less broadcast income have hit clubs across the continent hard.

Agnelli, also chairman of the European Club Association, does not envisage supporters returning to watch their teams live this season and believes the financial picture is bleaker than Deloitte painted.

"My firm opinion that we will have a real understanding of what this crisis has meant for clubs only at the end of the season," Agnelli said at the News Tank Football seminar on Wednesday.

"I have seen the Deloitte study that came out yesterday. I was looking at data for the top 20 clubs whereby we had a €1.1billion hit in the 2019-20 season and the estimate for those 20 clubs alone is a €2billion hit for the combined two years.

"I think it's going to be much worse than that. The 2019-20 season only has three or four months of crisis, of empty stadiums, no fans, commercial rebates, broadcasting rebates, while as it seems right now from my point of observation 2020-21 will be a full season without fans in stadiums.

"We are in the middle of [broadcast] tenders. Some have been out, the Germans have been out, they've had a loss of value 10 per cent. We are seeing international broadcasters not paying their dues.

"And so I think this season will be much worse. It's going to be much worse than what we've seen there.

"When I look at the best information I've had so far, we're looking at a bottom-line loss for the industry in the region of €6.5 billion to €8.5 billion for the combined two years, and about 360 clubs in need of cash injections, whether it's debt or equity within those two years, for an amount of €6billion."

Trae Young paid a personal tribute to mark the one-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant's death as the Atlanta Hawks put paid to the Los Angeles Clippers' winning streak. 

Young excelled in the second half to finish with 38 points to help the Hawks triumph 108-99 on Tuesday, handing the short-handed Clippers their first loss in eight games.

After hitting a three-point shot late in the fourth quarter, the Atlanta guard made a 24 gesture in reference to one of the two jersey numbers Bryant made famous during his illustrious career with the Los Angeles Lakers. 

"One thing I think about with Kobe is big shots, being able to close out games and hit big shots at big moments," Young told the media. 

"For me, late in the game, that was a big shot for our team - and the first thing I thought of."

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among those to lose their lives in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles on January 26, 2020.

His legacy lives on, however, as the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five titles remains an example for others, including Young. 

"The thing that I would probably take away the most is that he stuck to his values throughout everything, whether that was in his playing days or after," he replied when asked about Bryant.

"He was the same type of person, he attacked everything he wanted and worked hard for it. That's something that I take away, for me, the way he was a role model for so many athletes and so many players.  

"The impact he had is something I want to have as well."

De'Andre Hunter had 22 points while Clint Capela contributed 13 points and 19 rebounds on his return from injury, much to the delight of the limited number of fans who were inside State Farm Arena.

"It is definitely better for our team to have fans in the arena, knowing they're keeping it as safe as they can," Young said, with approximately 1,300 season-ticket holders allowed in to watch proceedings amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"For us, it's just about using that to our advantage. Me, I like putting on a show, so the more fans in there the more fun it is for me. I know our guys enjoyed the fans being in there."

The Clippers led at half-time but, without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George due to health and safety protocols, were unable to keep pace. Patrick Beverley also missed the game with a knee issue.

Barcelona have announced their presidential election will take place on March 7.

The club had to postpone the vote to name Josep Maria Bartomeu's replacement, initially scheduled for January 24, due to coronavirus concerns.

The regional government of Catalonia declared it could not grant Barcelona's members permission to travel beyond their local areas to cast votes due to tightened restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, Barca have agreed to hold the election in 40 days' time. Members will have the option to vote by mail, using their local post office or, for those over 65 or with medical conditions, via a home courier service.

Due to nationwide health protocols, Barca said only polling stations located in Catalonia or in Andorra will be open to members to vote in person.

The three remaining candidates for the election are favourite Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa.

Barcelona said in a club statement: "The managing commission would like to make it clear that during this period the club will continue to work closely with the Catalan government and the health and local authorities to best organise the elections so that they can be carried out in the best conditions possible."

The Premier League has announced eight new positive cases from its most recent two rounds of coronavirus testing, half the amount of players and club staff who tested positive the previous week.  

Testing was ramped up to twice a week earlier this month due to a rise in the infection rate across the league and the United Kingdom in general.  

A record 40 positives were identified between December 28 and January 3, with a further 36 cases confirmed the following week.  

However, the number dropped by 20 between January 11 and 17 and has seen another significant decrease this time around.  

Across the two rounds carried out between January 18 and 24, 2,518 players and staff were tested for the virus – eight returned positive results.  

The Premier League does not provide specific information over who the individuals are who test positive, nor which clubs they are associated with.

Matthijs de Ligt has been cleared to join up with his Juventus team-mates after recovering from COVID-19.

The centre-back tested positive on January 8 and went into isolation, meaning he missed the Serie A games against Sassuolo and Inter, as well as the Supercoppa Italiana clash with Napoli.

However, having returned two clear swab tests, De Ligt will be included in Andrea Pirlo's squad for Sunday's home fixture with Bologna.

"Matthijs de Ligt carried out, as per protocol, two controls of molecular test (swab) for Covid-19 with negative results," a statement from the club read. 

"Therefore, the player has recovered and is no longer subjected to the isolation regime.

"He will join the team at the J Hotel for the retreat this evening and will be included in the squad list for tomorrow's match."

De Ligt has started 12 games in all competitions so far in the 2020-21 season; Juve have only lost once when the defender has played in Serie A, a 3-0 home reverse to Fiorentina.

The Netherlands international missed the start of the campaign after undergoing shoulder surgery in August, returning to action in late November.

Juventus are chasing a 10th straight league title in Italy, though have found the going tough in Pirlo's first season in charge and go into the game with Bologna outside the top four in the table.

Andy Murray has withdrawn from the Australian Open a little over a week after testing positive for coronavirus.

Murray, a five-time finalist in Melbourne, went into isolation at home after returning a positive test on January 14.

The three-time major winner, ranked 123rd in the world, had hoped to compete at the first grand slam of the year after being granted a wildcard.

However, tournament organisers indicated it would be difficult for Murray to remain in the draw as he would be unable to travel via one of the official charter flights containing other players before going through the required period of quarantine.

On Friday, the 33-year-old confirmed he had been unable to come to a "workable" solution with authorities.

In a statement carried by The Guardian and other UK media outlets, Murray said: "Gutted to share that I won't be flying out to Australia to compete at the Australian Open.

"We've been in constant dialogue with Tennis Australia to try and find a solution but we couldn't make it work.

"I want to thank everyone there for their efforts, I'm devastated not to be playing out in Australia. It's a country and tournament that I love."

The build-up to this year's Australian Open has been impacted by players having to spend a two-week quarantine in their hotel accommodation.

A total of 72 competitors have been unable to leave their rooms after positive coronavirus tests among passengers on the chartered flights to Melbourne.

Players have been unable to access practice courts and many have complained on social media about sub-standard food and conditions, with Yulia Putintseva, the world number 28, sharing videos showing mice in her room.

The tournament is due to start on February 8.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.